Made in Milwaukee: MGS has big ambitions for its Germantown campus

The tool room at MGS’s Germantown campus.
The tool room at MGS’s Germantown campus.

It doesn’t necessarily look like it from Maple Road, but MGS is creating a health care center of excellence at its Germantown campus, investing $20 million and consolidating Illinois operations, and 115 jobs, into the facilities.

Inside, the company has around 45,000 square feet of clean room space that turns out millions of pounds of resin to turn out billions of parts a year. MGS also has a 60,000-square-foot tooling center with 100 toolmakers. The company says it is among the 10 largest centers in North America.

MGS also has operations in Menomonee Falls and Oak Creek, along with facilities in Mexico and Ireland and its revenues now top $250 million.

The latest expansion added 13,000 square feet of clean room space to the Germantown campus for a company that started in 1982 as a small mold making shop for the plastic injection molding industry. Founded by Mark G. Sellers, it grew to be a $15 million tooling organization by the mid-1990s.

The company began incorporating some design services and a few molding machines to sample products for customers. With Motorola as a major customer, the company rode the growing popularity of cell phones and its customer’s need to produce multiple models per year, each with its own tooling, to become a $100 million company.

“As quickly as it grew it seemed to move twice as fast to China by the mid-2000s,” said Paul Manley, who has been with the company for 25 years and is now president.

Manley acknowledged it was a classic case of customer concentration issues and at one point Motorola might have accounted for 80% of the business.

MGS makes billions of parts per year for the health care, electronics, consumer and automotive industries.
MGS makes billions of parts per year for the health care, electronics, consumer and automotive industries.

“It was a scramble to build a more diversified custom molding business and tool shop,” he said.

That’s when health care entered the picture with the 2006 acquisition of All West Plastics in Antioch, Illinois.

In contrast to the fast pace of change that defined consumer electronics like cell phones, the health care sector offers long product lifecycles and sustainable organic growth, Manley said.

Originally a tool shop, today, MGS provides services from design and engineering to mold making, automation, production and assembly. Manley said the health care industry pairs well with the capabilities MGS has developed over the years, particularly the drug delivery devices and diagnostic components the company supplies.

“They require precision plastic parts. It always has to be right considering the critical nature of the components and the devices that they go into,” Manley said. “It limits competition to those of us in the industry that can rise to the level of service and quality.”

“Zero defects isn’t just a saying or goal; it’s required to protect patient health,” he added.

MGS, acquired by Milwaukee-based private equity firm Mason Wells in 2016, has continued to invest in serving the health care industry over the past five to 10 years. The goal now is to grow the industry to be more than 50% of the business.

While the opportunity for sustainable growth makes sense, it doesn’t answer why the company chose Germantown for its center of excellence.

“We chose Germantown based on the high level of technical talent in this area but specifically within our group,” Manley said.

Technical talent and people in general have grown to be particularly important as MGS has expanded its offerings beyond tool making to include designing and building the automation systems used to produce parts and then actually running production for customers.

“Our real value proposition to our customers is when we apply all of the capabilities of MGS,” Manley said. “It helps provide a single point of accountability for our customers (and) simplifies their supply chain.”

But having all of those offerings makes MGS more of a service provider and less of a manufacturer. Manley pointed out that in every service industry, people are key.

“It’s always going to be the most important differentiator,” he said.

MGS also isn’t done growing its Germantown campus with the latest expansion. The company has other operations in the area that could be consolidated to the site at some point in the future.

“That’s the master plan for the campus,” Manley said. “We have the ability to add approximately 250,000 square feet and really be able to be the epicenter of MGS.”

MGS
W188 N11707 Maple Road, Germantown
Industry: Plastic injection molding
Employees: 1,800 (600 locally)
mgsmfg.com

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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.