In Alan Petelinsek’s view, the image of manufacturing in the United States has taken a real hit during the last 20 years.
While many larger companies have shipped off jobs to other parts of the world, a number of schools have also closed up their manufacturing training programs. Petelinsek, who owns and operates in Sussex, intends to do whatever he can to help restore some luster to that tarnished image.
“My vision is beyond the business itself,” said Petelinsek. “I would encourage people to enter manufacturing careers. Part of my mission is to show the community and surrounding area that manufacturing is not a dungeon with a couple of light bulbs and a dirt floor, but it’s a healthy place with a healthy career that can encourage a healthy lifestyle.”
Founded in Newburg in 1976 by Petelinsek’s father, John, Power Test, Inc. moved to Menomonee Falls in 1986 and then to Sussex in 2008. It has become a global leader in the design, manufacture and sale of dynamometers, heavy equipment testing systems and related data acquisition and control systems.
For the third straight year, the company has been nominated for the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award in the small business category.
This year’s winners will be announced February 23rd at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
“We manufacture dynamometers and other specialized testing equipment that tests power and torque of an engine, an electric motor or a hydraulic system,” said Petelinsek, who took over the company in 2003. “When you go to a doctor for a stress test, you run on a tread mill with sensors on your body.
"On the tread mill, it changes the elevation to make you work harder. While you are under load, the instrumentation is measuring what’s going on with your body. A dynamometer is, in concept, that tread mill. Our products are used to exercise an engine or electric motor to simulate real load conditions and document their performance.”
Power Test’s equipment has been marketed to more than 80 countries. Typically, its clients are companies like Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel which service and re-manufacture specialty construction and mining equipment.
“We manufacture specialty machines, and we truly manufacture, so we are a machine shop, we’re a fabrication shop, we build our own electronics and write our own software,” said Petelinsek. “We continually re-invest in the business to buy more equipment and hire more people. So we’re always able to grow organically.”
Despite a sagging economy, Power Test has been extremely successful at the bottom line.
“We’ve seen double digit growth even in the midst of severe economic downturn,” said Petelinsek. “In 2011, for example, we were up over 40 percent over 2010 and we expect to see a minimum of 30 percent growth in 2012. To see this kind of growth in this economy is something to just shake your head at.”
However, the real success story with this company revolves around its people. The company has 60 employees and has built a positive company culture. Beyond its pay and benefits package, Power Test features an award winning corporate wellness program with personal trainers and wellness specialists.
The belief is that people should make their best effort to lead a healthy, meaningful and fruitful life and, in the process, workers have a strong sense of community as they take part in activities together.
Calling Sussex Home
Petelinsek also enjoys the business relationship Power Test has with the village of Sussex.
“The town board welcomed us and made it easy for us to move into the facility we are in,” said Petelinsek. “We’ve also had a great relationship with the school system which is starting to feed my employee base. We’ve got job training programs here and the kids can come out of Sussex, go through a co-op program with us and enter an apprenticeship program through our company if they desire.”
In 2009, sent four busloads of students to tour the plant and be introduced to a manufacturing career. They also got to look past some unfortunate stereotypes about the industry.
“Manufacturing is not just being chained to a machine and pulling a handle,” said Petelinsek. “There’s engineering, technical publication, administrative jobs and Human Resources. There are all kinds of career paths.”
Business success. Positive company culture. It’s all there. But if you ask Petelinsek to name the aspect of his company that is nearest and dearest to his heart, he points to the company’s involvement with more than 30 local, national and international charities.
In particular, he’s proud of the Destination Donation team. It’s a group of endurance athletes who participate in sports while encouraging people to register and become organ donors.
“It’s yet another thing our employees buy in on,” said Petelinsek. “When your job is more than just making a paycheck, it’s trying to make the world better and build better business.”