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Maine-made Fisher Plows to be featured on Science’s ‘How It’s Made’

Posted Nov. 25, 2011, at 2:51 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 25, 2011, at 3:15 p.m.
The Science program “How It’s Made” will offer a glimpse of the manufacturing process that goes on year-round in two 10-hour shifts at the Rockland's Fisher Engineering facility, which employs 300 people.
Courtesy of Fisher Engineering
The Science program “How It’s Made” will offer a glimpse of the manufacturing process that goes on year-round in two 10-hour shifts at the Rockland's Fisher Engineering facility, which employs 300 people.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Snow plows in Maine are as common as, well, snow, but most people have not seen what goes on behind the scenes at Rockland-based Fisher Engineering, one of the nation’s leading plow manufacturers.

That will change on Thursday when the Science program “How It’s Made” offers a glimpse of the manufacturing process that goes on year-round in two 10-hour shifts at the Rockland facility, which employs 300 people.

“How It’s Made,” a production of Discovery Communications, is already a mainstay among viewers with an interest in industry, featuring the step-by-step process of making things from guitars to potato chips. The program holds the corner on its market, and Fisher Industries plows are dominant throughout the northeastern United States and sold all over the world. Company parent Douglas Dynamics LLC, which is traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange under the name PLOW, is responsible for about 60 percent of all snowplows used in the United States, according to John Murphy, Fisher’s vice president of sales. Douglas also makes plows under the Western and Blizzard brand names.

“There’s been a lot of excitement about this both internally and externally,” said Murphy. “We’ve never been on a national program like this that I’m aware of.”

Thursday night’s “How It’s Made” will feature the construction of Fisher’s XtremeV Plow, a deluxe version of the rigs that have been all over Maine and beyond clearing driveways and parking lots this week. Made of stainless steel and a employing a variety of unique characteristics designed to defeat the deepest snow drifts, the XtremeV Plow goes far beyond some of the company’s more basic setups.

“I think that is part of the appeal of this particular product,” said Murphy.

The company was founded in 1948 by Dean Fisher, who sold it in 1984. According to Murphy, the company recently underwent a major expansion and consolidation when it closed a factory in Tennessee and upgraded its operations in Rockland and Milwaukee.

“For geographical purposes, Tennessee just isn’t really in the heart of the snow belt,” said Murphy. The 2009 closure of the plant in Tennessee resulted in approximately 75 new positions in Maine, he said.

In addition to the XtremeV Plow, Fisher makes about 20 products aside from plows for the do-it-yourself homeowner moving his own snow up to municipal-grade equipment and sand dispensers.

Murphy said “How It’s Made” contacted Fisher by email in February and dispatched a four-person production crew to Rockland for one day in April. Other than an aura of excitement for the employees — many of whom are “How It’s Made” viewers — Murphy said operations went on as usual while the videographers were on site.

Richard Burckardt, director of advertising and brand communications for Douglas Dynamics, said that although no one in the company has previewed Thursday’s show, it should be of interest to anyone who plows or appreciates the construction process.

“Even people who really don’t know much about snow plows who are fans of the show will appreciate it,” said Burckardt. “They’ll see something they really never thought of. You see a snow plow and you think it’s just a slab of steel on the front of the truck, but there’s really a lot more that goes into it.”

Murphy and Burckardt said not a lot has changed for Fisher since Douglas Dynamics LLC went public in 2010, but that the company is always exploring expansion and acquisition options. The per-share price for Douglas Dynamics has ranged from $11.38 to nearly $17 in the past year. On Friday at midday the price was $14.26 per share. Douglas Dynamics employs about 600 people.

Fisher’s appearance on “How It’s Made” is scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday on the Science Channel.

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