World Class Manufacturing Group
Weyauwega, WI
920-867-2527
World Class
Precision Products
Bayfield, WI
715-779-9977

CNC Machining – Contract Manufacturing – World Class Manufacturing Group

CNC Machining – Contract Manufacturing – World Class Manufacturing Group

North Star Manufacturing Consortium

Selling power

October 06, 2010


by Beth Bily
BusinessNorth

The North Star Manufacturing Alliance allows founding members to expand goods and services available to customers.

Much like the region’s economic development efforts, the North Star
Manufacturing Alliance is all about creating and retaining well-paying
jobs.


Although in its founding stages, the alliance has won over attention
and praise from notables as far away as Madison, including Wisconsin
Technology Council President Tom Still, who sees it as a model for the
future.


A cluster alliance “allows member companies to attract new customers and better serve the customers they already have,” he said.


The alliance is the result of an initial effort by Robert Peltonen,
owner of World Class Precision Products, a division of World Class
Group, which operates facilities in Weyauwega, Menasha, Muskego and
Bayfield, WI.


The Bayfield company manufactures metal and plastic parts for a
variety of buyers, including Oshkosh Truck, Burgess Norton, Gardner
Denver and others. Early in 2009, Peltonen convinced the leaders at
three other Northwestern Wisconsin manufacturing plants – Ashland
Industries, Washburn Iron Works and Eagle Forge Co in Ashland – that the
future lies in collaboration.


Peltonen was unavailable to interview for this story. However, World
Class Precision Products’ Mike Elward said a general regional slowdown
convinced Peltonen that combining forces could produce positive results
for the Chequamegon area.


World Class Precision Products has been operating in Bayfield since
2008. Elward, who is vice president of manufacturing and plant manager,
said the new division was supposed to win business from area companies,
but that plan wasn’t coming together as hoped.


“Area businesses were laying people off and things were slowing down.
(Peltonen) thought that local businesses should pull together, to look
at what we could offer together,” he said.


The alliance was launched over a lunch among key business leaders in
January 2009. Its mission was to provide a single point of contact for
services for multiple products. Collectively, it’s capable of steel and
aluminum forging, production welding, metal fabrication, precision
machining, design services, mold/dies pattern making, paint and powder
coating and prototype development.


Its founding members are not direct competitors, but complimentary
manufacturing facilities that collectively can offer a much broader
spectrum of goods and services.


The alliance also coordinates functions seamlessly, so customers
don’t have to concern themselves with transportation among participants
during different job stages. For example, World Class Precision Products
could make patterns and do machining on a job while Washburn Ironworks
would pour the castings and Ashland Industries would paint the
components, all from a single point of contact. In addition, the
internal alliance coordination shortens job times from beginning to end,
and the close proximity of the four companies saves transportation
costs.


Members also benefit from networking. Through constant communication,
one business may win a job after another is contacted for a project.


“Now, we think about each other when a project comes up,” said Raelyn
Pearson, president of Washburn Iron Works. “That, in itself, is a
competitive advantage. Anything that makes us more competitive and cost
effective helps.”


The relatively new alliance allows each company to continue doing
business as it has in the past, yet the partnership is beginning to open
new doors.


Ashland Industries’ primary business is the manufacture of
earthmoving equipment and other machinery. Randy Rust, one of the
company’s four partners, said the company has branched out since joining
the alliance.


“North Star allows us to diversify. When the construction market is
down, we can do other work,” he said. “We can do fabrication, painting
and assembly of components.”


Construction and agriculture are the primary markets for Ashland
Industries. The cyclical nature of both led to layoffs. The company has
about 50 FTEs, said Rust, with approximately 12 currently laid off.


Ashland Industry executives see a promising future in the alliance.
The company recently purchased $250,000 in painting machinery and a shot
blast booth to handle a greater volume of custom fabrication projects.


“We’re really excited about the opportunity this is creating in
northern Wisconsin. We can keep good, high-paying jobs here,” said Rust,
whose own company offers an average wage/benefit package of $25 per
hour.


Members of the alliance say that right now it’s difficult to
specifically assess the bottom line impact of the young organization.


“None of us have totally reaped the advantages, partly due to the
recession,” Pearson said, “but our customers do like the idea of a
finished product delivered to them” from one point of contact.


Both Rust and Elward say it has brought new work to member companies.
They hope their HUBZone certification will helpwin more business in
the future.


Through the Small Business Administration, HUBZones are
geographically designated underutilized business zones. The federal
program has a goal of awarding 3 percent of all federal prime contracts
to HUBZone-certified businesses, as well as other benefits.


Meanwhile, alliance members aren’t leaving their fate in the hands of
HUBZone designation. A greater marketing effort is in the works to
increase alliance business. A website already has been developed, as
have printed promotional materials aimed at getting the word to
metropolitan markets in Wisconsin, Minnesota and beyond.


“We’re just beginning to market the alliance,” Elward said. “Now it’s just a matter of going out and finding customers.”


“The overall goal is to create jobs,” Rust added. “Not every manufacturing company needs to be in Racine or Oshkosh.”


The alliance may offer a new model to compete on the world stage. By
reducing transportation and other job costs through central
coordination, Elward noted the alliance was able to win a finished
castings job from a company that previously purchased its products in
China.


In a challenged economy, the North Star Manufacturing Alliance may just be one model for increasing competitive edge.


“In all areas of the state, people are going to have to think outside the box if they want to get business,” Elward said.


“It’s the kind of model that could work with different clusters, including plastics, printing and small engines.” Still added.





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