By Eric Peterson | Jun 01, 2017
800 (200 in Colorado)
Contract metal and plastic manufacturing
Westminster, Colorado (HQ: Dresser, Wisconsin)
Founded: 1946 (as Hansman Industries; Tenere established in 1993)
Employees: 800 (200 in Colorado)
Industry: Industrial & Contract
Products: Contract metal and plastic manufacturing
While its roots date back more than 70 years, Tenere's growth has accelerated since Adams joined the company in 2013.
Shortly after its establishment, Tenere acquired two longstanding western Wisconsin manufacturers in 1994: Hansman Industries (founded in 1946) and Progressive Tool & Design (founded in 1977). The company is the dominant employer in the area. "We've got 500 employees in a town of 895 people," says Adams.
In 1995, the company made its first foray into Colorado when it bought Denver Tool and Die in Lakewood. After Tenere itself was acquired in 2012 by The Watermill Group, a Massachusetts-based private-equity firm, the company has doubled its square footage in Wisconsin and opened a metal fabrication plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Tenere also purchased two more Colorado-based companies: Protogenic in Westminster in 2013 and Longmont's Mountain Molding in 2015. After basing the combined Colorado operations in Lakewood, Tenere opened a new 134,000-square-foot facility in Westminster in late 2016 and consolidated its plastics manufacturing there.
Adams joined Tenere in 2013 with a background in plastics. His vision involved remaking Tenere's plastics operation for the 21st century. "I said, 'We're either going to create a world-class plastics company or reprioritize in this market,'" he says. "We needed to build scale" -- thus the acquisitions.
But that had its own side effect, Adams adds. "That gave us three organizations with three different corporate cultures in three cities separated by a lot of miles" -- thus the new facility that brings plastics design, injection molding, assembly, and other functions under one roof. "That was a big step up for us," says Adams. "It was the largest single investment in my three and a half years with the company."
Tenere also invested heavily in new equipment, including 3D printers, powder-coating technology, and 5-axis CNC machines, and -- most importantly -- its workforce, says Adams.
"Team Tenere is one family," he explains. "We spend a lot of time connecting the people who are making promises to customers and the people that have to keep those promises."
Adams spends a week of each month working in Westminster and has seen an uptick in collaboration firsthand. "One of the most innovative things we did is the design of the facility," he adds. "We embrace an open-office concept. The open office is symbolic of our open communication."
Tenere's client list includes companies like IBM and John Deere. "Those are representative of the blue-chip companies we deal with," says Adams. "Our typical customers are ones that have a steady flow of innovative products, rather than one product with a long life cycle. . . . We serve a number of markets, all of which have a common thread of precision industrial products for OEMs looking for a custom solution."
He adds, "We have a lot of competitors who provide metal. We have a lot of competitors who provide plastic. But we don't have a lot of competitors who provide both metal and plastic. It's been a big advantage for us."
Adams says clients can consolidate their vendor base and have a single point of contact and accountability for jobs involving both plastic and metal components. "It's much more efficient. It eliminates questions." Another benefit: "We are agnostic between the metal and the plastic so we can be free to propose the best application."
Manufacturing hardware enclosures for big data centers is an increasingly large part of Tenere's business. "It's a fast-moving space where there's a tremendous premium in trying to make improvements," says Adams, citing more efficient enclosures that can hold more electronics without restricting airflow as the brass ring. "The payback for that is absolutely huge." Saving 20 percent of space is "an absolute home run" for a massive data center.
Other key verticals for Tenere include aerospace, agriculture, product development, and medical devices. "What we do is technically challenging," he says. "We have a lot of tight-tolerance applications. The most challenging part of the system is where metal and plastic come together."
It's all added up to ascendant growth. Since 2013, Tenere's annual sales have roughly doubled to more than $100 million, says Adams. The company's workforce has followed a similar track, jumping from 475 employees to 800 in the last four years.
Challenges: "We've got a lot of potential to grow, but we've got a constant challenge in that we have to meet the needs of very demanding customers," says Adams. ""We have to make sure the experience our customers are used to doesn't get diluted or compromised as we grow."
The strategy involves a lot of training. Case in point: Tenere brought its top managers of its Monterrey plant to Wisconsin for onboarding. "We've got a lot of Mexican managers who have gone ice-fishing and snowmobiling," says Adams.
Opportunities: Growing with existing customers. "We have a great stable of customers," says Adams. "All of them have growth potential. If we continue serving them, we'll have growth opportunities."
The new Westminster plant has proven a catalyst, he adds. "Having the new facility and having all the skills in one place has really opened up a lot of interest."
Adams also describes the "One Tenere" concept. "We really act as a single team," he says. "Walking the talk on 'One Tenere' and giving that to our customers is a real opportunity."
Needs: "We are very dependent on key technical employees," says Adams. "It's difficult to recruit as many good technical employees as you need."
He says he expects to hire about 40 new employees in Colorado by the end of 2017. "The Colorado operation is strong and growing," says Adams. "The people we bring onto our team are going to pace our growth."