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Business Profile: Roland Machinery Company specializes in heavy equipment sales and service

EDITOR NOTE: The Daily Press will be featuring a series of articles on local businesses, highlighting their history and what makes them unique. The series will run on a regular basis in the Daily Press.

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ESCANABA — Roland Machinery Company, an authorized distributor of Komatsu and several brands of heavy equipment built for construction, forestry, mining, and other large jobs, is found at 2600 S. Lincoln Rd. in Escanaba.

Sales and rentals of machines, maintenance and service work, and parts sales are conducted with companies, contractors and individuals who all patronize the business.

The current location was built to house the operation and is one of 17 Roland stores found across five states. Headquarters are positioned in Springfield, Illinois. Since Roland Machinery was first established in Springfield by a man named Earl Roland in 1958, it has grown and acquired and assimilated other businesses that also sell and service similar equipment.

A company that began as Bark River Culvert & Equipment had a location at 430 N. Lincoln Road in Escanaba along with a few other branches, including in the Wisconsin cities of Wausau, DeForest, Eau Claire and Franksville. They did essentially the same type of work as Roland Machinery, said Ed Harris, who is presently the branch manager and parts and service manager of Roland in Escanaba. However, 26 years ago, his work began at Bark River Culvert.

In 2003, Roland bought Bark River Culvert, and all the outposts merged; retaining all those strategic locations continues to allow each branch to serve customers in their respective areas.

Interaction between locations happens on a daily basis, relayed Escanaba Office Administrator Darcy Larsen. “We deal with the Wisconsin division mostly, but Springfield a lot, too,” she said.

“And us managers, we meet once a week,” Harris added. “We have video that we get on and we all talk about what’s going on with all the branches and how the business is going in what areas, different trainings, where we’re sending our guys to school.”

Whereas other companies who perform similar work send their employees around to trainings conducted by one specific brand, Roland has their own in-house training centers for teaching their technicians how to work on all the machines they deal with.

“We’re the only ones for Wirtgen in the United States that has somebody qualified enough to train their employees,” Harris explained.

Roland carries and services equipment manufactured by Komatsu, Sennebogen, LeeBoy, Doosan, Tana, and Wirtgen.

There are multiple tiers of training, designed for those just beginning and for more experienced techs. As technology advances and new models are released, new courses are needed so that workers are able to handle whatever may come their way. Harris said there are multiple trainings per year.

Operators whose equipment requires servicing may bring their machines into a Roland service bay if they’re able, but many times, breakdowns occur in the field. For such situations, Roland has trucks; techs may either complete repairs off-site or shuttle equipment back to base if work needs to be completed from the garage.

Larsen said that all areas of the business — sales, rentals, parts and service — are active.

More experienced operators tend to buy new, higher-end equipment, reported Larsen and Harris, then trade them in after about three years or 6,000 hours. Those used machines are usually bought by younger folks just starting out.

In addition to Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, Roland also has branches in Indiana and Missouri.

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