left: KHS USA, Inc. President Mike Brancato; Feiss Rotaform,
LLC CEO David Gazzo; Gearbox Express CEO/Founding Partner
Bruce Neumiller; W.M. Sprinkman Corp. President Brian
Sprinkman; and Midwest Engineered Systems, Inc. President
Scott Woida speak on a panel at the Waukesha County Business
Alliance’s “Manufacturing Voices” on Friday in
— The growing gap in the labor force, emerging uses of
technology and the effects felt by potential regulation and
immigration changes by the new administration were just a few of
the topics discussed at the annual “Manufacturing Voices”
event organized by the Waukesha County Business Alliance at the
Sheraton Milwaukee/ Brookfield Hotel on Friday.
the biggest issues discussed by the five-executive panel was a gap
in workers entering the manufacturing field. Currently, about 70
million manufacturing workers are nearing retirement age, and
it’s estimated that just 40 million workers will be entering the
field. That leaves an alarming gap of about 30 million workers in
the industry nationwide.
started 20 years ago or more. We’ve got to let what we’re
doing today and all the great things we’re speaking to take
effect,” Brian Sprinkman, W.M. Sprinkman Corp. president, said.
“When I look 10 years out I think this gap, this skilled trade
issue, it’s not something we can fix in a year. It’s going to
take a while and I think we’re doing the right things to get
Sprinkman, which moved from Franksville to 404 Pilot Court in
Waukesha late last year, produces processing equipment and systems
to companies in the dairy, food, beverage, brewing and personal
care industries. The company faces many similar issues as those
represented by the other four panelists, and the labor gap in U.S.
manufacturing continues to be magnified by outside competition
from foreign countries that don’t have many of the regulations
that are placed on businesses domestically, KHS USA, Inc.
President Mike Brancato said.
added that the outside forces continue to be a detriment for his
company in particular, which is an international manufacturer of
filling and packaging equipment for the beverage, food and
non-food industries. Its U.S. headquarters are at 880 Bahcall
Court in Waukesha.
is really trying to grow up in the manufacturing sector, adding
the intelligence so they can be where we are right now,” he
said. “They can beat us any day on labor costs ... the problem
that we run into is when they copy a product and then they sell it
at significantly reduced costs because they didn’t have the
addition to the competition abroad, regulations from the federal
government have played a role in shaping how businesses operate in
the industry, despite executives’ wishes. That’s proved to be
a big problem for Gearbox Express CEO Bruce Neumiller, who said
his Mukwonago-based wind turbine gearbox manufacturing company at
155 W. Dewey Drive requires changes to be made in order for it to
run at an even higher, more effective level.
single biggest thing we have that would help us is a wholesale
change to the employment laws,” Neumiller said. “The code
around exempt versus nonexempt (workers) was written in the 1920s
and labor has greatly changed since then.
a business owner, I cannot have an all-salaried workforce;
that’s what I want to do, but I can’t because the government
is preventing me from doing so because of the laws that are on the
books from the ’20s. That would greatly help us if we could get
some relief there.”
Rotaform, LLC CEO David Gazzo offered a different perspective on
the immigration issues not only facing our country, but also the
manufacturing companies within the country. Gazzo, an immigrant
himself, said that before he was an executive, he faced a harsh
reality of working in the U.S. He listed altering immigration
policies as the top item on his list of things that need to be
changed in regard to Feiss Rota, at 5160 Emmer Drive in New
Berlin. The company specializes in cold forming steel tubes to
produce high-quality automotive parts.
immigration system is broken,” Gazzo said. “I went through it
personally. It took me 10 years to gain residency in this state
and in those 10 years, I could only work for one company. So I was
mostly like a slave for that company because if I lost my job, I
would have to leave the country with my family.
you want bring talent from overseas or from Mexico, or anywhere,
it’s extremely difficult. The process is cumbersome; there is no