Crookston's major manufacturers celebrated this week.
DEE Inc. began as a one-person aluminum foundry in 1971 that has since grown into a company that produced more than 300,000 parts in 2018 for customers across the United States as well as Europe, South America and Japan.
Started in 1971 by a local high school Industrial Arts teacher, Jim Ellinger, DEE’s origins can be traced to Jim’s garage where he began casting row finders for sugar beet harvesters. Seeing a business opportunity, the fledgling start-up soon expanded to include casting and machining aluminum parts for Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls and then Polaris in Roseau. Having established a foothold in the recreational vehicle market, DEE continued to expand its operations over its 48-year history to become the company that it is today, serving the industrial, diesel engine and automotive markets as well as continuing to serve the recreational vehicle market where the company originally got its start.
Many of DEE’s customers are companies that you might recognize; such as Cummins, Toro, Team, and Donaldson. For example, DEE produces water inlets for Cummins diesel/natural gas engines, and rollers for Toro green’s keeping equipment used to maintain golf courses as well as oil filter heads used by Donaldson for oil filtration in heavy duty mining equipment and farm equipment. In fact, if you happen to be the owner of a newer model John Deere 9RX Quad Track, the oil filter head for that tractor was manufactured right here in Crookston.
Other customers that DEE Inc. supplies are perhaps less well known locally but no less significant in the industries they serve. These companies include Detroit Diesel in Detroit, Michigan, a company which makes diesel engines for Freightliner trucks. And MTU, a Rolls Royce company with assembly plants located in Aiken, South Carolina and Friedrichshafen, Germany. MTU produces diesel engines for industrial size power generators, large construction vehicles and ships.
With 96,000 square feet of foundry space, DEE Inc. produces both sand and permanent mold aluminum castings. It’s 32,00 square foot machine shop for machining these castings is located across the street from the foundry. Separating the machining operation from the foundry is necessary in order maintain strict machining tolerances. The vibratory conveyor equipment used at the foundry in its automated sand molding line would otherwise interfere with machining operations. A complete description of the company’s equipment and manufacturing capability can be found on their website at www.deeinc.com.
Recently, DEE Inc. upgraded its certification to IATF 16949:2016. IATF 16949 is the newest version of the automotive quality standard and is required in order to produce parts for the automotive industry. In addition to all of the requirements found in the more commonly recognized ISO 9001:2015, the IATF 16949 includes 188 additional requirements for suppliers of automotive parts. As far as the company is aware, DEE Inc. is the only aluminum sand foundry in Minnesota currently certified to this standard.