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Expert Interviews – Dan Folmer

Weighing news focuses on identifying, appreciating and sharing the stories of legends in the weighing industry across the world. Today we were delighted to have the owner of NorthStar, Mr Dan Folmer with us. When asked about how his journey started he shared –

My Journey started with me working at a hotel front desk as the 3rd shift clerk and night auditor. But soon I realised that I need to get moving! So I re-enrolled in engineering school and also took a job at Eagle Window and Door in Dubuque, IA. They were very flexible with me because I think they recognised some potential in young Dan. I was ready to do multiple tasks during flexible hours and go back to school. It was the hard way of doing it but in the end, everything worked out okay. This experience was a springboard for everything that happened afterwards. I got my associates degree and kept moving forward to earn my degree in electromechanical engineering. All this experience allowed me to slowly shift my focus to experimenting and testing strain gauges and load cells. I also started working towards building custom transducers. I am very thankful that I got hands-on experience in engineering and had some fantastic mentors. They took me under their guidance and showed me the art of building load cells.

The most memorable experience of my journey was when I deposited my first cheque from my first budget as finally, I had the chance of getting paid to do things my way. Originally I struggled to find a name for my company as I wanted something that resonated with me. Northstar is something that people have been using for guidance and to find their way. The name is a reference to finding your solution.

We asked about the projects he had undertaken and which ones he like the most. To that, he said – One of the most exciting projects that I worked on was the Tri-Axial Hitch Loadcell. It was an engineering challenge for me because I had to maximise the output but under the constraints of working within specified parameters and sizes. It was really exciting to see how the project came together and seeing it out there in the field gathering some extremely useful data. As of now, I don’t see myself competing with the bigger brands. This is because at this stage I am a small company with me doing almost all of the work. I wish I could make a copy of myself so I can get a little bit of help and that will allow me to take get things done faster and take more projects. Another challenge that I face is that I am a small company so I buy things in small volume and that means that I am paying more money. My aim is to give out the best product possible. I try and implement the experience gained from the previous project into the new one to make the product even better. I want my work to speak for myself and that is how I am planning to increase my market share.

Upon discussing the expansion of his company, he said that – I would love to expand and get more manpower but I am not really sure if they teach strain gauge in technology and as far as I know, they certainly don’t teach custom transducer building technology at schools. So in order for me to get more people on board, I have to take on a student and teach them individually and once that person has learnt the basics, I can take on another one. For the new minds entering into the industry, I would ask them to find the right balance. One should have hands-on experience along with engineering and technical skills because that is what allowed me to be flexible and try and experiment with multiple things. Don’t just focus on desk work, don’t hide behind the computer, be on the floor and learn what the engineers do. Experimenting after understanding the basics, opens the door to new ideas and possibilities.

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