WMEP assistance generates $164M in impact for Wisconsin manufacturers

RP news wires

Successful efforts to fuel business growth contributed to financial gains reported by state manufacturers assisted by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP).

WMEP services generated an economic impact of $164 million with 973 jobs created and retained during the past fiscal year. Increased and retained sales account for nearly two thirds of the total impact. During the past five years, WMEP-assisted manufacturers have reported nearly $1 billion in economic impact with 6,557 jobs created and retained.

“The good news is that we continue to see manufacturers move out of survival mode into growth mode. The ability to develop new markets, products and customer solutions is more important than ever,” said Michael Klonsinski, executive director of WMEP, a nonprofit consulting firm that helps small and midsize manufacturers grow and succeed.

WMEP-assisted companies reported:

  • $102 million in increased/retained sales
  • $30 million in cost savings
  • $32 million in investment impact, including new plant and equipment

In addition, an analysis of the data projects a $10 million tax revenue benefit to the State of Wisconsin as a result of sales and jobs impact.

Wisconsin manufacturers reporting positive impact include:

  • Absolute Automation Systems Inc. has completed 17 projects with WMEP since 2004 to streamline operations, attract new customers and reduce costs. “All of those projects helped us build a strong foundation for sales and revenue growth,” said Don Lavrenz, vice president. The firm, a leader in automated manufacturing systems controls, just hired five employees and anticipates sales to double in 2011. Though sales declined during the recession, the company kept layoffs at a minimum. “The typical recession mentality is to hunker down and ride it out. We saw it as an opportunity to bring new talent into our organization and get ready for the recovery,” he said.
  • In 1996, Charlie Leiby started Centerline Machine Inc. in his garage with one milling machine and a vision to build his own company. Today the Waupaca-based custom machining and fabrication firm has 44 employees, and in September will move into a new 45,000 square-foot plant to accommodate its 500 percent growth rate. Since 2005, WMEP has helped Centerline implement lean manufacturing, develop a lean culture, and most recently, facilitate an Enterprise Business Transformation project to manage the firm’s meteoric growth. “WMEP has played a key role in helping us improve performance, quality and engage employees in continuous improvement,” Leiby said.
  • Harvard Corporation is tapping WMEP’s business growth services to develop an aggressive marketing plan for its innovative filters and filtration systems. The effort includes sales programs, new advertising and outreach to international markets through the ExporTech program offered by WMEP and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. WMEP also has helped Harvard implement lean manufacturing to improve efficiency. Despite the recession, Harvard increased sales 5 percent last year. “We’re constantly working to raise the bar for quality and innovation in our industry,” said Otto Knottnerus, president. “WMEP’s expertise and guidance has been an excellent resource for our firm.”
  • DeCrane Aerospace Aircraft Seating Company considers WMEP a strong partner in the firm’s lean journey and has tapped WMEP for assistance on lean leadership, strategic business planning, inventory management and capacity planning. “The services provided by WMEP in the areas of lean and business planning have been very beneficial, especially during the recession,” said Jim Tress, DeCrane’s vice president and general manager. DeCrane’s focus on lean has helped the firm maintain stable earnings, reduce inventory by $3.5 million, increase revenue per employee-hour and enhance machining capabilities. Tress adds that employees’ willingness to diversify their skills is a tremendous asset, providing flexibility and efficiency gains.

Manufacturing contributes $48.8 billion to Wisconsin’s economy and employs 429,000 workers. WMEP provided services to 889 state manufacturers last year.

The economic impact survey of 206 WMEP client firms is part of a national evaluation conducted by an independent firm for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). WMEP is an affiliate of the NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a national network of 59 centers that provide assistance to small and midsize manufacturers.

About WMEP
WMEP is a private, non-profit consulting organization committed to the growth and success of Wisconsin manufacturers. A leader in Next Generation Manufacturing, WMEP brings best practices to Wisconsin firms to help them achieve world-class performance through innovation and transformation. WMEP receives financial support from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, and partners with many public and private organizations to serve Wisconsin manufacturers. For more information, visit or call 877-856-8588. 

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