Wisconsin Manufacturing News

Briggs maintains profits by lowering costs; Ruud Lighting wins court order to stop copyright infringement; ZBB Energy Corp. lands stimulus tax credit to build new plant

Briggs maintains profits by lowering costs

Milwaukee-based Briggs & Stratton Corp. managed to post fiscal second quarter net income of $3.0 million, or 6 cents per share, even though its consolidated quarterly net sales dropped to $393 million from $477.5 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

The manufacturer said it sold fewer lawn mower engines and turbines, but improved its profit margins by lowering its costs for manufacturing, engineering, selling and administration.

The company said some of its customers, original equipment manufacturers, are delaying deliveries of engines to control their inventory investment ahead of an uncertain market environment for the spring of 2010.

The company’s engine sales for portable generators were down due to the lack of any significant weather events.

The demand for generators could rise with the relief effort to address the tragic earthquake in Haiti.

Briggs reduced its operational costs through layoffs, plant closures and salary cuts said Todd Teske, chief executive officer.

“Our lower manufacturing costs were more than able to counter the negatives,” Teske said.

Teske said the company expects to see continued improvement in the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2010.

Briggs & Stratton continues to project that fiscal 2010 net income will be in the range of $40 million to $50 million, or 80 cents to $1.01 per diluted share.

Briggs & Stratton Corp. also announced it will reimburse salaried employees for 75 percent of wages lost during a temporary wage reduction from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2009.

Ruud Lighting wins court order to stop copyright infringement

Racine-based Ruud Lighting Inc. has announced settlement of a copyright infringement lawsuit against Elcast Lighting Inc. of Addison, Ill.

Ruud Lighting’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleged that Elcast Lighting illegally distributed promotional sales brochures containing large portions of BetaLED copyrighted works, even including copying a registered brand (The Edge) to customers and representatives.

The defendant agreed to pay undisclosed damages to Ruud Lighting and adopt compliant business practices going forward.

“Copyright and patent infringement is something we take very seriously and enforce not only to protect our own assets, but to protect buyers from receiving misleading messages by companies vying to get into the LED luminaire business,” said Ruud Lighting president Christopher Ruud. “This is an example of a company trying to jump on the bandwagon by stealing marketing materials and falsely attributing those claims to products that don’t even have the same features. It’s an unfortunate situation for the industry, as products with proven performance do exist and are being adopted around the world. It’s essential to safeguard consumers against false claims, so that informed buying decisions can be made. BetaLED is doing its part to protect buyers and show how to properly evaluate LED products.”

ZBB Energy Corp. lands stimulus tax credit to build new plant

ZBB Energy Corp. of Menomonee Falls will receive $14.7 million in federal tax credits through President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. The funds will help pay for $49.55 million worth of equipment in a new facility to be built in southeastern Wisconsin.

The company’s application for an Advanced Energy Manufacturing tax credit under section 48C of the Internal Revenue Code has been authorized under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).

When ZBB proceeds with this project, it will manufacture its ZESS and PECC energy storage products that store energy from renewable power sources at the facility.

ZBB designs and builds modular, integrated power storage systems at its Menomonee Falls plant for use in commercial, industrial, utility and off-grid applications, including supporting the transmission of intermittent sources of renewable energy.

ZBB has no immediate plans for a new facility, said Eric Apfelbach, newly appointed chief executive officer of the firm. The company does not know how large the facility would be or how many workers it will employ there, he said.

“We have not determined the actual size, but it will be built in phases, depending on the ramp rate of the company,” Apfelbach said. “We are trying to get a game plan (together) on when we would need it.”

The tax credits can be used over the next 20 years, Apfelbach said.

Although ZBB has looked at several properties in the Germantown area, the company is open to other areas in southeastern Wisconsin, Apfelbach said.

“The commercial real estate world has changed quite a bit,” he said. “We would re-look at all areas and strategies to get the best return on investment. It’s great to have a patient tax credit like this that can be applied to an expansion. We want to make the investment when it’s right for our company.”


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