The Henke brothers started working at Whirltronics in the 1970’s and applied for jobs here because they just needed something to pay the bills, not knowing that they would still be here almost 40 years later. They have been through the growth of Whirltronics and the metal manufacturing industry in general. Through all the changes, the brothers have found stability and friendships inside the walls of Whirltronics.
How times have changed
Robert, Dennis, David and Dan each work in a different area of the manufacturing facility, and each have appreciated how technology and advancements in manufacturing has allowed their jobs to become more efficient. Progression in processes and new equipment not only cut down on the manual labor, but opened opportunity for efficiency through lean manufacturing.
Dennis is the Scheduling Manager, a position that includes managing the time for production runs, maintenance and the analysis of production flow. Automation is one thing that he has appreciated the most with watching Whirltronics grow and how new equipment has eliminated a lot of manual labor, “I love telling stories when I started in 1978, how we straightened blades with a welded-shut crescent wrench manually, pulling racks of blades at heat treat, and the old hot form unit where the flames came out and would burn the hair off your arms.”
David, who works in the Shipping and Receiving Department, also remembers the days of hand straightening blades and how the shop atmosphere has improved since the earlier years, “It came from a dark dingy shop, to a clear, clean and bright automated shop.” Whirltronics started in a small shop in Brooklyn Center. In August of 1992, the company opened production in a 40,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Buffalo, Minnesota. In 2015, we added an additional 20,000 square feet along with some new equipment. The recent expansion transformed our shop floor into a more open and manageable setup for efficient metal manufacturing.
All these years and no regrets
When David was asked why he took the job at Whirltronics 39 years ago, he first talked about making some money to do some traveling. After working for a while at Whirltronics, David realized it was a good place to work and made a life of it. He has traveled to 40 of the 50 states in the US, along with several other countries including Canada, Mexico and several Latin American countries.
Robert, the 2nd-Shift Foreman, has enjoyed making a living at Whirltronics, and it has allowed him to enjoy his favorite pastimes including, “Going up North to Fort Henke for camping, fishing and hunting, and spending quality time with my grandchildren.” Dan, who runs the Cold and Hot Press at Whirltronics, also enjoys outdoor activities like hunting and camping in his free time along with taking his motorcycle for a ride.
All four brothers agreed that working at Whirltronics has given them a steady income, but more importantly, it has allowed them to make some long-lasting friendships as well. Dennis sees his career as a great balance of personal and professional success, “At first at Whirltronics it was just a job, a place to make some money then move on. After a few years, we created relationships and friendships which turned into a large extended family and a career…I feel privileged and honored to work with such great people all of these years from the shop side and management.”
Working at Whirltronics has allowed the Henke brothers to live a happy life, both professionally and personally. Here at Whirltronics, we are honored to share a story like this. It shows the dedication and the appreciation from our employees and it demonstrates the type of work environment that we try to imply every day on the floor and in the office. Internally, we are like a family, working together to accomplish goals and have fun in the process. Externally, our customers are being taken care of by people who enjoy what they do and want to bring their own success through the quality of a good product.