Monday, September 29, 2014
Manufacturing executives share forecasts
September 29, 2014 09:40 AM
A panel of accomplished chief executive officers will discuss the challenges and opportunities for competing in a global economy at the 2014 BizTimes Manufacturing Summit.

Executives from manufacturing companies throughout Wisconsin are invited to attend the breakfast event, which will take place on Wednesday at the Pewaukee headquarters of Harken Inc. at 24983 Bluemound Road.

The executives on the panel will be: Katherine Gehl, chief executive officer of Gehl Foods Inc., Germantown; Paul Grangaard, chief executive officer of Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp., Port Washington; Frank Krejci, chief executive officer of Strattec Security Corp., Milwaukee; and Austin Ramirez, chief executive officer of HUSCO International Inc., Waukesha.

BizTimes asked each of the panelists to share their projections for the year ahead in manufacturing. To read their forecasts, click here.

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Harley recalls over 106,000 motorcycles in U.S. for clutch, fuel tank problems
September 29, 2014 09:50 AM
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motor Co. has issued a recall for 126,978 Touring motorcycles from the 2014 model year because of a potential issue with clutches. Of that number, 105,746 were shipped to the U.S.

According to director of corporate communications Maripat Blankenheim, the hydraulic clutch system may develop a tear in the primary seal on the master cylinder position. If this occurs, the system may lose the ability to maintain enough lift to keep the clutch disengaged. The motorcycle could creep forward from a stop and lead to a loss of control of the vehicle.

Blankenheim said Harley-Davidson will rebuild the clutch master cylinders for motorcycles impacted by the recall at no charge. At least 19 low-speed crashes resulting in three minor injuries have been tied to the problem.

Harley-Davidson is also recalling 1,391 Street motorcycles from the 2015 model year, including 888 that were shipped to the U.S., to test for possible fuel tank leaks, according to Blankenheim. The fuel tank filler neck in defective motorcycles may not allow the fuel cap to seal to the tank properly causing a fuel tank leak.

Harley-Davidson will replace the tank at no charge for any affected motorcycles. No accidents or injuries have been reported due to this problem.

“Both of these are voluntary recalls in the interest of customer safety and satisfaction,” Blankenheim said.

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Manufacturing Day to take place Friday
September 29, 2014 10:01 AM
Several Milwaukee-area manufacturers will open their doors on Friday in honor of Manufacturing Day, an annual celebration of manufacturing in North America.

Sussex-based Waukesha Metal Products, for instance, will host facility tours and presentations to community members, students and educators at their Sussex and Grafton facilities between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with prescheduled times for local schools.

Students from Merton Intermediate School and North Lake Middle School are scheduled to visit the Sussex facility, while students from Port Washington High School and Grafton John Long Middle School will visit the Grafton facility.

The tours and presentations will highlight the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s economy and feature the many rewarding, highly-skilled jobs available in the manufacturing industry.

Last month, Waukesha Metal Products was named the grand prize winner of the first-ever Manufacturing Day video contest.

For more information and to register online, visit the Sussex and Grafton event pages.  

The University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Manufacturing Diversity Institute will also celebrate Manufacturing Day by hosting an inaugural Innovation Café featuring speaker John Sibley Butler. He is the Gale Chair in Entrepreneurship and Small Business in the Graduate School of Business and the director of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin.

Click here for a complete listing of local Manufacturing Day events.

Meanwhile, Manufacturing Day’s media partner the Science Channel will air a week-long celebration of manufacturing with “How It’s Made” Week.

Starting today, the Science Channel will air more than 200 favorite episodes of “How It’s Made” and “How It’s Made: Dream Cars,” culminating in new episodes of the series on Friday at 9 p.m.

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Generac to hire 100 statewide, revamp manufacturing facilities
September 29, 2014 10:07 AM
Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems Inc. announced last week that it will hire approximately 100 employees in Southeastern Wisconsin, the Fox Valley, Berlin and Oshkosh. In total, it has approximately 3,400 employees.

The company, a designer and manufacturer of generators and other small engine powered products, held a job fair last week at its Whitewater facility to recruit employees for the open positions in customer support, engineering and operations.

The company also held a job fair in Oshkosh in May in an effort to fill 100 positions companywide. Although Generac public relations manager Art Aiello said there could be some overlap between those positions and the newly announced ones, the majority of the positions announced last week are new.

“They are simply part of our continued growth," Aiello said. "Generac continues to see a great deal of demand for home standby generators, as well as the portable generators, and we want to make sure we are staffed accordingly to meet those demands.”

Generac, which has more than 70 percent of the home standby generator market share nationwide, has benefited from the rapidly growing residential generator market that has resulted from a rising number of power outages. Generator manufacturers attribute the outages to aging power grids and several severe storms that have knocked out power to large areas of the country.

In an October 2013 interview with BizTimes Milwaukee, Generac president and chief executive officer Aaron Jagdfeld said he anticipates Generac's home standby business will grow at between 11 and 13 percent annually going forward.

Generac announced the hiring plans at a media day last week, at which time it also revealed changes to its Whitewater plant that include a digital manufacturing line.

Aimed at attracting a younger workforce that wants tech-savvy careers, the factory’s digital components are intended to make it easier to increase production and to train new employees during high volume times.

The multi-million dollar digital manufacturing line, which is used by 28 to 32 people per shift, was implemented in part of Whitewater’s facility in April. While the Eagle and Jefferson facilities are also operating pilot manufacturing lanes, Generac plans a digital rollout across all of its plants over the next two to three years.

“We’re using this time as an opportunity to make sure we get all the kinks worked out before we roll it out across all the facilities, but they are fully operational,” Aiello said. “The approach we are taking is very cutting-edge, and we feel we are at the forefront of this technology.”

Among the new features of Whitewater’s newly revamped factory are a centralized location called the “super market” where all the raw materials are located, digital screens at each station that actively update the workers on manufacturing processes, and a digital board that tracks hour-by-hour performances of such factors as safety, quality and productivity.

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Federal Tool & Engineering LLC holds groundbreaking
September 29, 2014 10:14 AM
Federal Tool & Engineering LLC held a groundbreaking last Thursday for its West Bend expansion, which is expected to be completed next summer.

The company plans to nearly triple the 21,000-square-foot facility at 2150 Stonebridge Road in the city’s South Industrial Park to 60,000 square feet. The expansion will allow the company to relocate its operations and employees to West Bend from Cedarburg.

FTE has 47 employees, two of which were recently hired. It also plans to hire at least another eight employees within the next three years.

“Today’s groundbreaking for Federal Tool & Engineering is yet another Wisconsin success story, proving that hard work and quality products are the hallmarks of a successful company,” said Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch at the groundbreaking.  “Our state’s manufacturing sector continues to grow, and we applaud FTE’s investment in Wisconsin and its commitment to hiring more of our friends and neighbors to staff its expanded operations in this new facility.”

The company announced earlier this year that it would move to the West Bend facility that it purchased in 2013 after incentives were approved by the city of West Bend and Economic Development Washington County. FTE officials cited cooperative and welcoming local government officials, an energetic workforce, access to U.S. Highway 45 and a vibrant technical college for contributing to the move.

“The expansion will allow FTE to support growth by allowing for the increase of advanced manufacturing equipment and improved lean flow of product through the manufacturing process. Through growth, we will continue to add solid family- supporting jobs that help to support the city, community and the great state of Wisconsin,” said FTE president David Tomczek.

FTE provides engineering metal components and assemblies to domestic and foreign manufacturers. 

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Johnson Controls names McDonald vice chairman, announces more promotions
September 29, 2014 10:18 AM
Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. announced last week that Bruce McDonald has been named executive vice president and vice chairman, effective immediately.

McDonald most recently served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the global multi-industrial company. In the newly created role of vice chairman, he will be responsible for guiding operational and financial performance and leading the procurement, corporate development, investor relations, enterprise ERP implementation and discontinued operations businesses.

McDonald has worked at Johnson Controls since 2001, and was appointed chief financial officer in 2005 and executive vice president in 2006. He previously worked in financial roles at Ernst & Young and Varity Corp. McDonald holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from McMaster University. He is a chartered accountant and a certified public accountant.

Brian Stief has been promoted to chief financial officer to take McDonald’s place. He most recently served as vice president and corporate controller. Stief joined Johnson Controls in 2010. He previously was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he worked for more than 30 years. Stief holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting from the University of Iowa.

Johnson Controls also made the following promotions and appointments:
  • The board of directors has elected Suzanne Vincent as vice president and corporate controller, making her a corporate officer immediately. Vincent joined the company in 2012 as vice president of Internal Audit, where she was responsible for providing assurance to senior management and the Audit Committee of the board of directors regarding the adequacy and effectiveness of the company's internal financial and operational controls. She was also responsible for risk management and compliance with policies that collectively support the overall efficiency and profitability of the company.
  • The board of directors has appointed Brian Cadwallader as vice president, secretary and general counsel for the company, effective Wednesday. Cadwallader, who joined the company in 2010, was elected as a company officer and named vice president and assistant secretary in January. With this promotion, he succeeds Jerome Okarma who will retire from the company at the end of the year after 25 years of service.
  • The board of directors has elected Grady Crosby as a corporate officer and appointed him as vice president of public affairs and chief diversity officer, effective Wednesday. In this role, Crosby will develop and implement focused government relations strategies and lead the company's sustainability and community involvement initiatives in order to build partnerships that align with the Johnson Controls brand and to build value. Crosby will also serve as president of the Johnson Controls Foundation. Crosby is succeeding Charles  Harvey who is retiring from the company at the end of the year after more than 27 years of service. Since joining Johnson Controls in 2011, Crosby has held several positions of increasing responsibility, most recently as vice president and global general counsel for the company's Power Solutions business.
In other Johnson Controls news, the company has been recognized as a leader among Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies by environmental nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project for its actions to reduce carbon emissions and to lessen the business risks of climate change.

CDP, the world’s only global environmental disclosure system, is announcing the achievement in the CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report 2014 (, which presents new analysis linking S&P 500 industry leaders with financial outperformance.

The annual index spotlights companies listed on the S&P 500 that have demonstrated a commitment to managing climate change by integrating it into their business strategy and taking actionable steps to reduce climate-related risk.

“Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and we face steep financial risk if we do not mitigate them. The business case for action to reduce climate change has never been stronger or more urgent,” said Paul Simpson, chief executive officer of CDP.

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New hires and promotions
September 29, 2014 10:23 AM

LIFE Corporation, a medical device manufacturer based in Milwaukee, has promoted Taylor Hintz to operations and marketing director, in charge of all product manufacturing, purchasing and quality control functions. He also directs building distributor relationships and product presence on distributor websites. Hintz has been with LIFE Corporation for over two years.

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Kohler Power names new group president
September 29, 2014 10:25 AM
Tom Cromwell, president of Kohler Engines since 2009, has assumed responsibility for Kohler Co.'s worldwide power operations. He will report directly to David Kohler, president and chief operating officer.

As the new group president of Kohler Power, Cromwell will provide strategic and operational leadership for the group’s engines and power systems businesses worldwide. He will be responsible for driving the growth and profitability of the Power Group businesses consisting of Kohler Power Systems, SDMO Power Systems, UPSL, Kohler Engines and Lombardini.

Cromwell joined Kohler after 18 years at Racine-based Modine Manufacturing Co., where he served as regional vice president of the Americas Region and also held a series of general management positions in Modine’s commercial products division, electronics cooling division and heavy duty division. His experience included a three-year assignment overseas in Stuttgart, Germany, for Modine’s European automotive and heavy duty equipment divisions.

Headquartered in Kohler, Kohler Co. is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, engines and power systems, furniture, cabinetry and tile. It also owns and operates two five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations in Kohler and St Andrews, Scotland.

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SC Johnson buys Sealed Air building
September 29, 2014 10:29 AM
Racine-based S.C. Johnson has agreed to purchase the Sturtevant building being vacated by Sealed Air Corp.

The company expects the purchase to be finalized in November, said Jam Stewart, a spokesperson for S.C. Johnson. The 277,000-square-foot building will be leased back to Sealed Air through 2015, and will then be modified for S.C. Johnson’s purposes. The company expects to move employees into the building in spring 2016, but has not yet determined which functions will be based there.

While the purchase price was not disclosed, “this will be a significant investment and further demonstrates our commitment to the area,” Stewart said.

Sealed Air announced in July that it will move its headquarters and 1,300 jobs, including all 300 in Sturtevant, to Charlotte, N.C. The company, which is currently headquartered in Elmwood Park, N.J., acquired Sturtevant-based sanitation solutions firm Diversey Holdings Inc. in 2011. At the time, Diversey had 10,000 employees and net sales of $3.1 billion.

Sealed Air, which develops food packaging, shipping, cleaning and hygiene solutions, will begin moving its operations in mid-2015.

The Sealed Air building, located at 8310 16th St., is across the street from S.C. Johnson’s Waxdale manufacturing facility, and has open collaboration spaces, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a full-service cafeteria and gym, Stewart said.

S.C. Johnson manufactures several brand name household products, including Windex, Glade, Off!, Raid, Pledge and Scrubbing Bubbles. The company is privately held by members of the Johnson family. More than 3,000 S.C. Johnson employees are based in Racine.

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Allis-Roller moves to new facility in Franklin
September 29, 2014 10:32 AM
Allis-Roller LLC has moved from its 43,000-square-foot facility at 9800 S. 60th St. in Franklin to a new 110,000-square-foot facility a quarter of a mile away at 5801 W. Franklin Dr. The company is leasing the building at an undisclosed price.

“We needed more space because we were growing,” said Dave Dull, president and chief executive officer of Allis-Roller, a contract manufacturer of precision machined parts and complex welded assemblies. “We were also leasing a 20,000-square-foot building down the street from us in the Franklin Industrial Park, so we thought it was a better idea to move into one facility. It’s pretty convenient, and now we have more room for growth.”

The company, which currently employs 87 people, experienced a lot of growth in 2013 and hired about 25 employees, according to Dull. In total, Allis-Roller grew from around 50 employees to 90 from 2012 to 2014.

The company currently has no plans, however, to hire any additional employees in the next few months.

“Right now we’re experiencing somewhat of a slowdown, although in the longer term we think we will be fine,” said Dull, of his company that supplies the agricultural equipment industry. “We have record crops in the field as far as yields, but prices have lowered because the farmers aren’t buying equipment as anticipated. It’s typical to see cycles in these industries, and we’re in a slow cycle right now.”

Allis-Roller purchased a lot of capital equipment in the last five years, which was another reason the new facility was needed, and Dull said he hopes to buy more in the next couple years as the company enters into new markets.

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Sheboygan County manufacturer to expand
September 29, 2014 10:36 AM
Richco Structures will expand its Haven manufacturing facility, and parent company Richardson Industries will move its headquarters to a downtown Sheboygan Falls building.

Richco plans to add 12,000 square feet to its existing 60,000-square-foot building at W989 County Road FF in Haven in Sheboygan County. Richco will also add a $300,000 saw system at the facility, where the company manufactures both residential and industrial trusses, as well as wall and floor panels. The total expansion cost is $1 million, said Gary Kane, chief executive officer of Richardson Industries.

The expansion will help Richco keep up with demand from the recovering construction industry, Kane said. Production is up 30 percent over a year ago, mainly due to increased market share driven by short lead times.

“It’ll just increase our ability to produce. We’re almost at our max right now,” Kane said.

Richardson Industries and Richardson Kitchen & Bath will move their operations into a 9,000-square-foot building at 202 Pine St. in downtown Sheboygan Falls. The first floor already houses Richardson’s Furniture Emporium, and the Kitchen & Bath division will use part of the space for a showroom. Richardson Industries will move its corporate headquarters from 635 Old County Highway PP into the second floor of the Pine Street building.

“It helps us consolidate a little bit better, it’s more centrally located, and it’s easier for customers and guests to find,” Kane said.

Richco and Richardson Kitchen & Bath have a total of 175 employees, 60 of whom were added in the past 15 months. Kane plans to add another 30 employees this year.

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State’s manufacturers post third annual jobs gain
September 29, 2014 10:40 AM
Wisconsin manufacturing companies added 5,796 jobs from July 2013 to July 2014, a 1 percent increase. It’s the third annual manufacturing jobs gain for the state, according to the 2015 Wisconsin Manufacturers Register.

The Manufacturers Register is a database and directory published by Manufacturers’ News Inc.

According to Manufacturers’ News, there are now 10,977 manufacturers who employ 574,347 workers in Wisconsin.

The statewide jobs gains in 2014 were attributable to the food products industry, which saw a 3 percent increase in employment, the report said. Food products companies encompass 68,592 jobs in the state, the second highest industry in industrial employment behind the industrial machinery sector, which is at 102,734.

In Milwaukee, however, there were 48,132 manufacturing employees, down 5.2 percent from 2013. In Waukesha, manufacturing jobs were up 1.7 percent year-over-year.

“Manufacturers in Wisconsin are making gains across a variety of sectors,” said Tom Dubin, president of the Evanston, Ill.-based publishing company, which has been surveying the industry since 1912. “The state’s educated labor pool, lower business costs compared to its neighbors, and flourishing agricultural sector continue to draw investment and support industrial growth.”

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Koss Corp. releases new product amid fiscal setbacks
September 29, 2014 10:45 AM
On the heels of Koss Corp.’s announcement that it experienced a drop in sales and is halting production in Mexico, the company has released a new product, the BT540i Wireless Bluetooth headphone.

Featuring state-of-the-art Bluetooth hardware and software integrated with aptX codec technology, the Koss BT540i is said to be the Milwaukee-based company’s most advanced Bluetooth headphone. It features built-in, dual microphones that work in sync to reduce background noise and on-board controls that allow listeners to quickly navigate through songs, play or pause music, volume-up, volume-down and answer incoming calls.

Koss Corp.’s recent fiscal fourth quarter earnings report detailed its setbacks, which included a 12-month net loss of $5.6 million, compared with a net income of $5.4 million a year earlier. In addition, the company's quarterly sales dipped to $6.2 million from $9.9 million a year earlier.

"The company had extremely disappointing results in the past fiscal year and in the quarter ended June 30, 2014," said Michael Koss, president and chief executive officer. "We experienced major setbacks in export sales, particularly in Europe. That drop in sales was significant enough for us to suspend operations in Mexico until sales volumes support enough demand for the products being produced there. In addition, with the changes that need to be made to the Striva Wi-Fi headphone technology, we wrote off the capitalized software costs as well as the related tooling and inventory. These three factors resulted in a significant loss in fiscal year 2014.”

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Hilary Dickinson This exclusive news bulletin is compiled by BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Hilary Dickinson. This bulletin is published every Monday morning. Send manufacturing industry news and tips to or call her at (414) 336-7123.

Manufacturing resources
Manufacturer Associations » Association of Equipment Manufacturers
» The Association for High Technology Distribution
» APICS – the Association for Operations Management
» Fabricators and Manufacturers International
» National Fluid Power Association
» Polyeurethane Manufacturers Association
» Precision Metalforming Association, Wisconsin District
» Society of Manufacturing Engineers - Chapter 4
» Society of Plastics Engineers - Greater Wisconsin
» Tool, Die and Machining Association of Wisconsin
» Wisconsin Truss Manufacturers Association
» Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association
» Wisconsin Sign Association
» Wisconsin Electrical Machines and Power Electronics Consortium
» Water Quality Association of Wisconsin
Manufacturing Advocacy, Leadership Training and Continuing Education » Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) at the University of Wisconsin
» Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW)
» MSOE's Business Excellence Consortium
» The Paranet Group
» TEC Midwest
» UW-Milwaukee Center for Continuing Engineering Education
» Waukesha County Business Alliance-Manufacturing Alliance
» Waukesha County Technical College Center for Business Performance Solutions
» Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Other resources » American Society for Quality
» Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation
» MATC's Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing (ECAM) facility
» Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
» Milwaukee Export Assistance Center – U.S. Commercial Service
» Milwaukee World Trade Association
» MSOE's Applied Technology Center
» MSOE's Rapid Prototyping Center
» Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
» Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
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