Monday, March 2, 2015
Manufacturing Matters! focused on Connected Enterprises, LinkedIn, robotics, more
March 2, 2015 09:38 AM
About 450 manufacturing professionals from all over the state came to the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee on Feb. 26 for The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s 18th annual Manufacturing Matters! conference.

The day-long conference kicked off with a speech by Gov. Scott Walker who asserted that we should send the message that we value our sons and daughters who become manufacturers as much as we do those who become doctors and lawyers.

Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of the Power Control business at Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc., shared that sentiment in his keynote address, saying it is everyone’s job to change the perception of manufacturing.

One of the ways manufacturers can do that, he said, is by hosting a Manufacturing Day event. (This year’s Manufacturing Day takes place Oct. 2.) It is important to provide opportunities like these, according to Laszkiewicz, because students are 200 percent more likely to consider manufacturing as a career if they have a personal experience.

Laszkiewicz offered a series of recommendations to advance manufacturing that included developing career counseling, adding attraction and retention tax credits for skilled graduates, expanding youth and adult apprenticeship participation, and engaging in marketing that attracts millennials.

Laszkiewicz also spent part of his keynote discussing the Internet of Things and Connected Enterprises, a topic that was elaborated on during an afternoon session with a Rockwell Automation panel.

A variety of sessions took place throughout the day on such topics as succession planning, expanding into new markets, additive manufacturing, sustainability and inventory best practices.

One of the more popular sessions in the afternoon was “How to Use LinkedIn and Other Online Tools to Grow Your Business,” presented by Janet Ady, president and chief executive officer of Madison-based Ady Advantage, and Michelle Kane, founder of Black Hills PR of Spearfish, S.D.

In that session, manufacturers learned, among other things, how to fine-tune their LinkedIn profiles and how to anonymously view their competitors’ LinkedIn profiles. Ady and Kane also advised attendees to make their summaries personable and to add contact information, and they offered a LinkedIn action plan consisting of some of the following tasks: add connections, find and share content, post updates, join groups and make endorsements.

Another interesting session was “Robotics Trends for Advanced Manufacturing” taught by Erik Nieves, the technology director at Miamsburg, Ohio-based Yaskawa Motoman. The company has a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oak Creek with 200 employees.

Nieves said we are currently in the “second robot fever” after the first one that transpired 25 years ago. He believes this time the robot fever is here to stay, and by 2020 new features on robots will shift the labor dynamics in factories, allowing humans and machines to work together through “fenceless” applications that allow for greater efficiency on the shop floor.

Some people question why robots should be supported when people are unemployed, but Nieves said robot sales correlate with growth—not unemployment.

“Any technology that improves production adds to growth,” he said.

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HUSCO, General Plastics win Manufacturer of the Year awards
March 2, 2015 09:47 AM
The 2014 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year awards banquet took place Feb. 26 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, where HUSCO International Inc. of Waukesha won a Grand Award in the mega category and General Plastics Inc. of Milwaukee took home a Grand Award in the small category.

"We are thrilled to receive this prestigious award, which recognizes the hard work and outstanding performance of our 1,400 associates in Wisconsin and around the world,” said Austin Ramirez, president and chief executive officer of HUSCO International.

Added Patrick Cain, plant manager of General Plastics: “We were surprised and very pleased. It was great to bring (the award) back and show it to all the employees. It’s incredible to win such an honor and to be recognized by the entire state.”

The other Grand Award winners honored at the 27th annual awards banquet were: Seats Inc. of Reedsburg in the large category, Spectrum Industries Inc. of Chippewa Falls in the medium category and E.K. Machine Co. Inc. of Fall River in the workforce development category.

Special awards were given to Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery of Ellsworth and Universal Acoustic & Emission Technologies Inc. of Stoughton. The former won the Marketplace Opportunity Award, and the latter won the Employee Development & Commitment Award.  

“I am proud and fortunate to live in a state where one of our most powerful and dynamic industries— manufacturing—is devoted to innovation, investment in cutting-edge technology, the shaping and development of top-notch employees, and the distribution on a worldwide basis such an expansive selection of goods. Wisconsin’s manufacturers never settle for good, or even great, they are constantly striving to maintain that level of excellence and lead the pack when it comes to new ideas and best practices,” said Kurt Bauer, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce president and chief executive officer.

The seven winners were selected from among 40 nominees by an independent panel of judges representing manufacturing, service and the public sector.

The awards were sponsored by WMC, Baker Tilly and Michael Best & Friedrich LLP.

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Manufacturers continue to slow, but anticipate economic bounce
March 2, 2015 09:51 AM
Manufacturing activity in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois continued to grow more slowly in February, according to a new report.

The Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing showed the seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers Index was at 50.32 in February, down from 51.60 in January.  

Any number more than 50 indicates growth, while less than 50 signals contraction. The PMI has measured more than 50 for 16 of the past 18 months.
In the February survey, respondents said:
  • January was a slow month for some companies.
  • Companies are continuing to anticipate an economic bounce.
Employment, customers’ inventories and exports grew in February. New orders, production, supplier deliveries, inventories, prices, backlog of orders and imports all either declined or slowed their growth.

Regarding these indices, respondents said:
  • Increased volumes of orders and weather conditions at the East ports are impacting the ability to deliver on time and accept near-term orders. There have also been West Port congestion problems.
  • Companies have been limited on accepting near-term orders.
  • Companies are currently experiencing a lull before the spring orders come in for summer installs.
Seasonally adjusted blue collar employment declined from 57.3 in January to 46.5 in February, while seasonally adjusted white collar employment grew from 45.8 in January to 58.1 in February.

In the six-month outlook on business conditions, respondents indicated a downward shift in positive expectations compared with January. About 33.3 percent of respondents expect positive conditions over the next six months, 53.3 percent expect conditions to remain the same and 13.3 percent expect conditions to worsen within the next six months.

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Modine women employees win 3rd STEP Ahead awards
March 2, 2015 09:54 AM
The Manufacturing Institute announced that it will award two women employees from Racine-based Modine Manufacturing Co. at its STEP Awards reception in Washington, D.C., on March 26.

Juliana Van Winkle, quality systems and supplier quality engineering manager, will be honored with the Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead Award. She operates out of Modine's headquarters in Racine.

Brittany Gianesini, who is human resources supervisor for Modine's Buena Vista, Va., manufacturing facility, will receive the STEP Ahead Emerging Leader Award.  

The STEP awards honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in science, technology, engineering and production throughout their careers, and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry, from the factory floor to the C-suite.

"We are thrilled that the Manufacturing Institute recognized Juliana and Brittany's significant contributions to Modine," said Thomas Burke, Modine's president and chief executive officer.  "These STEP awards acknowledge Juliana and Brittany's hard work, dedication and constant pursuit of excellence in the critical field of manufacturing."

"We chose to honor these women because they each made significant achievements in manufacturing through positive impact on their company and the industry as a whole,” said Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. “The STEP awards are part of a larger STEP Ahead initiative, launched to examine and promote the role of women in the manufacturing industry that focuses on the attraction, development, advancement and retention of high potential female talent."

The Manufacturing Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.

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Best practices: Three keys to improved communication in your plant
March 2, 2015 09:57 AM
Every organization has communication problems and disconnects. Oftentimes, the breakdown of strategic execution is not within a single layer of the organization, but between layers. For proper execution, the strategy -- along with any necessary course corrections -- must be well communicated between layers of the organization.

Read more.

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Harley to directly supply Canadian dealers
March 2, 2015 10:00 AM
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. has announced it will end its distribution agreement with Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada and begin directly distributing to independent Canadian dealers.

The change is scheduled to take place at the end of the current Deeley contract, on July 31, 2017, but the companies are in talks to move up the date to as early as the third quarter of this year. Deeley has been Harley’s exclusive Canadian distributor since 1973, distributing Harley products to more than 1,460 independently owned dealerships.

The motorcycle manufacturer has been shifting its global distribution model to directly distribute its products to independently owned dealers across its footprint. Harley has direct distribution in place in Brazil, Australia, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. Under the model, Harley manages sales to dealers, marketing, dealer recruitment and retail capabilities, consumer events and other in-market activities, often through its subsidiaries.

"The contributions of the Deeley organization to Harley-Davidson's customers and the business in Canada have been tremendous, and we have the highest regard for the entire Deeley team," said Mike Kennedy, vice president and managing director of Harley-Davidson North America. "Deeley has achieved a level of success that has made Canada one of the largest international Harley-Davidson markets over time. We have made this decision to transition to direct distribution in Canada after long and careful consideration, and solely growing out of our global business strategy. We will work closely with the Deeley organization as we finalize a roadmap for the future and look forward to leveraging the many opportunities to fulfill dreams of personal freedom for customers."

"We have a long and proud relationship with Harley-Davidson, marked by Deeley's commitment to excellence – to our associates, customers and retailers – and that will continue to be our priority throughout the transition," said Malcolm Hunter, president and chief operating officer of Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada. "It has been a true honor to be part of this business we have all built together. We have accomplished so much and are proud of Deeley's legacy and our enduring contribution to motorcycling in Canada. The entire Deeley organization will work closely with Harley-Davidson to ensure a seamless transition and ensure that Canadian customers continue to enjoy an outstanding Harley-Davidson product, service and support experience. "

Don James, co-founder and majority owner of Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, is a director on the Harley-Davidson Inc. board.

In other Harley news, riders from around the world have the chance to add their voices to help shape the future of Project LiveWire, Harley-Davidson's first electric motorcycle, as the company's Project LiveWire Experience tour expands globally in 2015.

While not for sale, the Project LiveWire motorcycle was specifically designed for the purpose of seeking insight into rider expectations of an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The Project LiveWire Experience invites customers to test ride and learn more about the story of the motorcycle and provide feedback on their experience.

For more information on Project LiveWire, visit

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Walker says right-to-work key factor in attracting businesses
March 2, 2015 10:03 AM
Following the state Senate’s approval of the right-to-work bill on Feb. 25, Gov. Scott Walker told reporters the next day that it is one more tool manufacturers have to make the case to come to Wisconsin.

Walker, who addressed reporters after his speech at the Feb. 26 Manufacturing Matters! conference held at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, said reports from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation indicate that site selectors say right-to-work legislation is among the top considerations.

“It is indeed one of the things particularly manufacturing entities around the country and around the world look at when they choose where to put their sites,” he said. “It may not be the reason you get it, but more often than not it’s a disqualifier if you don’t.”  

Right-to-work laws are in place in 24 states. The laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching labor agreements that require workers to pay union dues. The Wisconsin bill would impose criminal penalties on employers that agree to contracts that require union dues.

Democrats have repeatedly accused Republicans of “ramming through” the bill, but Walker called the accusation of moving it through too quickly and without enough debate a “hollow argument.”

“The people who made that argument are the people who voted for a budget repair bill that raised taxes, had no public hearing, and did it I believe in less than 48 hours,” he said. “To me, this had a lengthy debate.”

As for the future of Wisconsin unions, the governor said those that provide real value to their members will remain strong.

“If the unions provide training through their union dues, and people see it as an asset, they’ll do it,” he said. “If it’s coming separately from their employer, they may question it. It all depends on how they’re set up.”

To Walker, the right-to-work bill is just one issue among many in which he believes people will be interested at the Conservative Political Action Conference he is attending today in Washington, D.C. He said his focus at CPAC, considered to be the unofficial start of the GOP presidential primary season, will be job creation, reform and safety.

Walker said he has always been in support of right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin, but bringing it forward was a matter of priority and timing. Now is the appropriate time, he said, as in his first term employers and job creators needed stability.

When asked if it is a good sign for a possible presidential run that his message is resonating, Walker said he likes the fact that people are paying attention, but acknowledged there is a long way to go.

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Briggs & Stratton introduces two new engine innovations
March 2, 2015 10:08 AM
Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp. recently introduced two new engine innovations.

The company has unveiled a lawn mower engine, the EXi, that never needs an oil change. It has improved air cleaner seals, cooler engine temperatures and high-precision manufacturing that allow the innovation.

Consumers need only check the oil level and add more as needed, and perform regular scheduled maintenance. Most small engines require an oil change every 50 hours of operation.

“We designed this engine because our consumer research says that while people understand the importance of changing oil as routine maintenance, they don’t necessarily do it,” said Carissa Gingras, marketing director for consumer engines and service at Briggs & Stratton. “Our engineers figured out a way to keep the oil cool and clean, two important factors of extending the life of the oil, and we are able to pass the benefits of easy maintenance on to consumers.”

The company also announced it has added lithium-ion electric starting technology to its gas-powered engines, an innovation called InStart.

It is meant to make starting a mower easier, with no priming, no choking and no rope to pull. InStart also has less of an environmental impact, and the lightweight engine requires no tools. The lithium-ion battery can be charged in one hour and will provide 75 starts—which would likely be a whole mowing season—before it needs another charge.

The feature is available exclusively on Cub Cadet lawn mowers at independent dealers and Costco Wholesale.

“Consumers have been using proven lithium-ion battery technology on other applications for years,” said Carissa Gingras, marketing director for consumer engines and service at Briggs & Stratton. “What we are doing is utilizing that technology on a new application. InStart combines the ease of electric starting and advanced lithium-ion battery technology with the power that can only come from a gasoline-powered engine.”

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Spancrete expands with new plant in Georgia
March 2, 2015 10:12 AM
Spancrete, a Waukesha-based provider of precast, prestressed concrete products and solutions, has opened a new production plant in Newnan, Ga.

The new facility provides service and solutions such as the Spancrete Wall Panel Building System to the entire Southeast.

In addition to offering premier precast structural and architectural concrete products, Spancrete also provides personalized, expert guidance throughout the entire construction process to ensure projects are completed on time, on budget and to high standards of quality.

The new plant spans more than 40 acres and has 15 full-time employees. The new facility offers Spancrete Hollowcore Floor and Roof Systems, Spancrete Insulated and Non-Insulated Wall Panel Building Systems and solid plank and stair components.

Spancrete celebrated the grand opening of its Newnan facility this week. The event included tours of the plant, education sessions, speeches from Spancrete and government officials, and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Attendees included several officials from Newnan and Coweta County, Spancrete chairman and chief executive officer John Nagy and more than 100 architects, engineers and general contractors.

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Quad/Graphics earnings fall on continuing industry pressures
March 2, 2015 10:14 AM
Sussex-based magazine and catalog printer Quad/Graphics Inc. reported fourth quarter net income of $25.8 million, or 53 cents per share, down from $60.7 million, or $1.24 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Operating income was $76.2 million, down from $103.9 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $1.4 billion, up from $1.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Quad/Graphics attributed the revenue increase to the acquisition of Brown Printing in May. Adjusted EBITDA was $183 million, down from $198 million for the fourth quarter of 2013, which the company attributed to ongoing volume and pricing pressures, as well as Brown’s margin dilution impact.

For the full year, Quad reported net income of $18.3 million, or 38 cents per share, down from $30.9 million, or 65 cents per share, in 2013.

Full-year operating income was $141.3 million, down from $142.2 million in 2013.

Revenue was $4.9 billion in 2014, up from $4.8 billion a year ago.

“We are pleased to report that fourth quarter 2014 results were in line with our expectations,” said Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Our ability to generate significant cash flow and maintain a strong balance sheet continues to allow us to deploy capital in ways to generate value for the company and our shareholders despite ongoing industry challenges. We continue to strengthen and grow the business through compelling acquisitions, such as Brown Printing and Marin’s International, and make strategic investments in our platform, including the recently announced three-year plan to transform our book platform through digital press technology. We remain committed to improving our clients’ experience with us while engaging employees to produce the very best results to advance our overall strategic goals.”

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Magnetek updates 2014 guidance
March 2, 2015 10:18 AM
Menomonee Falls-based Magnetek Inc., a supplier of digital power and motion control systems, has provided an update on its 2014 guidance.

Magnetek said in an SEC filing Monday that it expects net income to be impacted by a non-cash pension settlement charge of $37.1 million, which would result in a $33 million to $33.5 million net loss from continuing operations.

The company offered a lump sum payout of pension benefits to 2,970 eligible deferred vested participants during 2014 in an effort to reduce the size, volatility, mortality risk and costs of its pension plan. 75 percent of participants opted for the lump sum payout, and $46.9 million was paid out of pension plan assets. As a result, Magnetek’s pension liability was reduced by the same amount, down to about $30 million net.

Magnetek expects revenue of $29 million for the fourth quarter of 2014, compared with its previously predicted range of $27 to $27.5 million.

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Area manufacturing professionals join boards
March 2, 2015 10:20 AM
Marquette University has elected Rexnord Corp. president and chief executive officer Todd Adams to its board of trustees.

Adams joined Milwaukee-based Rexnord in 2004. He previously held various positions at The Boeing Company, APW Ltd. and Applied Power Inc. (currently Actuant Corp.). Adams also serves on the boards of Generac Holdings Inc., The Water Council and Hunger Task Force.

In other news, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County announced four co-chairs for its 2015-16 Community Campaign, including Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, and Alex Molinaroli, chairman, president and CEO of Johnson Controls Inc.

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BizTimes accepts nominations for business awards
March 2, 2015 10:25 AM
BizTimes Media is accepting nominations for its annual Bravo! Entrepreneur and I.Q. (Innovation Quotient) Awards.

Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards will be presented to business executives who exemplify excellence in entrepreneurship, including bold leadership, accomplishments, tenure, innovation, risk-taking, staff development and community involvement.

I.Q. Awards will salute companies for their innovations in business. Recipients will have a track record for innovative products, services or processes.

Self-Nominations are welcomed. Nominations will be due by March 23 at 5 p.m.

Nominees for the Bravo! Entrepreneur and I.Q. Awards must be based in Wisconsin and have a physical presence in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Sheboygan, Racine, Walworth or Kenosha County and be able to attend the Bravo! Entrepreneur/I.Q. Awards event.

The awards will be presented at the Bravo! Entrepreneur/I.Q. Awards Luncheon at BizExpo on May 20. In addition, each Bravo! Entrepreneur and I.Q. Award winner will be featured in the May 18, 2015 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee.

For more information or to nominate an executive for a Bravo! Entrepreneur Award or a company for an I.Q. Awards, visit or contact Sarah Sinsky at (414) 336-7100.

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Made in Milwaukee: Brady Corp. focuses on new industries
March 2, 2015 10:28 AM
From a safety sign on an oil rig in the North Sea to the bracelets put on newborn babies in the hospital, Milwaukee-based Brady Corp. has been developing and manufacturing a variety of identification and safety materials for 100 years.

Read more.

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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)
» FET - Federation of Environmental Technologists Inc.
» MSOE's Corporate Partner Network
» 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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