Insight on Business

February 2021

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w w w . i n s i g h t o n b u s i n e s s . c o m F e b r u a r y 2 0 2 1 • I NSIGH T | 27 w w w . i n s i g h t o n b u s i n e s s . c o m F e b r u a r y 2 0 2 1 • I NSIGH T | 27 ONLINE: Watch Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry CEO Sachin Shivaram share what drew him to the steel industry. 2020, but they've rebounded. People are buying items like boats, mowers and hobby tractors, all of which require metal. e foundry is enjoying a strong market share as a result. Shivaram has begun turning his focus to new markets and opportunities. WAF is already in the cookware market with some niche products such as griddles and canners. Its marquee offering is a heavy-duty pressure cooker that's used for serious, not hobbyist, canning. It's ideal for third-world environments — UNICEF is one of its biggest customers. e pressure cooker is made with a metal-to-metal seal, not a rubber gasket, which can harbor bacteria. e company is exploring the possibility of expanding its presence in the consumer cookware market. Shivaram sees strong potential for a made- in-America cookware product. Retailers also are increasingly investing in domestically made products, he says, with Walmart dedicating $250 million to buy American-made consumer goods. Longer term, Shivaram also is looking at pursuing acquisitions of companies that make products adjacent to those in WAF's portfolio. Large original equipment manufacturers oen buy iron and aluminum castings together, but foundries make one or the other. You can't melt iron and aluminum in the same facility, he says. He'd like to see WAF become a one-stop shop, and the company already has a machine shop that works with both types of metals. With business going strong, the company has access to a pool of money it can invest. It should be thinking of that as an investment fund that will allow it to diversify into other areas, not a cushion, Shivaram says. at vision is part of what earned Shivaram an invitation to join the New North, Inc. board, says Tim Schneider, CEO of Manitowoc-based Investors Community Bank and co-chair of the economic development organization. "He comes with great insight and great leadership abilities," he says of Shivaram. "He's engaged and involved and wants to make Manitowoc a better place." To execute the vision for WAF, the manufacturer needs to bring in a steady stream of new talent. e company offers a competitive average hourly wage of $23.50, which ends up being about $27 aer benefits. It doesn't have a hard time bringing people in, but retaining them can be tougher. e labor market is tight and people have options. It's no longer like the 1960s or '70s, when people took a foundry job and considered themselves set for life, Shivaram says. To help enhance its talent attraction efforts in the longer term, WAF recently donated $100,000 to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to create the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry Engineering Scholarship fund through the UW-Green Bay Foundation. e Schwartz family, who has owned and operated the company since its founding in 1909, supported the endeavor. e scholarship is available to graduates of any Manitowoc County high school. For those who dedicate themselves to a career at WAF, the company offers career development opportunities and promotes from within. Beyond that, the work couldn't be more gratifying, Shivaram says, never losing the passion that drew him to the industry in the first place. "I just love that we can touch what we make," he says. "It's something so essential to the world." WAF boasts a 99.8 percent on-time delivery record. While sales for the company took a hit early in the pandemic, orders have rebounded since July, leading to a strong end to 2020 for the manufacturer. "I just love that we can touch what we make. It's something so essential to the world." – Sachin Shivaram, CEO, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry

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