By Linda Scherer
The founder of Millerbernd Design and Fabrication, Carl Millerbernd, first began using his mechanical expertise in the 1930s, making repairs and improvements to farm machinery.
Later, he discovered his forte specializing in stainless steel equipment for the food industry.
Today, 75 years later and continuing Carl’s legacy, Millerbernd Design and Fabrication (MDF) prospers with nearly three million pounds of steel passing through its doors annually.
Having the most elite laser equipment in the industry, and drawing on the knowledge of its experienced staff of engineers, it is an industry leader known worldwide.
“People come to us with a problem and we design and engineer solutions,” Millerbernd Lighting Division Manager Larry Biske said during a recent interview. “We are kind of the custom problem solver. Our name is well known for quality product and custom service.”
The Winsted business, located just west of the water tower, appears to be modest in size to those driving by, but its looks are deceiving. It is impossible to see the entire size of the business from any one direction.
The facility is a total of 82,000 square feet. A new expansion, to be completed by late September or early October, will increase the size of the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility to 94,000 square feet.
The addition of 12,000 square feet of manufacturing space will allow more room for “the strong activity in the process systems market,” MDF President Brad Millerbernd said.
“It will improve the work-flow throughout the plant and provide a permanent segregation of stainless steel from other metals,” Brad said.
There are currently 85 employees working under three main divisions within MDF.
The newest division is Millerbernd Lighting, which began in late 2005.
Although the lighting division has a group of standard, stainless steel light fixtures available, the biggest part of its business is making custom lighting.
“More and more lighting companies are building repetitious things. We want to be in the segment of business that wants something unique not what thousands of other people have,” Biske said.
The lighting division works with fluorescent, metal halide (used in street lighting), and LED (light emitting diode) lighting, which is becoming very popular, according to Biske.
The lighting division has been successful.
“Because MDF is so diversified and knows how to do custom products so well, it was an ideal fit,” Biske said.
Another division within Millerbernd that has become very profitable is Millerbernd Laser.
Laser cutting has been in operation for about 10 years and Millerbernd Laser specializes in the custom cutting of thick plate mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, and brass.
“We were the first one in the state to have the 6,000-watt laser. Not many places can cut metal as thick as we can here,” Senior Vice President Farid Currimbhoy said.
The 6,000-watt laser was just purchased a year and a half ago. In addition, the laser beds at MDF are 20 feet long, which are the longest in the area. The 20-foot bed allows the laser to cut steel eight feet wide and 20 feet long.
“There are probably no more than three or four lasers in the whole state with 20-foot beds,” Currimbhoy said.
Millerbernd has three lasers a 4,000-watt, 5,000-watt, and a 6,000-watt.
With the output capacity of up to 6,000 watts, Millerbernd Laser has the capability of cutting stainless steel and other materials up to 1.5 inches thick.
Much of the laser cutting done is single parts for outside companies. One project currently being worked is for the wind power industry.
All parts go through quality product inspection to prove they are manufactured to specifications. Once a production plan is set up, the first five of each part manufactured is measured to ensure accuracy.
Parts and equipment manufactured at Millerbernd also have machining and fabrication services available, with cutting-edge technology.
“Machining over the years is becoming more and more automated,” Cameron Rucks, MDF Controller said.
Robotics is one way to cut customer costs by saving operator time.
Programming a robot to perform a welding task allows the operator time for setup, and removal of the finished part.
A glass bead blasting booth for stainless steel to remove weld discoloration saves time on grinding and polishing food processing equipment and light fixtures.
Equipment goes in raw, and high velocity air blasts glass beads onto the stainless steel, cleaning it up and giving it a uniform finish.
Millerbernd Process Systems is the third division and the oldest at Millerbernd.
It supplies stainless steel processing equipment and systems for the food and dairy industry, primarily cheese plants.
The process systems division works with its customers to improve productivity and reduce manufacturing costs. It also is committed to resolve complex production and installation challenges.
Millerbernd Process Systems is the leading manufacturer of 640-pound block and 500-pound barrel cheese processing systems.
The process system division has supplied its products all over the world including China, according to MDF Vice President of Process Systems Paul Herbolsheimer.
During the week of June 15, the department was installing a cheese processing system in Colombia, South America, and will soon install a system in Ontario.
All of its food processing equipment is inspected by the USDA, which enforces the guidelines for food product safety.
New Winsted entry signs donated by Millerbernd
Everyone will have the opportunity to see a visual of work Millerbernd Design and Fabrication has done when Winsted gets its new city entry signs.
Millerbernd is donating the material, design, and labor to make the signs.
“The city came to us with a shape and we pretty much took that and said, ‘with the equipment we have, we could make it like this,’” Biske said.
The stainless steel signs with LED lighting will be ready to be installed in August.