Growing with the Flow
Product diversity, a quality workforce, and efficient and evolving processes have helped Wisconsin Built experience consistent growth.
By Wade Vonasek
Wisconsin Built, a dynamic manufacturer of custom casework and retail store fixtures, has an uncomplicated, clear-cut recipe for growth and success.
"We call it the ÃƒÂ¢Ã‚?Ã‚?common sense method.' If it makes sense to do something a better way, we do it that way," says Vice President Dan Petersen.
Managing growth by maintaining product diversity, evaluating the efficiency of processes and retaining qualified employees has been a successful strategy for Wisconsin Built. Jeff Ball, the company's president, started out in 1988 with six employees and an 8,000-square-foot shop. The company has since grown to 115 employees and 225,000 square feet over the last 18 years. "We've always grown at the pace that our customers need from us," Petersen says, "and right now our customers need us to grow. The customers that are looking at us have bigger demands."
From the Deerfield, WI, company's founding in 1988 through to 2003, the average growth rate was 57 percent per year. 2005 saw a sales increase of 10 percent, with a 15 percent increase forecasted for 2006. Five additions to the plant have been completed since 1990, and a 99,000-square-foot property across the street was acquired in 2005. Wisconsin Built has been featured eight times in Wood and Wood Products annual WOOD 100 Report.
Wisconsin Built divides its business between retail store fixtures and architectural woodwork. About 75 percent of the business is devoted to retail store fixtures, with clients that include Chipotle Mexican Grille, Starbucks and Sprint Nextel. The other 25 percent of the jobs are architectural woodwork, which includes custom casework for banks, hospitals and offices. "We probably have anywhere from 15 to 20 different projects being worked on on the shop floor at one time," Petersen says.
According to Ball and Petersen, since the retail projects can be seasonal, strategically bidding on the architectural woodwork projects fills in the gaps. "What we find attractive about it is that it blends our talent pool and utilizes our equipment the best. It helps even out our workload throughout the year when we blend the two," says Petersen.
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