Automated Success

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Executives for Menomonee Falls-based The Enhancers Inc. expect increased government regulation of the meat processing industry to lead to significant growth for their firm. The Enhancers Inc. is a specialty manufacturer of automation equipment. The company builds custom-made controllers that tie multiple machines together so they work together in an automated process. The firm plans to increase its revenues by at least 25 to 30 percent in the next few years.

"That’s a conservative number," said Jason Wermers, an engineer with the company. "We’d better be bigger than that." The meat processing industry is one of the main markets for The Enhancers Inc. The company’s controllers measure fat content, moisture, protein levels and temperature in ground meats. Ground meat is subject to many government regulations, and high-volume producers have been able to see cost savings and efficiencies with The Enhancers’ equipment, because they’re better able to closely monitor conditions, Wermers said.

The company targets companies that produce up to 250,000 pounds of ground meat per day, Wermers said. "It’s of use to large-scale producers because they have tighter controls on their product," he said. "Because of the controls, they’re able to stay within their specifications." The federal government has enacted additional regulations for the meat processing industry to address health concerns including Mad Cow disease, E. coli and salmonella poisoning, as well as concerns about possible bioterrorism. The new government regulations require more automation and monitoring of meat processing, and therefore increased engineering of systems, which has worked in The Enhancers’ favor.

"They’ve provided us with a number of opportunities," Bruce said. The company also has started marketing a similar system for mining companies that operate rock quarries. There are similarities in the mining and meat processing industries from an operational perspective, Wermers said.  "In both industries, there is a high level of tracking material," he said. "There is a need to sort, control and track your raw ingredients."  Wermers and Frank Bruce, president of The Enhancers, said the company’s products tie its customers’ existing machines and conveyors together, adding efficiency and increasing output. The Enhancers often creates custom software to handle its clients’ tasks.

All of the company’s controls are custom-made. Customers vary from meat packers to municipal water departments, and the controls can take from several months to more than three years to build. The Enhancers sells its products to many different industries. The company can create a custom automation system for virtually any industry, as long as it has components that need to be sorted and or tracked. "As long as they can make it, we can keep track of it," Wermers said.

Local firms that have purchased the company’s systems include Miller  Brewing Co., Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee Tool, Johnson Controls Inc., Strattec Security Corp. and Modine Manufacturing Inc.

The Enhancers moved to a new 17,000-square-foot headquarters building in Menomonee Falls at W136 N5239 Campbell Court in May 2004 from a smaller building in Brookfield. The company had leased its Brookfield site, and Bruce said it made "long-term economic sense" to move to a building the company owned. The Enhancers currently has about 30 employees. This year, the company hired two new engineers and it may add another employee by the end of the year. Increasing its engineering capabilities is part of the company’s growth plan, because of trends within The Enhancers’ industry. The company’s numbers of units sold per year is down, Bruce said, but the money paid for those units has increased because of increased engineering.

"The number of orders is down, but the dollar amount is up," he said. Increasing the number of engineers has been crucial to develop systems for the meat producing industry, according to John St. Onge, marketing manager with The Enhancers.

"We’ve been demonstrating (our  systems) to some of the largest producers in the industry," St. Onge said. "We expect that we’ll expand greatly." Bruce declined to disclose revenues for The Enhancers, but he said the company’s profits have increased because of its commitment to research and development. "The dollars have gone up slightly, but profitability has gone up greatly," Bruce said. "And we’ve heavily invested in R&D for the new product."

Part of that investment has been in hiring some younger engineers, who possess the computer programming and other high-tech skills the company needs. Those hires have given The Enhancers a nice balance between younger and older workers, Bruce and Wermers said. St. Onge said the most significant challenge The Enhancers will face is being able to continue providing good service to its traditional clients while finding and improving service to  new customers. "One market can be kind of a pull," St. Onge said. "We’re walking a balancing act as we expect to expand. We’ve got to continue our traditional activities."

The Enhancers Inc.

Location: W136 N5239 Campbell Ct., Menomonee Falls
Web site:
Products: Control and automation systems for manufacturing and sorting
Employees: 30
Projected Growth: At least 25 to 30 percent over the next five years.

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