Waukesha County manufacturers say WMEP is making them stronger

Waukesha County manufacturers say WMEP is making them stronger

John Bostrom and his staff at H.O. Bostrom Co. in Waukesha do a lot of things to improve the company’s manufacturing process. But as competition intensifies, he knows the company needs to keep getting stronger and more efficient.
The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) is helping him do just that.
"We’ve been around for 56 years, and we’re a survivor," Bostrom says. "But at the same time, we need their help to continue surviving."
Those survival efforts are even more critical in the face of increased competition from China and other nations with low-cost labor. "You often hear people ask what can be done about competition from China; well, here is something you can do."
H.O. Bostrom Co., which operates in a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing and product development facility at 818 Progress Ave. in Waukesha, makes seats and seating components for off-highway and specialty on-highway vehicles, such as Oshkosh Trucks, and office chairs.
The company is about two-thirds of the way through a value stream manufacturing program of WMEP, which will help H.O. Bostrom Co. establish more efficient processes. "For example, they are teaching 10-person teams here how to look at things with a wider vision," Bostrom said. "We’re looking at all our processes to see whether we can do them better."
Once the training is completed this month, WMEP will provide a report on its work with H.O. Bostrom Co. and then return to the company to help it implement changes.
Beyond that, H.O. Bostrom Co. will work with WMEP toward ISO certification, which Bostrom says will make the company even more efficient.
His company is not alone in gaining operating efficiencies through WMEP. The organization says Wisconsin manufacturers reported a $133 million economic impact as a result of assistance its consultants provided to companies like H.O. Bostrom during the past fiscal year.
Wisconsin manufacturers reported $90 million in increased and retained sales; $19 million in investment in new plant and equipment; and $23 million in cost savings and expense avoidance.
WMEP (www.wmep.org) says it helped to create 503 jobs while providing services to 471 Wisconsin manufacturers.
WMEP, a non-profit consulting organization, helps small and mid-size manufacturers become more competitive. The impact data is based on customer surveys compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
"The need to modernize and improve Wisconsin’s manufacturers is more important now than ever," says Michael Klonsinski, WMEP’s executive director. "Global competition and a sluggish economy have made this one of the toughest years in recent memory," he said. "But despite all that, these numbers reflect the fact that many manufacturers are benefiting from lean and other strategies designed to help them attract new business, cut costs and improve quality."
Among that new business is a $750,000 contract that Heale Manufacturing landed with the U.S. Army, says Elliott Erickson, president of the 40-person company at 1231 The Strand in Waukesha.
The company manufactures electrical wire harnesses and cable assemblies for commercial and military customers. The Army contract is for harnesses for armored personnel carriers.
WMEP helped Heale Manufacturing gain ISO certification which the company needed to retain government business when the government ended its previous quality-control program.
Since then, WMEP has continued to work with Heale Manufacturing on continuous improvement processes and lean manufacturing.
"They helped our people identify what waste is," Erickson said. "For example, if you move something without a purpose, that’s waste."
Identifying and eliminating that waste "gave me the confidence to bid more aggressively; I knew I could find savings and take costs out of the system."
The company started delivery on the new Army contract in May.

Sept. 5, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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