With over a hundred years of design and manufacturing experience in the books, Milwaukee Valve stands today as one of the most reliable and capable valve manufacturers in the United States and beyond. And with a diverse product line that consists of over 5,000 items, ranging from small plumbing valves destined for residential use to large petrochemical valves to be utilized in major energy-based operations, it’s rare to find an industry or application that they can’t provide a high-quality solution for. Steve Engelhardt reports on how the company is able to achieve such widespread success in what has become an extremely competitive and dynamic industrial world.
Click here to read the complete illustrated article as originally published or scroll down to read the text article.
The Milwaukee Valve Company was first established in Wisconsin in 1901, beginning as a small manufacturer of plumbing and heating valves for the surrounding local commercial and residential markets. Building a reputation for quality and reliability, the company didn’t change too much over the next 58 years or so, until Herschel Seder, a career industrialist with an extensive background in valve design and manufacturing, saw an opportunity and made the decision to purchase the company along with his partner, Max Koenigsberg, in 1959.
The purchase proved to be an instrumental moment in Milwaukee Valve’s history, as the company quickly grew its product offering and customer base, including a partnership with the U.S. Navy in the 60’s, where they were responsible for manufacturing virtually every valve inside each of their maritime vessels, which was so successful that they still continue to provide such to this day. “The initial contracts with the Navy was a very important time for us, as it not only gave us a big boost in reputation across the valve industry,” says Tom LaGuardia, Vice President of Marketing for Milwaukee Valve, adding, “But because of the extremely high tolerances that they unquestionably demand, we also, and perhaps more importantly, gained a great deal of high-level knowledge on how to take our own line of valves to the next level in terms of enhancing their quality and precision.”
Operating in a whole new arena of success, the company continued to grow itself throughout the 70’s and 80’s, leading to its purchasing of Hammond Valve in 1991 to further expand the amount of markets it could reach. “Hammond at this time was a highly capable, but relatively unknown valve manufacturer for the residential market,” says LaGuardia, continuing, “Their product line gave us an entry into the lower-tolerance, non-spec valve markets that we had been staying away from up this point due to our heavy presence in the higher-tolerance-based commercial and industrial markets.”
This evolution has led to the Milwaukee Valve we see today, a company with a long, illustrious history, a broad range of services, and a dedicated workforce that boasts a number of individuals who have been with the company for over 25 years. “Milwaukee Valve in 2015 stands as a valve manufacturer that has developed a unique blend of capabilities that are quite honestly unmatched by any of our competitors, many of whom have their hands in many other industrial items as well,” LaGuardia says, adding, “High quality, high precision valves are what we provide, no matter the application.”
Milwaukee Valve manufactures all of its valves at its main facilities in New Berlin and Prairie du Sac, Wisc., and handles additional surplus at its wholly owned operation in Tonglu, China. “Manufacturing is a huge strength for us, no matter if it’s done here in Wisconsin or in China,” LaGuardia says. He says that all factory operations are supported by a continuous reinvestment into equipment and machine tools, and the engineers working across these sites are supported by state-of-the-art computer tools, from 3D design to finite element analysis (FEA), and computation fluid dynamics (CFD) to create the highest amount of control as possible. “We also operate our own fire test facility to achieve the most advanced fire safe designs according to API guidelines.”
With regards to actual types of valves that Milwaukee Valve offers, it’s a wide range to say the least—including ball, gate, globe, butterfly, specialty, marine, and lead-free valves destined for the commercial and industrial markets. “While there may be other companies that make valves, none have the breadth of SKU’s that we have.”
Lead-ing the Way
LaGuardia says a lot of progress has recently been made in their lead free valves, in response to the California Senate’s passing of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act (S.3874) in 2011, which stipulated that industrial, commercial, and residential valves must have less than 0.25 percent of lead content in order to be utilized.
“The bill came out of nowhere and as you can imagine, had significant ramifications for a valve-centric business like us,” he says. “But our engineering team reacted very quickly, conducting quite a bit of metallurgical research to evaluate everything that we produced with bronze materials, which contains lead.” What resulted was Milwaukee Valve creating the largest offering of lead-free valves in the country and branding the product line as UltraPure, a lead-free solution that is now available in a number of different valve models, including 2- and 3-piece ball full port valves, press-end valves, gate valves, and globe valves.
This kind of market awareness is why Milwaukee Valve has been able to have the success it has had over the years, as LaGuardia says it’s deeply ingrained in the company’s culture to always be improving wherever possible. “To give more evidence to this sentiment, in addition to a new high performance butterfly valve we’re also getting ready to launch, we’ve also recently released a slow-close butterball valve to go into fire suppression systems that doesn’t compromise a facility’s drinking water, which goes back to the lead-free regulations I talked about.”
Although most of Milwaukee Valve’s business is currently done here in the United States, its reputation is beginning to reach the eyes and ears of those in international markets. “We apply stringent quality controls to the production of all material, whether it’s made in our facilities here in Wisconsin, or in our wholly-owned operation in China, and that consistency is becoming increasingly sought after by the global market.”
And with a résumé that already includes having supplied a large order of valves to go into the world’s tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, it seems it’s only a matter of time before they expand their market reach even further.
As LaGuardia puts it, “If you have a commercial or industrial application and need a valve for it, then we have a solution for you. Because at the end of the day, we go in whatever goes up.”