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PPI expands, has best sales year ever!

Pete Bach
Apr 22, 2009

BRILLION - Professional Plating is coming off its best sales year ever, a showing that would be enviable enough given the dismal economy that slammed the manufacturing sector and the firm's main client base especially hard.
But Professional Plating Inc., or PPI, pulled it off even as it worked through a 65,000-square-foot expansion the past year that neared $4 million, including $1.5 million in new production equipment.
"While we were building, while we were moving, while we were erecting, we basically brought on a lot of new work," said Larry Dietz, general manager.
"While everybody else economy-wise was saying, 'Hey, what's happening?' we kept saying, 'Everything's going good."
At least for the short term, the expansion didn't translate into any new jobs at the firm. The company hit a slowdown in December but managed to pare costs without any permanent layoffs. Dietz said hours were reduced on some shifts. And the firm known by its clients for its can-do, customer-centric thrust didn't lower its standards.
But Dietz said the firm, with a plant now boasting 150,000 square feet of space, hopes to add up to 20 full-time jobs over the next five years as it takes on additional work, including orders now going to China.
"We're doing it different than other companies mainly from a quality standpoint," Dietz said. "A lot of the work we brought on is very high-end.
It's intricate and very difficult stuff that other people have either faltered at or turned thumbs down to, not wanting to appropriately train their team on being able to do that work."
Steve Endries, owner-stockholder for Professional Plating, which is owned by the Endries family, echoed that assessment.
"I think (it's) the quality and commitment we've shown," he said. "We're taking more business from current customers and some market share in the process."
PPI was founded in 1979 by Endries' parents, Bob and Pat, initially to perform zinc coating of the nuts, bolts and washers they shipped from Endries International, a multimillion-dollar fastener distributorship next door. Formed in 1970, it's a tremendous success story in its own right.
Famed Wisconsin motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson chose PPI to treat the high-visibility front and rear rims on new bikes.
During a tour of the bright new addition erected by Keller Structures of Kaukauna, Dietz walks up to pallet loads of precision rims shipped directly from Italy. PPI will powder coat the parts, then truck them on its own fleet to the Harley factory in York, Pa.
Dietz said only about a dozen of the 130 employees are salaried, making teamwork and accountability a must. The company ranks the development of so-called soft skills among the work force highly to augment efficiencies realized by new tooling, adjusted production line speeds and making sure finished work is top quality on the first pass.
"It's one of those 'lean' success stories," Dietz said. "Today we paint more parts in one shift in our powder coat line than we used to paint in two shifts three years ago."
Two other Wisconsin companies said they prize PPI's knack for consistently turning out flawless jobs in speedy turnaround times.
Corrosion protection is vitally important to WireTech Fabricators, Sturgeon Bay, a maker of wire linkages used in new lawn and garden equipment.
"I think it's an excellent plating house," said Tom Hobart, purchasing director at WireTech Fabricators. "They do a lot for us warehousing and shipping to our customers."
"They have a very strong focus on customer satisfaction," said Betsy DeMotts, purchasing agent for Kondex Corp., Lomira, a supplier of agricultural cutting parts.
She said her firm counts on PPI's zinc plating expertise.
PPI trucks pick up the parts at Lomira, plates them at Brillion then delivers them back to Lomira, about 70 minutes distant.
"We look at them as a department of Kondex," she said. "They understand that individual companies have different requirements. To me, they can mold to what the customer wants."
Pete Bach: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or pbach@postcrescent.com

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