Committed to Milwaukee: Global manufacturer creates jobs at home

The electronics that are installed in a car or truck have cables that need to be fastened to the undercarriage. Data centers, being built in ever-growing numbers, need wire and cable bundling and enclosures.

HellermannTyton is a manufacturer that provides solutions to needs like these with fasteners, clamps, clips, connectors, cable management products and identification systems.

The North American headquarters for the global company, which has operations in 34 countries, is located on the far northwest side of Milwaukee. The company is now in the process of opening its third Milwaukee manufacturing facility and hiring more employees on a path of rapid growth in the area.

“We really love being in Milwaukee, and the manufacturing base here really helps,” said Terry Tuttle, vice president of sales and marketing at HellermannTyton.

The company received a $2.75 million loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. to help finance its purchase of a 92,000-square-feet building at 6701-11 W. Good Hope Road. In addition to the $3.4 million cost to purchase the building, the company’s $6.7 million investment also includes renovations and new equipment.

In return for the MEDC loan, the company has pledged to hire 75 people at the plant over the next three years. The company is currently hiring 25 new employees to work there, with roles including automation design engineer, processing technician, project manager and inventory control clerk. The firm recently hosted a technical career fair at its headquarters.

HellermannTyton is no stranger to growth and hiring sprees. At the end of 2007, the company invested $3.7 million, with the help of $500,000 in Community Development Zone tax credits from the former Wisconsin Department of Commerce, in renovating a building at 8475 N. 87th St. The company created 70 jobs with that expansion.

Milwaukee foundations

HellermannTyton’s predecessors – Insuloid Manufacturing Company, Hellermann Company and Bowthorpe Electric Ltd. – were founded in the United Kingdom in the 1930s.

The company established U.S. operations in 1969, and the North American headquarters were located in Milwaukee soon after.

The companies underwent a series of acquisitions over the years, rebranding as HellermannTyton in 1997. HellermannTyton was acquired by European private equity firm Doughty Hanson & Co. in 2006, bringing together a global operation that makes about 50,000 products.

When the Milwaukee facility was pressed for capacity in the 1970s, the company moved some equipment and operations to a facility in Naples, Fla. However, the firm eventually moved the production back to Milwaukee, opening its second facility in 2007.

“It became inefficient to really run organizations in the two areas,” Tuttle said.

HellermannTyton has 12 manufacturing facilities worldwide, with three of them now located within three miles of each other in Milwaukee. The headquarters oversees the company’s North American operations, which also include a distribution center in Bolingbrook, Ill., a sales and distribution facility in Ontario, Canada, and a sales, distribution and assembly location in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In Milwaukee, the 105,000-square-foot headquarters hosts corporate offices and molding manufacturing, while the 41,000-square-foot 87th Street location focuses on extrusion, RapidNet data center products and tools services.

HellermannTyton expects the new plant to be operational in the first quarter of 2013. It will be used for injection molding operations, and it will have room for future expansion on the 19-acre lot.

The new facility will open up 30,000 square feet of space for research and development, mold making and quality functions at the Faulkner Road location. The company plans to invest about $5 million in equipment and renovations at the headquarters.

Fastening and securing

HellermannTyton focuses mainly on plastic injection molded parts.

The company keeps its black and white plastic pellet material at a specific moisture and stability level on the manufacturing floor using automated tanks to assure continuity and quality of its products.

If needed, the pellets are mixed with dyes to make colored parts before being pressed at up to 1,000 tons of pressure.

The Milwaukee facilities make up to 8 million parts per day in a range of sizes. For example, cable ties range from four to 54 inches.

Most of HellermannTyton’s automated, partially automated and hybrid machines run seven days per week.

The company has been building its own custom molds for about two years, with plans to double the size of the tooling room in the new facility.

Products include many varieties of cable ties, edge clips, hose spacers, sleeving and the hand tools used to apply the fasteners. The company also makes data center enclosures and solutions, as well as the printers and labels used to identify wires and cables.

HellermannTyton serves the electrical, industrial, commercial data, renewable energy and telecommunications industries, among others. Key markets include light vehicle, truck manufacturing, original equipment manufacturers and voice and data.

HellermannTyton counts some of the world’s largest car and heavy equipment manufacturers, as well as a telecommunications giant, among its customers.

Its products are useful in reducing installation time and cost, improving system safety, organizing networks and optimizing performance.

Sales focused growth

The company has seen rapid growth since 2010, according to Jim Campion, president of HellermannTyton North America. The company’s growth has coincided with the rebound of the American automotive industry.

According to a recent report at, today’s automotive design experts are increasingly turning to lighter-weight plastics to replace automotive parts made from heavier materials.

The shift to plastic parts reduces the weight of automotive parts, helping automakers produce vehicles that have higher gas mileage and lighter impact in collisions.

According to the Plastic Industry Trade Association, dismal plastic production figures that dipped to only 10.6 million units in 2009 have steadily climbed their way back up – to 12.8 million units closing out 2011 and predictions as high as 13.8 million units for 2012.

HellermannTyton has laid out a strategic growth plan, investing in additional space to expand its capacity over time.

“We got to the point where we couldn’t produce at the level of demand,” Campion said. “The City of Milwaukee has been very helpful in any request we’ve made.”

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has also provided incentives to HellermannTyton to continue its growth with the most recent expansion.

Since the company serves such a broad range of industries, it can leverage one market while another is struggling, he said.

“Most of the applications are to manage wire, so they come in every shape and form,” Campion said.

HellermannTyton often develops a product for a particular market, only to find application opportunities for that product in other markets, Tuttle said.

For example, the company makes edge clips in many sizes that can be used in industrial manufacturing to avoid drilling a hole in a product, to hold the wires behind a solar panel frame, or to fasten the wiring to an automotive frame rail.

Some of its main projects involve transitioning customers from using metal parts to using its plastic injection molded parts.

Since metal has weight and decreases function, replacing 250 metal parts with just eight of HellermannTyton’s plastic components saved one major truck manufacturer more than $1 million in total costs per year, Tuttle said.

HellermannTyton has been able to grab 98 percent of the available plastic business at truck plants across the country by engineering plastic parts that provide weight savings, reduced inventory and warranty costs and lower installation costs, Campion said.

“We can replace metal, and it will hold up just as well or better,” he said.

Perpetual innovation

Campion became president of HellermannTyton North America 10 years ago. He has focused on not only managing the existing business, but going after new markets.

While the company’s sister operation in Germany has been serving the light vehicle market in Europe for more than 20 years, it wasn’t a strategic focus for the North American operation until Campion made it a priority nine years ago.

With help from the German operation, HellermannTyton began supplying and eventually manufacturing light vehicle products for the U.S. automotive industry.

The company wins customers through bundling products that will meet their needs, Tuttle said.

“There is never a customer that can use just one of our products,” she said. “We’re in your dishwasher, we’re in your refrigerator, we’re in your washing machine.”

HellermannTyton makes an annual business plan highlighting strategic sales and marketing strategies.

“We very much are a marketing and sales driven organization, and our brand is very important to us,” Tuttle said. “We never let up on the development of new products, and that really paid off after the downturn.”

Campion puts an emphasis on company culture, with a reward recognition program for employees who submit innovative ideas. A point system helps employees earn a different colored shirt based on their accomplishments, which they wear each Monday so their peers can recognize their success.

Employees who earn the most points have a meeting room named after them at the end of the quarter and earn a lunch with the president. The idea is to inspire and engage employees to solve customer problems and raise the client experience.

“We’re very much an entrepreneurial company that wants to stay that way through our growth,” Tuttle said. “You can directly see the benefits of your efforts.”

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display