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Movin' on up: InLine Motion expands, moves into larger shop west of Detroit Lakes

Lucas Hoffman (left) and Marco Fenu (right) pose for a photo in their new shop. The new building, just off Highway 10, is larger than their last, allowing them to work on multiple engineering projects at a time. Kaysey Price / Tribune1 / 4
InLine Motion has moved to a new, bigger location just west of town off Highway 10. Submitted Photo2 / 4
InLine Motion's new shop is 2,000 square feet larger than its last location. Submitted Photo3 / 4
Hoffman and Fenu have spent a great deal of their engineering careers working with conveyors. Now they are hoping to expand their practice and get into automation and robotics. Submitted Photo4 / 4

After just two years in business, InLine Motion has outgrown its first shop, prompting a move to a newer, bigger building just west of town off Highway 10.

The company, co-owned by Mechanical Engineers Lucas Hoffman and Marco Fenu, was a hit right off the bat. The pair landed their first contract engineering gig a few weeks in, and picked up their first design-build order just a few months later in December of 2016. Four months after opening their doors, they had already hit 40 percent of their sales goal, but they were also already starting to feel some growing pains.

"The projects...were larger than what we were able to do at that time, so we turned down a lot of work the first year or referred it to companies because it was beyond our capacity," said Hoffman.

"It was hard to get anything done. Let's put it that way," added Fenu.

Hoffman and Fenu's engineering backgrounds are in sanitary conveyance for the food industry. Hoffman worked at Friesen's for 10 years, and Fenu worked there for a few years as well before the two decided to branch out and start their own business. Now, they have begun taking their company to the next level, getting into automation and robotics, big projects that they needed a big space for.

The limited space of their old shop meant they could only run one project at a time, and they were constantly forced to set up and tear down work spaces. That's no longer a problem in their new building, which is 2,000 square feet bigger.

"Essentially, our assembly area now is as large as our old shop was," said Hoffman, adding that their shop is three times larger and they have five times the office space.

The building has a reception area. Hoffman and Fenu both have their own office, and there is a nice-sized conference room for the two to meet with customers. There's also room to grow in their new shop. They have storage space available right behind the building, and the walls are taller than they were in their old shop, which opens up expansion options.

"We're one big check away from building a mezzanine and expanding over 1,000-plus square feet out in the shop again, too," said Hoffman.

It's a setup that the two can see working for a good four or five years, but they don't intend to keep it all to themselves.

"As we settle in here, and we're going to be able to take the bigger projects, we'll definitely need some help. There'll definitely be a need for fabricators and assemblers and a need for more engineering as well," said Fenu. "Right now, we do everything, from engineering to accounting, assembly welding. That's quite a load for just two people."

After a completely self-funded startup, the duo has managed to hit some big goals already. This year they hit their first million in sales. They have a couple of patents pending and a couple more that are in the works. They presented three pieces of equipment at the Pack Expo this year in Chicago.

"A lot of companies can't say that after 10 years of being around," said Hoffman.

The company has all the marks to continue to grow all they were missing was a little extra room.

"The projects that we're quoting now are on another level compared to what we have been entertaining in the past, and that just has to do with the fact that we're set up. The building blocks are there," said Hoffman. They have turned potential competitors into partners and made good relationships with vendors and fabricators, so they are even able to outsource projects that they don't have the machinery to physically make in their shop.

They have been entertaining both local and national builds, with the hopes of really expanding across the country. They have conveyors, equipment they specialize in engineering, across North America, one in Mexico, another in Canada, but they also see the product of their work just driving across town. They produced the fabrication prints for the steel at the base of the new tower in front of Zorbaz, and they also did some work that made constructing Long Bridge's second-story addition easier.

"We essentially translated the architectural prints into fabrication prints, so then they (builders) were able to just cut all the pieces, weld the brackets, get everything ready to go in their shop," said Hoffman.

Whether it's contract engineering or designing a conveyor that moves a product from the start of the packaging process to the end, or something else, InLine Motion now has the space to do it.

The community is invited to check out InLine Motion's new space at the open house Hoffman and Fenu will be hosting Dec. 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Food and beverages will be provided. Anyone interested in attending can RSVP to openhouse@inlinemotion.com

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