Nearly 100 Years of History
Since 1923, Wolverine Machine has been widely known as a sought after manufacturer of precision machine parts and CNC machine parts for the Automotive Industry. As times change and the company has grown, those same qualities have now expanded into several other industries including: Nuclear, Architectural, Military and Recreational.
We are proud of our past and look forward to a prosperous future as we continue to remain fiscally responsible and competitively aggressive.
An Early Automotive Supplier
Wolverine Machine Products Company was incorporated in May, 1923, by Charles J. O’Neill. Mr. O’Neill moved equipment into a building with less than 8000 square feet of manufacturing space which had been built a few years earlier.
Prior to World War I, Mr. O’ Neill had moved from his native Canada to East Lansing, Michigan to attend Michigan State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University). After two years of study, he became a buyer at Chevrolet prior to serving in the United States military. He worked as an independent manufacturer’s representative after World War I.
Wolverine’s major customer during the early years of its history was Chevrolet Motor and then after the middle 1920’s. General Motors Corporation. Fasteners and other screw machine products could be produced efficiently on the newly developed screw machines and Wolverine’s sales and employment grew steadily during the 1920’s.
Surviving the Great Depression
With the onset of the Great Depression after the 1929 crash of the stock market, Wolverine Machine, and a majority of other suppliers to the automotive market, struggled during the early 1930’s. In an interview of Mr. O’Neill in 1962 by Kenneth Walker, Wolverine’s current president and great nephew of C.J. O’Neill, “Charlie” recalled that he was very fortunate that the bank which held Wolverine’s loads did not fail as did every other bank in Flint. Had Citizens Bank failed, Wolverine, he said, would have been forced out of business.
Wolverine Machine recovered and resumed its growth and employment in the late 1930’s and through the World War II years of 1941-45.
A Military Shop
During the four years after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Wolverine Machine Products produced screw machine products which were used in the United States’ war effort. During this time, more than fifty production workers worked seven days a week, 24 hours per day.
Charles Walker, Mr. O’Neill’s nephew and successor as president began working for his uncle in 1942. After graduating from Michigan State College (Now MSU) in 1937, Charles worked for Sears & Roebuck in Chicago as a buyer for five years. He recalled that the shop was crowded, dirty and very noisy during the war years. Wolverine Machine continued to prosper as the domestic automotive industry grew when automobile production resumed and grew with the pent-up demand for new autos. There were no automobiles produced in the United States from 1942 until late 1945.
A Fire Leads to a New Shop
Wolverine’s business volume and employment remained steady during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. On December 22, 1953, the manufacturing plant caught fire as the result of a faulty electrical repair and burned to the ground. The only part of the building which was saved was the brick and block two story office which had been built in 1946. After clearing the fire debris, Wolverine built a new cement block 13,600 square foot modern building. New equipment was purchased, damaged equipment was rebuilt, and Wolverine resumed production of quality screw machine products in March, 1954.
1960’s – 1970’s
Screw Machine Growth
During the remainder of the 1950’s and 1960’ Wolverine continued to produce screw machine products for several divisions of General Motors Corporation, its major customer. Business fluctuated with the sale of automobiles since ninety percent of its sales were to General Motors during the decades of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970;s. During these years Wolverine modernized by buying new 6-spindle automatic screw machines of several different sizes. The company also modernized its secondary operation equipment.
A Time for Growth and Diversification
The 1980’s brought new challenges and opportunities for its new owners, Ken and Bruce Walker, sons of Charles Walker. Charles Walker had inherited the business when C.J. O’Neill died in 1970. The younger Walkers purchased Wolverine from their father in 1979 upon his retirement after 37 years of service. Ken and Bruce had been working at Wolverine Machine full time since 1972.
It became evident in the early 1980’s that to survive and grow it would be necessary for Wolverine to diversify to other products and the industries with which it did business. Therefore, the company began searching for new customers and industries which had requirements for screw machine products. Some new customers were added and in 1985 a 5400 square foot addition was constructed in order to add manufacturing space. An office building had been added in 1981.
The volume of business and employment continued to remain relatively steady during the 1980’s through diversification of Wolverine’s customers and product base.
CNC Machine Growth and In-House Inspection
Throughout the late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s sales to material handling companies, the production bearing inner races and other races, growth as a second and third tier supplier to the automotive industry, and production of screw machine products for the United States military, all combined to make it possible for Wolverine to grow.
Wolverine began diversifying its equipment base with the purchase of its first CNC lathe in 1989. Wolverine has continued to diversify and grow. In the middle 1990’s the company purchased four CNC mills and tapping units and five 4″ 6-spindle screw machines as well as eight 2 5/8″ Acmes. This equipment was moved into the two (7200 square foot each) additions to the building in 1995 and 1998 respectively. During the 1990’s Wolverine has also added inspection equipment and computer equipment in order to remain competitive maintain and improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Wolverine Machine became ISO 9002 and QS 9000 Certified in 1999.
A Strong Innovative Company
Wolverine Machine Products, after 79 years located at it present site, looks forward to the new century with confidence. We are proud of our past and look forward to a prosperous future as we continue to remain fiscally responsible and competitively aggressive.
Wolverine Machine Products Company is dedicated to meeting customer requirements, special needs, and delivery schedules. We focus on understanding our customer’s current and future needs in order to assist customers in meeting their requirements and goals. Our management team is flexible and has the experience, ability and resources to accommodate changing market requirements and customer expectations.
We have developed a “Customer Survey” to measure our customer’s perception of our performance. We will send it our customers annually. We will review the results of the survey and we will be proactive and improve any deficient areas pointed out by our customers. We will measure the results of the survey. Our goal is to continuously improve our customer’s level of satisfaction.