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Cadrex Manufacturing settles in to western Wisconsin location

The company acquired Advanced Laser in 2021, with full internal, exterior rebranding switchover happening this year

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February 19, 2024

CHIPPEWA FALLS – After a nearly three-year process, Advanced Laser has officially been rebranded as Cadrex Manufacturing Solutions.

Though the sale and purchase were completed in 2021, President of Operations Darin Clause said all internal and outside branding and switchovers were only recently completed.

Who is Cadrex?

Cadrex is a provider of complex sheet metal and machined production parts, assemblies and weldments for a variety of end markets, including information communication technology, electrical transmission and distribution, renewable energy, warehouse automation, aerospace and defense, medical, kiosk and industrials.

Cadrex (formerly CGI Manufacturing Holdings) has locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania and Monterrey, Mexico.

Clause said Cadrex has numerous in-house manufacturing capabilities to effectively serve customers, including:

  • Laser cutting
  • Sheet metal fabrication
  • Complex assembly
  • CNC punching
  • CNC machining
  • Forming
  • Robotic welding
  • Stamping
  • Fastener insertion
  • Tool and die manufacturing

Clause said where Cadrex shines is working with innovative companies that are evolving, growing rapidly and coming out with new products. 

“We support our customers from new product introduction and prototyping through high-volume production,” he said. 

Many of the items Cadrex manufactures, Clause said, get assembled into a larger product – serving as pieces of a larger puzzle.

For example, he said, Cadrex builds and assembles complete flight control sets, including wing flaps and rudders, for an aerospace company.

Those, Clause said, then get sent to the customer, who assembles those parts onto a plane.

Cadrex, he said, is positioned in the value-curve stage and works closely with its customers to ensure quality.

“Our employees have diverse skill sets and experiences, which helps them respond to the various needs of our customers,” he said.

Behind the acquisitions

Clause said Advanced Laser was looking for a partner or investor at the time when it was acquired.

From 2021-23, he said Cadrex acquired 11 companies with sites located across the United States and Mexico, including two companies with locations in Wisconsin: Advanced Laser – located in Chippewa Falls (600 Cashman Drive) and Spooner (1100 Roundhouse Road) – and Tenere – located in Dresser (700 Kelly Ave.) and Osceola (100 Industrial Drive).

Clause said both companies worked with one another.

He said if there’s one thing Cadrex does well, it’s connecting manufacturing in North America – which was the case with Advanced Laser and Tenere.

“At the end of the day, when you’re buying a company, you’re buying the talent, the experience people bring to the table, and that can’t be replaced,” he said. “And that’s what we saw at both companies.”

New changes, benefits

Clause said rebranding at Advanced Laser was straightforward – while at the same time recognizing the good job the company did communicating outbound with employees, vendors and customers from the get-go.

He said he especially praised his marketing and PR team for staying on top of constant communication.

The benefits of the acquisition, Clause said, are multifaceted – with the most notable being the ability to become part of a larger company with around 2,000 employees nationwide.

He said that brings some leverage and mass to the organization – which Cadrex can benefit from in the future.

The length of the rebranding process, Clause said, highlights the detailed focus the team had on getting all their ducks in a row.

“We’ve been working over the last 18 months or so to do a lot of integration, both internally from branding to updated safety,” he said. “And then external with signage to make it the single brand of Cadrex.”

Clause said a lot of positives came out of the Advanced Laser acquisition – mostly notable being the expanded career path options employees now have available to them.

“There are opportunities for employees to work with other divisions and other sites,” he said. “They have more possibilities to explore.”

One example of this, Clause said, is connecting employees in Wisconsin with other Cadrex sites, including those in Minnesota, Illinois and even Mexico.

“Each of these sites has great talent, and we all have something to learn from and teach one another,” he said.

Beyond the employee element, Clause said, is the financial side of things.

“A bigger company has more resources to invest,” he said. “We’re adding capital investments to the business.”

One notable investment, Clause said, is the addition of robotic material handling – which has a lot to do with employee safety and helping keep people on the shop floor.

“It might change your job a little, but it’s all to make sure everyone stays safe,” he said.

Clause said the focus will be on engaging with employees inside and outside the workplace and supporting their activities – including sponsoring the Eau Claire Express, a collegiate summer baseball team.

Another unique benefit he brings up about the Chippewa Falls location, he said, is the chiropractor and physical therapist available to employees on-site.

“It doesn’t have to be a work-related thing,” he said. “Say you got a kink in your back while cutting the grass – sign up to visit the chiropractor or physical therapist in our facility. We know the employees love it. It’s a good thing. How often have you heard of that in today’s manufacturing (industry)?”

What does Wisconsin offer Cadrex?

Broadly speaking, Clause said the industry is growing in North America, “and I think Wisconsin is one of those core centers for the resurgence of manufacturing.”

The capabilities of Cadrex in Wisconsin include design for manufacturability, prototyping, sheet metal fabrication, metal stamping, manual and robotic welding and tool and die making.

Clause said he recognizes Cadrex’s customer base wants stuff built in North America – noting he believes Wisconsin is a key location for that in the coming years.

“We can work closely together on a national scale now,” he said. “It allows us to bring more resources to the regional customer base we have in the Wisconsin and Minnesota area. Conversely, it also gives us some capabilities and resources to offload production from our other facilities and drop it into our Wisconsin operations.”

All in all, Clause said, the move brings what was just a regional operation that had its limits to a nationwide operation.

“Positive brings positive to the table, right?” he said. “It’s a win-win when we all come together.”

Employee, customer minded

Clause said he genuinely cares about the new employees via the acquisition and the success they bring to the table as a team.

“This is part of my DNA,” he said. “I can’t stress enough how important our team members are. That’s why I always go back to making sure we have a great work environment where people want to come to work.”

Clause said he believes culture comes from the top down – noting he loves learning about people’s goals and understanding how the company can help them achieve those goals.

“Surround yourself with positive people and you get positive,” he said. “Just thinking about Wisconsin alone, there are so many people with individual stories and hidden talents, whether they’re a volunteer firefighter or love to ice fish. I find it fascinating.”

He said he wants to promote employees and their abilities.

“The energy, hands down, (is the best part of the company)” he said. “Every site I visit is full of energized, passionate people, doing the best they can for our customers. I think that’s awesome.”

Diversity in the company, Clause said, is important – both with employees and customers – a mission he is not only proud of but sees as a positive step that is reflected all around and within the work ethic of the company.

Clause said his belief that great people create great products is at the core of his mindset regarding Cadrex.

He said he knows by promoting employee engagement inside and outside of work and by providing a healthy and safe workplace, will keep people coming back and help to bring talent in.

With the acquisition of Advanced Laser, Clause said Cadrex can better serve its customers while also giving the Greater Chippewa Falls area a connection to national and international stages.

Cadrex, he said, serves more than 40 Fortune 500 customers – a number the company takes great pride in.

“That’s a good number to have,” he said. “Good customer relationships are the best way to grow your revenue.”

Clause said Fortune 500 companies look for the qualities that Cadrex has – specifically the health and safety of people and the environment.

The future

Clause said though Cadrex doesn’t have any exact future plans, he knows there are growth opportunities within the Wisconsin locations.

“Our engineers are working hard to look at where we can make more investments to help increase capacity and capabilities, and we’re always looking for ideas and opportunities,” he said. “But what drives our growth are the needs of our customers.”

Clause said Cadrex strives to do anything it can for customers, and it shows in its markets – serving a handful of different vertical markets and having great success in what it calls the “information communication technology sector” (think centralized offices, data centers).

Another area of focus being looked at is warehouse automation and robotics.

Cadrex, Clause said, also has some aerospace and defense work, too, which gives the former Advanced Laser location a spotlight, with it being ITAR certified – meaning it is certified to do government defense work.

This, he said, could bring large returns on investment in the coming years.

Learn more about Cadrex, at cadrex.com.

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