Duo Lift Manufacturing is expanding for the third time in four years to make room for a growing work force and new production process that’s expected to reduce product lead times.

The Columbus company, which designs and builds trailers and running gears for agricultural, commercial and industrial customers, is adding a 20,000-square-foot building to its 2810 38th St. site. The project comes just six months after Duo Lift completed a 20,000-square-foot addition to further streamline its production process.

“When we had that expansion about 20% done, we realized it wasn’t enough,” said Jim Hellbusch, who runs the family-owned business with his wife Connie and sons Ben and David.

Hellbusch said an overhead conveyor system will be added to the existing building and the new space will allow the company to install a process that improves production flow and efficiency.

It’s all part of an effort to get products to customers and dealers faster.

Sales at Duo Lift increased 66% between 2006 and 2011 as the company introduced several new products and a farm equipment division. In 2008, an 8,000-square-foot shipping building was added along with new marketing strategies to promote the diversified product line.

Hellbusch said sales jumped another 25% each of the past two years as a strong agricultural economy pushed product demand even higher.

“When they have money, they want to buy the best product out there, and that’s who we are,” said Hellbusch.

The problem, he said, is the lead time between an order and its completion at Duo Lift is currently six to eight weeks while competitors can deliver products in less than half that time. By reducing this lead time, Hellbusch believes Duo Lift can gain even more market share.

The newest addition, which is expected to be complete by the end of March, will house the fabrication department, freeing up space for more changes.

Part of the current fabrication department will be dedicated to manufacturing and engineering and 1,000 square feet of production area will be turned into 2,000 square feet of office space spread over two stories.

Hellbusch said an enlarged research and development department will improve upon the company’s reputation for developing products to meet customers’ needs, such as a new fuel-hauling trailer introduced last summer.

“That’s what sets us apart from our competition,” he said.

Duo Lift is also creating a new conference room, buying two robotic welders and renovating the office building built in 1995.

“We’re making more offices for more people,” said Hellbusch, which is expected to improve the work environment and customer service.

Duo Lift has added 16 employees over the past year, taking its total work force to 84.

The company, started in 1943, manufactures 3,000 to 4,000 units annually that are sold mainly to North American customers through regional distributors and company representatives serving approximately 600 dealers.