Allis Tool & Machine Corp.
647 S. 94th Place, West Allis
Industry: custom machined parts and prototyping
Milwaukee-based Allis Tool & Machine Corp. is poised for future growth, with the recent purchase of a 2-acre lot next door.
President Bill York plans to expand the 37,000-square-foot facility into the lot next year, if the economic recovery holds up. The addition, details of which have yet to be determined, would have higher ceilings to accommodate larger parts and would result in up to 10 new jobs.
Allis Tool is a job shop focused on manufacturing tools for original equipment manufacturers. The parts range from palm of the hand sized to 26,000 pounds, said president Bill York.
"We're a supplier for specialized tooling. The bigger the tooling, the better," York said.
That's because the company made a strategic decision several years ago not to compete with China on off the shelf tools, instead making larger custom components.
About 70 percent of Allis Tool's customers are in southeastern Wisconsin, but several of those are large international original equipment manufacturers like Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and Rexnord Corp.
"Where we're located, considering the customer base we've got… (OEMs) are outsourcing larger and larger parts because of their volume demands," York said.
Higher volume for customers means more business for Allis Tool, which saw double digit sales growth in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Annual revenue is now between $7 million and $10 million.
The company must anticipate future demands to learn which equipment to invest in, York said.
"We want to support (customers) and be there to do that, so we're trying to be ahead of them," he said.
Manufacturers only need new tools every two years, so Allis maintains a diversified customer base. Most customers are in the mining, agriculture, health care and automotive industries.
"If you put all your eggs in one basket, the basket could be gone tomorrow," York said. "We pretty much know the top five markets that we're successful in and we continue to be active in."
Products include a steel hub for Harley-Davidson wheel spokes, a fixture to clamp round parts for automotive quality checks and grinder bearing housings for a company that makes the rollers for printing name badges.
Allis Tool also makes MRI repair tool kits for GE Healthcare that the company sends around the world and adds blades to pulverizing equipment used for shredding.
York and several others purchased the business in 1997 and have since made investments in capital equipment, including mills, horizontals and lathes.
Since it makes such large parts, Allis focuses on production quality over quantity. The company also makes repairs to customers' tools.
Allis Tool runs two 10-hour shifts per day, four days per week. Friday and Saturday are optional overtime, and most of the company's 43 employees are working 50-hour weeks.
An apprenticeship program trains more inexperienced employees to fill in the gaps when highly skilled workers leave. Allis is continuously hiring, and has added three new employees so far this year, York said.
The company's 26,000-pound capacity is opening up a lot of business for Allis Tool, he said. Some machines are large enough to make locomotive cars.
"You could literally put your car in there and we could put a sunroof on it," York said.