Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, Madison WI

IEM has successfully delivered thousands of high performance automation systems since 1980. They provide innovative solutions for process automation, helping customers automate functions not served by existing manufacturing equipment. IEM has substantial experience in custom assembly, system integration, material handling, web handling, and a variety of custom processes.

With decades of project experience, they have provided solutions for many different industries, including automotive, consumer products, medical, industrial, and solar.

Worker-Owned Cooperative – A different kind of company.

Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing, founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1980, is a prime example of a worker cooperative. In 28 years as a coop, the organization has grown to become a well-known and highly-regarded provider of automated machinery. The pride in ownership of each of their members has been a major contributor to their success.

Their worker cooperative serves the manufacturing sector of the economy. They design and build automated equipment used to make everything from potato chips and toothbrushes, to automobiles.

They are an organization of 48 people that has recently built a new 68,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Madison, Wisconsin. Their membership includes engineers, electricians, machinists, mechanics, and administrative personnel.

Isthmus Engineering is proof that cooperative businesses have much to offer both their workers and customers.

Cooperative structure

The company was formed in 1980 and morphed into a worker-owned shop three years later. Ownership has since expanded to 28 “directors” who share democratic control, and this has helped company ride out the recession, said John Kessler, an engineer and one of four co-founders.

Isthmus laid off two paid-by-the-hour workers in 2009, but it still employs 20 non-owner assembly workers, he said. The directors have avoided further layoffs by agreeing to accept a lighter profit, and by juggling schedules between the machining, assembly and engineering departments.

“As a worker-owned company, we can make the decisions to take work at a lesser margin in order to keep people,” said Kessler. “We have reshuffled duties to keep the work that we do have from going out the door, while also spreading out the pain as much as possible.”

Did you know?

The solar panels mounted on Isthmus’ building generated 18,000 kilowatt-hours of power in their first year of operation.

Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing

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