On my second trip to Perry, Okla., to attend a Ditch Witch equipment seminar put on by The Charles Machine Works Co., I didn't imagine I'd find the people there more charming than I did the time before. Although, the Ditch Witch band, Exit 186, wasn't planning to perform in the hotel bar after the closing dinner program as they had on my first visit, I was still able to get a top-notch historical tour of both downtown Oklahoma City and the company's Perry headquarters, 65 miles to the north, from Ditch Witch employees Jeri Kannenwischer, Don Sikes and Larry Anderson.
At the event, Ditch Witch was host to more than 300 dealers and customers, all treated to the company's distinctive blend of hospitality and exuberance. With Ditch Witch employees as guides, you're bound to have a good time, and come away with both current and historical knowledge of Oklahoma, Perry, Ditch Witch, its culture and its products.
Though the company is well known for its underground construction equipment, Ditch Witch has expanded its product offerings into the compact equipment market and beyond. According to CEO Tiffany Sewell-Howard, business has been driven in recent years by the oil and gas industries, as opposed to the telecommunication market as it was in the past.
“A lot of our larger units are more popular now than they were three or four years ago,” says Sewell-Howard, who acknowledges continued growth in the directional drill and compact equipment markets, though she also notes that the trencher market is pretty mature.
Ed Malzahn, The Charles Machine Works' chairman and president, identifies additional opportunities for the company caused by an aging national infrastructure with regard to water and sewer lines.
At a product premiere production held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., the company spotlighted many of its latest product innovations. Among them was the new 1330 compact hydrostatic trencher, which was recently added to the company's pedestrian trencher product line. Designed for rental applications, and landscaping, irrigation and utility contractors, the 1330 is a low-maintenance, hydraulic-drive trencher that features a reversible digging chain for dislodging rocks or spoils caught in the chain.
Also new to the Ditch Witch lineup is the XT1600 excavator tool carrier. Based on the success of its XT850, Ditch Witch introduced the XT1600, which is designed to do the work of three machines: a backhoe loader, mini-excavator and compact track loader. Equipped with a 59-hp diesel engine, the XT1600 is a ride-on unit that features a 260-degree excavator sweep that enables the operator to dig in multiple positions in confined spaces, including offset digging along walls, fences and buildings. It also features an equalizer track system that results in a smoother ride, easier loading and unloading, and reduced operator fatigue.
With more than 70 available attachments, Ditch Witch's new SK500 mini-skid steer was designed with versatility in mind. Its intuitive operator interface uses only four levers to control all of the machine's functions. Independent hydraulic circuits help the SK500 turn tightly for increased job productivity, and a pilot-control valve for ground drive is designed to provide highly responsive steering with little or no vibration feedback, increasing operator comfort.
The new SK300 mini-skid steer is the company's smallest. It features a zero-turning radius and accepts many of the same attachments as the larger SK500. Its high ground clearance provides good maneuverability and enables access to more locations.
Also introduced at the event was the souped up, supercharged, remote-controlled Super Witch 6, a glossy black version of the SK500 dressed up with flame decals and a lot of extra horsepower. Indeed, Perry has reason to be proud.