INTERCHANGEABLE ENVIRONMENTS –
by changing leg locations and configurations,” Eslinger said.
Orders also come in all sizes. The company recently shipped $1.6 million in cabinetry to a six-school project in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“We have orders as small as 25 desks for a classroom to 1,400 desks,” Eslinger said. “All of the tables and desks are made to order. We can produce 1,100 tops a day.”
Eslinger recalls a few years ago when WB Mfg. took an order for $750,000 in furnishings. That was a giant one at the time, but not anymore.
“Now one order could be 14 trucks going to the same school,” she said.
Eslinger said WB Mfg. had about 85 full-time employees in 2007, but that number has almost tripled since. The roughly 256 full-timers now man three shifts, and the plant runs seven days a week. The summer crew includes local students who return home from college each summer to help with the seasonal rush.
WB Mfg. tries to flatten that summer curve with a pre-build program. Customers get a break if they order by April 15, and $7.2 million in product was built, stocked and stored this year. Otherwise, Olson said most orders are turned around in eight weeks or less.
About 30% of WB Mfg.’s business is custom-ordered items. A client may have a unique office corner, or an oddshaped space, and needs something unique to make it functional. The WB Mfg. design team will find a solution, and then build it to order.
The company’s high-tech equipment makes those orders relatively easy, Olson said, and those can be a way to get the company’s foot in a new door.
“We have a ton of flexibility with our equipment,” Olson said. “That one piece can sometimes get you the whole job.”
WB Mfg. has its line of products in many other settings, too. It furnishes hundreds of offices with everything from storage lockers to conference tables. It has made display cases for Louis Vuitton, furnished country clubs, installed lockers and other items for Facebook and Apple offi ces, and made table tops for a Honda training facility in Japan. Workers at hundreds of companies across the nation eat their lunches at WB Mfg. break room tables or store their items in custom-designed lockers.
That diversity is one of WB Mfg.’s strengths. While a competing manufacturer or two might specialize in one similar product line, few, if any, turn out innovative products across so many lines. “We have zero competitors that can do everything that we do,” Olson said. Eslinger said the company also sells itself on its ability to cover a customer’s needs, from design ideas and concepts, to the delivery of so many varied finished items.
“We kind of market ourselves as a one-stop shop,“ Eslinger said. “To be competitive (on pricing), they can get all this stuff.”
Olson said WB Mfg. is also careful to blend its design work with the manufacturing process, so one hand is aware of what the other is doing.
“We have a full design team, five individuals that are the creativity that make this work,” Olson said. “We’re more of a solutions company than a manufacturer … Customer satisfaction is huge. If we can be the easiest manufacturer to deal with, you’re going to grow sales.”
WB Mfg. also employs an aggressive marketing strategy to get its products known. Its dealers are the contacts with the potential customers, but the company gets itself out there to connect with the end user.
Although not available this year, annual trade shows are a main tool the company uses.
“We make a big splash,” Olson said. “We bring out every product that we can.”
The company also tries to connect itself as well as it can with the people who drive production — the employees. The staff ranges from those who perform the maintenance and operate the high-tech automated machines, to those who package the end product for shipping. It has been a loyal group.
“There’s quite a few people that have been here for 20-plus years,” Eslinger said.
Olson said it’s a company goal to treat employees fairly and make them feel as if they’re part of a team. It’s paid off.
“We have the best employees in this small central Wisconsin area,” Olson said. “I think culture for us is key. We’re very family-oriented. We’re very flexible. We try to make sure we work with people. Getting to know your employees is really key. The president of our company can get out on that floor and everybody knows his name.”
WB Mfg. designs and builds a myriad of furniture pieces to turn a classroom into a unique learning space.
WB Mfg. recently installed a new line of state-ofthe- art automated machinery that has increased efficiency and flexibility in its 250,000-square-foot plant in Thorp.
WB Mfg.’s design team creates room renderings that demonstrate how a space would look and function with its various products.
WB Mfg. has creative ideas and products to help schools, offices and industries design spaces that suit their needs.