JW Winco: Building a family business

Standard parts — meaning those that conform to an established industry standard — might seem like an easy find in most industries, but this wasn’t always the case. Before the 1980s, finding the ideal fastener or component for an automobile or a kitchen appliance in North America might have required a new design template or an order from overseas.

“My father, John Winkler, noticed there was a market niche for standard products in America as he sold high-speed labeling machines for the food and beverage industry. It was common to order standard parts for such equipment in Europe, but not in America,” shares Robert Winkler, CTO, with JW Winco. 

The family behind JW Winco. The original founders, Anne and John Winkler (center), with sons Mark, Robert, and John Jr. (from left to right).

So, in 1978, John Winkler and his wife, Anne started a company to find replacement components for the bottle-labeling equipment business. Headquartered in New Berlin, Wisconsin, JW Winco began sourcing and distributing standard machined components, and truly became a family business. 

Within a couple of years of launching, the Winkler’s eldest son, John Jr, joined (and recently retired as company CEO). Robert and his brother Mark joined shortly after.

“When my older brother, John, first started, he began questioning if other industries, aside from food and beverage, could also benefit from access to standard parts,” says Mark Winkler, CFO. 

JW Winco began to build its product offering, providing different standard (and custom) parts for different markets.

“Eventually, there were handles and knobs, drawer slides, indexing mechanisms, casters and wheels, and metal as well as plastic standard parts,” adds Mark. “As the company grew, the number of products grew.”

Today, J.W. Winco offers more than 25,000 standard machine components and industrial parts — in inch and metric sizing. The company also offers secondary machining of standard machine components and custom manufactured parts. JW Winco continuously adds new products to its range every week.

“Even though standard parts were a new concept in the ’80s, there was a learning curve in the market. Customers no longer need to mold or manufacture these parts because the products are readily available,” says Mark.  

“This meant they could buy two pieces if that’s all that was required for an application and not invest in a production line of 10,000 parts or what have you,” adds Robert. “That’s the beauty of standard components.” 

A small sample of the components JW Winco offers. View and learn more about the company’s product offerings here.

A small sample of the components JW Winco offers. View and learn more about the company’s product offerings here.

JW Winco’s attributes part of its growth and flexibility to its co-owner Otto Ganter and Co. GmbH KG (referred to as Ganter), a standard parts manufacturer that’s in its fourth generation of ownership. The companies partnered in 2009.  

“My dad was at a food and beverage convention in Germany when he first met the owners of Ganter and they quickly developed a very good working relationship,” says Robert. “We are both family-owned businesses and appreciate being part of an international organization with their support.”

Ganter’s global reach became instrumental in supporting JW Winco’s expansion. The company now has satellite offices and distribution centers in Canada and Mexico, and a network of stocking distribution companies across North America.

The Ganter company offers three main brands — one of which is JW Winco, meaning the Winkler’s company has a well-known brand named after it. Additionally, there’s Otto Ganter, which manufactures one of the widest selection of components of metal products for industrial machines.

“Currently, Ganter is in 60-plus countries and we’ve become part of a global enterprise. There’s synergistic cooperation between us, where we work together and share in the responsibility. It’s quite successful,” adds Mark. “If you’d asked us 10 or 12 years ago where we’d be, I don’t think we’d have predicted such a global reach.”

Aside from growing the company into an international organization, the ownership team has been able to support essential manufacturers across America, Mexico, and Canada.

“It’s certainly been a challenging time for everyone with the current pandemic,” says Mark. “We’ve been grateful that we could provide much-needed standard parts to some of the companies that have been building the COVID-related testing equipment. There have also been opportunities for our products to be used in ventilators and even mobile hospital walls.”

The team at JW Winco. The company is headquartered in New Berlin, Wisconsin.

“We’re supporting as many diverse and unexpected areas of business that we can,” adds Robert. “We just want to help. People rarely ever stop to think about our products and what they do, but without these standard parts, so many projects and applications wouldn’t be possible.” 

Mark and Robert both give full credit to his parents and older brother John for the success and values JW Winco holds.

“We’re currently evolving and our corporate management team is developing. It’s a learning experience as we go, but I attribute our founding parents and John for the many years of experience they’ve shared and the strong business they built. Robert and I, along with the Ganter team, are proud to carry the torch of success forward.”


By Michelle Froese | July 14, 2020 | Fastener Engineering


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