IMPO Onsite: Safeguarding The Industry

Managing editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier visits mezzanine and lift supplier Wildeck to discuss how it promotes safety through example.

Mnet 176312 Wildeck 3

You can’t talk about the manufacturing industry without also discussing safety. At Wildeck Inc., safety is paramount — for their customers and for their own employees.

“Safety is the common denominator,” says Wildeck marketing director Hubert Schlegel of the company’s operations.

Waukesha, WI-based Wildeck’s products can be seen in warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities all over the country. Its customers include those in aviation, automotive dealerships, technology industries — and everything in between.

With a strong work ethic and a never-ending quest for customer satisfaction, Wildeck has built itself into the largest U.S. manufacturer of industrial steel mezzanine platforms, vertical lifts, ridable material lifts, safety guarding products, industrial ladders and conveyor crossovers and more. If it’s needed for storing, lifting, guarding, or access — Wildeck probably has it.

Wildeck director of sales, Paul Mihelich, discusses how all products are made to order at the Wisconsin facility with IMPO editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier. (Wildeck photo)Wildeck director of sales, Paul Mihelich, discusses how all products are made to order at the Wisconsin facility with IMPO editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier. (Wildeck photo)

Safety In-House

Because Wildeck specializes in manufacturing equipment that keeps those in the manufacturing industry safe, it’s no surprise that safety is top priority for their own employees. While the company tracks everything, there are a couple of metrics they focus on more heavily, according to Wildeck director of people operations and safety officer Jeremy Bloom. The heavy hitters are Days Away and Restricted Time (DART) and Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), as they are regarded industry-wide as reliable safety barometers.

“We are currently under the industry standard, both here and at our plant in Arizona,” says Wildeck director of sales Paul Mihelich, referring to Wildeck’s Waukesha and Goodyear, AZ manufacturing facilities' DART and TRIR rates.

An active safety committee meets 11 times a year — at a minimum — and among their many tasks is completing safety audits throughout both its facilities, keeping a watchful eye out for unsafe acts or conditions.

Paul Mihelich, director of sales, leads a tour of Wildeck's Waukesha, WI manufacturing facility. (IMPO photo)Paul Mihelich, director of sales, leads a tour of Wildeck's Waukesha, WI manufacturing facility. (IMPO photo)

“We do audits throughout the month and make reports and if anything is noticed we make sure it is communicated and fixed,” Bloom says.

As part of continuous safety improvements, the company recently finished a full audit of safety policies to ensure they are up-to-date on compliance issues. In the same vein, the company also completes mock OSHA audits at both facilities with a former OSHA representative to bring in a fresh set of eyes.

“We’re very thorough, but we want to make sure we haven’t missed anything,” Bloom says. “As things in the plant change we want to ensure we are addressing those things from a safety perspective.”

Several employees — in the office and shop and across all shifts — are also first responders trained in first aid, blood borne pathogens, CPR and AED — so if an emergency situation should arise, workers are ready to spring into action.

“We make sure we have good coverage and one of our first responders is also a licensed EMT,” Bloom says. “They are spread amongst departments, so you’re never too far away from a responder at any given point.”

Paul Mihelich demonstrates Wildeck's EdgeAlert open gate alarm system that helps manufacturers maintain a safer work environment. (IMPO photo)Paul Mihelich demonstrates Wildeck's EdgeAlert open gate alarm system that helps manufacturers maintain a safer work environment. (IMPO photo)

Standing Out

While the company got its start in mezzanines, President Gregory Larson is quick to note that Wildeck is much more than platforms.

“Of all the companies that make mezzanines, guarding, vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs) or access products, Wildeck is the only one that makes all four,” Larson says. “It’s a really nice fit because we can solve all those problems customers have. We’ve got a place for customers to store things, a way to keep people from falling off, and ways to get up to it. That helps us be a preferred supplier.”

And Wildeck has the accolades to prove it. Most recently in December 2017, it was named Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association’s (MHEDA) Most Valuable Supplier. The award recognizes companies that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to their dealer network, their employees and their community.

“We are grateful to work with our dedicated dealer partners, systems integrators and end-users throughout the country,” Larson says. “The employee owners of Wildeck truly deserve this honor as they are committed to helping our customers’ projects run smoothly every day.”

Wildeck's mezzanine, lifts and guarding products are produced at its Waukesha, WI facility. (IMPO photo)Wildeck's mezzanine, lifts and guarding products are produced at its Waukesha, WI facility. (IMPO photo)

Product Showcase

Wildeck is constantly innovating and bringing new products to the table to fit the customers’ ever changing needs. Last year in Chicago at the material handling and logistics convention ProMat, Wildeck unveiled six new products — the most the company has ever released at one time.

“It’s been very exciting, and 2018 probably won’t slow down either,” Schlegel says.

In addition to an array of guarding and access products, Wildeck announced a rideable material lift (RML).

“We call it RiderLift RML,” Schlegel says. “One authorized person can now ride up with their material, instead of climbing stairs, which is a major efficiency improvement over a VRC.”

“That’s been a world changer, we’re breaking new ground with that one,” Mihelich says.

IMPO managing editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier tests Wildeck's patented AutoSenz on a VRC demo. (Wildeck Photo)IMPO managing editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier tests Wildeck's patented AutoSenz on a VRC demo. (Wildeck Photo)

In addition to improving efficiency for customers, Wildeck provides the latest technology to ensure a safe work environment. The patented AutoSenz (U.S. Patent No. 7,408,317) helps protect materials and equipment by continuously monitoring a VRC and stopping it instantly should a jam occur.

This extends the life of the VRC, as well as protects products and equipment from harm.

“A lot of our customers buy VRCs from Wildeck because of our AutoSenz,” Mihelich says.

Schlegel demonstrated the technology for IMPO in Wildeck’s product showroom this past November at the company’s Waukesha headquarters, just outside of Milwaukee. On a counter sat a tabletop sized VRC with a red plastic cup on the lift. With AutoSenz engaged, once the cup came into contact with the top, the lift stopped with no damage to the cup or the VRC. The AutoSenz on the control box monitors any changes in the motor which might indicate a jam. However, with the technology turned off, the lift never stopped crushing the cup until it popped out the top of the miniaturized lift.

“With our competitors’ lifts, that’s what’s likely to happen to the material on your pallets,” Schlegel says, holding the crushed plastic cup.

Before final assembly, parts make their way through the paint line at Wildeck. (IMPO photo)Before final assembly, parts make their way through the paint line at Wildeck. (IMPO photo)

Employee-Ownership Benefits

Between Wildeck's facilities in Wisconsin and Arizona, it boasts more than 200 employees — and all of them have a stake in the 100 percent employee-owned company. Mihelich noted that Wildeck’s ESOP practices result in many long-term employees and that it’s not uncommon for them to have 20 to 30 years with the company.

“We’re not a revolving door; people tend to stick around and they recognize what opportunity they have here,” Bloom adds. “Unlike any other place I've worked, when people do occasionally leave — for what they perceive to be a greener pasture — a significant number of them come back, which is a true testament to our positive working environment.”

The culture of Wildeck is also one of developing the talents of their employees and promoting from within. It’s not unusual for Wildeck to post an open position and have it filled internally.

“It creates a sort of domino effect,” Bloom says. “We’ll promote from within and create that entry level opening for an external candidate. We’ve got a great culture and it’s a healthy environment here.”

Because employees have a stake in the company, workers aren't shy about sharing their suggestions on ways safety and productivity could be improved — whether through lean manufacturing practices, cross training or flexible work schedules.

With continuous improvement projects, workers earn rewards through Wildeck’s Encompass Excellence Rewards Program, where employees can redeem points online in exchange for a wide selection of merchandise, gift cards and travel rewards.

“It’s all about employee engagement,” Schegel says.

Future of Wildeck

Throughout its history, Wildeck hasn’t shied away from change. Although it can’t reveal all its secrets, Larson did share some of what’s in store for Wildeck in the coming year.

“We’re always coming up with new products and I will tell you that we are working on some pretty significant expansion,” Larson says. “Hopefully by the end of January we’ll have another facility in this area and that’s very exciting.”

The expansion would increase Wildeck’s current 100,000-squarefoot space by 20-25 percent, however the expansion will be off-site. The new off-site facility would be home to VRC and guarding product production, which would free up fabricating room for additional mezzanine production at the main building. Larson noted how the company is always working on new and different innovations to make it more efficient.

“We are having a few growing pains,” Schlegel echoed. “But those are good pains to have.”

For more information about Wildeck, visit www.wildeck.com.

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