Custom Made Solutions Since 1954

Milwaukee Electronics

Today, Milwaukee Electronics provides product development, prototyping, engineering design, electronics manufacturing, and management services to a wide range of customers.

The company’s current success grew out of humble beginnings. “We started out making one product for one customer because that is what they needed and they could not find the product on the open market,” explains President Mike Stoehr. This debut product was such a hit that business took off almost immediately. “That expanded to a second and a third product for that customer,” Mr. Stoehr shares.

It wasn’t long before other customers jumped in to take advantage of Milwaukee Electronics’ specially tailored solutions. Most of these customers have stuck by the company for decades. The oldest customer has been with the company for the entire 60 years that Milwaukee Electronics has been in business, while several other customers have been using the team’s services for forty years. The majority of customers have been with the company for between ten and 25 years.

“We gather customers because they have an individual need that they can’t satisfy with standard applications,” Mr. Stoehr explains. “We custom design something special for them, manufacture it for them, and they find they like how it works, how long it lasts, and our ability to modify it as needed. And soon they have other application needs requiring our services.”

The company’s success depends on its ability to meet very specific, niche needs. “Our customer base is the opposite of the iPhone; we don’t make 5 million of anything for anybody.” Instead, the company produces small to medium volume quantities of specially made products. Over 17 different industries rely on Milwaukee Electronic’s personalized services, from automotive, food, and dental care, to mining and household appliances.

The team has been careful to stay abreast of the industry, adding new services and divisions over the years to keep up with customer needs. “When I acquired it in 1985, the company was specifically in one market niche and that was electronic manufacturing services, building custom electronic products for our customers,” Mr. Stoehr recalls. Soon after the purchase, he began to notice that customers had other diverse needs. “So we expanded our engineering group that was serving that niche in industry and began selling those services not only to the customers that we had, but also to specific engineering customers outside of our company. We took our engineering services to market.”

As a result, Milwaukee Electronics can serve as a full-service engineering partner or as an extension of a customer’s design capabilities. The company’s project engineers boast an average of 16 years of experience in microprocessor and micro-controller hardware and software design. Test engineers have logged an average of 20 years of experience with in-depth expertise in-circuit, functional and CheckSum MDA testing. Mechanical design and circuit board design are also company strong suits.

The team also began offering prototype services to meet evolving customer needs after Mr. Stoehr came on board. “We found that many of our customers needed prototypes for new products they were developing so we set up an entire new division,” Mr. Stoehr explains. Screaming Circuits provides a variety of prototype service packages including simple proto, full proto, and short-run production. Prototyping can be standalone or part of a volume production project’s ramp phase. Services are specially designed to meet the needs of today’s electronic design engineers and can be conveniently accessed through the Screaming Circuits website, which provides instant quoting, order management, secure file uploads and online order status for standalone projects.

Screaming Circuits’ level of service and reliability goes beyond what many competitors can offer. “Other people in prototype [services] do not offer what we do,” Mr. Stoehr insists. “A person can go to our website and they can specify what they want and when they want it, and we will give them an automated quote right there immediately on the website. That is unusual in our business.” Once the delivery date is locked in, the company sticks to it no matter what – or the customer gets the prototype for free or at a reduced price. If the team does not deliver on the target date, they only charge half price; if they are two or more days late, there is no charge at all. “That has appealed greatly to our industry and earned us a reputation of delivering on time.”

Milwaukee Electronics has also added additional facilities in recent years. “As most manufacturers in America know, from 2000 to 2005 there was a real infatuation with moving manufacturing business to Asia, specifically China,” Mr. Stoehr says. “And we were affected by that like most American companies. We countered it in 2003 by starting up a new facility in Mexico specifically to [be more] competitive with Asia.” This manufacturing location in Tecate offers fast border transit times, high quality personnel, low turnover, and minimal security issues.

In addition, the company opened a technical center in India in 2012. “It was opened specifically to handle engineering and technical requirements for products in off hours of the U.S., so we could serve our customers faster,” Mr. Stoehr explains. The team also opened a Singapore purchasing office, to get the lowest prices directly from manufacturers as opposed to securing materials through distributors. Milwaukee Electronics still has domestic facilities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Canby, Oregon to provide regionally focused manufacturing solutions.

Throughout the decades, Milwaukee Electronics’ services have evolved and expanded, but the company’s commitment to customers has always remained strong. Naturally, these customers are taking center stage during the company’s 60th anniversary celebration this year. Milwaukee Electronics will be bringing the party to every local customer on a special Customer Appreciation Day, when they will be serving food items at specific customers’ worksites. Employees will also be honored for their contributions to the company’s 60 years of success with monthly events, from pizza parties and casual outings to more formal dinner evenings.

The 60th anniversary celebrations mark decades of growth and success, some of which, Mr. Stoehr says, is simply the nature of the business. “Electronics manufacturing has been a rushing river that all you have had to do is be in the river and you would be carried,” he shares. “We have averaged double digit growth every year since 1985, except the downturn in 2008 and 2009 when everybody suffered.” The industry remains strong to this day, although it has slowed somewhat. “It is still a very good industry, but there have been a lot of players entering it [to take advantage of] this growth, so it is harder to average double digit growth now. But it is still possible – there are new innovations everyday driving the industry.”

While the strength of the industry has certainly been a boon, it is the Milwaukee Electronics team that has really driven the company’s success. “I truly believe that the reason for our company’s success is not our market or being in the electronics ‘fast running river,’” Mr. Stoehr says. “It is because we have a culture in our company that attracts hardworking, dedicated people eager to do good things for others. And that culture has allowed us to find and keep employees and ultimately do things better for our customers than companies that don’t have that culture. I think it is our culture – [along] with the workforce that the culture has attracted – that has really made for our success.”

After six decades in business, Mr. Stoehr is convinced that the company’s dedicated workforce will continue to provide superior service for many more decades to come. “The employees are truly committed to doing the best they can to serve our customers.”

October 17, 2017, 4:20 PM EDT

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