TLX Technologies, LLC got its start in 1996 out of the dining room of the house of Neil Karolek, the company’s president and founder. Nearly 17 years later, the Pewaukee manufacturer of customized electro-mechanical solenoid products has grown to have anticipated annual revenue of about $10 million.

solenoidThe boost in business over the years caused TLX to outgrow its old facility in Pewaukee, where it had been located since 1998. In late 2012, TLX moved to a larger 17,000-square-foot facility, also in Pewaukee. TLX has 45 employees.

“Growth prompted the move. We ran out of space to expand production and for salaried people, engineering personnel and labs,” Karolek said. “Manufacturing was one of the main reasons for the move, but now we also have a larger testing and engineering lab.”

wiresThe move has allowed TLX to better serve its customers, Karolek said.

“When you are going to sell something to a customer, you need to have the ability to service them from design all the way through testing and certification. At the other facility, we just didn’t have the room,” he said.

Growth, as it often does, has come with an array of challenges.

The company, which took five to six years to become self-sufficient, started with several small customers and later landed a contract with a large company, which bolstered business. The solenoid products produced by TLX are used in a variety of markets from automobiles to fire suppression and power distribution applications. Customers include Harley-Davidson Inc., General Motors Co. and Fike Corporation.

Neil“Even though TLX remains a relatively small company, we had need for the quality procedures often implemented at larger companies that have the benefit of more resources,” said Derek Dahlgren, vice president and co-founder.

Controller Katrina Goetz pointed out that the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership assisted TLX in becoming ISO certified. TLX also turned to the WMEP for various lean programs, including value stream mapping.

“Like many businesses, we were looking at how we could streamline things and be more efficient,” she said.

The lean operations and initiatives implemented by TLX have “definitely gone to the bottom line,” Dahlgren said.

New markets & new customers

kevinTLX also enrolled in the WMEP’s ExporTech program, a three-session training program that helps small and mid-size manufacturers rapidly develop and execute a successful export strategy.

“It’s important for us to export because many of our competitors are in global markets,” Karolek said. “You can’t, in this world economy, be an island. It can seriously hamper your ability to grow the business.”

Some customers have gone as far as to suggest that TLX Technologies needs to begin setting up manufacturing operations in other countries.

engineerThrough ExporTech, TLX found a representative in Europe and boosted the company’s sales by about $500,000, according to Karolek.

“Without a doubt, WMEP is a good resource that has helped us along the way,” Karolek said. “We turned to WMEP because we needed help. Some of those resources were just too expensive to take on by ourselves. It’s better to learn from somebody who knows what is happening rather than doing it yourself.”

TLX Results:

  • ISO Certification led to securing new customer accounts and revenue, driving the need to expand to a new facility
  • ExporTech participation boosted sales by $500,000

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