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The leadership of Deskin Scale Co. Inc. has led the company through nearly six decades of growth.
The leadership of Deskin Scale Co. Inc. has led the company through nearly six decades of growth.

Business Spotlight: Weighty Matters

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When Lee Deskin and his father, William Deskin, began working with weight scales during the 1940s, it was “just to make a living,” says Dan Whitescarver, general manager of Deskin Scale Co. Inc. Their job evolved into Deskin Scale Co. Inc., a company with average annual revenues of $1.5 million, company officials say.

Started in 1952, the company serves a client base in the four-state area from its home office in Springfield, along with a Joplin branch. In 2009, the company generated revenue of $1.25 million.

William and Lee Deskin started the business by acquiring a distributorship for Kansas City-based Fairbanks Scales to compete with rival Columbus, Ohio-based Toledo Scale Corp., now Mettler Toledo.

The father-son team was a success for Fairbanks, and Mettler Toledo scooped up its competitors as distributors. Now, 58 years since its founding, Deskin Scale remains family-owned and balanced for the future.

Regulated reliability
The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s weights and measures division and federal regulations require that anything purchased based on weight must have a reliable scale to determine the price.

“Weights and measures requires people to have their scales tested,” says GM Whitescarver. “There was a need for that due to state and federal regulations. Prior to that, it was catch as catch can. People didn’t know if their scales were any good or not, and some lost money.”

As demand grew, so did Deskin Scale, Whitescarver says.

“We sell all kinds of products – anything that can be weighed, from grams to tons, we do it all,” says Vice President Travis Hunter, the great-grandson of William Deskin. “We’ll weigh a train, if you want to.”

Whitescarver says the company’s highest sales are in industrial scales used to weigh pallets of food and manufactured products.

Tim Collins, plant manager at Springfield’s NorthStar Battery Co. LLC, said when the manufacturer opened its 320,000-square-foot Partnership Industrial Center West facility in August, all but two of the plant’s dozens of scales were purchased from Deskin.

“We just outfitted most of our new facility almost exclusively with
Deskin scales,” Collins said. “We consider them a pretty good partner to be with here in Springfield.” Deskin’s market extends north to Nevada and Waynesville and east to Licking and West Plains in southwest Missouri.

It extends west to Independence, Kan., southwest to Miami, Okla., and south to Harrison, Ark.

Major Springfield customers during the years include Kraft Foods Inc., Paul Mueller Co. and grocery stores including Consumers and Smillie’s IGA, which Hunter says buy hanging scales and food grinders and slicers.

On balance
Fourth-generation owner Sherri Harrison, Deskin president, is proud that the company her grandfather started remains in the family.

“I’ve always wanted it to stay in the family,” says Harrison, Lee Deskin’s daughter. “It’s important to me. I have three sisters, no brothers, and I think Dad was wondering what was going to happen. When I got married, my husband (Chuck Harrison) came to work for Dad and he started learning the business and was really interested in it. That was when Dad decided he wanted to pass it on to him.”

To maintain family unity, Deskin questioned his other children, Harrison says.  

“No others were interested,” she says. “Chuck and I ended up buying the business.”

During the years, scale industry technology has changed how products are weighed.

“Everything was mechanical when I started,” Whitescarver says. “In the early ’60s, it started electronic and most everything had tubes in it then.

“That changed in the middle-to-late ’60s to transistors, which made everything get smaller,” he said. "That was a good thing. Then the load cell came out in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”

A load cell, Whitescarver explains, converts force into a measurable electrical output, which is displayed digitally.

“The load cell is just a block of steel with a string gauge on it – if you bend it or compress it and measure that in microvolts, there might be .03 microvolts,” Whitescarver says. “You could really get accurate; with the leverage, you couldn’t do that.”[[In-content Ad]]

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