Wisconsin Manufacturing News

With news from Modine Manufacturing, Medovations, ACCO Brands, Rockwell Automation, Allen-Edmonds and Charter Manufacturing

Modine opens new plant in India
Modine Manufacturing Co., a Racine-based provider of thermal management technology and solutions, has opened a manufacturing facility in Chennai, India to serve India’s rapidly growing engine, commercial vehicle, and off highway markets.

The 80,000 square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing site, located in the southeastern section of India, will provide Modine-developed thermal management solutions as demand grows.

With 75 initial employees, the Chennai facility will serve as a base from which the company can expand its extensive engine and powertrain cooling product lines to new markets.

"We are pleased to be in our facility and continue the preparations for production launch activities scheduled for December 2009," said Jerry Kapoor, managing director of Modine India. "The smooth startup reflects Modine’s commitment to the region, the excellent cooperation of our local and global employees and our determination to be a major player in this important market. With our manufacturing operations starting shortly, we have begun work on several product launches for key customers. These programs should position us well to serve major Indian engine and commercial vehicle makers and play a significant role in India’s growing industrial economy."

Modine launched its three-year, $14 million investment to build the greenfield Indian facility in December 2006 as part of its strategic plan to meet global product demand and increase its presence in the expanding Asian market.

Medovations to expand plant on Milwaukee brownfield
A tax-delinquent brownfield at 3316 N. Palmer St. in Milwaukee will soon be the home of a 52,900-square-foot addition to Medovations, a multi-national manufacturer of medical products.

The company’s primary manufacturing plant and offices are located in a 90,000-square-foot building just to the west at 102 E. Keefe.

The City of Milwaukee worked with Medovations to grow the central city-based business, through acquisition and remediation of a blighted brownfield near the company’s manufacturing facility.

In anticipation of the expansion, Medovations added 12 new employees to its 42-member team. The company hires nearly all of its employees from the inner city and provides on-the-job training.

"We are actively working with Milwaukee businesses to identify opportunities to grow," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "Through a partnership with the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and State of Wisconsin, we were able to invest $242,000 to not only clean up a brownfield, but to leverage a $3 million business expansion and add jobs to our economy."

Established in 1982, Medovations manufactures cardiothoracic catheters, gastrointestinal dilatations systems, neurological irrigation products and aspiration/irrigation catheters. The Medovations expansion adds to a growing list of companies expanding along Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Masterlock Company LLC, DRS Technologies Inc., Capitol Stampings Inc. and Astronautics Corp. of America each have invested in facility upgrades in the neighborhood.

Office supply company to close Pleasant Prairie plant
ACCO Brands Corp. will shutter its 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie at 10303 80th Ave. early next year.

The facility employed up to 150 workers as recently as last year. However, the company made cuts in early 2007 and this August, when it laid off 75 employees from its General Binding Corp. division.

The remaining 30 workers were told about the closure last week, said ACCO spokesman Rich Nelson.

"We are consolidating what we do there in some of our other facilities in East Texas, Pennsylvania and Wheeling, Ill.," he said.

At least five of ACCO’s employees have already been reassigned to positions in Wheeling, Nelson said, and the company is looking for other available positions for employees from Pleasant Prairie. Some of the company’s employees from the August and 2007 layoffs were relocated to Wheeling, he said.

Lincolnshire, Ill.-based ACCO Brands is one of the world’s largest suppliers of branded office products.

Rockwell to acquire Chinese company
Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets and business of Xi’An Hengsheng Science & Technology Company Limited, a privately held engineering firm in China.

Xi’An Hengsheng Science & Technology delivers automation solutions to the electrical power and other heavy process industries in China. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Located in Xi’An, China, Xi’An Hengsheng Science & Technology Company Limited serves customers in the power, petrochemical, coal mining, chemical and oil markets. The company conducts much of its business in the fast-growing regions of middle and western China with an installed base of approximately 300 customers.

"This acquisition is a vital step in continuing to provide world-class design and delivery service to our customers throughout China," said Tom O’Reilly, managing director, Rockwell Automation, Greater China. "It is also another example of how Rockwell Automation is helping China save energy, reduce emissions, protect the environment and achieve a sustainable economy."

Xi’An Hengsheng Science & Technology Company co-founder Han Liqing, said, "The relationship with Rockwell Automation will strongly enhance our ability to deliver automation solutions and technology to heavy process industries throughout China. We have excellent long-term relationships with our customers and the western China business community. By combining our local knowledge with the global technical expertise, broad product portfolio, and financial strength of Rockwell Automation, we will increase our ability to serve customers."

The acquisition is expected to be completed during the first calendar quarter of 2009.

Allen-Edmonds eliminates 40 jobs
Port Washington-based Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corp. has eliminated 40 jobs in reaction to reduced sales of high-end shoes caused by the economic downturn.

Paul Grangaard, president and chief executive officer of Allen Edmonds, said the layoffs were mostly caused by the drop in consumer spending.

"That’s the one that has hit us hard over the last two and a half months," he said. "There is also the fashion trend that has gone away from classic leather bottomed shoes. We’ve been slow to address that."

The company plans to introduce a new line of non-leather soled shoes in early 2009, Grangaard said.

After the layoffs, Allen Edmonds has about 300 employees in Port Washington. Most of the cuts were in the company’s manufacturing operations.

"We hope to be able to hire some of these folks back when the economy improves," Grangaard said.

Automotive slowdown prompts Charter Manufacturing to cut jobs
Mequon-based Charter Manufacturing Inc. announced it will eliminate 155 jobs and close its processing plants in Fond du Lac and in Detroit, Mich.

In addition, Charter Automotive’s Heather Avenue Dipstick and Tube business in Milwaukee will be put up for sale.

The company said the changes were driven by a severely weakened U.S. and global economy and a near 30-year low in the U.S. manufacturing sector, particularly the automotive industry.

Charter will cut 63 positions in Wisconsin, 70 positions in Ohio and 22 positions in Michigan.

"Any right-sizing is difficult, but the current economic mess has combined with a massive decline in automotive sales and a softening in steel demand that requires this action. This is a tough business decision that will help Charter preserve existing jobs, sustain our market position and continue to provide quality products for our strong customer base," said John Mellowes, chairman and chief executive officer of Charter Manufacturing. "We realize we are not the only company dealing with the current economic situation. However, it is important to us to be able to retain a majority of our employees, and this decision will allow that to happen. We have a 72-year reputation for doing the right thing in business and we will make sure the affected workers are helped and supported during the right-sizing of Charter."

Charter Manufacturing Company includes the following divisions:

  • Charter Steel, which manufactures carbon and alloy steel bar, rod and wire.
  • Charter Automotive, which manufactures engineered components for the automotive industry.
  • Charter Specialty Steel, which manufactures stainless steel rod.
  • Charter Wire, which manufactures cold rolled shaped steel products.

Company spokesman Evan Zeppos said Charter Wire, which produces steel wire used in the auto, construction, defense, energy and lawn and garden industries in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward at 114 N. Jackson St., still plans to move to a new plant in the city’s Menomonee River Valley next year.

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