If you are not ahead of the curve, then you are really falling behind the field.
That is the philosophy of Frontier, Saskatchewan-based Honey Bee Manufacturing, which has established itself over the past four decades as one of the most innovative and creative custom-manufacturers in the agriculture industry, both in North America and abroad.
Honey Bee now has a presence in 26 countries worldwide, building machines to harvest anything from traditional cereal grains to specialty crops like hemp to world-leading production crops like rice.
“Honey Bee was started by Greg and Glenn Honey in 1979,” states the company’s general manager Jamie Pegg. “When they started building products for their farm to suit their needs there was certain areas of the market that didn’t live up to their standards, and they felt they could build something better.
“There are variations of eight different products now, and within that there are countless options to change the product a little for the various places we might sell that product into, and the various conditions the farmers might receive in those areas, to be able to maximize their farming capabilities.”
Honey Bee has only ever trusted one main test for all its product lines, says Pegg— the farmer test.
“The first thing we do is talk to the farmer,” he says. “We are always trying to come up with the best solution for the customer. We want to make sure our equipment is doing what the farmer wants us to do, and making sure it is meeting our own expectations from a manufacturing point of view.
“If there is a gap there, we work very hard to close that gap and make sure people are happy.”
In keeping with this customer-first philosophy, Honey Bee is always trying to push its next generation of products to a new level through cutting-edge research and development.
“It varies considerably depending on what the product is,” explains Pegg. “But I would say it takes anywhere from a year and a half to ten years to bring a new product to market for us. A lot of it is being able to continue to match up with what the farmers’ expectations are.
“We are always looking forward as far as we can, and trying to anticipate how things will change,” he adds. “It is a difficult world in a lot of ways to work in because things change so rapidly. There are lots of great ideas out there, and we like to think we have some of them.
“We at Honey Bee don’t spend a lot of time looking at our competitors products. We want to really listen to what the farmer is saying to us, and also what the dealer is saying to us in terms of how we can make our products better for them.”
While reaching boldly for that bright future, Honey Bee has always remained grounded in its present and in its past, says Pegg.
“We have always operated out of Frontier and area and this southwest corner of Saskatchewan,” he states. “Part of our business here is this business supporting the community, and also the community supporting the business. Out of that, there is a requirement to retain and attract some talented young people. One of the most important ways for us to do that is to take care of the community.
“It’s not really a business case, but a genuine conviction of our owners and the way they want to operate the business.”
Honey Bee is a company in transition and flux at the moment as it begins to reposition itself to take on the broader and more challenging international marketplace of today. NAFTA concerns, increasing competition and new tech on the horizon are all potentially massive game-changers for the company.
“I think the ag. economy today is a very challenging marketplace,” concurs Pegg. “Competition, particularly in harvesting, has never been as fierce as it is today. The demand of the farmers and the dealers continue to increase as the cost of equipment continues to increase. The expectations that come from there are huge. So there is real challenge with that, but, in the end, we have always been trying to give the farmer the very best machine to get the most crop off his field as possible so, at the end of the day, he can put the most dollars he possibly can in his jeans.”
However, Honey Bee already has a proven track record of success in bringing new and better harvesting technologies to the market, says Pegg, pointing to the company’s industry leading AirFLEX header system and grain belt header technologies as exemplars of that success.
And Honey Bee won’t be content to sit on its laurels anytime soon.
“We want to be part of that future wave with headers and swathers in the marketplace,” states Pegg. “There is a lot of artificial intelligence out there people are talking about, there is autonomous vehicles that will impact our world. We need to look at that, and we need to be a part of that.
“And we need to continue to be part of the agriculture community, perhaps from a broader perspective.”
Pegg says the groundwork which will pave the way toward future success for Honey Bee has already been laid down.
“From the very first employees to the 180 employees we have now, people have worked very hard to try to put out a quality product to the farmer,” says Pegg. “Whether it’s our engineering and R & D department or whether it’s our operations department, or our sales team, we have always had the farmer and dealer at the forefront of our minds.
“If you are willing to do that continually and stand behind your product, as our company has to date, I think you do develop a good name. I think the stakeholders in our company have done a great job in taking that name into the marketplace.”
Pegg says he loves coming to work everyday at a dynamic environment like Honey Bee, and he is sure all those who have worked so hard for the company’s current and ongoing success feel the exact same way.
“Honey Bee is an exciting place to work at,” he states. “It is a lot of fun, and there is a great group of people who work here that bring great ideas to the workplace. They also bring a great attitude to the workplace. Those are all the reasons I love coming to work, and they are also the reasons a lot of members of our company love coming to work.
“There are challenges of the future we have our eye on, and there are the challenges of today, and those two together make for a great work opportunity.”