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Working Iowa: KT Pacer on track to hire at least a dozen workers in Cedar Rapids

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 8:36 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cody Frimml is a production welder at K-T Pacer in southwest Cedar Rapids. The company manufactures trailers primarily for the feed industry. Frimml works on one of the operation lines.

“[We build] the bottom of the unit, we put augers in that put the feed through the trailer,” Frimml said. “The strength of the trailer is all built right here.”

The company’s brand has been around since the 1970′s and serves vendors all over the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

In the last 10 years, the company has added 70 employees. Still, it’s looking to fill several roles, including welders electricians and technicians. Managing partner Carl Kirpes says these positions are complex and team-driven.

“If you’re eating pork or chicken, over half the pigs and chickens here in the U.S. are typically fed by KT Pacer trailers, somewhere in the value chain,” Kirpes said. “To me, all the different customer requirements that come as a part of that require a really strong team-based approach and pull that together and so it’s a very strong team environment.”

Kirpes says there are at least a dozen positions available. He says it’s all due to the company’s growth.

“It’s our customer demand,” Kirpes said. “They’re really liking the product they’re getting and they’re asking for more of it. We’re just continuing to hire to be able to meet that customer demand, produce more units and really deliver that value.”

Plant manager Dan Smock said more employees would help with a crunch that’s felt when someone calls out.

“When we run really lean with people, if somebody calls in, is a very valuable part of the day, so then you have to backfill with people we have here already,” Smock said. “We have a lean fabrication shop...we have 5 or 6 employees, but when somebody’s gone it really hurts.”

He said the company is focused on hiring production welders, especially for the aluminum part of its operation.

“We get a lot of steel welders in here, but we try to transition them into aluminum welders because that is where we have the need,” he said.

He says a big part of the culture at K-T pacer focuses on what employees can do to improve the workplace. He calls it ‘continuous improvement.’

“What did you do today to make this place better?” Smock said. “A lot of our employees bring us ideas, and we’re like ‘oh that’s awesome.’ So a lot of our improvements have come from employees.”

Carl Kirpes says many employees come from programs at community colleges, but there is on-the-job training available.

“We have leads at the different stations and we can pair people up with those leads to really learn how to do it the KT Pacer way,” Kirpes said.

Cody Frimml says a big part of the job is just showing up.

“So your job, show enthusiasm and initiative and really just show what you’re worth,” he said. “Be good at what you do.”

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