Millerbernd Systems has an innovative legacy that spans three generations – and is still on a growth path, President Brad Millerbernd states. "In 1933, my grandfather, Carl Millerbernd, started the company as a welding and repair business in Winsted, Minnesota," he recounts. "At the time, he focused on providing services to the local agriculture and industrial community by manufacturing and repairing equipment."
One of his biggest customers was the local creamery, for which he designed and manufactured stainless steel cheese-processing equipment. "In the early '50s, stainless steel was an exotic material to be fabricating equipment out of. My grandfather spent a lot of time developing techniques and expertise to work with the material," Brad says.
"As luck would have it, one of the creamery's customers was Kraft Foods and while touring their plant, Kraft saw some equipment manufactured by my grandfather and began placing orders for custom equipment delivered across the country. That allowed us to expand our offering into the cheese and dairy industry, which has continued to grow since."
Brad has been involved in the family business since his childhood when he worked part-time after school and on weekends. "I left the business after attending college to pursue other interests, before returning and taking a sales manager role," he says. "Over the course of the last 16 years, I have gradually increased my responsibilities."
Brad has been president for six years. His father, Ralph Millerbernd, is still active in the business as chairman of the board. The company continues to evolve and expand with a diverse product line, organic growth and strategic acquisitions. Brad says "hard work and perseverance" have driven the company's growth, as well as "the diversification of our product lines outside of the cheese and dairy industry into plant automation, and industrial and custom lighting."
Keeping up with fast growth can be challenging, Brad admits, but "I'm fortunate that I have continued to have a very dedicated and competent team in various key management positions to look after each market segment and manage the day-to-day operations."
"Over the last 9 years, we have expanded and diversified the company by separating our laser cutting/fabricating services and lighting into separate operating divisions so we could expand our reach into the OEM and rep markets," Brad states. "We've also expanded through acquisitions into dry material-handling systems including offering a line of patented bulk material-adding pneumatic conveying equipment " Now, Millerbernd Systems is structured into four marketing groups that are "separate but integrated under one roof, and still utilize the same plant," he says. These include Millerbernd Process Systems, Millerbernd Automation, Millerbernd Laser and Millerbernd Lighting.
"Over the past five years, we have expanded our facility to over 120,000 square feet; significantly boost our quality with full-time quality control management and support personnel; and our laser division achieved the coveted ISO certification. With the growth of our contract manufacturing and lighting divisions, we found it necessary to implement the ISO quality system to assure our customers that their parts and fixtures arrive on-time, and defect free," states Brad.
R&D remains an integral part of the business. "R&D efforts are a very important part of our continuing business going forward," Brad emphasizes. "As the marketplace becomes more competitive, our customers are always looking for ways of improving the efficiency of their equipment, fixtures and manufacturing systems and in that they look for the development of new, innovative solutions to lower their cost of production or increase their production capabilities or reduce waste and energy."
"As the world is becoming more of a global economy, from a manufacturing standpoint, we need to look for methods of reducing our costs of manufacturing and becoming more efficient and streamlined," he stresses. "In achieving that we will continue to enhance our laser cutting and robotic welding centers, and upgrade our CNC machining and forming equipment; and improve our finishing processes in an overall effort to improve our fabrication efficiencies."
Millerbernd says the company will continue to increase its sales organically as an innovative solution provider and strategic acquisitions. "Our plans for the future are to continue to hire the best engineers and remain a premier supplier to the food and dairy industries, continue to develop and deliver unique lighting fixtures, and further expand our services to our OEM contract manufacturing clients as a partner of our growth strategy."
This Article was originally published and written by Kirsten Srinivasan in June 2007 and updated in March 2011.
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