Augusta, WI

Following in his father’s footsteps, Matt Guse shows the next generation how to get the most from a career in the technical trades.

Matt Guse is continuing his father’s legacy as the second-generation president of MRS Machining, but things have changed since Roger Guse started MRS Machining in 1986. Today, Matt sees a different class of customers with more exacting demands using MRS’s precision machining services. He also sees a new generation of tech-savvy machinists taking charge in the shop.

Roger Guse and his wife, Nancy, started MRS Machining in the Guse family garage in 1986. MRS is classified as a women-owned company, with Nancy as the owner. Matt joined in 1989 to help run MRS after his father had some health issues. Together they grew the firm and when Roger passed away in 2013, Matt took charge as the company president. Today, MRS Machining has more than 50 employees, a 20,000-square-foot shop, and has been named one of the top shops in the country by Modern Machine Shop.

Promoting Quality and Diversification

When MRS Machining started, government contracts provided lucrative and steady work. As the company grew, market conditions changed, as did the customer base. Custom parts for oil and gas were in demand from 2011 to 2015, and today, MRS is making custom parts for medical, aerospace, fluid power, and other manufacturers. While they could produce thousands of parts, MRS Machining specializes in delivering high-quality parts in limited quantities. Matt explains that the company’s niche and competitive advantage is creating precision parts in lots of 50 or less.

“We’re like the grocery store where you come for a loaf of bread, not the supermarket where you are looking for 100 loaves,” Guse said. “When our bigger customers are looking to save a dollar or a penny, they go overseas, but they often end up coming back.”

“Going overseas can be a problem when it comes to quality,” Guse adds. “You can’t just pick up the phone when you have a bad part. You have to call at 3:00 in the morning, and you still can’t deliver your product. If your parts are made in the U.S., it may cost a little more, but are you willing to shut down your factory to make your product cheaper?”

Diversification helps MRS Machining stay successful. Matt explains that they watch to ensure no one customer makes up more than 20% of their business. If they see one customer requiring too many resources, they try to increase the size of other contracts or bring in new customers to ensure stable business operations.

When Matt talks to people about starting their own business, he tells them there are three key factors for success: “You have got to be 24/7. You have got to have your family on board. You have got to be willing to risk everything you have financially. If you can’t commit to those three things, you are better off sticking with what you’re currently doing.”

Youthfulness as a Competitive Advantage

MRS Machining continues to expand its operations to accommodate new customers and more exacting parts specifications. Since starting with manual milling machines in the Guse’s garage, MRS has moved a few times and now has a 20,000-square-foot shop with 28 CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines. Five-axis machining has become the norm, and MRS is adding new technologies to improve quality and increase production.

Today’s tech-driven machine shop is better suited to the younger generation of workers. Rather than working with tape-fed machines, they now use smartphone controls. Artificial intelligence, robots, and automation are playing a larger role and creating more job opportunities.

“Our youthfulness is our competitive advantage,” said Guse. “The average age of our workforce is 31, and we work with a lot of young people at various schools. They want to get better and learn faster, so anything that is complex and requires tech-savvy is good for them.”

To help train the next generation, MRS Machining works closely with Eleva-Strum High School to train students. Eleva-Strum’s Cardinal Manufacturing is a student-run business that gives students hands-on training and a chance to see what it’s like to run a manufacturing business and get paid in the process. MRS Machining was an early contributor to the program, donating time and equipment, including a CNC mill and lathe. As a result, Cardinal Manufacturing has become a training ground for new MRS employees.

“We can train on the hard skills like operating a machine, but the Eleva-Strum program teaches the soft skills, like showing up for work on time, staying on task, and working well with others,” said Guse. “We have scholarships available so students can go on to a technical school, and it’s 100% paid. In a perfect world, when a student comes to work for MRS, they have a two-year college degree and no student loan debt. All I have to do is incentivize them.”

Candor and Communication Are Great Motivators

Guse understands the need to keep his team motivated and productive. “I tell people ‘I want you here. You want to be here. And then we are going to have fun, so we never work another day in our life again.’”

Guse makes it a point to walk the shop daily, talking to the team and identifying issues before they become problems. For example, one employee had a toothache but couldn’t get a dental appointment for three weeks. Guse found a dentist to see him the next day, knowing the money spent on an emergency dental appointment would be well-spent rather than having that worker suffer and work while in pain.

MRS Machining also uses other strategies to keep employees happy and show them they are appreciated. The company hosts a monthly cookout and has snack days every Tuesday and Thursday. MRS also keeps employees informed about the business.

“We have an open book every month where we get everybody together and talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Guse. “Everybody knows where we’re going and where we have been, so there’s no there’s no fear of losing your job. Security is what we’re after.”

That management approach ensures MRS Machining has a happy and productive team and promotes employee retention. A recent survey showed that 90% of employees plan to remain with MRS five years from now. And Guse intends to continue hiring and expanding. He notes that aerospace will be a $1 trillion industry by 2030, and MRS Machining plans to continue to scale to take advantage of growth.