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Ozaukee Press: KMC Stampings celebrating a 115-year milestone

Firm that has been in business for more than a century emerged from pandemic with plans expand facilities, services

KMC Stampings, in Port Washington is celebrating a banner year — its 115th anniversary.

Although many people know the name of the firm, its products largely are unknown. The company specializes in engineered manufactured metal stampings and fabrications for the automotive, commercial, agricultural and construction equipment fields.

As a matter of fact, most people who drive depend on KMC, which since its inception has been a key supplier to the auto industry. KMC parts can be found on 70% to 80% of all vehicles on the road, according to the company.

KMC was started by Edward A. Kickhaefer in 1908 as a small metal stamping and die-making shop on Milwaukee’s south side, serving a number of the best-known equipment manufacturers throughout the world.

In 1964, when the company needed more space, it moved to Grafton, where it built a 30,000-square-foot plant. The company later moved to Port Washington, where it doubled its footprint and became a top employer in the community.

KMC has been in Port for more than 45 years, and today has more than 300 employees at four plants in Port Washington, Fredonia and Milwaukee.

Just last year, when many companies were still struggling to come out of the pandemic, KMC sought approval for an almost 19,000-square-foot addition to is Park Street plant in Port.

Through its history, KMC has found the key to success, President and CEO Gerry Schwarz said.

“Throughout the continued growth and expansion, KMC has remained true to its core values of quality and service,” he said.

“We have the manufacturing flexibility, quality, leadership and commitment to engage our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers wherever they are in the development process or life cycle of their product.”

The company, he noted, has worked with some customers for decades.

And customers appreciate it. One long-standing customer wrote, “KMC is always willing to work with our engineering group to help make our designs not only possible but practical.”

Another key to the company’s success are its employees, Schwarz said.

“When our management team took over in 2008, KMC had been a third-generation family-run company for 100 years with a strong commitment to employee success.

“We have continued that commitment through our employee development and training programs.”

In a 2018 interview, Schwarz said the company works to place people in a position where they will be successful and it allows for internal movement, something that’s appealing to workers today.

“In today’s market, people want variety. They want to do different things,” he said, adding the company also values worker’s input into operations.

Schwarz said the company recognizes longevity, noting that in the last year it honored three of its employees for tenures of 50 years or longer.

Employee Dee Dee Bruss said the company has allowed her to grow through the last five decades.

“I would ask questions, and when there was something new, I would go for it,” she said. “I have always been obsessive about all aspects of manufacturing…whenever KMC provided the opportunity for me to learn or take classes for continued knowledge in manufacturing, I took them up on it.”

KMC also offers employees and their children continuing education scholarships and supports youth apprenticeships, summer jobs and internships.

“Promoting manufacturing as a career path and being able to offer students these incentives is something we are proud to be able to provide,” Director of Human Resources Heidi Hellesen said.

Schwarz said the company is positioned well for the future.

“We don‘t anticipate stopping anytime soon,” her said. “We are committed to continued growth across all of our manufacturing operations and to expand services to our customers.”