Kim Stende, team leader, operates a BTB rotary transfer Friday, putting barbs on the blanks, at Anchor Coupling Inc. in Menominee. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Kim Stende, team leader, operates a BTB rotary transfer Friday, putting barbs on the blanks, at Anchor Coupling Inc. in Menominee. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - Hoses and couplings are certainly not the most romantic objects but the union of the two has proven to be a marriage made in heaven for Anchor Coupling Inc. of Menominee.

The company is celebrating its 75th anniversary, the last 20 of which have been under the ownership of Caterpillar Inc.

Anchor has made capital investments of $32 million in the past five years, experienced a two-fold increase in production volume over the past decade and increased its sales seven-fold in the past 20 years.

While the facility has proven itself with quality, it's the people behind the product who are the key to the longevity of the company.

"The workforce is very dedicated," said Facility Manager Bradley Fix. "I've been with a number of different factories over the years and the work ethic here is really terrific and I'm very, very impressed."

"There's just a git 'er done attitude here and that's why we've been so successful," replied Human Resource Manager Renee O'Farrell. "That really has helped up to maintain our competitive edge."

Anchor employs 300 full-time and 16 contract employees in its 120,000-square-foot facility in Menominee's Industrial Park. It operates two shifts a day during the week and one on the weekend. O'Farrell said there's a very low turnover rate, so not a lot of employees leave to find work elsewhere.

The truth is, just getting hired by Anchor says a lot about a person. The criteria is far from one dimensional. Potential employees must undergo a stringent interview and assessment in order to make sure they fit into the culture and have the knowledge and skills necessary. Once hired, employees are like members of the family and are encouraged to offer their insights.

"We have a continuous improvement culture," said O'Farrell. "We ask everybody to put their ideas on a C.I. (Continuous Improvement) card. We actually go out and look at those every other day and make sure those ideas are looked at, because they're the ones who are working on the machines, those are the people who are working on the processes every day, they know them better than we do. We want to make sure their ideas are implemented and that's another reason for our success."

Anchor manufactures hose assemblies that go on large construction and mining equipment and supplies parts to 53 Caterpillar facilities worldwide, not including Caterpillar dealerships. The finished pieces are shipped out to a distribution center in Illinois and from there they go to a number of hose assembly facilities including plants in Goldsboro, N.C., and in Sterling and Dixon, Ill.

It's not enough just to turn out a product. Anchor also prides itself on safety. It's been nearly 600 days since there's been an injury reported.

"We want people to work safely, we want them to go home with all the pieces they came in with and we've been pretty successful with that," said Fix.

While there are no current openings at the plant, the future is shaping up a bit differently.

"We foresee that there will be a need for machinists," O'Farrell explained. "Our workforce is aging and so what we're trying to do now is trying build those skills and ensuring that we actually have people who can move in. We're trying to do some things within the community to make sure that we have good qualified people who are ready to come in and take those jobs."

The company is currently working with NWTC to recruit some of their machinists. Anchor has also just put together a scholarship program to offer internships to students so they can get their education while, at the same time, build their hands-on skills through Wisconsin's Second Chance Partners in Education Program and is hoping to do something similar with the state of Michigan.

"Skilled trades, welders and machinists are in pretty high demand," Fix noted. "I really would like to get this area interested in those sorts of jobs because there is a career here, there really is."

The public will have a chance to see the operation up close Sept. 7 during an open house from noon until 4 p.m. There will be tours, a barbecue lunch, displays of Caterpillar equipment and a safety exhibit. Anyone attending is asked to wear close-toed shoes.