Dave Benes, the visionary founder behind Fremont Automation, has a unique way of viewing the world that sets him apart. Where most people see things as they are, Dave sees the untapped potential lying beneath the surface. He doesn’t just observe; he visualizes the path from what exists to what could be, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. It’s this innate ability to bridge the gap between the current state and future possibilities that makes Dave not just an innovator, but a true problem solver.

Growing up on the farm, Dave mastered the art of improvisation and creativity out of necessity.  The nearest store wasn’t just around the corner, and when something broke, you couldn’t simply replace it. Instead, Dave learned to work with what was available, often finding solutions in the most unlikely places. This ‘homegrown innovation’’ became the bedrock of his approach to engineering and design. 

His journey from a resourceful country kid to the founder of a leading automation company is a testament to the power of seeing not just with the eyes, but with the mind. At Fremont Automation, Dave’s approach to problem-solving continues to inspire a culture of innovation, creativity, and ingenuity that is as grounded as it is forward-thinking.

Fremont Automation: A Start in Tool and Die

After securing his Tool & Die Certificate and gaining experience with various local jobs, Dave Benes heard the entrepreneurial call. In 1991, he transformed a modest shed in his backyard into his workshop. Equipped with a few mills and a drive to serve, Dave began his journey, catering to the needs of clients across the region.

It didn’t take long for his natural inclination toward invention to surface. The pivotal moment came when a client approached Dave for assistance with a machine part he was crafting. With his sharp eye for optimization and efficiency, Dave not only improved the part but also revolutionized the machine’s design and operation, paving the way for the creation of a new machine. It was at this moment that Fremont Automation was born.

Before long, Dave and his burgeoning company were making significant strides in the automotive industry. They developed state-of-the-art tooling for prestigious projects like the Monte Carlo Grand Prix’s seatback and pioneered seat assembly and wire-forming equipment. A particularly notable achievement was the design of a seatbender for the Honda Accord and Honda Pilot.

“I never want to build the same machine twice,” Dave reflected on this flurry of invention. “After we solved one puzzle, I wanted to move on to the next one.” 

Expanding the Business

With their work deep in automotive, Fremont Automation felt the impact of the industry pullback in the early 2000s. For Dave, this wasn’t a crisis, but a chance to regroup and focus the business. In 2003, the company relocated their facilities to Blair, Nebraska bringing their shop closer to many of the company employees. 

This era also saw Fremont Automation become a true family business. Amanda, Jacob, and Ben Benes, Dave’s three children, found themselves bringing their unique talents to the team.

“We were never going to work for our dad,” says Amanda Benes, who now serves as CEO of Fremont Automation. For each of the children, however, life intervened and brought them to the company. 

Amanda’s goal is to help improve the manufacturing industry in Nebraska. She hopes to build Fremont Automation into a great company, and a great inspiration to others in the region. She loves visiting community colleges, volunteering on advisory councils, and building relationships with clients.

Ben Benes, the youngest, sees things a lot like his father does. His education includes machining, manufacturing, and engineering – the perfect background for finding straightforward solutions to complex challenges.

While Dave and Ben design and build the machinery, middle-child Jacob engineers the electrical connections and programmable logic controllers (PLC) that bring the inventions to life. Jacob has been building the “brains” of Fremont Automation’s machines for more than a decade and is one of the best electrical engineers you’ll find. 

Amanda, Ben, and Jacob each brought their gifts to the company. Together, they fueled a new age of innovation and output for Fremont Automation. With each family member focused on a different aspect of the business, their skills and personalities complemented perfectly.

“Our relationship as a family is the most important thing. If we don’t have this, then we don’t have anything,” said Amanda. With the bonds of family tying everything together, the moment was right for a big opportunity.

Breaking Into Food Processing Automation

The Fremont Automation team was invited to tour the new Lincoln Premium Poultry plant located in Dave’s hometown of Fremont, Nebraska. This facility was Costco’s way of controlling the costs of their famous rotisserie chicken and processed 420,000 birds a day.

During the tour, Dave watched the line at work. He saw machines and operators moving in rhythm, packing the chicken in an efficient dance of human and machine. Except for one thing. They were taping the saddlepacks by hand. It was slow. It was clumsy. It was inefficient.

“Do you want me to automate that for you?” Dave Benes asked. The tour guide told him it couldn’t be done. They’d had firm after engineering firm look at it and the consensus was clear: the task was too intricate for machines to outpace human hands. 

But Dave, fueled by his unique blend of ingenuity and optimism, wasn’t ready to take ‘impossible’ for an answer. “I could just see how it was supposed to work,” he reflected, envisioning the solution in vivid detail from inception to execution. “I could see it in my head, from start to finish.” 

Motivated by this clear vision, the Fremont Automation team swiftly transitioned from concept to creation. Within a week, they had crafted a design for an automated saddlepack taper, and shortly after, received the green light for production.

The outcome? A groundbreaking machine that exceeded expectations. Costco’s facilities now boast nine of these machines, enhancing efficiency and setting a new standard in the poultry processing industry. The adoption didn’t stop there; giants like Butterball and Pilgrim’s Pride have also integrated these machines into their operations, acknowledging the impact of Fremont Automation’s solution.

Following the success of the Saddlepack Taper, Fremont Automation turned its attention to another labor-intensive task in meat processing: the manual portioning of poultry into saddlepacks. With their characteristic blend of creativity and technical prowess, the team developed an automated saddlepack depositor that revolutionized the process. This new invention not only minimized the need for manual labor but also significantly improved portioning accuracy and eliminated the risk of leaking packages due to wet seals. 

Once again, Fremont Automation had transformed a challenge into an opportunity. 

Moving Forward with Food Processing Innovation

As Fremont Automation gears up for its next exciting chapter, the team’s focus sharpens on the food processing industry. For customers, their innovative solutions, like the Saddlepack Taper and Saddlepack Depositor, have already set new standards for efficiency. Now, this forward-thinking crew is on the hunt for fresh challenges, eager to apply their signature blend of ‘homegrown innovation’ to revolutionize operational workflows. 

Fremont Automation is on the lookout for new partners who not only appreciate but fully embrace this ethos of inventive, ground-up problem-solving.  It’s a distinctive approach that looks at problems with unbiased, fresh eyes, crafting solutions that optimize the use of existing equipment and floor space. These collaborations aren’t just about solving problems; they’re about forging partnerships that thrive on mutual respect for ingenuity and a shared vision for elevating the industry.

“We’re in the business of aligning with like-minded folks who share our values and aspire to lift the industry to new heights,” Amanda Benes notes. “Our way of doing it is what so few people do. But this is the easier way to do it.”

This commitment to collaboration, integrity, and innovation is what sets Fremont Automation apart in the meat processing industry. By bringing their ‘homegrown innovation’ to every project, they’re not just changing the way food facilities operate; they’re redefining what’s possible in manufacturing process automation. It’s this ethos that propels Fremont Automation forward, driving the industry toward efficiency, sustainability, and innovation.