Volume 15 | Issue 3 | Year 2012

In business for more than a century, it’s an industry leader when it comes to aluminum die casting, machined components and system subassemblies.

Dan Harvey was amazed by images offered by this new viral video star.

New media formats such as “reality TV” and Web-based sites such as YouTube provide compelling images, so it’s appropriate that Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) would attract producers and, in turn, viewers.

The enterprise deploys the most advanced technology – its robotics are a sight to behold – and the company was recently featured in a segment on Fox Business Network’s “Manufacturing Marvels,” an award-winning program hosted by on-air personality Neal Cavuto and narrated by television anchor John Criswell. In case you missed the broadcast, you can still see it at the company’s website www.madison-kipp.com, as well as on YouTube. View the video; you’ll witness the most advanced manufacturing technology.

The program selected MKC as a subject because the Madison, Wis.-based company is an industry leader in aluminum die casting, machined components and system subassemblies for the automotive industry and other industrial end markets. “We’re at the leading edge of technology,” says Dan McLean, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. The video segment highlights that technology, as well as MKC’s advanced manufacturing methods and its highly skilled workforce.

MKC has gained a reputation as a sophisticated, comprehensive systems solutions provider. Specifically, it integrates full-range design, high-pressure aluminum die casting, squeeze casting, machining, and assembly capabilities throughout the entire production cycle of a product. “What we produce is targeted to each customer’s specific needs,” says McLean.

The company provides a one-stop resource, helping customers manage their supply chain, from raw metal alloying to final product assembly. Supply chain complexity is greatly reduced.

MKC has garnered a diverse customer base that includes manufacturers of light-weight vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, recreational vehicles and industrial equipment. This way, the company’s fortunes don’t rest upon any one end market – one reason why it has thrived for more than a century.

LEAN, SMART – AND PROFITABLE
The company’s recent history is hallmarked by continued investment into new technology, integrated operations, and processes. Beginning in 2004, MKC invested more than $20 million into a strategic transformation initiative. Together with diversifying its end markets and growing its revenue base, the company sought to improve operating efficiency. This led to lean manufacturing and development of a company-wide operating model called SmartWay.

“SmartWay is our interpretation, and subsequent deployment, of lean manufacturing principles,” says McLean.

As the company relates, key program elements include continuous improvement, waste elimination, flow production, error proofing, visual management, employee involvement, fact-based decision making, rapid customer response and optimal workforce organization or 5s. Impact has been profound. “It has improved our efficiency and productivity and created a great workplace environment,” reports McLean.

Specific improvements include reduced scrap and the related costs, reduced defect rates, and higher on-time deliveries – all of which translate into customer satisfaction. As successful as the program has already been, it doesn’t stop here: MKC management envisions even more operational improvement. All planned program launches will utilize the SmartWay model.

Along with being able to boast about a positive and profitable lean program, MKC can point to its full compliance with TS16949, QS9002 and ISO14001 (international safety and environmental standards).

RICH AND LONG TRADITION
MKC’s forward thinking and forward moving approach is a long-standing tradition – indeed, more than a century old. The company’s beginning dates to 1898, when co-founder O.G. Kipp established a business called Kipp Lubricator Company in Rochelle, Ill. About four years later, the company relocated to Madison, Wis. – hence, the name: Madison-Kipp. At the time, the company provided an innovation that offered automatic lubrication for steam cylinders used in farm tractors and power units. From there, innovation became its de rigueur.

In 2000, the company celebrated the new millennium by increasing its customer diversity. “At the time, we were about 90 percent automotive,” recalls McLean. “We’ve since changed that to about 50 percent automotive and 50 percent non-automotive. We added new business and new customers.”

At the same time, it maintained its loyal customer base.

“Also, during this period, we varied our portfolio in the automotive sector, which diluted our reliance on light trucks and SUVs to more diverse auto platforms,” says McLean.

Today, MKC operates nearly 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space in three Madison, Wisconsin area facilities. “Our oldest and largest die-casting facility, which we call our South Plant, includes 17 die cast machines, ranging from 400 to 1,000 tons,” describes McLean. “That facility is very close to our North plant, which has seven larger die cast machines, ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 tons. In both facilities, we perform some secondary machining operations.”

The nearby Sun Prairie facility represents the company’s next-generation, high-tech operation. “It’s equipped with highly developed robotics as well as automated machining and assembly capabilities,” McLean says. “It serves the highest volume, most demanding customers.”

The facility’s development and activity underscores the company’s continuing capital investment into equipment and facilities. Indeed, MKC is currently expanding the Sun Prairie facility’s machining capacity, which the company expects to have up and running by November 2012.

POISED FOR GROWTH
“Through the recent recession, our revenues fell about 25 percent, but we have bounced back,” says McLean. “In 2010, we were up 24 percent over 2009. In 2011, we were up about 38 percent over 2010.”

Growth will moderate from such lofty levels in 2012 and 2013, according to McLean. But MKC will no doubt respond well, by doing what it has always done. “We’ll continue working closely with our customers and talking to new business prospects – and that will help MKC grow in the most logical direction, which means our expertise in machining aluminum die casting.”

Meanwhile, the “Manufacturing Marvels” segment profiles a marvelous company. It has provided MKC with increased credibility and good press, which may translate into even more business.

Good news – but this venerable business really doesn’t need a “talking head” to report the company’s value. MKC’s record speaks for itself.