Big buckets

Milwaukee used to be known as the machine shop of the world – and the metro area is still home to a large number of manufacturers that create highly specialized equipment that is not found elsewhere.

Milwaukee’s Monarch Machining & Fabrication is a perfect example of a classic Milwaukee manufacturing firm – making oversized equipment that is used in a wide range of industries and is put to work in applications all over the world.

Monarch regularly fabricates buckets and bale doors that become integral components on mining shovels made by Joy Global Inc. and Bucyrus International Inc., said Dave Mitchell, president of the company.

“We can make up to a 58-yard dipper (bucket) that holds up to 90 tons of material in one scoop,” Mitchell said. “It takes three scoops to fill up one of the dump trucks they use in mining.”

The company makes the large counter weights placed on the rear of mining shovels, as well as several other smaller components for the machines. It also builds frames for 75-ton crawlers that Bucyrus and Joy Global make for the mining industry.

In addition, Monarch has developed expertise in making pump components and housings used in the cooling systems for power generation plants and municipal wastewater treatment facilities, Mitchell said.

“We did all of the pump shells and housings for the Oak Creek power plant,” he said. “We fabricated, machined and assembled all of it.”

Power generation will be a growth industry for Monarch, Mitchell said, because of the growing international demand for electricity. The company has made several robotic telescoping mast assemblies that have become pieces in a robotic material handling system that pushes and pulls fuel cells into and out of nuclear reactors, and the firm recently began working on steam turbine equipment for Siemens.

“Power generation is a growth segment (for the company),” Mitchell said. “We can do some very unique applications.”

The company also produces underwater production equipment for drilling and lifting applications for the oil and gas industries, furnaces and ladles for the steel industry, and large equipment used in the paper and pulp industries.

Monarch has 70 employees who work in two shifts. The company has run shifts six to seven days per week for the past four years, Mitchell said.

In 2007, Monarch was acquired by Red Top Capital LLC, a private equity group based in Hartland. Mitchell purchased a share of the company at that time. He has worked with Monarch since 2001, when he joined the company as sales manager.

Previous to its acquisition of Monarch, Red Top Capital owned Production Tool Corp., a Chicago-based machining and repair job shop. The two companies are effectively run as one now, with Mitchell as their president. The sales force for both companies is based in Monarch’s facility.

“They are former competitors, and they maintain their own names and reputations in their markets,” Mitchell said.

Private equity ownership has paid off for both companies so far. Their combined sales in 2008 were $20.2 million – with $11.8 million from Monarch and $8.4 million from Production Tool Corp. The companies had sales of $10 million and $6 million, respectively, in 2007.

Because of current conditions, Mitchell is forecasting a relatively flat 2009.

“But I don’t see (sales) going down,” he said. “When I look at infrastructure – things like bridges – our expertise would lead us to build components there. And in oil and gas, we can build parts for mining cranes, oil platforms, refineries and land based drilling operations.”

Mitchell is already looking beyond 2009 and the end of the recession, preparing to take Monarch to the next level of performance.

“Within five years we want to be able to fabricate up to 200-ton (materials),” he said. “We have rail access right here (to the south of the company’s facility). I have 18 acres right behind me, and we could easily add another 100,000 to 150,000 square feet and add a rail spur into the building. The long-term plan is that we need to be a $100 million corporation. Our capabilities are unique. And our processes are unique.”

Monarch Machining & Fabrication

Address: 7050 N. 76th St., Milwaukee

Industry: Heavy machining, fabrication and assembly for mining, oil and gas, municipal, defense markets

Employees: 70

Revenues: $11.8 million in 2008

Web site:

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