Shop Profile: Millerbernd SystemsMarch 8, 2017 No Comments
Growing Into New Markets
by Melissa DeBilzan
What do 640-pound blocks of cheese, light fixtures, and wind towers have in common? Many of these products are produced using complex precision equipment in Minnesota by Millerbernd Systems in Winsted.
Since 1933, Millerbernd Systems has been designing, manufacturing, and automating stainless steel cheese-processing equipment for creameries throughout the United States, and across the Western Hemisphere. From Canada to South America, Millerbernd Systems has built a reputation as an industry leader.
Now the company is applying those same principles for success in other markets through contract fabrication and manufacturing.
This third-generation family-owned company’s success, with Brad Millerbernd as president since 1998, has gone far beyond food and cheese processing systems. Brad knew that diversification would be key to the company’s stability and growth.
Over the last two decades, Millerbernd Systems has been serving unrelated industries – from dairy and wind energy to pharmaceuticals, municipal waste, and architectural lighting.
In 2009, the company changed its name from Millerbernd Design & Fabrication to Millerbernd Systems to better reflect its many offerings in manufacturing. The company now is comprised of four internal divisions: contract manufacturing, process systems, automation, and lighting.
A PARTNER IN BUSINESS
When Waconia Manufacturing Inc., specializing in fertilizer, blending, handling, and storage equipment, experienced a major boom in its industry a few years back, it turned to Millerbernd Systems to help it capitalize on the demand.
“We had more orders than we could build; the lead times were tight and we could produce to the sky’s limit,” said Brian Mumford, operations manager at Waconia Manufacturing. “But we had limited production space and employees, so we had to start looking for partners that could help not only build our product, but do it to the quality and timeline we needed.”
Waconia Manufacturing turned to Millerbernd Systems to build several conveying systems. The first of several orders was fulfilled in a matter of weeks, at a competitive price, and to the quality specifications demanded.
“I asked them for 20 systems in a matter of two weeks, and they delivered,” Mumford said. “This went on for about two years because we were extremely busy. They really helped us fill in the gaps until we were able to add a second production facility and bring more processes under one roof.”
Mumford said he wouldn’t hesitate to contact Millerbernd Systems again when the business returns to those record-breaking levels. “I would call them today and feel confident about getting a good quality product to build within a reasonable amount of time at a competitive price.”
Another customer that manufactures aerial lift trucks for the utilities industries relies on Millerbernd Systems for components requiring specialized equipment and materials.
“The quality is always good and has never been a concern,” said the shop’s plant manager. “There have been several instances when we’ve requested custom components and have been able to receive them in a short time frame to meet our customer’s needs. Millerbernd a very well-run organization. They are more than willing to do whatever it takes to help us become successful.”
“We appreciate the quick response time on our pricing inquiries,” said Kurt Hanson, supply chain manager of North Star Imaging Inc. “Also, the kits of dozens of fabricated components that Millerbernd Systems provides for us is on time, and meets our stringent quality standards.”
EXPANDING EQUIPMENT AND STAFF
Much of the company’s growth, it seems, comes from simply listening to its customers and responding to their needs with tangible solutions.
When wind energy began emerging as a key source of renewable energy, Millerbernd Systems positioned itself to fabricate sizeable internal components for wind towers. The company purchased state-of-the-art Trumpf Laser Cutting Systems capable of cutting materials in stainless steel, aluminum, and carbon steel up to 1.5 inches thick.
“These machines are capable of cutting sheets and plates up to 7 feet wide and up to 20 feet long,” said Senior Vice President Farid Currimbhoy.
One recent addition to the manufacturing floor includes a Hypertherm Hi-Definition Plasma Cutting System with an Oxy-Fuel cutting head. The cutting area is 15 feet wide by 50 feet long and includes a secondary beveling head and pipe cutter. As a result, Millerbernd Systems is able to manufacture massive internal components found in many wind towers; such as doors, brackets, ladders, and platform weldments.
Another recent addition to the shop is a Bystronic Xpert 650/6200 Press Brake, capable of forming 0.375 inch thick material up to 20 feet long. This 650 metric ton (716 U.S. ton) press brake has many technological advancements that produce some of the most accurate formed parts possible – the 8-Axis Hydraulic Bystronic MMC ByBend CNC Control, the 5-Axis Back gauge, and the Crowning Compensation feature.
Robotic Welding is another relatively new offering at Millerbernd Systems. By adding two robotic welding cells to its traditional manual TIG and MIG welding capabilities, the company has picked up five new product lines in the construction and utilities industries.
“We’re not hesitant to reinvest in the company,” Currimbhoy said. “We want to increase the efficiency of internal work through the addition of new equipment and processes – just as we’re helping our customers achieve. We’re serious about listening to our customers. If they ask us to grow in a different direction to accommodate their product line and it’s beneficial for both companies, we’ll do that to grow with them.”
In addition to capital equipment, Millerbernd Systems has expanded its staff. Isaac Marceau, business development executive, was brought on board in July 2016 with his 20-plus years of experience in fabrication and manufacturing. “He brings an eye for detail and is proficient in assisting customers and prospects with design for manufacturability meetings and providing helpful solutions,” Currimbhoy said. “Millerbernd Systems has many well-controlled processes to offer to the market,” Marceau said, “which help us remain competitive now, and with new equipment and processes, ensures long-term stability and growth.”
To round out the team, Blake Brandstetter was added to the team as a sales engineer in October 2016. As a 2016 University of Minnesota-Duluth graduate, Blake brings his Minnesota work ethic to the team, which is evident by the appreciation expressed by customers.
“Millerbernd Systems has been there to support us throughout our recent growth stage,” said JC Ingebrand, purchaser at Interlaken Technology Company in Chaska. “Especially with late-in-process machine build designs and design changes, Millerbernd Systems comes to the plate with fabrication solutions in a very short time period. Custom parts and assemblies requiring several processes have been delivered the same week a purchase order and drawings have been released.”
MELISSA DEBILZAN is a contributing writer for IntrinXec Management Inc. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2017 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.