J&R looked to the WMEP for assistance in making productivity improvements on the shop floor. The implementation of lean manufacturing principles enabled J&R to consolidate equipment, clearing room for newer technology. These changes allowed for a reduction in direct labor costs from 18 percent to 10 percent, according to Parker Tumanic, vice president of engineering. 

Parker Tumanic, vice president of engineering and second generation employee of J&R Machine, Shawano

Parker Tumanic, vice president of engineering and second generation employee of J&R Machine, Shawano

Over time, J&R has shifted to producing more complex parts and away from commodity-type items. It also offers more value-added services and assembly operations in order to be less vulnerable to competitors in China and other countries that tend to offer low-cost manufacturing services.

Tim Tumanic’s message to his staff has been that J&R has been transformed into a service company that “just happens to be a machine shop.”

“We’ve been involved with the local high school for about 10 years now,”said Tim Tumanic, president of J&R Machine in Shawano, a rapidly growing 30-person company that makes complex metal parts. “One of our challenges is to find employees with technical aptitude and the right work ethic,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems with all of the tight budgets for schools, the industrial arts programs are the first to be hit with cuts and are completely strapped for funds and resources.”

This chronic lack of support is what spurred Tumanic to donate two Haas Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools to the Shawano Community High School. (Haas provided a $15,000 discount on the machines). The school serves more than 900 students planning to attend four year or technical college, the military, as well as those who will immediately enter the work force after graduation. To complement Tumanic’s donation of the $70,000 state-of-the-art machines, the Shawano County Job Center donated another $10,000 to provide the programming software and a high-end Computer Aided Design (CAD) application. These donations are the basis of a whole new machine shop curriculum for the school.

As an employer and a community member who has worked with the schools for more than a decade, Tumanic sees a mismatch between the general view of what a manufacturing career offers, and what a manufacturing career actually entails. “The perception of students is that manufacturing is dirty and nasty,” said Tumanic. The reality is that manufacturing is technologically demanding, infinitely variable, continuously improving and well-compensated.

For example, Tumanic cited the career path of one of J&R’s employees. Hired in 2005 after high school graduation, he began as a CNC machine operator, working full-time while attending Northwest Technical College to train for a career in the building trades. After two years, this employee decided that manufacturing was a better career choice. Soon, he was promoted to 2nd Shift Supervisor, and today, he is a Production Manager, earning substantially more than Wisconsin’s median household income of $52,000 per year at age 27. “The company is growing so rapidly that I expect him to continue to advance – he’s now learning the ‘business side’ of our operation, so the sky’s the limit,” said Tumanic.

Great wages are just the start at J&R Machine – the company provides an extensive list of benefits, including an in-house workout room. The average age of employees at J&R Machine is just 28, and the company is growing rapidly. “We expect to hire another 15 people in the next 5 years,” said Tumanic, “We look to the local high school for students with the right attitude and skills.” Tumanic prefers to hire high-school graduates in order to train them in the methods that have made J&R Machine a very successful company.

Story and photo retrieved from: http://www.wmep.org/sites/default/files/AR%202013%20FINAL%20102913interactive.pdf