Sussek Machine Corporation, a long-term business and employer in Waterloo, has been sold and is transitioning ownership to new management.
Since 1976, the precision machining company has been owned and operated by two generations of the Sussek family. Chris Feller took over as president and chief executive officer of the company Jan. 1. He replaced Chris Sussek, who has been head of the company since 2003.
Sussek is a contract machining facility located at 805 Pierce St. in Waterloo. Sixty percent of its products are made from iron castings weighing from three to 150 pounds. The company has an ISO9001 certification and complies with rigid quality requirements.
The Sussek name will remain with the company to ensure seamless brand recognition and smooth transition with existing and future customers. Under the new management, the name has been changed from a corporation to company though the logo remains unchanged.
Feller, of Waterloo, is the former operations manager at the company. Feller has been with the company since November 2009.
He has been in manufacturing for 26 years and has a degree in engineering, tool and die.
Feller said he moved to the area in 2007 and was commuting to a job in Milwaukee. He began searching for employment in the area when he was hired by Sussex Machine as operations manager. “And it progressed from there,” Feller said.
Feller, concerned for the employees and the company’s future, expressed an interest in finding a way to keep the business and its local presence intact when learning of the possible sale of the company from Sussek.
Working with Chris Sussek to find a viable solution, Feller leveraged financial backing to carry out his plan. The plan is for the company to keep its headquarters in Waterloo and its plant in China.
“Both my goal and Chris Sussek’s goal is to keep the plant in Waterloo,” Feller said.
“He (Chris Sussek) has grown the company a lot and I plan to continue doing that,” Feller said.
“I am proud and excited to lead this company into the future,” the new owner said. There is growth potential with new and larger customers, he added.
In 2006, focused on growth, the business was expanded into China. The China facility, a wholly owned foreign enterprise of Sussek Machine Corporation, has 40 employees.
Sussek Machine Corporation has experienced continuous growth over the past 10 years even during the down economy and currently employs 135 workers in a three-shift operation. Most of the employees are residents of Waterloo and the surrounding area.
With sustained growth, Sussek Machine Corporation has been able to offer continual employment opportunities in all areas of the business and will continue adding positions in the future, Feller said.
The company is currently seeking to hire a dozen machine operators, Feller said. Banners seeking employees have been placed along Highway 19.
The tool and die trade needs to be resurrected, Feller said. “It is an industry that will never leave the United States,” he added.
Sussek Machine Corporation, formerly Rae-Joe Industries, was originally founded in 1960 by two machine tool engineers. The two men, Rae and Joe, were senior engineers at the largest machine tool manufacturer in the world, Giddings and Lewis. The two were on the cutting edge of technology when the machine tool industry started to change. Low-cost countries became big players and Rae and Joe formed a company called Rae-Joe Industries.
Rae-Joe Industries started in a building of approximately 3,000 square feet and only a handful of employees. Rae and Joe focused on their hand-picked employee’s strengths and started building high quality custom machines for the food and battery industries. While the two were building a successful and growing company, Phil Sussek was hired to work on sales. Sussek learned the business by working with Rae and Joe. Phil Sussek took on more responsibility and eventually took over the company and named it Sussek Machine Corporation.
Sussek took the company in a different direction. Instead of building one or two pieces, he sought orders for 50 to 100 pieces.
As the company began to grow based on a high sense of quality, his son Chris stepped into the picture. Chris began on the ground floor, literally mowing the lawn and sweeping the floor, according to the company website. He moved to the shop floor running machines and working in the tool room. After receiving a business degree, he started working in a management role.
In 2003, Phil became semi-retired and Chris took over ownership. Since 1975, the plant has had eight expansions and is now more than 130,000 square feet.
There is room at the Waterloo facility for a 70,000 square foot addition, Feller pointed out.
The plant has robot operated machining centers and automated part handling, along with cellular manufacturing and a precision metrology lab.