Galland Henning Nopak eyes new products and capacity expansion

Made in Milwaukee

Eddie Wilturner working at Galland Henning Nopak’s Franklin facility.

Galland Henning Nopak Inc.

10179 S. 57th St., Franklin

Iindustry: Fluid power

Employees: Around 75

Considering Galland Henning Nopak Inc. was in the business of making malting equipment for the major breweries of Milwaukee when Prohibition hit, it’s a bit remarkable the company is still around to celebrate its 130th anniversary.

Eddie Wilturner working at Galland Henning Nopak’s Franklin facility.

Add in the fact the Franklin-based company is now on its fourth generation of family ownership when some estimates suggest only 3 percent of firms make it that far, and the milestone is even more substantial.

Heath Nunnemacher, Galland Henning Nopak co-owner and director, credits the company’s focus on new product development and taking advantage of engineering expertise.

“That’s always been a pretty consistent theme,” he said.

Today, Galland Henning Nopak makes hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders and valves found in applications from cereal production to mining to locks on waterways. The company’s equipment even helped operate the gates in the original “Jurassic Park” movie. One recent application required the equipment to run 24/7 in an environment that could fluctuate between -55 and 400 degrees.

“We focus on quality, we focus on delivery and our engineering abilities that really make the separation,” said Brian Sternberg, president, pointing out there is some standardization of cylinders, but there are also hundreds of thousands of combinations and permutations. “Every application for linear movement is different, so that’s where our engineers come in.”

Beyond valves and cylinders, GHN also builds scrap baler equipment used to compress metal.

On the surface, the balers and cylinders appear to be markedly different. The front-end sale is different, with balers requiring three to five years in development as the equipment is considered for new buildings or the installation of a new canning line.

“Once it’s sold, once it’s in there in operation, then the fluid power market, they come in and they service it, so there is some overlap between those two,” Sternberg said.

The market for balers isn’t as competitive as GHN’s cylinder and valve business, but in both markets the company aims to provide a premium product.

“They are a heavy-duty, robust, engineered product,” said Sternberg of the balers. “We haven’t thinned out the metal; we’ve kept it for a heavy-duty, performance-type product.”

On average the balers run for 30 years, but with what Nunnemacher described as a “healthy parts and repair business,” some come in for service after 75 or 80 years.

GHN also continues to focus on innovation, which for balers means emphasizing reliability and energy efficiency.

Nunnemacher said the company is also looking to continue its new product development in cylinders. He was hesitant to discuss specifics of new products but said they would be fluid power-related and complement existing products, while also taking advantage of similar sales channels and existing manufacturing processes.

“We’re not going to start making children’s toys,” Sternberg joked.

Nunnemacher brings a unique background to his work as a co-owner and director. He worked for Charter Automotive LLC for several years, leading a distribution center in China and then managing new product launches. After working as a product quality manager for Apple, he joined Brookfield-based Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. as a program manager, developing strategies at a company that’s generated hundreds of patents in recent years.

That background gave him exposure to robust new product development operations and Nunnemacher said as part of the board, he tries to bring “some of that focus on innovation and structure to the business.”

But he does not work full-time for GHN and none of the family members currently do.

“If somebody were to choose to do that, we have very set policies that would have to be fulfilled before that could occur,” Nunnemacher said. “We have a very, very high degree of emphasis on good corporate governance.”

Sternberg, who joined GHN as a vice president in 2014, said he has been impressed with the family’s commitment not just to the shareholders of the business, but to all of the company’s stakeholders.

“I’ve really focused on having a very good environment where people want to come to work, making sure they’re compensated above average in the marketplace, (offering) flexibility,” Sternberg said. “I want people banging on the door to work here.”

With the company growing about 22 percent annually while the fluid power market increased by 4 percent, GHN has put about $3 million into capital investments over the past 30 months. But like many manufacturers, adding people with the right skillsets remains an issue.

“Right now, our biggest challenge is really skilled labor,” Nunnemacher said.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.