The new year marks an exciting milestone for Malco as we celebrate our 70th anniversary in business. Throughout time, our company has undergone a metamorphosis, embracing new products, industries, ownership, and much more. To help tell our story, let’s rewind back in time to when it all started. The 1950s began a wave of rapid change and consumer prosperity, as the Great Depression had started to become a faint memory, and families were moving out into the suburbs.
Octopus-like, coal-fired furnaces in the basements of many midwestern homes before World War II were fast disappearing. As oil heat steadily gained popularity, a young steel supply salesman named Mark W. Keymer, who possessed some engineering background and a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial drive, saw this change in the industry as a unique opportunity. He began manufacturing and marketing a revolutionary 5-blade hand crimper, followed by other specialty hand tools for fabricating and installing the new-at-the-time ductwork of forced air heating systems. Unlike anything on the market, the tools employed extra linkage between handles and jaws to produce compound leverage, which was well received by HVAC professionals. Keep reading to discover more of Malco’s history as we highlight other significant milestones throughout the last 70 years!
Celebrating 70 Years
The 50s were a time of discovery and growth, with Malco being founded and quickly gaining local and national attention.
1950 | Malco is born! The origin of the Malco name came from combining Mark’s first name and the first name of an early associate named Al, who owned the garage where initial operations began. Malco stood for “Mark and Al’s Company.”
1954 | Operations move from Al’s garage to Mark’s basement, with Al leaving the company. Malco’s first business office consisted of the kitchen table, a shoebox filing system, and a manual typewriter.
With advertisements in the American Artisan and Snips Magazine to generate national business, Mark had help from his wife Dorothy to keep the books and proceeded to hire his first employee and independent sales rep.
The first one-page Malco catalog featured a 5-Blade Crimper, Hand Seamer, Scratch Awls, and other tools.
The 60s were comprised of continued company growth, personally training sales reps, new product development/updates, and ramping up trade show attendance.
1962 | Malco’s sales rep force, an essential link to wholesale distribution, grows to provide national coverage. Mark started hosting educational “Tool School” sessions to enhance product knowledge and high customer service standards.
To further enhance user efficiency and control, sleek vinyl grips were added to existing compound leverage tools.
Malco maintains a strong industry presence and image at key trade shows.
The 70s included the big move to Annandale, MN, which is where the current U.S. Malco headquarters is located, as well as entering a new product market, releasing Zip-in® Screws, and experiencing a shift in leadership.
1971 | Punch press operations move from Minneapolis to Annandale, MN.
1973 | The move to Annandale is complete, and Mark’s son Gerry is named vice president.
1975 | Malco creates a specialty tool market for exterior remodeling professionals (roofing, siding, and gutter). This market definition eventually grew to also include tools for installers of fence, deck, and rail.
1976 | The industry-leading Zip-in® Screws are introduced into the marketplace.
1978 | Mark Keymer retires as president with his son Gerry taking leadership.
Order entry function is online, which allowed for instantaneous processing and computer-generated pick tickets for same or next-day shipping.
The 80s brought big changes to Malco’s internal processes and packaging, which streamlined plant operations and enhanced distributor merchandising efforts.
1980 | Malco uses pegboard templates to promote full line displays and a self-service concept.
1982 | Introduction of BiMetal by Malco™ reciprocating saw blades.
1987 | A new fax machine is installed in the office to function 24/7, in efforts to speed communications and improve customer service.
1988 | The first skin carding line begins operation in the Packaging Department. The peggable packaging was designed to enhance product visibility, enabling wholesale distributors to have more effective merchandising.
1989 | The FasGroov® system is first introduced to the HVAC market and is a huge success.
A compact, portable exhibit is available for reps to use at trade shows and special events, which provide an effective and professional presentation of Malco products.
Malco invests in internal systems and in-house educational programs on Manufacturing Resource Planning, Just-In-Time Production System, and Statistical Process Control.
Many big milestones occurred in the 90s, with Malco revolutionizing their product development and purchasing process, releasing many new tools, going online, and shifting ownership.
1990 | A new CAD/CAM computer system transforms designs into small quantities of manufactured products in a fraction of the time compared to large scale production. This laid the groundwork for an efficient product development process to be used for years to come.
The introduction of lightweight Andy “Combination” Snips, as well as C4 and C5 Crimpers.
1992 | Updated AVs® line of aviation snips are released, revamping Malco’s existing line.
All specialty hand tools which feature a compound leverage design now also feature new handle springs that assure longer, uninterrupted service life.
1995 | The 20-in. Sheet Metal Hole Cutter is released.
1996–97 | A formal Product Development Process results in a record number of new product introductions. For one 14-month period from March 1996 to May 1997, more than one product was introduced per month. New releases at the time include Malco’s Offset Pipe Crimper, 9-in Seamer, and J-Channel Cutter, to name a few.
In 1997, the Malco website launched in the height of the World Wide Web.
1998 | Demand for Max2000® Classic Aviation Snips creates waiting lists at dealers. It was a highly anticipated solution in response to widespread dissatisfaction with the aviation snip category at the time. The BEAST Shingle Remover, One Inch Notcher, and Sider® tool are also released.
1999 | On the eve of Malco’s 50th anniversary, Gerry Keymer sells his share of the company to begin the process of transferring ownership of Malco to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
Malco entered the 21st century with breakthrough innovation and student recognition. This decade features the release of the original TurboShear® drill attachment that sparked the development of other power-assisted tools, the creation of ergonomic Redline® Handles, the introduction of the “Head of the Class” Program, and much more.
2000 | The 5-in. Seamer is released, as well as a Flex Duct Shear and various Magnetic Sweeps.
2001 | Founder Mark Keymer passes away, but his legacy of innovation, efficiency, and quality live on through his family and employee-owners.
Redesigned 12- and 14-in. Aluminum Andy Snips and Gutter Outlet Punches are released.
2004 | With the addition of metal brackets for simplified one-handed use and hardened carbon steel blades that offer up to 18-gauge steel cutting capacity, the TurboShear® Heavy Duty Sheet Metal Cutting Tool Attachment is born.
Malco releases tools with Redline® Handles, which offer non-slip handle grip contours, spring handle actuation, and a thumb-operated handle latch for a natural fit and one-handed operation. These comfortable, ergonomic handles help to prevent user discomfort, fatigue, and risk of injury, making jobs safer and easier to complete than ever before.
2005 | Malco’s “Head of the Class” Program is first introduced to recognize and reward outstanding trade school graduates for their commitment and hard work.
2007 | Mark Keymer was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame.
This recent decade encompassed a new market venture, exciting product updates/releases, enhanced sustainability initiatives, majority employee ownership, company awards, and significant employee anniversaries.
2010 | Malco enters the automotive market, which presented opportunities for specialty tools that cut, prep, repair, and weld autobody door panels and surfaces.
2012 | Malco introduces its first power-assisted metal duct crimper drill attachment called the TurboCrimper®.
2014 | Malco sustainability efforts continue with using recycled PET plastic vs. PVC for clamshell packaging, as well as recyclable paper and no adhesive, so that the plastic and paper cleanly separate for recycling. Our employees are utilizing less fax and more emails for orders. Virtually all non-organic waste and scrap generated at the Annandale plant is recycled, in addition to fluorescent lighting being replaced with energy-efficient and longer-lasting LED lighting.
2015 | A 360° rotating head and adjustable drill clamp are integrated into various power-assisted tools. The clamp collar allows the head to be set in any position for ideal tool clearance when navigating profiles or to facilitate easy material flow.
Malco’s ESOP purchases majority ownership, promoting greater company transparency among employee-owners. Malco operates open book financials so that everyone knows where the company stands, where the company wants to be, and what everyone needs to do to meet their goals.
2016 | Malco introduces a lightweight and powerful impact driver attachment called the TurboCrimper® Impact. Based on actual field trials, the C5A2 model operates 78% faster than a manual sheet metal crimper. The Writable Measuring Tape with Magnetic Tip, 4IN1 Nut Driver, and first-of-its-kind Conformable Sander are also released this year.
2017 | Malco introduces an exclusive, dual-sided 1/4 in. and 5/16 in. C-RHEX® Cleanable, Reversible Magnetic Hex Driver with 2 in. length that rapidly becomes a best-selling tool in the HVAC market.
Malco is awarded as an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation and is named the High Economic Vitality Business of the Year by the Wright County Minnesota Economic Development Partnership.
The Trade-Pro of the Year award began in 2017 as a way for Malco to shine some much-deserved light and recognition on hard-working HVAC professionals who represent the industry in the best possible way.
2018–19 | As a result of overwhelming demand, Malco introduces three additional lengths to the 1/4 in. and 5/16 in. C-RHEX® lineup.
The Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal awards Malco the 2018 Medium Manufacturer of the Year Award.
We were named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune in 2018 and 2019.
Malco is awarded the 2018 Meritorious Achievement Award in Occupational Safety by the Minnesota Safety Council for the 11th time since 2004.
In 2018, we celebrated the grand opening of our new production facility in DeWitt, NE. It’s been a decade since the previous plier factory shut down, so Malco is proud to bring back tool manufacturing jobs to this city.
Malco receives MNSHARP re-certification for the 15th consecutive year, which showcases the company’s commitment to workplace safety and health.
Tom Sommers and Joan Peatrowsky celebrate 45 years of employment with Malco.
As we celebrate 70 years of business, we’d like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to our customers, wholesale distributors, sales rep agencies, and employees who have supported us throughout our journey. Malco will continue our founder’s legacy of lasting quality and innovation, always striving to exceed our customers’ expectations with tools that Work. Perform. Outlast.
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