Established in 1978 in New Berlin, Wisconsin, J.W. Winco sells metal and plastic machine components and assembly hardware for design engineers, project engineers, and purchasing agents. The company sells products such as adjustable levers, pull handles, revolving and operating handles, hand wheels, cranks, levelling elements, fixture and fastening components, joints, and metric electrical components among countless other goods. The company also offers secondary machining of standard machine components and custom manufactured component parts.
J.W. Winco, Inc. provides its products through its website, jwwinco.com, keeping over 20,000 products in stock.
CEO John Winkler Jr. explains that J.W. Winco, Inc. is a family business. Mr. Winkler’s father and mother started the company to find replacement components for their bottle labelling equipment business. Mr. Winkler was initially hired as a purchasing agent in the early 80s to source the components of the machines such as hand operating components, metric fasteners, o-rings and seals for the machinery.
The idea to go fully into the components business was an “a-ha moment,” so to speak. “Once we found out we could buy these component parts as standard items in the marketplace, we felt there was an opportunity to buy the products as a distributor or original equipment manufacturer,” Mr. Winkler explains. “We could buy the component parts for less money if we set up a company as a distributorship.”
A distributorship was established to buy and source the parts and sold into the machinery business that John’s father and mother owned. The company grew as it purchased parts from overseas and found more companies and customers to target for sales. Parts were initially sourced from Europe because they were “more modern looking and aesthetically pleasing and more functional,” compared to the parts that could be bought in America at the time.
However, the original machinery business closed in March of 1985, after the German manufacturer that supplied its machines closed down. Shortly thereafter, In April of 1985, the senior Mr. Winkler asked John Winkler Jr. if he would like to go full time into selling components and parts to which he answered, sure, lets give it a try, and so the standard parts business began.
J.W. Winco’s initial success was in the packaging, printing, and machine tool industries. Mr. Winkler, his mother and other company representatives attended design and manufacturing trade shows throughout the country to sell their products to engineers and equipment designers. “We wanted to make sure that we hit every industry to get a feel for what industries we needed to market to at the time,” Mr. Winkler explains.
Since that time, the company has evolved to offer a diverse product line of standard components. “An enormous variety of standard inch and metric products is what we offer to companies,” Mr. Winkler says. “A lot of companies used to manufacture a lot of their own components to use on their own equipment. We took the model of making standard parts and introduced it to the American market.
“We try to really view our product line as taking parts and components from start to finish to build a machine at the end.”
The company maintains a technical team to offer assistance to engineers and designers and can suggest what parts and components may work best in their machinery design. “We like to teach people about the use of standard components and how they can use them in their companies.”
One of the products J.W. Winco is particularly well known for is its line of adjustable levers. The tool-free clamping, spring-loaded device has been developed with variations over the years and is still a significant part of the company’s business. The products vary from metal to plastic models of levers and are sold in both imperial and metric versions. “That particular product line has been a staple of ours since the beginning,” says Mr. Winkler.
One of the company’s most recent product releases is a U-handle with a power-switching function. “The U-handle can be used on guard doors to stop a machine; there is an emergency stop button. Any place where you’re trying to limit access to an area where a machine is operating, the U-handle is designed to shut everything down.” Winco has also added magnets, anti-vibration and isolation mounts, and indexing plungers to their product line.
With the pride Mr. Winkler has in the company and the products it offers, J.W. Winco has had its share of challenges, including having to compete with cheaper products from China. “We carry a high-level product line, but some customers may want to buy a cheaper product,” says Mr. Winkler. However, he says that it’s a challenge he will gladly address. “Seeing other companies selling products allows us to be more competitive with the products we carry, and people know that quality has a price.”
To keep in touch with its customer base, the company advertises in trade publications, does multiple trade shows, sells through specialty large distribution catalogues and also uses current ways to market its products such as social media. “Finding ways to respond to our customer inquiries, being agile with the way we respond to them, is important.”
He also emphasizes how J.W. Winco promotes from within in order to train highly skilled employees who are experts in all the products the company sells. The company offers robust training programs so employees get to know the products, and it is also routine practice for the company to take employees to trade shows and conventions so they can see the different types of equipment and understand where J.W. Winco’s products are used and how they’re applied. “Visual training is extremely important for people as well as technical training,” Mr. Winkler explains.
The company has many long-term employees, and Mr. Winkler takes pride in this fact. “It’s so important to have long-term employees because it takes such a long time for them to learn our products. The employees create the atmosphere. We’re a family-owned business and we treat our employees like family.” This atmosphere of respect, dedication and loyalty also extends to the company’s relationships with its suppliers and customers.
“Over the years, we’ve had very strategic partnerships with our suppliers,” Mr. Winkler explains. “Many of them have been with us for a minimum of 20 to 30 years. One of our largest suppliers from Germany is a partner in our company along with myself and my two brothers, Robert, our CTO and Mark, our CFO. We’re dedicated to our core supplier base and have built a great strategy over time that has allowed us to increase our volume and leverage our cost basis to help us be more competitive.”
Recent milestones J.W. Winco has reached include hiring more direct sales representatives, automating its warehouses and adding more vertical storage systems to increase efficiency. Another benchmark has been replacing its current roof with a more environmentally friendly green roof system design that better manages storm water and recycles a good majority of the potential runoff. This is a project that will commence this summer.
The company has also expanded beyond the United States. J.W. Winco opened a sales office in Mississauga, Ontario in 2011 with a sales engineer and managing director, and now has plans to expand into Mexico. “We’ve enjoyed growth, and have had substantial growth in the last few years; we’re hoping and expecting growth this year in spite of the weaker economy.”
Another recent highlight has been the company’s move to manufacture many of its own components. An example is the NY-LEV levelling mount, which has a base made out of Nylon. Additional products manufactured on-site include retracting mechanisms and various standard and special metal components.
For 35 years, J.W. Winco has been a distributor of components for machinery, and with its large amount of products, the company definitely lives by its slogan: “Your #1 Source for Metric and Inch Standard Parts for Industry.” As Mr. Winkler emphasizes, “We really pride ourselves on having the largest variety of standard hand operating elements, fastening components and assembly hardware, and that’s something we’ve always really worked hard at.”
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