Global Trends Lead to Dwindling Sales
Since 1952, Grafton-based Gilman Precision has been dedicated to the advancement and development of customized slides and spindles for machine tool manufacturers. The company serves manufacturers in a variety of industries and applications, including aerospace, automotive, packaging and medical. In 2011, Gilman was experiencing slow sales and witnessed its business dwindle down from $25 million to $4 million. Part of the decline was attributed to the sluggish recovery of the automotive industry, one of the company’s largest industries. In addition, Gilman saw much of its U.S. customer base move their operations overseas. At the time, the company, which was under new ownership, did not have a succinct international business strategy. With the majority of its customer base located outside of the U.S., Gilman had to decide whether or not to expand its global reach.
International Sales Bring Growth In Wisconsin®
Gilman chose to follow its customer base and develop an exporting strategy. The company started by targeting the countries with the largest concentration of manufacturers – Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. However, Gilman quickly realized that many of its competitors were also reaching these markets. At that point, the company enrolled in the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s ExporTech™ Program for export strategy development. The program helped the company create a customized international growth plan and identify Canada, Australia and Singapore as key markets it could quickly enter to begin growing its international business. These markets offered Gilman a large concentration of manufacturers with less local competition. During a Council of Great Lakes Governors Trade Mission to Australia and Singapore in 2013, the company met with potential importers and distributors to develop initial sales operations in the markets. Today, Gilman is experiencing increased success due to its export strategy: the company has more than doubled its business, with sales up 45 percent year-over-year. Gilman is anticipating further growth into Canada in 2015, and with the help of Wisconsin’s Global Network of trade representatives, is researching growth opportunities in Mexico.