One hundred years of family ownership of Superior Die Set Corp. is coming to an end with the sale of the Oak Creek, Wis., facility underway and a plan to close if it falls through.
Founded in 1923 by Polish immigrant Kasimir Janiszewski and two partners, the business manufactures die sets, mold bases and other components for the stamping, molding and forging industries.
The sale of SDSC reached a stage where the owners are working exclusively with a strategic buyer to finalize an agreement.
However, in case the purchase does not materialize, the owners also had to file a notice with the state of Wisconsin to stay in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
The pending transaction does not affect Superior's two European facilities, which Chief Financial Officer Paul Czajka said in a Sept. 25 email to customers "continue to thrive and serve global demand."
In Wisconsin, Czajka said, "the buyer has the necessary expertise and resources to enhance Superior's operational efficiency, expand capabilities and further innovate our products and services beyond what we offer today."
All parties are focused on transferring ownership to the buyer to continue the current operations, Czajka added.
"Please be assured that all contracts, orders and agreements with Superior Die Set Corp. will continue without interruption. We are committed to fulfilling all commitments and conducting business as usual throughout this seamless transition to the future owners," Czajka said.
"Concurrently, while working towards new ownership and in compliance with the WARN act, we have announced to our employees that, should this purchase not materialize for some reason, Superior Die Set's Oak Creek factory will be closing on Nov. 20, 2023."
Sales have been down and the business was being liquidated, according to a Sept. 21 letter filed by Andrew Chadwick, the company's global director of safety and human resources, to the Dislocated Workers Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
SDSC's subsidiary in Poland does business as Pro Plastica. Those operations will now get the owners' full attention.
"We intend to maintain and grow our Polish operation," Frank Janiszewski, co-chair of the board of directors, said in a Sept. 21 news release.
"This decision is based on many factors, including our current outlook of the domestic market and Superior's fit therein," he added. "This strategic move will allow the family owners to invest in and grow our two thriving European manufacturing operations."
Three generations of the Janiszewski family owned and operated the company for 96 years. In 2019, they appointed Martin Girga Jr., the first non-Janiszewski, as the president and CEO of the company.
At the time, Girga told the local media that he hoped to reinvent the company in the four years leading up to the centennial anniversary as part of a plan he called Superior 2.0 with a theme of "Back to Superior."
"Let's not just be good. Let's be superior," Girga said in 2019. "I think they [the company] achieved within this industry the name brand that stood for superior products. Over time we lost that because of competition, and we didn't reinvent ourselves."
Girga planned to transform the company through technology and talent acquisitions and operational changes, such as implementing lean manufacturing processes. One of his first steps was to move SDSC sister company, Greendale Precision Services in Greendale, Wis., into the Oak Creek location to streamline services.
SDSC also invested in new equipment and launched a new website in 2021 and then added product lines and brought in new operations and sales directors in 2022.
If the sale of U.S. operations doesn't close, the list of U.S. workers scheduled to lose their jobs the week of Thanksgiving includes the CEO, all executives, 31 machine techs, 17 surface finishing operators, 10 machine operators, and everyone else from two accounting clerks to five welders. They were notified by the Sept. 21 letter also sent to the Oak Creek mayor and Milwaukee county executive.