By Ashley Reyes
The SEMA Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) named Dakota Digital as the council’s latest member spotlight company.
Get to know the story of their business, and their breakthrough moment below.
SEMA: Tell us the story of your business. How did you start?
Dakota Digital: Dakota Digital is at the forefront of automotive instrumentation technology, offering both vacuum fluorescent digital systems as well as analog/digital hybrid instrument systems. Our 40,000 sq.-ft. manufacturing facility is conveniently located near the center of the United States in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Since its inception in 1986, Dakota Digital has been a leader in the development of exciting products for an exciting industry. Like most small businesses, a basement, a garage and passion were the catalyst for the company. Integrating modern electronics with the look of yesterday has become a hallmark of the company, becoming one small piece of hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts’ dream projects.
SEMA: What was your breakthrough moment?
DD: The first breakthrough or milestone moment was the first SEMA award won. The validation from not only our customer base, but the industry as a whole, that what we were producing was revolutionary, was a tremendous shot in the arm.
The second springboard moment was the release of our VHX series, our first line of analog direct-fit instrumentation, in 2010. This new series lit the nearly vertical trajectory for the company which still continues today.
SEMA: Tell us about your business now and projects that you are working on.
DD: Much of the focus in 2021 was a result of the 2020 world events. With unbelievably high product demand and the global semiconductor shortage, each day is a juggling act of attempting to meet manufacturing demand, while procuring and production everything that this requires. This has resulted in several new processes and manufacturing methods, increasing efficiencies and creating a strong company in the face of these new challenges.
SEMA: Tell us about a particular project, product or build you are proud of.
DD: One of the most unique projects which we’ve been involved with is a very custom instrument cluster for a ’36 Pontiac built by Legens Hot Rod Shop. Steve Legens’ vision was 50% of a clear globe, exiting the center of a beautifully-fabricated dash. The globe would contain multiple horizontal layers, each a rotating gauge dial spun with servo motors. Each gauge dial would be internally trimmed by hefty chromed machined aluminum rings, incorporating fixed pointers. The rotating layers and pointers would all need to be backlit for night use. The mechanical engineering, machining, 3D printing and fabrication that went into this project was nothing short of staggering. With an idea so far out there, it was an intriguing challenge that we wanted to be the one to execute, and certainly something that are proud to have been a part of.
SEMA: What advice do you have for young professionals contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket, particularly in the restoration segment?
DD: Find your passion and let that be your guiding light. Continue to refine this and look for improvement each step of the way. Surround yourself with experts to assist where you lack knowledge or a particular skill. Be a perfectionist; become an expert in your passion.
Fill out an ARMO-member spotlight form to highlight how your company is contributing to the specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are eligible to be featured on ARMO’s social media, SEMA News and future ARMO member updates.