Tower Machining thrives in its first year

Tower Machining
7900 W. Tower Ave., Milwaukee
Industry: Machining
Employees: 11

In the one-year period since Milwaukee-based contract manufacturer Tower Machining began in April 2014, it has doubled in revenue and tripled its customer base.

“It’s been a challenging first year, but good challenges – growing pain challenges, which are always good things,” said Dirk Smith, a partner for Accelity Group, which established Tower Machining, a manufacturer of precision, close-tolerance machined parts and components.

The Accelity Group, a family of affiliated companies providing manufacturing solutions, also includes Milwaukee-based Super Steel LLC (of which Smith is president and chief executive officer); Lomira-based Empire Coatings LLC; Lomira-based Jor-Mac Co. Inc.; Milwaukee-based Tower Power Solutions LLC; and Kaukauna-based Mid Valley Industries LLC.

Smith said Tower Machining was created in order to satisfy Super Steel’s CNC machining needs and to sell CNC machining work to other manufacturers.

Smith said Super Steel could have bought the machines and done the work itself, but it was important to him to keep it a separate entity with its own PNL (profit and loss) and its own leadership team in order to maintain a competitive edge and to be flexible and dynamic for its customers.

“If we just went and bought machines at Super Steel, which we could have done, it’d get lost, and it wouldn’t have that same tenacity, flexibility and hunger that you’d have in a separate standalone entity,” Smith said.

Tower Machining, which is led by general manager Scott Pease, currently operates out of an approximately 8,000-square-foot space within the 450,000-square-foot Super Steel facility.

The process of manufacturing  small components like bushings and tapping pads begins with ordering bar stock in 12- to 20-foot lengths from steel vendors and then processing them through a piece of machinery, according to Pease. Overall, Tower Machining owns 13 pieces of equipment, consisting of vertical mills, turning centers, and drill and taps.

Tower Machining manufactures hundreds of thousands of parts a year, and each one takes anywhere from 30 seconds to two hours to make, depending on the complexity of the part.

Tower Machining operates out of an 8,000-square-foot space at Milwaukee-based Super Steel LLC.

While Super Steel is considered an incubator for Tower Machining right now, Smith said the plan is to move it into a nearby facility of its own within the next five years. Also in that time period, Smith expects the company to employ 50 or more people.

Tower Machining presently has 11 employees working three shifts, and it is hiring for three CNC setup operators.

The manufacturer started out doing work only for its sister companies, but it now has third-party customers located throughout southeastern Wisconsin from the agricultural, construction, energy, industrial, power generation and transportation industries.  

Smith and Pease said Tower Machining’s growth is due in part to the Accelity Group’s business model.  

For instance, the ability to leverage the synergy among the family of companies allows Tower Machining to sell at a lower price and to gain more market share.

Although finding qualified machinists can be a challenge, Smith said he predicts profitable growth for the company in the long-term. He declined to disclose its annual revenue.

“We’re building a solid team,” he said. “With the right people, the rest of it takes care of itself.”

Tower Machining makes precision, close-tolerance machined parts and components.

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