Lorie Russo tells how MBW has risen to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of soil compaction and concrete products.
It began with the development of a vibratory plate and, after nearly 35 years, has grown to encompass a full line of soil compaction and concrete equipment. The business is MBW of Slinger, Wis., and its mission is simple: to bring new technology to the forefront of the industry while providing outstanding quality and attention to service to its customers.
That mission began in 1967 when two senior employees of the Wacker Corporation, an internationally known Germany manufacturer of light construction equipment, decided to branch out on their own.
The company took up residence in an unheated service station where its principles – Helmut Moss and Frank Multerer, Sr., along with various other employees – built four machines at a time, then loaded them into the Multerer family station wagon. Multerer would drive to Chicago and other Midwest cities, peddling his machines on a cash-sales-only basis. “When four machines were sold, they’d build four more machines with the cash,” explains Frank Multerer, Jr., now MBW’s president. The process would then repeat itself.
“The first machine built was the GP3000 plate compactor, still in production today with very few changes,” Multerer adds.
By 1970, MBW was a market leader in the manufacture of its plates in many states. “The products were revolutionary in that they required only a fraction of the maintenance costs compared to competitors,” says Brad DeRosa, marketing director. “The plates utilized a slightly different vibration system, allowing them to travel faster than competitive models and have an increased compaction strength.”
With success at hand, the company began to expand into new areas, using the following strict criteria: The product had to present technology or innovation worthy of a patent; the equipment had to reduce the level of maintenance required compared to competitive models; the product had to be manufactured at a cost allowing the company to price the unit competitively; and it had to increase the user’s productivity. “By applying this criteria, MBW ensured it always had a well-defined portion of the market,” DeRosa explains. “These four criteria are still in practice today and constitute the thought process behind new R&D projects.”
From the GP3000, MBW expanded its line to include percussion rammers, specifically the R11 belt-driven rammer model, considered a “true innovation” when it appeared on the marketplace in 1970. “The advantage of the R11 was that it offered its users the ability to quickly maintain the unit in the field and keep it operational,” DeRosa says. “At that time, all rammers were extremely high maintenance and this demanded hours of repair work. What the R11 did was allow a field crew operator to change the compression spring and the belt with minimal tools. This meant that the rammer would be up and running again within 15 minutes of any failures. The competitive models on the market would require the units to be returned to the maintenance shop for a complete tear-down and repair.” Serviceability became the trademark of the R11 and it quickly became a contractor favorite. In fact, it was so favored that one of the largest contractors in the South, Brown and Root of Houston, purchased 800 of them, DeRosa says.
Production dramatically increased after MBW moved into a new plant in 1971. The facility currently measures 95,000 square feet, supporting a line that has grown to include concrete finishing equipment and innovative technologies for the construction industry.
Outside the Line
MBW has continually improved its industry by trying to develop and design the best products for the market. “We have always been known as a company that is not afraid to push the envelope to attempt to improve the industry and advance the level of technology,” says DeRosa. The company’s innovations include the soil compaction meter (a hand-held electronic device that indicates when maximum compaction has been achieved to eliminate end result nuclear testing); the slip form paver (a technically advanced curb and gutter machine that competes with much larger machines but holds a retail price that allows small contractors to benefit from the technology); the Soil Pick (a supersonic dielectric pneumatic soil excavator able to uncover buried utilities without fear of damage or personal injury); and the continuous berm machine (a sediment control tool that extrudes fabric encapsulated berm of sand or native soil).
“These products are outside the typical line that our competitors offer,” says DeRosa. “This allows MBW to offer its distributors the opportunity to sell products based on their value and merit as opposed to strictly their price.”
“This concept of value-added selling is also evident in the way we have approached our lines of distribution,” says DeRosa. “It has always been our philosophy to limit the number of distributors in each area of the country so they have the opportunity to sell our products without competing with another distributor just down the street. Our competitors have flooded the market to increase their distribution but at the same time, they’ve created a situation where their distributors are compet-ing with each other and consequently left only with the ability to sell on price.”
The company maintains state-of-the-art computer systems and manufacturing equipment, including Windows NT work stations with Pro-Engineering software. “We were one of the first manufacturers in the state of Wisconsin to run this system and, in fact, we had visitors such as the multimillion-dollar Kohler company visit our facility to view our engineering systems,” says Bob Braun, general manager of operations.
MBW also uses a MAPICS DP on an AS400 operating system for accounting and inventory control, including a complete manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system. In fact, MBW was a national test case for using a LIFO inventory system for valuation.
On the manufacturing side, MBW has seven CNC machining centers, and will soon add an eighth. An in-house paint application system, as well as a metal fabrication center and weld shop that employs six to eight full-time technicians, rounds out MBW’s capabilities.
These capital investments have enabled MBW to bring many new products to market, such as a new line of percussion rammers introduced in 1998. These rammers offer contractors a variety of engine options (two-cycle, two-cycle oil-injected and four-cycle).
An hour meter on these rammers also offers the ability to track usage and set appropriate service intervals. MBW also has introduced the EXA series vibratory roller attachments for backhoes and excavators. “These affix directly to an excavator or backhoe and so grossly outperform standard compaction wheels or vibratory plates that there is no true comparison,” DeRosa says.
“We have consistently striven to be at the forefront of the industry,” says DeRosa.