195 W. Ryan Road, Oak Creek
Industry: Industrial equipment
Bob Larsen founded Elwood Corp. in 1973, and has grown it since that time through acquisitions.
The Oak Creek-based company is comprised of five groups: High Performance Motors, Fluid Power, Wyco, HVC and Electronics.
At one time, Elwood manufactured a press used to make synthetic diamonds, which drove huge global sales in the late ’80s and early ’90s, said Terry Levin, vice president and chief financial officer.
“The profits from that activity of the presses funded the acquisitions,” Levin said.
The Motors group is based in an 80,000-square-foot facility in Racine. The Fluid Power group, Wyco and Electronics are manufactured at the 35,000-square-foot Oak Creek headquarters. And the HVC group is based in a 5,000-square-foot facility in Cedarburg.
The Fluid Power division makes water hydraulics valves for steel and aluminum mills. Electronics makes photoelectric controls, which are sometimes used in car washes for delivery trucks. HVC makes high voltage capacitors, which can be used for electronic fences, x-ray generators and high voltage power supplies. And Wyco makes industrial flexible shaft machines used in applications like tire buffing and fish scaling.
The company’s motion control motors are used in high impact and industrial applications. The Motors group makes up the majority of Elwood’s business, Levin said.
A partnership with Rockwell Automation to make some of their obsolete products has been a boon to the company. It’s one of the ways Elwood sets itself apart.
“We have to do something special, and that’s everything from legacy, to custom and explosion-proof motors,” Levin said.
Elwood makes servo and stepper motion control motors. A servo is a spinning electric motor that has a feedback mechanism that tells a machine where the motor is located at any given time, Levin said. A stepper motor uses a more basic step counting method to do the same thing.
The company machines the parts inside its motors and the aluminum housing. It also makes the internal mechanisms, like the stator and rotor.
To make a rotor, employees wind copper into thin pieces of iron called laminations. The rotor spins in the magnetic field inside a motor.
In 2011 and 2012, Elwood reported 17 percent revenue growth. That growth flattened in 2013, partially because it stopped making the synthetic diamond presses.
Levin projects 10 percent growth in 2014, driven by the company’s increased focus on bringing in new OEMs and increased economic growth. In the past two months, the company has rehired five employees that had been laid off in early 2013 and hired one new employee.
“The economy itself just seems to be providing us projects,” he said. “We think of our stuff as kind of being obscure – we seem like we’re in our little corner of the economy, yet somehow it all gets driven by the economy.”