American manufacturing is poised for a comeback thanks to companies such as Wauseon Machine and Manufacturing (WMM). Founded as a small contract machine shop in 1983, the company continues to evolve as it nears its 30th anniversary in 2013.
“We continue to broaden our customer base, which helps to mitigate the impact if and when any single industry slows down,” Applications Engineer Tom Stocker says.
The company has three plants in Wauseon, Ohio, known as Plant 1, Plant 2 and Plant 3. Together, they give WMM about 90,000 square feet of space. Plant 1 is home to the company’s build-to-print tooling, prototypes and precision machining operations. Plant 2 is focused on tool development, machine building and automation. Plant 3 offers contract CNC production machining of precision piece parts and components. The company also has a sales office in Dayton.
End to End
Thanks to WMM’s tool-making, machine-building and contract machining capabilities, it has gained a reputation as a problem solver in many industries. The company’s sales team includes account managers and customer service specialists focused on its market segments, along with sales representatives inside and outside the United States.
WMM also has its own engineering staff and experienced tradesmen who design and fabricate standard and custom machines, and provide automation capabilities and flexible work cells with robotic integration to its customers.
“We can basically handle all aspects of a project from the concept to production system,” Director of Sales Brandon Peluso says. “We have the design, manufacturing and assembly capabilities, and we can do all programming in-house. That means we can control a lot of different factors in machine building and manufacturing, such as lead time and cost.”
Most of the company’s work has historically been with Tier I and Tier II suppliers to the automotive industry’s OEMs. Today, the auto segment still represents roughly half of WMM’s portfolio. However, the company has put a lot of emphasis on diversifying its customer base. Other industries WMM serves include heavy trucks, agriculture, aerospace and pharmaceutical.
“We establish ties to our customers by trying to create personal relationships and getting to know them,” Peluso says. Also helping to build relationships, Stocker adds, “is the fact that we can provide superior equipment that meets and exceeds customer expectations.”
A diverse client base helps WMM develop new capabilities. As a systems integrator and custom machine builder, the company ends up touching many different markets and finding areas of overlap between industries. This then allows the company to create single solutions that can work in different settings.
“Up until a few years ago, we were primarily doing a lot of work around tube fabricating,” Peluso says. “We have a complete line of standard machines for tube fabricators, and we used those to develop custom equipment and machines to help customers be more competitive. Now, we’ve branched out to pharmaceutical applications and we are doing more with custom fixtures and leak-testing equipment.”
WMM is also branching into powertrain systems, engine and transmission facilities, and machines for loading, unloading and dispensing. This has helped the company serve a wider variety of customers, including those that aren’t typically thought of as needing automation.
“We did work for a medical billing company, integrating a robot to help with filing invoices,” Stocker says. “Entering many new markets helps diversify our customer base.”
Internally, WMM has continuously invested in enhancing its capabilities. “Over the last few years, we have integrated some robotic cells into our own inspection processes and expanded the size of our CNC equipment portfolio,” Marketing Coordinator Stephanie Layton says. The company currently has more than 100 CNC machines in its arsenal. Other improvements include integrating a new paint booth into Plant 2.
“Over the last three years, we also completed an expansion to give us more space in Plant 1, and we’re undergoing another expansion in Plant 2 right now,” Peluso says.
Gearing Up for Growth
The company plans to grow by helping its customers become more efficient through robotic automation. Using the latest technologies in areas such as robotic vision, force sensing and software, the company can provide customers with more complex automation solutions.
Marketing is another tool WMM will use to grow its customer base. The company brought in Layton as a dedicated marketing coordinator about 18 months ago. Previously, the company’s sales team handled marketing. In addition, WMM redesigned its website to increase web traffic, and it regularly exhibits at trade shows and conventions. These include events such as FABTECH 2012 and Automate 2013.
Nestled in its small town home about 25 miles west of Toledo, WMM is still a hidden gem in many ways. But its machining, engineering and production capabilities have allowed it to grow for three decades and become diverse and flexible. Although most of its business is done in the United States, the company has exported equipment to more than 20 countries and five continents. Its ability to support its equipment on a global scale should help the company thrive in a globally competitive environment.
“Diversification means we can be broad and not specific to any one industry, ensuring that we always have something in the pipeline,” Peluso says. “We take great pride in being responsive to our customers, so we have to be sure we don’t have any space constraints and can continue to get parts out the door and stay on track and on time with our projects.”