Res gets Tesla boost

Res Manufacturing Co.
7801 N. 73rd St., Milwaukee
Metal stamping and subassembly

Res Manufacturing Co. makes about 110 parts that go into the car interior, seating and battery power train for automotive manufacturer Tesla’s Model S electric vehicle.

The Milwaukee metal stamping, welding and subassembly company gained the contract in 2011 for work that Tesla was previously outsourcing to China.

“We worked with them to convince them, to assure them, we could get the job done for them,” said John Wittmann, vice president of sales and marketing for Res Manufacturing. “It’s giving us opportunities to expand our relationship with them as they’re preparing to release the Model X (expected in 2017).”

Res Manufacturing increased employment by about 10 percent as a result of starting work for Tesla and has added another 10 percent otherwise, said Steve Pankowski, manufacturing manager.

The company has also expanded its shorter run capabilities, since Tesla doesn’t need the high volume that Res Manufacturing’s other automotive customers request. In the past year, it has invested $250,000 in a metal inert gas welding center.

Eartha Penlton, team lead for subassembly and packaging, rivets a component that Res Manufacturing subassembles.

Some of the parts that Res makes include the latch system for Tesla’s fold-down third row seat, the oil baffles for Toyota vehicles and the electric seat adjustment system for another car. In the non-automotive area, it makes parts for heavy trucks and construction and agricultural equipment.

Leaders at Res have increased their focus over the last several years on manufacturing parts used in the fast-growing clean technology sector, such as solar and wind power, LED lighting and electric vehicles, Wittmann said.

“Those markets were growing very rapidly and certain subsets were good for our core competencies and where we were going in the future,” he said.

The company has also grown by exploring new areas, outside of those core competencies, Wittmann said.

Res Manufacturing assembles the electric seat adjustment devices for a car.

“As we’ve evolved as an organization, a lot of our customers are seeking integrated solutions,” he said. “We’re going toe-to-toe with suppliers from China and Mexico and we’re able to successfully compete.”

And it diversified from 90 percent automotive industry work to 55 percent by adding those non-automotive growth segments.

About two years ago, Res started implementing the Toyota production system throughout its facility, Wittmann said. It’s an ongoing project to increase efficiency.

Res Manufacturing is also renovating its conference room and lobby areas to update the spaces and include the ability to video conference with long-distance customers like Tesla.

The company has annual revenue of $29 million, up from about $17 million five years ago.

“Through thick and thin, we’ve tried to develop and bring on really good people,” he said. “If you don’t have the people in place, the soundest strategy is not going to work.”

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