In a traditional year, the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year (MOTY) Awards would be announced at an evening reception at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. This black-tie event is an annual recognition of the impact manufacturing has on Wisconsin and a chance to showcase excellence in the industry.
The past year was anything but traditional, however. So, MOTY shifted its focus from selecting individual businesses as winners and instead chose to honor a large group of manufacturers who truly stepped up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This list of honorees includes employers who shifted manufacturing lines to make personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 swab sticks. It includes businesses who supported their local community through additional charity work and food donations to frontline healthcare workers. And it includes manufacturers who innovated to speed up production for local supply chains.
This year’s honorees only touch the surface of what manufacturers and their employees have done in the past year, and this recognition is a fraction of the praise this industry deserves.
The goal of the MOTY Awards program and its partners – Baker Tilly, Michael Best and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – is to highlight the best of the best in manufacturing. In 2020, the best of the best distinguished themselves by turning challenges into opportunities, stepping up instead of stepping back, and showing the state that ingenuity and innovation are alive and well on the factory floors of Wisconsin.
Baker Tilly, Michael Best and WMC are proud to recognize the 2020 MOTY Honorees listed below.
But it doesn’t end there. The MOTY team is honored to celebrate and share many of these stories through Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. New episodes will be released each Friday starting on March 19, 2021.
Click here to learn more about the podcast and to listen each week!
2020 Manufacturer of the Year Honorees:
Ahlstrom-Munksjö | Kaukauna, WIAhlstrom-Munksjö is the leading global and North American manufacturer of specialty paper products with locations in Kaukauna, De Pere, Rhinelander and Mosinee. Immediately, Ahlstrom-Munksjö implemented COVID-19 pandemic prevention efforts to keep team members safe and increased production for a number of needed products. From medical tapes that keep IVs in place and base papers for face masks and gowns to fast food carryout bags and nonperishable and frozen food packaging, Ahlstrom-Munksjö kept up with demand to ensure others could respond as needed to the pandemic.
Animix LLC | Juneau, WIAnimix LLC is an essential business providing vitamin and mineral premixes for animals. Because these products were still needed, Animix implemented necessary safety precautions to ensure their employees could continue to deliver for their customers, including remote work, physical distancing from other employees and increased sanitization. Additionally, they added employee bonuses to help support employees in need and distributed gift certificates to employees to use at local businesses in an effort to support their community.
Bassett Mechanical | Kaukauna, WIBassett Mechanical provides complete design, engineering, fabrication, installation and preventative maintenance solutions for industrial refrigeration, HVAC, plumbing, metal fabricating and service needs. Bassett Mechanical directly supported its community, customers and associates in 2020. This included providing nearly 18,000 nose clips for facemasks cut from sheets of aluminum and a $25,000 donation to a local non-profit that assists people during a financial crisis. The company also installed Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization Units to improve air quality at facilities and manufactured HVAC and plumbing solutions for emergency deployable medical units for hospital overflow.
Beyond Vision | Milwaukee, WIBeyond Vision is a not-for-profit company with the mission to enrich the lives of people who are blind through the dignity of work. It offers manufacturing, fulfillment, assembly, packaging and customer care services to customers including Harley-Davidson, Caterpillar and Oshkosh Defense. Beyond Vision moved work stations on the manufacturing floor and provided additional way-finding tools to allow employees with vision loss to safely navigate and social distance. The company also added emergency paid-time-off and worked closely with the Milwaukee County Transit System and paratransit service to ensure employees who relied on these forms of transportation stayed safe.
Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. | Chilton, WIBriess Malt & Ingredients is a malt and ingredient supplier to craft breweries, artisan distillers, food and beverage manufacturers, and others. Throughout 2020, Briess implemented daily temperature checks, sanitization programs and staggered shifts to keep employees safe. After a year, the company can say there has been no community spread of COVID-19 within the workplace. As a token of gratitude, Briess distributed 2,500 bags of malted milk balls to medical workers, police and fire departments in the community. The company also provided employees with a year-end bonus to express appreciation for their dedication and teamwork.
Carnivore Meat Company | Green Bay, WICarnivore Meat Company is an ultra-premium freeze-dried pet food manufacturer who responded quickly in March 2020 to support healthcare workers and the local community. Amid alarming shortages of PPE, Carnivore donated its UV sterilization equipment to two local health care systems. On March 29 of last year, Carnivore relocated the equipment to a clean room facility – becoming the first operational, continuous in-line UV PPE sterilization facility in the U.S. Since that time, the facility has processed thousands of masks for hospitals, police and fire departments, dental offices and local businesses throughout Northeastern Wisconsin.
CMD Corporation | Appleton, WICMD Corporation delivers advanced technology in converting and packaging equipment. As many companies did, CMD quickly drafted a COVID-19 plan to increase remote work and make other changes. However, business also picked up quickly as the demand for PPE and other plastic products grew. The company dedicated a 3D printer to manufacturing parts for face shields and worked with customers to adjust converting equipment originally designed to manufacture garbage bags, for the production of protective items like aprons for health care workers.
Curt G. Joa, Inc. | Sheboygan Falls, WICurt G. Joa, Inc. has been the world leader in engineering and building specialty machines for the disposable market. JOA joined the collaboration project Badger Shield in April 2020 that created an open-source design for face shields, including the design of a headband for the shield that gave the wearer maximum comfort. The company converted equipment to produce them quickly and manufactured the first batch in under 20 hours. By leveraging its flexibility as a custom machine builder, JOA was able to shorten production schedules by almost 75% and establish stable production in the US.
Door County Coffee & Tea Company | Sturgeon Bay, WIDoor County Coffee & Tea Co. is a small, family-owned business, roasting coffee – in small batches to exacting specifications. As the retail side of the business saw decreased foot-traffic due to shutdowns and working from home, Door County Coffee shifted retail personnel to production and fulfillment as online orders came in at “Cyber Monday” pace every single day. The company kept morale high through socially distanced, single-song dance parties, increased roasting capacity by 33% and grew its workforce by 12%. Changing processes and shifting the business model resulted in 35% growth year over year.
Fox Valley Metal-Tech, Inc. | Green Bay, WIFox Valley Metal-Tech provides welding, printing and assembly services, in addition to precision parts and fabrications for a variety of customers. The company quickly changed safety and other policies to address the unique needs of employees and their families. Fox Valley Metal-Tech also developed a virtual tour for prospective customers – which resulted in securing a new contract. Each employee also received a $1,000 bonus and the company made donations to a local emergency food pantry, the Boys and Girls club and other local non-profits to help during challenging times.
Freedom | Milton, WIFreedom is one of the largest family-owned direct mail providers in the United States. Freedom remained active throughout the pandemic and even produced a large portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act mailer. From March to September, the company produced 765 million mail pieces for clients without interruption. To do so, Freedom partnered with local health departments, the Wisconsin National Guard and Harvest Labs in Texas to expedite COVID-19. Freedom also worked with local distillers to provide liquid hand sanitizer and implemented numerous other safety precautions.
Greenheck Fan Corp. | Schofield, WIGreenheck Fan Corp manufactures the widest range of reliable air movement, control and conditioning equipment available. Immediately, Greenheck formed a COVID-19 Response Team to develop policies and lead communications. Additionally, an Emergency Absence System was started to support team members in dealing with illness, contact tracing and childcare. The company also developed online HVAC training classes to increase safety and raised over $30,000 for the company’s Hunger Awareness Campaign. In addition, Greenheck made record-setting donations to United Way and other organizations.
Krueger International Inc. | Green Bay, WIKrueger International (KI) is a contract furniture manufacturer targeting specific markets including business, universities, education, healthcare and government. In April and May, KI offered a $5.00 per hour pay increase to technicians who continued to work and implemented a number of safety measures to protect on-site employees. The HR team also put a focus on mental health by sending out “KI Vibes,” a fun newsletter featuring employee photos, mental health articles and words of encouragement. Additionally, from a product perspective, KI sent out print and digital communications highlighting how KI products can be used to help with virus mitigation.
Linetec | Wausau, WILinetec is a single-source solution for architectural finishing. Within two weeks of the state’s emergency order, the company evaluated and deployed a secure remote network for office employees to be able to work from home – something that was not feasible prior to the pandemic. Linetec also implemented safety protocols and the use of PPE far before the state’s mask mandate went into effect in August. To add additional layers of protection for employees, the company enhanced existing HVAC systems with ultraviolet lights to mitigate the virus and improve air quality.
Nicolet Plastics LLC | Jackson, WINicolet Plastics is a custom plastic injection molding company. In 2020, they lived by their trademark: Fast, Fluid and Flexible. Nicolet Plastics had a customer who manufactured disposable PPE that suddenly experienced a huge increase in demand due to COVID-19. In less than two weeks, the company added a third shift and increased production from 200,000 parts per week to 600,000. Over the next six weeks, they added equipment and began running shifts 24/7 to produce 1.6 million parts per week. Nicolet Plastics acted quickly, and in doing so, was able to directly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
OEM Fabricators, Inc. | Woodville, WIOEM Fabricators, Inc. is a leading contract manufacturer with three locations in Wisconsin; Woodville, Neillsville and Phillips. Immediately, office staff were moved to work remotely while on-site team members were given a $3 per hour hazard pay increase for the duration of the safer at home order and increase safety measures were implemented. In addition to taking care of employees, OEM manufactured and donated 400 face shields to local hospitals and team members sewed and donated over 1,600 masks. The company also made a donation to the local hospital to help with the construction of a needed negative airflow room.
PartsBadger, LLC | Cedarburg, WIPartsBadger produces CNC manufactured parts for just about every industry, including healthcare, medical, bioscience, product development and research & development. Early in the pandemic, the company recognized the potential for a major shift in supply chain needs and invested nearly $750,000 in new CNC machines and added staff for production and sales. This helped evolve with the changing market and support customers. The company also began social distancing measures and other sanitary practices prior to the state’s safer at home order going into effect – and still has many of the same policies in place today.
Pindel Global Precision & PRODx | New Berlin, WIPindel Global Precision is a manufacturer of precision machined production parts and solutions. After witnessing the disrupted global supply chains and sudden increases in demand, Pindel Global Precision founded a separately owned company, Production Expediting Technologies LLC – PRODx for short. This new company leverages excess availability of an invited network of hyper-capable and hyper-qualified service providers to provide high-end products to time-pressed customers. The new service – fashioned after Uber Black – can deliver production part volumes from 1,000 to 100,000 pieces under the most urgent of circumstances.
Power Test, Inc. | Sussex, WIPower Test, Inc. is an industry leader in the design, manufacture and sale of dynamometers, heavy equipment testing systems, and related data acquisition and control systems. Prior to the state-mandated safer at home order, 90% of office staff transitioned to work remotely and production shifts were staggered. Additionally, Power Test created virtual trade shows to meet with customers, developed remote commissioning capabilities and still managed to give two percent of revenue to charity. The company also purchased meals from struggling local restaurants to donate them to hospital workers in the area.
Regal Ware, Inc. | Kewaskum, WIRegal Ware has experience manufacturing and marketing products for the home, including high quality stainless steel, multi-ply and cast cookware, as well as other food and beverage categories such as coffee and tea brewing. Minimizing disruption in employees’ everyday lives was top of mind in 2020 along with uninterrupted support to customers. The company offered hazard pay for factory employees and even equalized pay with unemployment benefits for those who were on voluntary layoff. Regal Ware made over 500 ear savers for face masks that were donated to local assisted living centers and healthcare facilities.
Husky Energy Superior Refinery | Superior, WIHusky Energy’s Superior Refinery has the ability to produce a full slate of products, including asphalt, gasoline and diesel. Currently undergoing a $950 million rebuild following an incident in 2018, the Superior Refinery has taken steps to keep employees and contract workers safe. The company created a task force to discuss COVID-19 compliance and guidance from local, state, CDC and the WHO and develop best response plans in any situation. Additionally, the refinery was able to increase the number of participants in daily meetings done virtually – which always start with safety and COVID-19 concerns – allowing for more input.
Teel Plastics | Baraboo, WITeel Plastics is a plastics manufacturer that excels in the plastic core, water treatment, cosmetics, disposable medical product and industrial piping markets. In March 2020, Teel was asked by Vice President Mike Pence’s office to increase COVID-19 test kit production. In response, Teel adjusted its priorities to increase production of swab stick handles for test kits. The company produces 100 million per month and will increase capacity to 200 million per month in 2021. Teel is hiring an additional 50 employees to meet the demand. The company also manufactures plastic film cores used in the production of IV bags, medication bags, and pharmaceutical packaging.
Tweet/Garot Mechanical, Inc. | De Pere, WITweet/Garot is one of Wisconsin’s largest mechanical contractors and provides innovative results for engineering, fabrication, construction, and building and energy services needs. In response to COVID-19, the company provide all employees with face coverings and needed PPE and installed bipolar ionization units at its corporate office and manufacturing facility to ensure employees working on-site were safe. Twee/Garot also donated its inventory of N95 masks to local hospitals to help in the initial fight against the virus.
Velocity Machine, Inc. | De Pere, WIVelocity Machine is an ISO-certified leader in engineered solutions and contract manufacturing that provides precision machining, welding, mechanical assembly, packaging solutions and Tier 1 program management for OEM clients worldwide. In 2020, Velocity gave back to the community by sponsoring families at Christmas, providing homeless shelters with blankets and sponsoring a middle school robotics team, among others. On the business side, the company provided extra flexibility to employees by allowing for modified work schedules and adding a weekend shift – allowing families to continue working while still caring for children and others at home.
Vonco Products, LLC | Trevor, WIVonco Products is an industry leader in the contract manufacture of liquid-tight medical fluid bags and components for custom medical device applications. To meet the increasing demand for pandemic-fighting solutions, Vonco expanded manufacturing capacity to more than seven million units of disposable poly surgical gowns. Other PPE solutions included hand sanitizer in stand-up spouted pouches, food service gloves and shoe covers. The Vonco production floor operates 24-hours per day for 13 out of 14 days to stay ahead of demand. And with the Strategic National Stockpile of PPEs nearly depleted, Vonco intends to work with the federal government to help re-stock these essential items.