Gaco Western to shift all manufacturing to new Waukesha plant

Gaco Western LLC, a Seattle, Wash. -based manufacturer of waterproofing chemicals and foam insulation, will shift all of its manufacturing operations to its new 60,000-square-foot facility in Waukesha by May.

The company moved into the new building in December. At the time, the company had 14 employees in Wisconsin. It now has 25 and is in the process of hiring about six more, said Irene Schwechler, vice president and general manager of the Waukesha plant.

A second shift is scheduled to begin in May.

"They’re being hired for the second shift now because we need to train them," Schwechler said.

The company’s Waukesha location will be more convenient and cost-effective for shipping than the West Coast site. Also, the labor costs and costs of living are cheaper in Wisconsin than in Seattle.

Before the company moved into its building on Chapman Drive, Gaco Western occupied a 20,000-square-foot facility at 521 Biddle St. in Waukesha. With about one-third of the space it has now, the cramped operations were chaotic, Schwechler said.

"In the summer, I didn’t even go out there (on the manufacturing floor)," she said. "There was too much helter-skelter."

Spectrum Engineering, a Brookfield-based firm, spent about one year designing Gaco Western’s new facility, Schwechler said.

"They looked at all of our processes and designed this building around them," she said. "And the project came in on time and under budget."

The new facility has separated the two lines of products Gaco Western makes. Waterproofing chemicals are mixed on the western side of the building, while foam insulation chemicals are made on the east side. Outbound shipping is done from a series of loading docks in the center of the building.

Gaco Western’s new building in Waukesha at 1245 Chapman Drive was a $12 million investment, largely because of the highly specialized tanks, lines and information network installed, Schwechler said.

"The polymers for our foam products have to be stored at 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) or above to remain liquid," she said. "We have a tank room that is kept 110 degrees, and we have 14 tanks in there that are 10,000 to 12,000 gallons."

The company has another storage area for polymers and resins used in its waterproofing products that is maintained at 160 degrees.

Gaco Western’s old facility had one area for tanker trucks to unload liquid chemicals, the raw components of its products. The new facility has five, which can be operated at the same time. Unloading five truckloads used to take seven to eight hours, said George Woldt, director of manufacturing. The company could now unload five tankers in less than one hour.

Gaco Western is now adding several more tanks and mixers for its waterproofing products. When it moved to the new facility, the company more than doubled its capacity for making foam chemicals.

"We will produce just under 1 million gallons of coatings this year," Schwechler said. "And we’ll make about 15 million pounds of foam this year."

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