From humble start
Rhine Machining
continues to grow

Some of the most successful business ventures have originated in the garage spaces of their founding members. Such is the case with Rhine Machining & Fabricating, now celebrating its 25th year as a contract machining provider for area manufacturers.

Founded by partners Rodney Schmahl and William Lodes in September 1993, the custom machine shop operated for three years out of Lodes’ garage, basically as a two-man operation. As the company celebrates its silver anniversary, the firm has grown to more than 30 full- and part-time employees, a strong team, who continues to serve as the backbone for the success of Rhine Machining & Fabricating.

Since the company’s founding, it has been poised to serve area manufacturers in an era when outsourcing has become an ever more popular means of producing manufacturing components. Rhine Machining & Fabricating worked cooperatively with the City of Kiel to construct its current facility in Persnickety Park in 1996. The company continued to grow, making additions to its facilities in 2004 and again in 2012.

Today, its skilled cadre of designers, engineers and machinists fill customer needs, providing parts to OEM manufacturers in several key economic sectors, including dairy, agriculture, construction, medical and restaurant equipment.

Consulting relationship
Daryl Schaefer, President and General Manager of Rhine Machining & Fabricating, said the firm relies on a consultative relationship approach with its customers. “We work directly with our customers to add value and reduce costs, bringing them the most cost effective parts we are able to create,” he said. Lathes and mills employed by Rhine Machining and Fabricating are largely CNC (computer numeric control) driven. Rhine Machining and Fabricating provides engineering support services to its manufacturing customers. “We are able to work with customers to assist with design to improve the creation of various parts,” Schaefer said. “This can include things like weld fixturing and machine center fixturing.”

Customer driven
“The simplest way to explain what we do is to say that we make things to our customer’s specs,” Jeff Ernst, Operations Manager said. “It’s part of our mission to solve customer problems with unparalleled service,” he added. Rodney Schmahl, one of the company’s founders, and now its chief executive officer, said one of the unique services provided by Rhine Machining and Manufacturing is the reverse engineering of outdated parts. “These are items no longer available, nor is there a design or pattern available for them on the open market,” he said. “We can create the part that’s needed for  maintenance and repair. It’s a highly customized process and there are lots of challenges to this, but we remain committed to helping our customers with these needs.”

Intern programs
In this time where manufacturers struggle to find qualified employees, Rhine Machining & Fabricating strives to remain competitive in its ability to attract top notch talent to its team. Schmahl hailed the skilled worker shortage as a driving force in the company’s commitment to educational programs. He continues his active involvement in youth apprenticeship programs, working both with Lakeshore Technical College and local high schools in growing these vital programs. Currently Rhine Machining & Fabricating has five youth apprentices involved in school-work partnerships. “These programs are great. We get an opportunity to develop potential employees and the student gets a head start on a career,” Schmahl said. On a wider scale, Rhine Machining & Fabricating also connects with regional groups such as the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance, base out of Green Bay. “We are a member of that network of area manufacturers which places a strong emphasis on education K-12,” he added.

Vital mix of industries
Rhine Machining & Fabricating traces some of its continuing growth to the diversity of industry in Kiel and the surrounding marketplace. “We are fortunate here because our manufacturing base produces very different products,” Schaefer noted. “That diversity helps us and it helps the whole community to remain viable through difficult economic challenges”

Shaping the future
Schaefer said the company has invested time, energy and effort over the past few years to create an organizational structure and a succession strategy to help position the company for viability well into the future. In addition to Schmahl, Schaefer and Ernst, several others are part of the management team, including Mike Stephany, engineering; Melissa Matzen, customer service; Carol Steffens, quality; and Luke Farley, human resources and information technology. These changes are intertwined with the continued commitment from the entire staff and team toward the success of the company.