Bruno Independent Living Aids Inc.
1780 Executive Drive, Oconomowoc
Industry: Metal fabrication
Twenty-two percent of U.S. adults have a disability, with disability in mobility the most frequently reported type, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To get around, they subsequently rely on the kinds of mobility devices that one local manufacturer makes in Oconomowoc.
Bruno Independent Living Aids Inc. specializes in stairlifts, vertical platform lifts, turning automotive seats, and scooter/powerchair lifts.
“We make products that change people’s lives…that gives them freedom and independence,” said Michael Bruno II, president and chief executive officer. “When you meet one of our customers and see what our products do for them on a daily basis, it’s very rewarding.”
Founded 30 years ago by Bruno’s father, Michael Bruno, the company started out making scooter/powerchair lifts in a small Oconomowoc facility it rented.
It has since expanded into the other three product categories, and moved into a three-building campus.
A 75,000-square-foot building serves as the headquarters and manufacturing facility; a 35,000-square-foot building is a training facility for employees and dealers; and a 100,000-square-foot building is where assembly takes place.
The company also owns enough nearby property to build another 40,000 square feet of space, although Bruno said he currently does not have any expansions plans.
“As you can imagine, we’re often asked that question with the growth we’ve been experiencing,” he said.
2014 was a record year, with an 8 percent increase in sales over the previous year. What is more, the first six months of 2015 were up 20 percent over the first six months of 2014.
One of the reasons for the growth, according to Bruno, is the addition of field sales representatives across the country.
The company has seven field reps and more than a thousand North American dealers, the latter of whom sell the products to the public.
Among the four product categories, Bruno manufactures about 30 different models. Most are for the residential market, but Bruno said there are commercial versions of the stairlifts and vertical platform lifts as well. (The commercial vertical platform lifts are the company’s newest product line.)
Another reason for the company’s growth is the investment in its employees.
It grew from about 310 employees to 350 in the last year, and it also spends about $1 million annually on training.
Every Bruno employee takes an introductory class to lean, and Bruno also provides employee training – usually taught onsite by Waukesha County Technical College instructors – in areas such as communication, problem solving and intermediate lean.
Bruno also recently implemented the Training Within Industry program for its assembly employees. Originated in the 1940s, TWI was born out of the need to rapidly train unskilled workers entering the war production workforce, according to the TWI Institute. Bruno said the company has tailored TWI to fit its needs, and he finds the program’s verbal, visual and physical teaching techniques an effective and sustainable method.
Bruno is a global manufacturer that owns 100 percent of a subsidiary in England called Homeadapt. With about five employees, Homeadapt is a sales and distribution office for Bruno’s stairlifts.
In addition, Bruno owns half of the Swedish business Autoadapt, which has 75 employees and manufactures Bruno’s Valet Signature Seating turning automotive seats.