Wisconsin Manufacturing News

Kohler lays off 750 workers; Process Displays gets new name and new headquarters; Quad/Graphics acquires Burlington printer; Generac reports robust quarter; Douglas Dynamics sees lowered quarterly earnings, sales; Brady Corp. acquires Australian firm

Kohler lays off 750 workers

Kohler Co. plans to reduce its workforce by 450 administrative and production positions and 300 temporary positions in multiple locations across the United States, including about 350 in Kohler. The workforce reduction impacts only the company’s plumbing operations in the United States, where production is linked to new build and renovated housing.

“These are challenging times which require making difficult decisions, none more difficult than when they involve our associates,” said Jim Westdorp, president of Kohler’s Kitchen & Bath Group. “The housing market, which plummeted to an all-time low during the economic crisis some 18 months ago, has not rebounded as we had hoped. Housing remains battered with no signs of a U.S. recovery on the horizon.”

Despite historically low interest rates, builders are building only for those persons employed who can meet tougher mortgage requirements, and consumers are hesitating to invest in remodeling for fear of not recovering the cost through improved home value, the company said.

Herb Kohler, chairman and chief executive officer of the company, said, “The economic recovery will begin when consumers have confidence in the stability of their jobs, in the potential upside in the value of their homes and they are not hit with a prolonged stream of higher taxes.”

Process Displays gets new name and new headquarters

After doing business as Process Displays Inc. for more than 80 years, Process Displays has changed its name to Process Retail Group Inc.

The name change will coincide with the company’s move to a new 136,000-square-foot headquarters in New Berlin on Moorland Road just south of Interstate 43 in December.

“Our new name better reflects what we have grown to be,” said Bob Zanotti, president of Process Retail Group. “In recent years we have evolved into a strategic provider of national retail marketing and merchandising programs that go way beyond the production of displays.”

The company began modestly as a screen printing sign business in 1929 in Milwaukee.

Success in creating marketing products for the petroleum industry, including for Exxon’s famous 1960’s “Tiger in your Tank” ad campaign, drove the company to grow into a larger facility at 16333 W. Rogers Drive in New Berlin.

Process Displays was purchased by James Coffey in 1940 and his son, James Coffey Jr. took the reigns as president in 1965. The company remained a two-generation family business until it was sold in 2000 to the local ownership team of Michael Pranke and Brendan Rowen who brought in Zanotti as president to run the company.

Since 2000, the company has tripled in size and operations have expanded into a number of other buildings in the New Berlin Industrial Park.

With its name change, the Process Retail Group will also organize their product and service offerings into three divisions to more strategically service and grow different retail market segments. The divisions of Process POP, Edge In-Store and Process Merchandising will improve market focus on three distinct retail environment segments with contrasting needs.

Quad/Graphics acquires Burlington printer

Sussex-based Quad/Graphics Inc. the second-largest provider of print, digital and related services in North America, has purchased HGI Company, a full-service, multi-faceted commercial and specialty products printer.

HGI is based in Burlington, Wis., and employs 245 full-time people, with 2009 sales of $45 million. The acquisition builds upon a strategic partnership the two companies established earlier this year.

HGI, which had been majority owned and led by Craig Faust and his team of print industry professionals, will operate as a division of Quad/Graphics.. Faust will serve as the division’s president, guiding the profitable growth of commercial products and services, including short-run books, catalogs and directories; marketing collateral; print-on-demand custom publications; and specialty binding. He will also oversee the advancement of the company’s specialty products offering such as retail point-of-purchase (POP) displays and materials through its Tempt brand.

"HGI is a premier printing company that has earned a stellar reputation for quality, flexibility and reliability," said Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Quad/Graphics. "I look forward to Craig joining my management team and expanding on HGI’s strong commercial and specialty print offering, which includes some of the newest, most advanced equipment anywhere in North America. Our goal is to offer a broader, more complete suite of differentiated products and services that advance our clients’ business goals and help drive Quad/Graphics’ immediate and long-term growth."

Faust said, "This acquisition allows us to take short- to medium-run commercial and specialty print to a whole new level to better serve both new and existing clients, and give them the most value for their print spend. Through strategic investments in best-available technology and capabilities, we’ll create the most complete, innovative and cost-effective platform while maintaining the high level of customer service and personal interaction our clients have come to expect."

Generac reports robust quarter

Generac Holdings Inc., a Waukesha-based designer and manufacturer of backup power generation products, reported third-quarter net income $23.0 million, up nearly 61 percent over $14.3 million for the same period a year ago.

The company’s quarterly net sales increased 11.4 percent to $160.7 million from $144.3 million a year earlier.

The company successfully launched its new economy home standby product, CorePower Series, establishing a new lower opening price for the category.

"Despite the difficult operating environment which persisted throughout the third quarter of 2010, we achieved a double digit year-over-year increase in net sales, driven by increased sales for both our residential and industrial products. Although we have not had the benefit of major outage activity this summer, improved industrial market conditions and our ability to expand distribution and create awareness for our residential products have helped us drive strong revenue growth in our business," said Aaron Jagdfeld, president and chief executive officer of Generac.

Residential product sales of $101.0 million increased 12.6 percent in the quarter, while industrial and commercial product sales of $49.6 million in the third quarter increased 7.6 percent.

Jagdfeld added, "As we close out 2010, we expect to see continued year-over-year strength from our industrial and commercial products as demand in those markets continues to improve. However, more than offsetting this improvement, we see our fourth quarter 2010 residential product sales down year-over-year as certain customers have approached seasonal stocking for lower kilowatt products more conservatively this year versus last year. Despite this, we remain confident in our longer term growth initiatives including new product launches, continued expansion of our distribution network and our entry into new geographies and markets that will continue to drive sales growth and significant cash flow generation for our business."

Douglas Dynamics sees lowered quarterly earnings, sales

Douglas Dynamics, the Milwaukee-based manufacturer of snow and ice removal equipment, posted lower third quarter earnings than one year ago. The company had $47.4 million in net sales, a 5.8 percent decrease from the same quarter in 2009.

Douglas Dynamics also had $2.2 million in net income for the quarter, down from $2.7 in the third quarter of 2009.

The company said its decrease in net sales was because of a shift in the timing of pre-season shipments to the second quarter instead of the third quarter. As pre-season shipments shifted more toward the second quarter both equipment and parts and accessories sales in the third quarter decreased versus the prior year as expected.

"We are pleased with our third quarter performance,” said James Janik, president and chief executive officer. “We delivered solid operational and financial results, continued to realize operational efficiencies and quality improvements and successfully completed our pre-season sales period. In our pre-season sales period, we achieved a year-over-year increase in equipment shipments, grew revenue, expanded margins and improved adjusted EBITDA."

Brady Corp. acquires Australian firm

Brady Corp., a Milwaukee-based provider of identification solutions, today announced it has acquired ID Warehouse, a supplier of people identification and security solutions in New South Wales, Australia.

ID Warehouse, founded in 1994, offers security identification and visitor management products, including identification card printers, access control cards, wristbands, tamper-evident security seals and identification accessories. The company sells its products primarily through the internet and via its sales force to security, human resources, marketing, event management and facilities control markets, predominantly in Australia.

ID Warehouse has annual sales of approximately $8 million. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“The acquisition of ID Warehouse gives us an opportunity to further grow our people-identification business in Australia and further expand our reach in the region," said Esther Savvas, Brady’ managing director for Australia. "They are an established, well-respected company with a passion for customer service. Their comprehensive knowledge of the security and identification industry makes them the go-to source for complete identification solutions, and will complement our current business in Australia well."

"Brady’s strong track record of business success, coupled with their strong sense of values make them the ideal acquirer to grow this business to the next level," said ID Warehouse sellers Kieran and Desiree Heath.


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