Keith Foster's innovation spread his Madras-made invention around the world

PHOTO COURTESY KEITH MANUFACTURING - Keith Foster, who established KEITH Manufacturing and inventing the walking floors system, was honored by placement on the Wall of Fame at the recent Mid-America Truck Show. Foster died in 2006.

When Lindsay Foster-Drago saw a photo of Keith Foster (her grandfather) honored on the Wall of Fame at the recent Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, Kentucky, she waxed nostalgic.

She remembers going to that truck show for years.

"You hear stories about my grandfather from customers," she said.

MATS created the Wall of Fame to commemorate the show's 50th anniversary. They honored Foster for his invention and perfection of what he called the walking floor. It's a way for the trucking industry to remove cargo safely and easily.

"It was such an honor to be with my dad (Mark Foster) at this show," said Foster-Drago. "It's an important piece of our company's history. This was the first show KEITH took its products to."

PHOTO COURTESY KEITH MANUFACTURING - Keith Foster's granddaughter, Lindsay Foster-Drago, president of KEITH Manufacturing, and his son, Mark Foster, the company's chair and CEO at the Wall of Fame honoring the company founder at the Mid-America Truck Show recently in Louisville, KY.

The walking floor uses an ingenious system of metal floor slats that move alternately and then together to gently "walk" a load to the door and out of a truck.

Foster launched his company, KEITH Manufacturing, in Madras in 1970. (He named his first company Foster. When that dissolved, he named his second company KEITH to avoid confusion.) Foster worked on the invention for years, refining the execution of the idea. Finally, hydraulics powered the most viable product.

KEITH spent plenty of lean years getting acceptance in the trucking industry. Trucking companies wouldn't install the floors in their rigs. For a while, KEITH had to install the floors itself at its Madras facility.

"It's interesting to see KEITH inducted into something like the Mid-America Trucking Show for an industry that would never put our products into their trucks," said Foster-Drago

remembering how her grandfather overcame the resistance. "I think the full circle of that is pretty cool and a testament to how our team helps customers."

By the 1990s, the walking floor took off. Now KEITH has dealerships across the country and all over the world, including Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.

People right here in Madras make the product and ship it around the globe.

KEITH Manufacturing employs approximately 190 people at its Madras facility, and is the sixth largest employer in the county.

"I'll be somewhere in Mexico or in India and see product that was literally made by the people here, turned from raw material into a usable product that makes other people's lives better. It's pretty powerful," said Foster-Drago. "I think that's something I hope everyone is super proud of."

Experience told the founder, Keith Foster, keeping production local made quality control much easier.

"We've made the investment of the people and equipment here," said Foster-Drago.

Foster-Drago has worked for the company since 2006, when her grandfather passed away and her father, Mark Foster, took over as chairman and CEO.

As president, her goal is to double the size of the company over the next 10-15 years.

She admires how hard her grandfather worked to take the company to this point.

She says her favorite Keith Foster quote captures the spirit of the company: "The difficult we do today. The impossible just takes a little longer."

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