JEFF HUNKE OF HUNKE MFG. LLC
Company’s managing member talks supply chain, water well servicing equipment, and what to look for when purchasing a pump hoist.
By Thad Plumley
Jeff Hunke has seen a lot in his seven years with Hunke Mfg. LLC, but he has never seen supply chain delays his company and others in the groundwater industry have faced in 2021.
He says one of the biggest things is what is impacted—namely everything under the sun!
“It isn’t just one or two particular components that are late in shipment,” he points out. “This problem exists with raw steel all the way to paint products and what seems like everything in between.”
Hunke is a managing member with the company that is located in Snyder, Nebraska. Formerly known as Smeal Manufacturing, it has been designing and engineering pump hoists and well servicing equipment since 1962.
Hunke came to the groundwater industry after working for a fire truck manufacturing business. Since then, the company’s brand has continued to grow. It manufactures several different models of water well service equipment and offers a variety of options.
Some of those offered are electronic controls and wireless remote options. With that, Water Well Journal thought this was an ideal time to catch up with Hunke.
Water Well Journal: With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and part of 2021, how has business been last year to now?
Jeff Hunke: There was a pretty good spike in sales during the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year. It was a common theme from the pullers that 2020 was a banner year with regards to revenue. 2021 sales have been strong through the first half as well.
WWJ: You mentioned the supply chain issues that have affected some drill rig manufacturers getting trucks on schedule. How has Hunke navigated through it all in producing its pump hoists?
Hunke: The supply chain is worse today than it was three months, six months, or 12 months ago. In fact, this is the worst that I have ever experienced. To combat this problem, we have constantly been adjusting our production schedule.
When we receive a partial shipment of components in house for a particular hoist model, we immediately adjust the schedule and build what we can build. It has been very difficult and doesn’t look like it will get much better anytime soon.
WWJ: What are important items for contractors to consider when purchasing a pump hoist?
Hunke: The types of jobs that the unit will primarily tackle. The weight of the pulls is obviously important with regards to selecting the correct hoist model. Maneuverability of the truck and the weight of the unit are big issues. Many of my customers are saying that residential wells are getting more and more difficult to get at and the less imprint left on the property the better.
WWJ: When did you begin offering electronic control options and how has it been received by customers? Were some customers asking for green technologies and innovations such as this?
Hunke: We have been offering electronic controls on various models for years. Our small hoist model class base package contains direct link manual feather controls and a wireless remote system for the winch or winches. The majority of our customers prefer this proven system.
As for green technologies, we are aware that a battery-powered system is available from a relatively new manufacturer in the pump hoist sector. We are monitoring the progress of battery power. We are taking what I will call a conservative approach. By conservative I mean we are waiting for the technology to improve from what it is today as well as waiting for costs to come down. I don’t want to build a new rig that has a PTO/hydraulic pump installed as a backup if and when the battery system dies or fails.
WWJ: Similarly, when did you begin offering a wireless remote option and how has it been received by customers?
Hunke: We offered a wireless system as a special request option for quite some time on our products. We’ve made our current system standard on our small hoist class for approximately four years. This system has been well received. We’ve had numerous customers order the remote system for older hoists within their fleet.
WWJ: Hunke offers a variety of options on its pump hoists. Which ones are the most popular and why?
Hunke: We offer a wide array of listed options on our hoist models. Every unit we build is custom. As to the most often requested options, nearly every new hoist we sell has two pipe racks and the majority of the racks are the manual tilt design. This design aids greatly with both loading and easy access to each length when setting.
The sandline option is very common for guys that do well rehab. The front jack is a popular option too. The front jack allows the operator more levelling capabilities, aids in centering the hook above the hole, aids in attaining additional layback for those difficult to reach wells, and also alleviates the front suspension of absorbing the bounce when pulling heavy loads. Customers that have front jacks will not purchase a new one without this feature.
WWJ: How is the international market responding to your pump hoists?
Hunke: We don’t aggressively market our products to countries outside of North America. Yet we do receive inquiries from all over the world. International sales are a small percentage of our new unit sales.
WWJ: What are some new product offerings in the works in 2021?
Hunke: We have made a few product improvements to our existing hoist model lines since the 2019 (Groundwater Week) convention in Las Vegas, but we have no new models forthcoming.
We are focusing our attention on our current business environment and trying to provide our customers with their new hoist unit to the best of our abilities. I suspect we are like most manufacturing companies—anxiously waiting for the U.S. supply chain to return to some sense of pre-COVID normalcy.
WWJ: Lastly, what are the goals for Hunke moving forward?
Hunke: Short term, our goal is to get our customers their new units that they have been forced to patiently wait for. Near future, do what we can to keep my employees busy when the anticipated chassis shortage hits our company. Long term, keep doing what we’re doing and continue our efforts to be better at it.
Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.