Adaptive Micro Systems grows in renewed life

Adaptive Micro Systems LLC
7840 N. 86th St., Milwaukee
Industry: LED sign manufacturing
Employees: 70

Chances are you have seen Adaptive Micro Systems LLC’s products on your daily commute or on a visit to the Milwaukee County Zoo.

The Milwaukee-based company manufactures LED display technologies, and its signage systems can be found in all 50 states, in Puerto Rico and in 19 other countries.

“Adaptive Micro Systems started primarily in indoor LED displays,” said president Dennis Thums. “We’ve come a long way to where we’re at today.”

In fact, the business came close to not even existing.

After entering receivership in 2011, it planned to close and terminate all of its employees.

An Adaptive Micro Systems employee conducts an electronic assembly operation.

A group of local investors, however, bought the company that same year and retained all of its approximately 60 workers.

“By buying the business, we saved 60 employees’ jobs,” Thums said. “Those 60 employees had over 760 years of experience with Adaptive, and many of those employees are still here and contributing every day.”

Today, Thums said, Adaptive’s annual revenue is in the $20 million range. The company grew more than 20 percent from 2013 to 2014, and Thums expects to achieve annual growth in the teens over the next five years.

Thums attributes Adaptive’s growth to investing in its marketing and sales team and developing new products more quickly due to recent advancements in technology.

Each of Adaptive’s markets is growing, he added, and the company has several of them.

Adaptive designs, manufactures and tests the LED products in its 70,000-square-foot Milwaukee facility.

One of the biggest markets for the company is transportation. As the exclusive provider of intelligent transportation system products for the state of Wisconsin, Adaptive is behind all the LED state highway signage installed since 2013.

The company also makes transportation signage used in New Mexico, Georgia, Illinois and Michigan.

Another market Adaptive serves is commercial outdoor. The Milwaukee County Zoo is an example of that category, in addition to restaurants like Culver’s, banks, and retail stores.  

A third area is the indoor market, and that includes products for factory floors and movie theaters. Adaptive’s box office displays, for instance, are in half of all U.S. movie theatres, Thums said.

Lastly, a market that is beginning to see more activity and opportunity is emergency situations. Adaptive’s signage can be integrated with fire alarm systems or mass emergency notification systems to direct people where and where not to go.

Adaptive designs, manufactures and tests its products in its approximately 70,000-square-foot Milwaukee facility, where about 70 employees work. The company also operates a wholly owned electronics factory in Malaysia, where 125 employees make many of Adaptive’s components and do contract manufacturing.

Adaptive’s signs can range from as small as 20-inch office lobby signs with four-inch displays to 40-foot by 10-foot highway signs, and they are capable of boasting 4,000 quintillion colors.

Signs are important for businesses, according to the team at Adaptive, because of the value they hold.

“We’re not selling the sign,” said Suzanne Ruland, vice president of sales and marketing. “We sell a concept of what the sign can do. ‘What can a sign do for my business?’ That’s really where our focus is.”

Added Thums: “Why invest in a sign if it doesn’t grow sales?”

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