Heavy lifters: Doral Corp. is one of the region’s fastest-growing companies, and one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets

Doral Corp. employees move a machine conveyor section at Komatsu Mining Corp.’s South Harbor campus with the help of a Versa-Lift.
Doral Corp. employees move a machine conveyor section at Komatsu Mining Corp.’s South Harbor campus with the help of a Versa-Lift. Credit: Andrew Feller Photography
Scott Doro
Scott Doro

When your first taste of driving a forklift is at 8 years old, there’s a good chance the family business will become so much a part of who you are that it would be absurd to even think about another career. At least that was the case for Scott Doro, president of Milwaukee-based Doral Corp. 

Doro recalls always being involved in the family business, helping in little ways, like sweeping the floors in the shop. Over the past several decades, he’s been able to both witness and take part in helping Doral become one of the fastest-growing companies in southeastern Wisconsin.

In the same way that there are movers who help homeowners, there are also companies that help manufacturers move and rig their equipment. In southeastern Wisconsin – and beyond – clients say Doral is a specialty contractor that stands above the rest when it comes to not only equipment moving and rigging, but also fabrication services. 

Additionally, Doral offers its customers warehousing options, equipment rentals, and conveyor design and installation. 

Doral has worked on major projects in Wisconsin for companies that include Johnsonville LLC, Klement’s Sausage Co. Inc., General Mills, Caterpillar, Komatsu Mining Corp., John Deere and others. Doral was also involved in the Fiserv Forum project, construction work on the Hoan Bridge and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s Deep Tunnel.

The company is one of the winners of the 2022 Future 50 Awards of the fastest-growing companies in southeastern Wisconsin (see profiles of all of the Future 50 winners on pages 25-65).

Tucked away a couple blocks off of Bay View’s bustling South Kinnickinnic Avenue, many in the neighborhood are probably unaware that Doral’s 225,000-square-foot headquarters facility is even there. But it’s a different story for those in the manufacturing industry. 

“We install manufacturing equipment in any facility, … food, foundries, automotive, distribution, material handling, … anything inside of a factory we install,” Doro said. “If anyone’s ever been on a tour of Miller Brewing Co., almost everything you see on that production floor is what we installed. We do that in facilities all across the country.”

As a result of its rapid growth, Doral has added around 100 full time employees in the last 18 months, with plans to add another 50 to 100 positions in the next 18 months. Out of the company’s 250 total employees, approximately 40 are stationed at its Milwaukee headquarters. The remaining employee base is spread across job sites both locally and nationally. As of last year, the company has grown to more than $100 million in annual sales. 

Doral has experienced organic growth since it opened in 1966, under the name Industrial Erecting, on 26th Street and North Avenue in Milwaukee. The company moved to Franklin in 1972 and once more to Oak Creek before eventually settling at its current home at 427 E. Stewart St. in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood in 2000. The company plans to add another 60,000 square feet of space to the former Louis Allis facility in the next several years to accommodate its growth. 

Louis Allis, a maker of large electric motors, closed its doors abruptly in October 1998. The following year, Doral was hired to remove a large amount of machinery from the plant. Robert Doro, then-chief executive officer, happened to be looking for his own larger space at the time. Doral purchased the facility at a bank foreclosure auction for about $1.36 million. In 2007, Scott Doro replaced his father as owner of the company.

Scott Doro said the key to standing out from competition is Doral’s unique combination of metal fabrication services and machine rigging and moving. 

“Anything (clients) can put on a piece of paper or draw on a napkin, we can turn it into drawings and then build what they want,” Doro said, describing the company’s metal fabrication offerings. 

Doral Corp. employees load a machining center workpiece table onto a Versa-Lift.
Doral Corp. employees load a machining center workpiece table onto a Versa-Lift.
Credit: Andrew Feller Photography

Identifying new market segments

Doro attributes the company’s continued growth to two main strategies: Identifying new market segments and investing in new technology. In the late 1990s, Doral first started breaking into the food and beverage industry. While many manufacturing jobs were being shipped outside the U.S., that wasn’t the case at food manufacturing facilities.

“Wisconsin had a lot of food and beverage processors that were, for us, untapped, and we just jumped in full speed. We’ve increased that (category) by maybe 100%, 200%,” said Shane DeFendi, director of business development at Doral. 

The company most recently identified the material handling industry as another opportunity for growth. With the rise in the number of distribution centers being built for companies like Amazon and Walmart, which picked up at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Doral has a whole new segment of construction projects to target. 

“Especially in material handling, with more people ordering online for home delivery and less people frequenting stores in person, that’s where the opportunity for growth is for us,” DeFendi said. 

As for the technological piece of Doral’s growth puzzle, the latest category the company is investing in is robotics. A robotic welder is the newest addition to the shop floor, helping speed up production. Doro said he is constantly researching the newest technological advancements that could be implemented at work.

“When I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t look at Facebook or Instagram. I’m online looking for new technology and seeing what improvements there are in the industry,” he said. 

The Doral Corp. crew makes sure a machining center linear bedway section is level.
The Doral Corp. crew makes sure a machining center linear bedway section is level.
Credit: Andrew Feller Photography

Moving forward from the pandemic

Supply chain challenges continue to be the most difficult issue the company is navigating, said Doro. While Doral itself is not affected by supply chain bottlenecks, its customers are having trouble receiving orders for equipment, which often leads to extensions on project timelines.

“When we’re doing new installations, that’s where the frustrations are coming. You’ll get 80% or 90% of the equipment, and you’ll be trying to build a line while missing a piece in the middle,” Doro said. 

To combat supply chain issues, the company does a lot of “reactive” work. Steve Bula, director of operations at Doral, agreed that it is the unexpected outside challenges that present the most difficulties in his position. Anything from dealing with bad weather to having to adjust what equipment the Doral crew has at a job site can make projects more difficult.

“Meeting people and helping them solve problems and just coming through for somebody when they need you … it’s very rewarding,” Bula said. “We always figure out a way to get the work done. It’s very cool to see how stuff is made. We kind of get a glimpse of how everything is done. As a consumer, you just take for granted being able to go buy things.”

The pandemic presented challenges for Doral in that several new safety procedures had to be implemented at job sites, which led to the need for more worker training. Doral’s customers also made major changes to how their facilities were laid out, which meant more planning and adjustments were needed to complete projects.

At the start of the pandemic, Doral’s sales were reduced by 30% to 35%, but the company was able to quickly rebound. Prior to the pandemic, Doral serviced 14 states. The company has now grown to service the entire country. 

Doral has historically done most of its business within 100 miles of Milwaukee, but over the past decade or so, about 40% of Doral’s business is outside of that 100-mile radius. DeFendi said Doral was able to quickly bounce back from its pandemic challenges due in part to the work ethic and pride Doro instills in employees. 

“I think one thing that really shows up is the sense of pride that Scott has in the business. It’s something that he grew up with and it’s something that you see motivates not just him, but (also) our leadership team and everyone throughout the company,” DeFendi said. 

A “truly turnkey” operation

In speaking with some of Doral’s recent customers, one thing rings true: They are pleased with the fact that Doral’s suite of offerings allows for a turnkey moving operation. 

Josh Olson, project manager at Komatsu Mining Corp.’s South Harbor campus, was unsure what to expect when bringing Doral onto the team working on the company’s new $285 million headquarters and manufacturing facility in Milwaukee’s Harbor District. He didn’t know much about Doral and was unsure what kind of workload the company would be able to handle. 

Ultimately, it was Doral’s equipment options that swayed Komatsu into switching over from a competitor. In particular, Doral’s Versa-Lift forklifts, which can lift loads from 17,000 pounds to 140,000 pounds, can save days and even weeks of time on a machine installation project. Doral has the largest fleet of Versa-Lifts in North America. 

“Talk is cheap, but the proof is in the pudding,” Olson said. 

Komatsu initially began engaging with Doral to discuss becoming involved in the South Harbor campus in 2018. There were originally 115 Komatsu facilities filled with equipment that needed to be moved to the company’s new headquarters. 

“I have a dozen project managers under me, and they’re all in charge of moving all of that equipment safely from one location to another,” said Olson. “You’ve got two or three dozen different vendors on a daily basis to make that happen. Having Doral be that single source you can trust from a safety aspect, from a time and cost aspect, has been awesome. It’s just one less thing to have to worry about.”

One of the challenges Olson’s team faces in moving older equipment is that replacements often need to be made. In addition to having Doral move and rig its equipment, Komatsu is also able to ask Doral to fabricate new equipment pieces to make those repairs. 

“Sometimes we have a repair we’d like to do and it’s not worth trying to go to the manufacturer, or the manufacturer is no longer around. Being able to do a truly turnkey move has been a big deal for us,” Olson said.

He was also surprised by Doral’s fabrication capabilities, saying once he and his team toured the Doral shop, their eyes “lit up.”

“We didn’t know they had all these capabilities,” Olson said. 

Jacob Heinzelmann, manufacturing services director of the power systems division at Eaton Corp., has more than 20 years of experience working with Doral. 

Most recently, Eaton brought on Doral as the preferred contractor to help with a 250,000-square-foot expansion project at its facility at 2300 N. Badger Drive in Waukesha. Eaton said the $24 million project would help it increase production of regulators and transformers, improve production efficiencies and reduce costs.

Doral was awarded a $3.8 million contract as part of the deal, with work starting June of 2021 and ending February of 2022. Approximately 250 pieces of Eaton equipment were moved by Doral.

“I think the part that makes it work the best is that it’s kind of a turnkey solution for us. When they’re moving equipment, they have the semi-truck drivers, they have the semis, they have the equipment that they need, they have a very large staff and they can flex up and down,” Heinzelmann said. 

During the Eaton expansion project, Doral also coordinated and subcontracted the needed mechanical and electrical work, basically disconnecting and reconnecting the equipment. 

“I would just say, past history is probably the biggest thing,” Heinzelmann said. “We’ve done a lot of jobs with them in the past, and they’ve always been very timely. … When we have a budget that’s established, they stick to it. We don’t hit hiccups. It’s confidence in what they’re going to be providing you.”

A friendly neighbor

James Larson has overseen a few moves in his time as co-owner and director of operations of Milwaukee-based Enlightened Brewing Co. The craft brewer’s current home at 2020 S. Allis St. shares a building with Doral. The 14,000-square-foot space is substantially larger than Enlightened’s prior 1,800-square-foot, ground-floor production site and taproom on South First Street. 

Prior to becoming neighbors with Doral in 2019, Larson had heard of the company but had never worked with it directly. That’s because Doral is hired through Quality Tank Solutions to install brewing equipment. 

“They do a lot of machine rigging and moving for the brewing industry,” Larson said. “They’re one of the exclusive movers for QTS, which is a huge craft firm. I don’t think you can go in any brewery that doesn’t have something from QTS.”

One of the first projects Doral helped Enlightened Brewing with was the installation of a three-barrel tank at the company’s former Lincoln Warehouse location. Doral also helped the brewery move into its current Allis Street home, a project Larson called a “major build-out.” The equipment purchased for the new space was ready before the building was, so Doral helped store and move it.

Larson said the Doral team has been a wealth of knowledge not only in moving and fixing equipment, but also providing advice on getting equipment to run more smoothly and occasionally lending a piece of equipment. 

“In working with them in the past and getting to know them as neighbors, if there’s anything that needs to be moved, if there’s anything that needs to get fixed, if anything needs to be welded, there’s probably somebody there that’s been doing it for 20 years,” Larson said. “It’s never a stressful time when Doral comes over to help with something because you know they’ve done it.”

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Ashley Smart
Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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