“I still demo other brands, but Komatsu always wins.”
Mike Knopik has always had a connection
with the screening/crushing/recycling industry.
He started in his father’s environmental
company 30 years ago, screening contaminated
soils across the southeast U.S. When Mike and
his wife, Lisa, decided it was time to start a
family, he returned to Minnesota and got into the
screening and crushing business. After nearly
20 years in the industry, Mike decided it was
again time for a change. So in 2007, he set out
on his own and founded Knopik Crushing Inc.,
focusing solely on crushing and recycling.
“I always knew I wanted to work for myself –
live the dream, I guess,” said Mike. “I really
enjoy crushing. It’s an industry where you can
always make a good living if you’re putting in
the hours. Also, weather isn’t as much of a factor in
our work, which is nice.”
When it came time to find employees for his
new venture, Mike turned to his family. Lisa and
his brother Steve joined right away. Steve runs
equipment along with Mike, and Lisa manages the
financial side of the business. Mike’s sons, Joe and
William, have also become involved, in addition to
Tyler Johnson – who started with the company in
“It all kind of worked itself out,” recalled Mike.
“I ran equipment, and Lisa took care of the books.
Steve was with another contractor and would
work with us in the winter when he was laid off.
Eventually, he came on full time. Joe started here
four years ago, and William is in college, studying
construction management, but works with us in
the summers. We consider Tyler our ‘new guy,’ and
he does a great job, too.”
Mike prefers being a small company.
“We’re a tight-knit group and have a family
atmosphere,” he said. “We aren’t big on titles. No
one has a specialized job – we rotate positions and
duties on projects. Everyone is willing and able
to help if something comes up on a jobsite. All of
these guys are really good at what they do.”
Today, the Inver Grove, Minnesota-based
company typically does 12 to 15 jobs a year,
producing roughly 600,000 tons of material. Mike
says almost 70 percent of his jobs are recycling,
with the other 30 percent dealing with virgin
materials. The bulk of Knopik Crushing’s work
occurs in the Twin Cities area, but the company has
done jobs throughout Minnesota, Iowa and North
“We have a lot of repeat customers with
contracts to come in once or twice a year and crush
material,” said Mike. “We can produce anything
from three-quarter minus to eight-inch rock.
Whatever spec the customer wants, we deliver. We
produce the material and leave it on-site for the
Carving out a niche
Mike immediately found the ideal focus for
his new crushing business – small projects. That
turned out to play a larger role in the company’s
success than he thought it would. When the
Great Recession hit, it negatively affected larger
companies with big, multiple-machine spreads and
“I started with a small impact plant because
that’s what I could afford, but it also allowed me
to fill what I believed was a void in the market,”
said Mike. “Being small and nimble was a distinct
advantage. When the economy crashed, it took a
toll on a lot of the larger companies because they
weren’t set up to do the type of work we did. We
focused on 2,000- to 3,000-ton projects that involved
crushing material on-site and leaving it there,
which became more prominent when the recession
hit. We were able to get in and out quickly because
of our spread, and we didn’t have trucking costs.
Customers appreciated our work, and we built
from that foundation.”
Eventually, his small spread could not keep up
with production, and Mike had to grow. Timing
was on his side. The economy was beginning to
rebound, and the company had created strong
bonds with customers.
“That smaller set up worked for a couple
of years, but we decided that we had to get
stronger and more productive,” said Mike. “We
upgraded to a larger spread, and it has paid off.
What we lost in mobility, we made up for by
doubling production. Today, we average about
300 to 350 tons of product an hour when we are
recycling. If we are working with virgin materials,
we can average about 500 tons an hour.”
With timing, luck and a heavy dose of hard
work, Knopik Crushing has enjoyed steady
growth throughout its eight years in operation.
“The crushing industry is pretty strong in
central Minnesota right now,” said Mike. “We’re
extremely busy, and we don’t even advertise.
We’ve been fortunate, but we also provide a great
service, produce quality products and make sure
a site looks better when we leave than it did when
we got there. Our customers really appreciate
Komatsu, KPI-JCI equipment from RMS
Even before Mike started his company, he knew
Komatsu would be in his fleet.
“I’ve always run Komatsu equipment, and
I push it to everybody,” he said. “Every time I
need a new loader, I still demo other brands, but
Komatsu always wins. I can run circles around the
competition in a Komatsu.”
Knopik Crushing also relies on Road
Machinery & Supplies and Territory Manager
Gordon Johnson. Recently, Knopik purchased a
Komatsu WA500 wheel loader with a Hensley
six-and-a-half-yard, spade-nosed rock bucket.
The loader came with KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s
machine-monitoring system, and Komatsu CARE,
through which RMS provides complimentary
service for the first 2,000 hours or three years.
“The machine is excellent; it has more than
enough power. The bucket is great for tearing into
piles of material, and it’s the right size for us with
our spread,” said Mike. “We put 1,600 hours on it
in eight months. In recycling, we are pretty much
running into a pile, filling the bucket, dumping it
and doing it all over again as many times as we
have to. We haven’t had any problems. The WA500
is a tank.
“The services that RMS provides have been
excellent, too,” he added. “Having someone come
out every 500 hours to do maintenance through
Komatsu CARE is a great plan. We used to do
our own maintenance, but this is better. RMS also
helped us lower our idle time significantly, which
isn’t easy to do in recycling. We got our idle time
down to 23 percent with KOMTRAX, and we
were one of six companies to win an award for
the reduction, so that was exciting.”
RMS was also there when Knopik Crushing
needed to upgrade its equipment to increase
production four years ago. The company’s set up
now features a KPI 3055 Vanguard jaw crusher
and a JCI K300 cone plant. As with the Komatsu
loader, RMS is on-hand to perform maintenance
on the crushing spread.
“RMS has been great about helping us,
especially with parts and manganese changes,”
said Mike. “Everyone at RMS goes the extra mile
to do what they can to help us out.”
Efficiency was a top priority for Mike when
picking the machines. He made sure that
everything matched, and believes he now has
one of the best spreads in the market.
“When you’re crushing, its all about balance,”
he said. “We wanted to avoid bottlenecks.
That starts with the bucket on the loader and
continues through the stacker. There are a lot of
moving parts involved, but our downtime has
been minimal with the KPI-JCI equipment. Also,
having good employees monitoring the process
is important. It all works together.”
At 51, Mike has no intention of slowing down –
just the opposite, in fact. After eight years of
growth and an increasing market for crushing
and recycling, Mike plans on going even stronger
during the next few years.
“We hope to add another spread and crew next
year,” he said. “We are very busy right now, and I
think it’s only going to get busier going forward.
I’m confident we can grow and continue to be
Mike isn’t limiting his growth to the near
“In five to 10 years, I could see us with three
spreads and a rock quarry or gravel pit. It’s
just a matter of finding the right fit for us. It’s a
challenge to find pits with good aggregate in a
good location, but they’re out there,” he said.
“Hopefully Joe and William can take over the
business and continue to grow. It’ll be exciting to
see where it goes.”