By Tim Heston
The company’s Latin name belies its culture or perfectly suits it, depending on how you interpret it. Meaning “to hold,” Tenere was
founded in 1993 as a holding company (as its name
suggests) that purchased two family-run Wisconsin
operations, Hansman Industries and Progressive
Tool & Design. Two years later it purchased Denver
Die and Molding, a plastic injection molder in Lakewood, Colo. And in 2012 the company was sold to
The Watermill Group, a private equity firm with
various holdings, including Quality Metalcra; in
Detroit and The Plastics Group in Willowbrook, Ill.
Tenere could have easily operated as its holding company namesake, an umbrella organization
over two independent entities, one in plastics and
another in sheet metal and machining. But that’s
not what happened.
The company now goes to market under the “One
Tenere” message. As Watermill’s website put it,
“Where others see a metals and plastics parts fabri-
cator with customer concentration and limited stra-
tegic direction, we envision a leading-edge design
and manufacturing firm delivering critical time-to-
market advantages for a broad range of companies
making fast-changing, high-performance products
in rapidly growing end markets.”
You now can’t really interpret tenere, “to hold,”
to mean a holding company. Instead, the company
“holds” a project from its inception through its frui-
tion, from prototyping through production, be it in
plastic, metal, or both.
Collaboration between metals and plastics divisions has played a big part in the company’s growth.
Some large customers, including those in the “cloud
space” (server racks), turn to Tenere for both plastic
and sheet metal components.
The sheet metal operation has picked up serious
momentum in recent years. In one sense, the company’s collaboration between its plastics and metals
divisions has transformed it into a major metal fabrication player. Adding to its Dresser and Somerset,
Wis., metal fabrication plants, the company opened
a third Wisconsin location, in Osceola, dedicated to
sheet metal as well as production machining.
“Our sheet metal business grew so quickly in
2014 and 2015, we were busting at the seams,” said
Audrey Hamilton, senior marketing manager. “We
were renting space for assembly. It soon just didn’t
make sense financially, and so we opened a new
space in Osceola.”
“We’ve had a lot of upgrades in capital equipment
in recent years too,” said Steve Harris, director of
program management for Tenere’s metal division.
“In the past four years [the metals division has]
spent more than $4 million.” The purchases include
new lasers, turret punch presses, and a press brake
with automatic tool changes.
The metal side of the business has made a dramatic shi; away from stamping and toward metal
fabrication. According to Harris, four years ago
about 40 percent of the metal division’s work involved hard tooling (stamping presses), 60 percent
so; tooling (turret punch, laser, and press brakes).
“Last year we ran about 90 percent so; tooling,
10 percent hard tooling,” Harris said, adding that
stamping work isn’t necessarily on a permanent
decline. “This year we may end up doing about 70
percent so; tooling, 30 percent hard tooling.”
It all depends on the product mix, volumes, order frequency, and other variables, including where
in the product life cycle Tenere’s work happens to
be during a given year. But having both stamping
and fabrication equipment also can be a competitive advantage. Quite o;en the company cuts some
part features with a laser or turret punch, then completes the part with further punching and forming
on a stamping press. “Having a blended solution
[with both fabrication and stamping] o;en works in
our favor,” Harris said.
On the plastics side, Tenere purchased Mountain
Molding in Longmont, Colo., in 2015. In 2016 the
plastics operation consolidated to one facility in the
Denver suburb of Westminster, Colo.
Metal fabrication, stamping, machining,
plastic injection molding—the many ways
to make a part at Tenere
Operators monitor laser cutting at Tenere’s Osceola,