Bigger for Better®

Monarch Companies
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

As one-stop custom fabrication, machining and assembly experts for very large complex metal components, Monarch Companies, with locations in Milwaukee and Chicago, commits to projects completed on time and to exact customer specifications. The company draws from over 125 years of experience and is equipped with huge machine tools and skilled craftsmen that can tackle projects of almost any size and extreme difficulty.
Monarch Companies has a significant impact on the multitude of industries it serves. Established in 1933 by German immigrant Otto Gebhardt, Monarch has developed a reputation for maintaining the old world craftsmanship upon which the company was founded while diversifying and growing.

Monarch continued to grow through three generations of the Gebhardt family. “The second generation added fabrication to their already excellent machining capabilities,” explained Mitchell. “Now we were able to offer our customers a complete value stream of manufacturing capabilities.”

The third generation added to the fabrication and machining capabilities to accommodate the manufacture of larger components up to 50 tons. Current President/CEO, David Mitchell, joined the company in 2001 as the sales manager and helped the company grow substantially, nearly quadrupling its business by 2007 when he, with the backing of an equity group, acquired the company.

The purchase of Monarch by Mitchell and the equity group was a strategic move since the equity group already owned Production Tool of Chicago, a company that complemented Monarch. Streamlining the management team and investing in new equipment and larger capabilities, the Monarch and Production Tool relationship would enable further growth together. Both companies have retained their original mandate to provide industry-leading heavy fabrication, precision machining and complex assembly of large components for OEMs throughout North America.

After the acquisition, cranes and other equipment were added, increasing Monarch Companies’ ability to produce enormous components up to 100 tons. Mitchell stated, “This was strategically moving us into a much smaller niche market of building larger and larger components.” He explained, “It is more difficult to outsource work like this to overseas competitors in Asia and India given the size and costs associated with shipping these pieces.”

The companies boast almost 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space between two facilities; 100,000 square feet at Monarch’s facilities in Milwaukee and an additional 90,000 square feet of space at the Chicago Production Tool facility. Between the two, there are roughly eighty employees, although the number has suffered at the hands of the weakened global market.

Monarch and Production Tool serve the construction, mining, power generation, pumps and water treatment, oil and gas, defense, nuclear, tunnel boring, bridge, road construction, wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectric power, automation, robotics, custom equipment and ship building industries. Mining, power generation, large pumps, material handling equipment and custom equipment serve as the core industries.

There is, says Mitchell, a process when undertaking a new client or project. “They provide us with the drawings for the specific components they require for their project. We then build every component per their drawings and document that we are meeting their engineering and quality requirements. In the end, we are able to ship their parts on time and give them the peace of mind that everything was done right.”

Not only do Monarch and Production Tool build it “Bigger and Better”, but the duo is also having a significant impact on the operation and efficiency of client’s industries. Monarch Companies is revolutionizing what is possible and having a positive impact on the world at the same time. Several projects perfectly illustrate efforts in this regard.

Monarch recently undertook a project for a German-based medical equipment OEM, Varian. Varian has been working on a technology for cancer treatment. Its proton beam accelerator equipment targets inoperable tumors in a way that reduces the damage done to the surrounding tissues, without making patients sick like chemotherapy. Monarch has been asked to build structural components for installations throughout the United States.

Mitchell said the experience has been an excellent entrance into the medical equipment field. “I never thought, in a million years, that we would be building components for medical equipment because I didn’t think anything would be large enough to fit our capabilities.” Components for Varian can be up to twenty-two feet in diameter and can weigh over 100,000 pounds.

Another important project Monarch is working on is for Patterson Pumps of Atlanta, which is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to install large pumps to prevent future occurrences of flooding in New Orleans. Once completed, this will be the largest pumping station in the world with seventeen huge pumps.

“The thing we’ve really been able to do as a company – and with our workforce – is to get these guys to understand that you aren’t just welding two piece of steel together or machining a simple piece of metal. You are actually building components that go out and make a difference in the world – components that, if they weren’t built, the world would eventually stop,” explained Mitchell.

“It’s not just a job,” he continued, “It’s not just welding or machining. We’re making parts that really make a difference in the world, and that really builds a lot of team unity. That builds a lot of respect throughout the company, and it does a lot of good for our company.” Monarch Companies is also sure to reinforce this message through competitive pay and benefits, serving as a good community and industry steward.

Monarch Companies is built on a rich history and the highly advanced skills of old-world craftsmen and maintains these qualities today, ensuring that the experience that built the company is shared with new apprentices. New employees are provided with the right tools to get the job done to the highest standard of quality.

Monarch Companies, specifically under the leadership of David Mitchell, has been a major proponent of workforce development initiatives at the local, state and national levels. Mitchell understands the risks associated with a skilled labor shortage. As fewer people are seeking training and employment in the trades, he has spent nearly a decade trying to address this problem.

Mitchell has previously served on the Governor’s Council for Workforce Investment for the State of Wisconsin and currently serves as the chair of the City of Milwaukee’s manufacturing initiative. He is working with schools to promote skilled labor and careers in the skilled trades and improving access to apprenticeships to ensure a productive future for industry.

Monarch Companies’ highly-customized components cannot be completed by mechanized, automated processes. The company requires the very best skilled labor, a resource that is in high demand and has experienced a decline over that past several years. This poses a real challenge for Monarch and other manufacturers and industries.

“It’s very highly skill- intensive and labor-intensive, so we have to pay very high wages,” said Mitchell. “We’re a non-union shop, but we pay union-competitive wages because we want the best.” Monarch Companies offers full medical and dental benefits, a 401(k), paid vacations, and it tries to maintain that family owned and operated feel, despite its growth.

“We try to remember that everybody here is a person, and they’ve got families outside of this place,” Mitchell said, “We treat them with the respect that they deserve. That family owned and operated atmosphere has been a huge advantage. We’ve had guys leave us for union jobs and come back six months later because they missed that aspect of working for someone like us.”

Moving forward, Monarch Companies will continue to look for opportunities to diversify, such as its foray into the medical equipment field with Varian. The growth of the company will depend on its ability to build larger and larger components, further solidifying its niche in the United States and world market as a premier manufacturer of large custom components.

Though Monarch and Production Tool’s work can be found internationally, the two serve a market that is primarily in North America. “We manufacture the components and our customers may ship the completed parts all over the world,” said Mitchell, of how Monarch and Production Tool have established an international reputation as a domestic manufacturer.

“The way we separate ourselves,” explained Mitchell, “Is through quality and delivery. We’re not the least expensive. We never will be, but when our customers want it done right and they want it done on time, they come to us. They come to Monarch and Production Tool.”



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