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Art Jagemann, seated, may be retired but he's still in his Jagemann Plating office most mornings. His three sons run the company. From left: Mike, Scott and Dave Jagemann. Amber Arnold/HTR

Jagemann Plating

• Joseph C. Jagemann founded Jagemann Plating Company in 1945.
• His youngest child, Art, became president and CEO two years after Joseph's death in 1974.
• The plant has undergone several major expansions and occupies more than 70,000 square feet on South 26th Street in Manitowoc.
• There are 145 employees, with most working three 12-hour shifts each week.
• A variety of platings are applied to parts produced by several different manufacturing customers.
• Plated parts are delivered north to Door County, south to Illinois and west to the Madison and Wausau areas.
• Jagemann Plating continues to serve several customers in its home county, with quick turnaround a hallmark.
• On the Web: www.jagemannplating.com
• 920-682-6883

John O’Connor removes automotive ferrules as the last step of the zinc-nickel plating line. He’s one of the Jagemann Plating employees taking advantage of an extensive in-house training program. Amber Arnold/HTR

Jagemann Plating: 60 years of dipping parts

Local plant employs 145, serves hundreds of customers

By Charlie Mathews
Herald Times Reporter
January 8, 2006

MANITOWOC — Scott, Mike and Dave Jagemann started in the family business cleaning toilets and cutting the grass.

None of their nine kids are old enough yet to work at Jagemann Plating, and what's questionable is how many fourth-generation Jagemanns will get involved in the company founded by their great-grandfather, Joe, in 1945.

"I'm not. It is a very tough business. Our customer base has shrunk so much," said Mike Jagemann, 40, executive vice president and general manager, when asked if he will encourage his five children to walk in his footsteps.

"Yes, we can still be viable and profitable but we're squeezed so much. It affects our long-term opportunity to be successful," he said.

While the youngest of retired board chairman Art Jagemann's three sons is wary about the future, he and his brothers expressed pride in their 145 employees — down from 200 in 1998 — and their ability to satisfy customers in the Lakeshore area, the eastern half of Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Scott Jagemann, 43, is president and CEO, while Dave Jagemann, 42, is vice president of sales. Art Jagemann, 67, is the retired chairman of the board who still makes daily morning appearances.

What Jagemann Plating does is relatively straightforward, as explained in a company document.

Metal parts of all sorts, from those used in MRI scanners to automotive components to wine stands to millions of pounds of nuts, bolts and screws, arrive at the Jagemann Plating receiving dock on South 26th Street.

They are cleaned, put into barrels or on racks and dipped in an acid to activate the electrostatic plating, then plated in zinc, nickel, nickel chrome, copper, or aluminum chromate; rinsed, dried and packed for return to the manufacturers via their 10-truck and trailer fleet.

Corrosion resistance is the key attribute sought by the original manufacturer. In the automotive field, for example, when a part will be able to avoid rusting for years and years, the carmaker can offer the auto buyer a lengthy warranty with confidence.

Among the Lakeshore area companies to utilize Jagemann Plating are Manitowoc Tool & Machining, Manitowoc Crane, Formrite Tube, Fisher-Hamilton, Oil-Rite, LDI Industries, Universal Wire and Jagemann Stamping.

Yes, the Jagemanns in the plating business are related to the ones in stamping and to John Jagemann, Courthouse Pub restaurateur.

Major challenges

Virtually no business stays alive for six decades without facing major challenges.

"A challenge I had to cope with was the federal government's Clean Water Act," Art Jagemann said of the 1972 legislation.

He doesn't object to its provisions, even though it required installation of a multi-million-dollar wastewater treatment system.

Compliance with workplace air quality requirements is also costly, if unfair.

The Jagemanns say Chinese plating operations don't operate with the same environmental regulations they are subject to.

Combined with Chinese acquisition of raw materials like zinc, copper and stainless steel, Jagemann Plating has seen its commodity prices escalate.

Throw in climbing natural gas prices to heat the air coming back into the plant in the wintertime, and the budget squeeze is intense.

Art Jagemann was the youngest of Joe's nine children, and took over the business two years after his death in 1974. Art said Scott had the challenge of completely computerizing the plant.

'Set their own pay'

What Art started and the sons continue that is crucial to viability is a comprehensive training program offering production employees on-the-job instruction in numerous areas.

"We reward on how much they want to learn. They set their own pay," Mike Jagemann said. Starting pay is about $8.25 an hour, but with a combination of acquired skills and experience, wage rates often exceed $16 an hour, with the average around $13.

Jagemann Plating runs "6x24," with some employees working Monday through Wednesday and others Thursday through Saturday, getting paid for 40 hours while working three 12-hour shifts each week.

Scott Jagemann said veteran employees become the trainers of new hires. "Enthusiasm is still hot. There often are more people on the list that want to be in training sessions than we have openings (available)," he said.

Art's eldest son is also proud of the plant's safety procedures and training.

"Our safety record is fabulous," he said, while knocking on his office's wooden conference table, just a few days away from the plant going one year without having an OSHA recordable injury or lost-time accident.

Time will tell

Every day is a constant battle to make sure customers are satisfied. "Service is key, especially when competing globally and working with the businesses that are still here," Scott Jagemann said.

"The lean, low inventory customers are the ones that are surviving. It is important for us to develop partnership relationships built on trust," he said. "Our common goal is to make their customer happy."

But it remains to be seen how many manufacturers in Wisconsin will be around to do plating for their products. Jagemann Plating has about 400 to 500 customers, with the top 100 comprising 80 percent of its business.

"There are less stampers. The pool of prospects has shrunk dramatically," said Dave Jagemann, who will be leaving the family business in July to pursue ministerial studies at a California Bible college. He serves Calvary Chapel in Manitowoc as associate pastor.

"We're waiting for more consolidation in our industry. The strong will survive," Scott Jagemann said.