Techline retains local ties despite Waunakee plant closure
Founded by Marshall Erdman in the 1960s, Techline became a highly regarded local manufacturer of medical and modular casework, contract and office furniture, office systems, and commercial cabinets. When he launched the company, Erdman, a Madison architect and colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright, insisted that he wanted only the best for his Techline clients: high-end furniture and cabinetry made of only the finest materials.
The company built a long, successful legacy over the years, with the Waunakee manufacturing plant, built in 1969, completing and shipping orders to as many as 25 different states.
Jeff Peterson was once the sales manager for Techline before he purchased Workspace Studio in 2004. For a long time, he said, Techline was the company’s only vendor.
After news broke recently that Techline would be closing its Waunakee plant in June, Workspace Studio began hearing from its customers. Because the company was so identified with Techline’s products, customers wondered about the future of Workspace Studio.
“Nothing was said about what would happen to the Techline products,” Peterson said of local news reports. “A lot of people associate us with Techline, so a lot of our customers thought we were closing, too.”
Not so, he insists. Workspace Studio is alive and well and will continue to offer Techline products.
In April, Stevens Industries of Teutopolis, Ill., a manufacturer of commercial cabinets, purchased the rights to produce Techline-branded commercial furniture, a decision that will likely keep the familiar name alive well into the future.
It was, in some respects, a natural progression. Stevens Industries President Todd Wegman explained that Stevens had supplied raw materials to Techline for more than a dozen years.
“We were very familiar with [Techline] and what they stand for,” Wegman said. “We worked with the ownership group [Erdman] for about five years trying to put something together so we’d keep the product and name going.”
Peterson said the fact that a successful local product was able to attract the interest of an out-of-state manufacturer interested in preserving and growing the brand was a positive development.
“Stevens is a major player in the industry, but this has been very bittersweet,” Peterson admitted. “It is sad and disappointing that a lot of people I know are losing their jobs, but we want the community to know that Techline will still be offered.”
For Peterson’s 11-employee business, Techline orders will no longer be called into or delivered out of the Waunakee plant. While Workspace Studio will no longer be able to source its products locally, Stevens will use the same specifications to produce Techline products, which will make Peterson’s life easier.
According to Wegman, that was also important to the Erdman ownership, which worked closely with Stevens Industries to assure a smooth transition and “make the best decisions moving forward.”
And while little comfort can come from the fact the Waunakee plant is closing down on June 9, one glimmer of good news shines through: Wegman said Stevens Industries will soon open a new Techline office in the Madison area. In fact, he’ll be in town this week looking for available space with plans to open this summer. The Techline sales, design, and project management office will initially be staffed by between six to 10 people.
“Hopefully, we’ll grow that office, too,” he added. “We just want to re-energize the Techline brand.”
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