Milwaukee Valve: 100 Years and Beyond

May 21, 2001
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MILWAUKEE, WI — While few businesses that operated 100 years ago survived to see a new millennium, Milwaukee Valve has not only survived, but thrived under the ownership of Herschel Seder and his family.

It all began on April 8, 1901, when five entrepreneurs launched the business at the present headquarters on Milwaukee’s south side. Starting as a producer of valves for the local plumbing and heating industry, the firm soon found a regional market for its products. In September of 1954, Milwaukee Valve achieved national distribution as a subsidiary of A-P Controls Corporation, which later became the Controls Corporation of America.

Seder and the late Max Koenigsberg purchased Milwaukee Valve in 1959. Family ownership during the past 41 years has provided the foundation for Milwaukee Valve’s continued growth and success.

The senior Seder continues in his role as chairman. A second generation, along with a management team under the direction of president and ceo Rick Giannini, is responsible for establishing strategic direction and supervising all operations.

DIVERSE MARKETS

Milwaukee Valve manufactures more than 4,000 items for several market segments, including industrial, chemical processing, commercial, marine, and specialty markets.

For the industrial and process industries, Milwaukee Valve offers a wide range of gate, globe, check, ball, and butterfly valves. Because of the severe operating conditions typical of these applications, Milwaukee Valve offers valves made from ASTM-grade materials such as bronze, iron, stainless and carbon steel, alloy 20, titanium, and various copper-based alloys.

For commercial applications, a full range of bronze valves is available. They are used in new construction, as well as remodeling, repairs, and retrofits.

Milwaukee Valve also serves niche markets that require special expertise. In the marine market, Milwaukee Valve is the number-one supplier of bronze and copper-nickel valves to the U.S. Navy and other major shipyards. Other niche markets served include fire protection, dry-bulk tank trailers, aircraft refueling, and electrical apparatus.



MANAGEMENT AND STAFF EVOLUTION

Seder takes great pride in his family’s ownership of Milwaukee Valve. He has been at the forefront of the firm for more than 40 years, and his children have played an important role.

While succession planning has assured the continuity of family ownership, family members have also recognized the need for professional management. Giannini has assembled a management team to guide future growth.

“The Seder family and Milwaukee Valve are highly respected throughout the industry,” said Giannini. “That’s one of the key reasons that I’m here and have been able to recruit and retain proven performers for our management team. Almost 500 U.S. employees are dedicated to meeting customer needs, while proving daily that the American work ethic still works best.” Giannini explains that employee advancement opportunities continue to evolve through on-the-job training programs, tuition reimbursement, and ongoing safety instruction.

POISED FOR GROWTH

Milwaukee Valve’s headquarters in Milwaukee has seen many transformations. Today, the 150,000-sq-ft facility is home to the engineering, marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, and support staff. Though the brick and mortar are the craftwork of another era, the tools and equipment it houses are state-of-the-art.

An expanded research and development center is accelerating the flow of new products. The building also houses the complete production capability for marine valves and other specialty products.

The company has also entered into a joint-venture agreement with an established commercial-ball-valve producer in the Far East. Rather than outsourcing from an independent foreign manufacturer, Milwaukee Valve has chosen to take an ownership position in this facility. The result has been a reliable source of supply that is meeting customer needs within the competitive market.

The production facility in Prairie du Sac, WI, has grown since opening its doors in 1984. The original building has been expanded four times to its present 175,000 sq ft of floor space. The recent move of finished product inventory to a dedicated distribution center also served to expand the space available for production. This facility is devoted to the firm’s higher-volume industrial and commercial products.

The recent introduction of cellular manufacturing at all Milwaukee Valve facilities has improved efficiency and given production personnel complete responsibility for operating all aspects of their cell. Each cell utilizes a pull system allowing production to ramp up or down based on customer requirements. Cell members are responsible for everything from parts procurement to assembly to final testing. In effect, each cell operates as a small business.

STRONG DISTRIBUTION NETWORK

Milwaukee Valve has a network of distributors covering the United States, Canada, and Central and South America. Many of these distributors have been aligned with Milwaukee Valve for more than 50 years.

A distribution center located near the Prairie du Sac plant is exceeding expectations. An integrated computer network shares up-to-date information on a continual basis. The movement of product in and out of the distribution center is closely monitored and coordinated with order entry and production scheduling.

Distributor training classes continue to be very popular, and interactive approaches are being developed for implementation via the Internet.

The customer service staff is assisted by the latest communication tools. Sophisticated tracking provides up-to-the-minute information on order status and delivery schedules. Milwaukee Valve also realizes the importance of personal service and believes there is no substitute for speaking with knowledgeable people who provide answers and get things done when customers call.

NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR THE NEW CENTURY

The technological revolution that’s sweeping the nation fits right in with Milwaukee Valve’s focus on building for the future. The growing staff of engineers is assisted by CAD and modeling systems. ISO certification for all U.S. operations is complete. The new R and D Center is accelerating product development schedules and is seeking breakthroughs in materials and performance. Already, more new products are in the development pipeline.

The computer network is in place to maximize internal communications and accelerate the pace of new information technologies. Increased use of the Internet for transmission of engineering data and simplified product specification is anticipated within the next year. Milwaukee Valve is investing for the future with an emphasis on faster response, greater precision and enhanced product performance, all tempered by a continuing focus on personal service and building relationships.

As Milwaukee Valve enters its second century in business, the future looks bright.

Publication date: 05/21/2001

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