RECAP — TechBrew:AM w/ Emily Schmitt

This month, we hosted Emily Schmitt, Chief Administration Officer & General Counsel of Sukup Manufacturing Co., as our featured guest at TechBrew:AM. Emily shared her career journey in the family business, discussed innovations in manufacturing, and highlighted how she invests in her employees and community.

Emily is part of the third-generation family managing Sukup Manufacturing Co., the largest family-owned grain drying and storage equipment manufacturer in the U.S., headquartered in Sheffield, Iowa.

As Chief Administration Officer and General Counsel, she oversees teams in legal, HR, communications, and strategic planning. She also handles various legal issues, including intellectual property and public policy.


1.    Tech Innovations at Sukup

Emily shared that many people are unaware of the tech investments and innovations behind Sukup Manufacturing. The organization introduced robotics to its facility over twenty years ago and continues to invest in new technologies.

Sukup sees opportunities for advancements and innovation in several areas:
–     Using data analytics to connect IoT machines and streamline plant capacity.
–     Advancing manufacturing with 3D printing and direct metal lasers.
–     Enabling farmers to run their farms from their phones, reducing the need for manual labor.

2.    Sukup Innovations Acquisition

Sukup recently acquired Ramco Innovations to form Sukup Innovations, further investing in automation, monitoring, and Industry 4.0 practices. Led by Hank Norem, Ramco Innovations brings invaluable automation leadership, hardware, and expertise to Sukup. This collaboration enables them to continue driving innovation in the AgTech industry.

3.    Reimagining Products for Good

Emily shared her favorite of Sukup’s philanthropic endeavors: Sukup Safe T Homes. She described these as the most concrete, physical embodiment of Sukup’s mission. The Safe T Homes are 18-foot diameter grain bins repurposed to provide shelter and housing in third-world countries. Sukup has deployed these homes to over ten countries, including over 500 homes in Haiti. Emily has personally traveled to Haiti to help build these homes. She highlighted their life-saving impact during Hurricane Matthew, when 200 homes in Haiti sustained little to no damage. Sukup’s Safe T Homes initiative exemplifies how organizations can use technology to reimagine their products and help those in need.

4.  Investing in Employee Growth & Safety

Throughout the event, Emily’s dedication to the development and well-being of Sukup’s employees was evident. When asked what keeps her up at night, she mentioned her concern for the safety of employees in the manufacturing facility, emphasizing her commitment to ensuring they return home safely to their families.

In employee satisfaction surveys, her teams consistently describe her as empowering. Emily loves seeing others grow and works with employees to develop personalized development plans to support their goals.

Sukup heavily invests in employee retention and engagement, including expanding micro-regional office locations across north and central Iowa. Other recent initiatives include an on-site clinic operated by MercyOne and a childcare center set to open in Fall 2024.

4. Mentorship & Empowering Others

In alignment with her focus on empowerment, Emily encouraged the audience to seek out mentors and to serve as mentors themselves. She emphasized that mentorship fosters growth and development for both mentors and mentees, helping them gain leadership skills, confidence, and career advancement.

Emily shared the story of two women who empowered her to speak as a lunch keynote at a conference, giving her the opportunity and confidence to share her story. Through mentoring others, she hopes to pass on this empowerment and give others a platform to shine.

With the final word of the event, she continued the theme of empowerment, sharing:

“Iowans are very humble and often struggle to tell their own stories. How can you empower others by providing opportunities for them to share their stories?”

Join us for the next TechBrew:AM on June 13th with John Bertrand, CIO at Brownells, Inc.:

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