Recent History – 1999
July 9, 1999, By Kelly Henschel, Daily News Staff
Good news travels fast and recently that meant a big surprise for Al Berkner of Dawson Creek. Near the beginning of June, the local entrepreneur was quietly going about his business, filling in the flower boxes at the NAR Park using his self-built remote controlled mini-loader. Then the Daily News came by and wrote an article about his machine.
Little did Berkner know then that one month later he would be travelling across the prairies to share his expertise with the manufacturer of the loader in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
“They phoned me and asked me if I’d be interested in going down to Yorkton and putting the radio on a machine for them,” he says, still more than a little surprised at the attention his homemade invention has received.
The mini-machine is made by Leon’s Manufacturing Corporation and is sold all over the world.
While it’s only five feet long and three feet wide, the machine can lift 750 pounds and load a pickup truck with ease.
Ray Malinowski, executive vice president of Leons, first took notice of the Peace country resident’s initiative when he read the Peace River Block Daily News article, which was reprinted in the Regina Leader-Post. The idea of operating a loader by remote caught his eye.
“We’ve already had requests for that type of equipment,” he says, particularly from workers who are dealing with hazardous materials or generally unpleasant working conditions. It would be of great asset in a refinery, he says, where workers need to clean toxic chemicals from pits and bins.
“They could put (the machine) into the bin and the man could be at the top working the controls,” he says.
As a result, he invited Berkner to come to Yorkton and install a remote radio control in one of their machines.
“We had him surrounded by our engineers,” Malinowski laughs, and Berkner demonstrated installing a radio made for use in a remote control plane into the mini-loader.
Each time the control on the remote is moved, small devices called servos, which contain a motor, operate the controls on the machine, which the operator can control from anywhere as long as the loader is in his line of sight.
The concept had been simmering on the back burner of the company’s agenda for some time, says Malinowski.
“We’ve had it on the agenda, but it probably would have been another year or two down the line, so his efforts are very much appreciated,” he says. “It’s going to be very good for us.”
After testing is completed, the company plans to introduce Berkner’s design into the marketplace.
“It will be added to our line up next year as an option,” Malinowski says.
Berkner says he can’t believe all that’s happened in the last few weeks.
“It was kind of nice,” he says, looking over his payment from Leon’s — a brand new 12-foot trailer and 1999 Ramrod Task Master Mini-Loader. “Nothing like that has ever happened to me before.”