Wisconsin’s supply chain: leading the way from start to finish

In manufacturing, supply chain means different things to different people. In Wisconsin, though, it means ingenuity, versatility and responsiveness. An integrated, optimized supply chain has positioned the state to lead a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S.

Consistently ranked among the nation’s top states for manufacturing jobs per capita, Wisconsin’s leadership is not based solely on its industrial heritage and history of innovation. The state’s leadership rests on dynamic factors that are very much part of the Wisconsin’s present, including a highly skilled workforce and the integrated supply chain.

Wisconsin’s fully integrated supply chain of companies in key industry segments has helped to develop efficiencies that allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to take their products to market more quickly.

“Wisconsin is respected as a state that works hard and provides quality products at competitive prices,” said Randy Weber, owner of DACO Precision Tool in Kewaskum, Wis. “What many people don’t realize is that our manufacturing depth and experience has positioned our state as one of the top performers in the industry. We truly offer a complete supply chain here—with companies that can do it all, from start to finish.”

Developing a network of shared connections among manufacturers has led to increased collaboration and innovation, which in turn has helped Wisconsin remain top-of-mind for OEMs such as Bombardier, Harley Davidson and Polaris. These companies rely on the supply chain infrastructure in the state to get the job done—more efficiently, faster and at a better price than they can get outside of Wisconsin.

Mike Mallwitz, president of Busch Precision, Inc., in Milwaukee and also president of the Tool, Die & Machining Association of Wisconsin (TDMAW) agreed on the importance of shared connections.

“As we serve our customers, and we serve most of the industrial sectors in the U.S., we need strategic partners,” Mallwitz noted. “Wisconsin has that network we can rely on. That sense of trust goes a long way to help develop business initiatives.”

“It’s the Tier II and Tier III manufacturers connecting and focusing on technological advances to keep Wisconsin at the forefront of the industry, in terms of productivity and sustainability,” said Lee Swindall, vice president for business and industry development at the WEDC. “These small to medium-sized manufacturers keep production lines moving and provide OEMs from all over the world, with the products they need.”

This robust manufacturing infrastructure underpins Wisconsin’s national leadership in the sector. Approximately 450,000 workers are employed by the 9,500 manufacturers in the state. According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce report, manufacturing accounts for at least 20 percent of total earnings in 40 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

“Most OEMs look nationally at supply chain companies that can make the parts they need, but typically prefer companies that are located relatively nearby for cost savings on delivery as well as easier communication and overall logistics,” said Greg Grambow, president of Du-Well Grinding in Menomonee Falls. “Wisconsin companies’ close proximity to each other, along with a solid infrastructure, enhances their ability to secure work from OEMs here in the state as well as outside of Wisconsin.”

Grambow, who served on the TDMAW’s board of directors for the past 11 years and has served as past president and chairman of the association, has been impressed by the robust supply chain in Wisconsin.

“The TDMAW began in 1937 and now has 150 member companies (all based in Wisconsin) from a wide range of manufacturing backgrounds, including welding, prototyping, stamping, molding, casting, precision grinding, plating and many more,” Grambow noted. “The depth and breadth of our capabilities throughout the state of Wisconsin allows manufacturers to find what they need close-by, which helps us remain competitive in our pricing.”

Wisconsin manufacturers continue to meet local and global demand for a wide range of OEM components, and have emerged successfully from the recession through a mix of innovation, lean processes and best practices. The ongoing commitment to staying connected, being nimble and creating efficiencies for customers has put the state in a leadership position. Manufacturers are investing in new capital equipment, work force development and productivity. As a result, they are experiencing rising demand for their products from OEMs throughout the world.

“Wisconsin’s manufacturing supply chain is poised to serve OEMs within the state, nationally and globally,” Swindall added. “WEDC is committed to helping manufacturers connect with customers, wherever they may be.”

(October 2013)