From Aviation to Outer Space

MW Industries

MW Industries Inc. (MWI) creates high-quality springs, fasteners, and precision metal components the width of a human hair all the way up to massive coiled springs made from wire over two inches in diameter and three feet long used in Humvees for the United States Armed Forces. From aerospace to agriculture, construction, consumer products, medical and military applications, all products are made in America.
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MWI’s decades of experience, twenty-one manufacturing locations, reputation and staff of over 1,700 including degreed engineers, sales associates, senior leadership and manufacturing employees make it a force in the industry. MWI is the largest, most diversified specialty spring and fastener manufacturer in the United States with years of experience in the business and a commitment to quality and service.

“One of the most important aspects for us is our skilled labor – the skilled machine operators in our plants,” says Darlene Kober, senior vice president of marketing and sales. The company’s team includes veteran machinists who are experienced with CNC machines, laser Swiss cutters and non-CNC machines such as those made by pioneering company Davenport.

The company started off as the Muehlhausen Spring Company in 1929 and became known as MW Industries in the 1970s. It continues to grow to this day, mainly through strategic acquisition. “We are an order of magnitude larger than any of our competitors,” says John Bagnuolo, MWI’s chief executive officer. “We serve a wider market basket of products and services, and we are very, very diverse.” Its solutions include highly engineered springs, machined parts, precision components and specialty fasteners.

From its headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois, MW Industries sells to suppliers throughout almost all industries including commercial aircraft, automotive, energy, motorsports, transit and others. It has more than 23,000 customers, in over thirty-five countries and sells by direct export from the manufacturing locations or through a series of representatives across the globe. About twenty percent of products by revenue are sold outside the United States.

MWI has been in business for almost ninety years and remains focused on providing solutions, says Bagnuolo. “The number of our engineers is growing all the time. We test all our own springs and make our own tooling. We build our own assembly equipment. So we have more of an ability to provide more services and products the customer would need; many of our competitors have gone in the opposite direction in terms of outsourcing. I believe those are still areas of competitive advantage, and it gives our customer both cost and performance advantages as well.”

Every one of its locations is certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), five locations have AS9100 aerospace certification, and two facilities are ISO/TS certified for automotive. Presently, the company is pursuing ISO13485 at one of its locations which takes on the majority of its medical work. MWI aims to have this certification by the end of this year. Another newly acquired facility is ISO13485 certified and specializes in medical devices.

MWI keeps expanding to meet client needs. Since 2011, the company has made eleven acquisitions, approximately two per year. Some have been smaller family-owned spring and fastener companies that want to sell, and MW Industries values not only these companies but their ideals as well. “We are often the acquirer of choice because when we go in and purchase a company, we preserve the tradition, the heritage and the culture of the team, so we have a very good reputation in the space,” says Kober. “So when people are ready to transact their company, they often get in touch with us because of the way that we preserve that culture. We professionalize and grow those organizations with the financial backing of MW.”

MWI products and services span the total industrial market. It has clients across many sectors and employs strategic initiatives in areas it believes offer unusual opportunities for the company in terms of growth. One of these has been its expansion into medical devices, and it manufactures components for numerous surgical instruments and auto-injector devices. MWI’s springs are found in life-saving devices including epinephrine autoinjectors, most often used for the treatment of serious, life-threatening allergic reactions. The springs in this device penetrate the skin to deliver medication and then retract.

“So if you’re looking to deliver a drug by a patient and it needs to be effective and very precise, our springs provide both a forward and a retraction motion, so the patient can deliver that drug into their intramuscular space,” says Kober.

MWI also sees growth in the aerospace side of the business for which it manufactures fasteners, springs and specialty components used in all sorts of aerospace applications from commercial aircraft to space exploration. One of its manufacturing locations, California-based Helical Products Company, was chosen to design and manufacture machined springs and flexible couplings for Curiosity, the automobile-sized Rover that landed safely on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. Curiosity became the third Mars Rover utilizing the company’s engineering and mechanical expertise.

MWI is active in other key areas of aerospace and aviation. This includes safety products many of us use regularly, such as the two springs which are used in the manufacture of buckles used on aircraft seatbelts.

MWI has earned respect and business from long-time repeat customers and new clients. “We have a very loyal customer base,” says Kober, “and we measure the repeat business we get from our customers. We lose very few customers in the course of a year, and I think it’s because of the can-do spirit that we have at many of our locations. A lot of what we make is very customer-specific. So our ability to quickly understand the needs of the customer, turn that into a prototype, supply it to a customer, make adjustments on it and then create a finished product is rather unique in the industry. We get awards from customers every day when they come to us for continued use or new project.”

MW Industries has faced its share of challenges but continues to expand and invest in new machinery and employees. A decade ago, during the Global Financial Crisis, the company experienced a much shallower downturn and a faster recovery than the competition due to quality products, loyal and experienced staff and the financial strength behind it which comes from being part of a private-equity-owned group of companies.

MWI provides its customers with much more than products; it has the years of know-how and the technical capabilities required to solve problems from the early prototyping stages. Tracking its sales against many of the large public multi-national industrial-type companies, MWI is growing at an order of magnitude faster.

“I think the value message that we can provide to our customers is to make their lives simpler by giving them more capability than anybody else in our space,” states Bagnuolo. “It’s a message that has resonated very well in the United States for very long time, but our business outside North America is growing actually faster – in Western Europe, Turkey, Hungary, Ireland – across a pretty wide group of customers.”

Working Smarter

A key goal of any successful manufacturing operation is a continual drive toward improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through the adoption of lean production principles, waste reduction using the Six Sigma approach, and similar productivity solutions. These systems have been widely incorporated throughout the manufacturing industry and have significantly improved product quality, production speeds, and perhaps most importantly, the safety of those working in manufacturing plants.

Past Issues

October 15, 2019, 7:09 AM EDT