ONAWAY — A complex and versatile piece of machinery used to maintain waterways is now available for sale in the U.S. because of a manufacturer in a small Northeast Michigan town.
Moran Iron Works, an Onaway business specializing in building custom metal machinery on a large scale, has forged a connection across the Atlantic Ocean and is now the first company in the U.S. to build a machine that walks like a giant bug and will help keep American waterways clear.
The AMD 5000, an amphibious dredging machine the size of a large piece of farm equipment, was designed in Finland. Once at a work site, the intricate machine lifts itself off its trailer, sets itself onto the ground, and crawls across land, insect-like, into a nearby lake, river, or canal.
There, the machine drills the water’s floor, sucks up sediment to deepen the water, removes invasive plants and large debris, or performs construction tasks.
The Finnish-designed machine has been sold around the world for the past 30 years, but until now its sale was forbidden in the U.S. because of a requirement that all American commercial ships must be built, owned, and operated by U.S. citizens.
Moran, a small-town company that builds big things, was the third company approached by an Ann Arbor-based business that hoped to bring the machine to American waterways, according to David Kronberg, quality manager for Moran.
Manufacturers on the East and West coasts were too large to be a good fit for the project, Kronberg said.
Moran agreed to partner with the Ann Arbor company, Watermaster NA, to build the sophisticated machine at its Onaway facility, and the first American AMD 5000 made its way out of Onaway on Dec. 21, bound for the Erie Canal.
A small-town location in a remote area has its challenges, Kronberg said, especially in transporting its large products, although the company’s port in Rogers City in conjunction with Carmeuse Lime and Stone is a great help in getting product from plant to final destination.
Being based in rural northern Michigan doesn’t keep the business from crossing oceans to garner exciting new projects. Moran hopes to be the sole American producer of the Finnish machine, a product that has potential to boost the company’s size and ability to hire locally, Kronberg said.
Kronberg and company owner Tom Moran traveled to Helsinki, Finland with Watermaster NA employees to iron out the details of the contract.