BENSENVILLE, IL - Although Eric Treiber joined Chicago White Metal Casting, Inc. (CWM) in 1990, and was appointed President/CEO in 2010, he fondly remembers visiting the company with his father when he and his sister Kim were only five and seven years old respectively.
"When my sister and I were children, my father would take us to CWM on Saturday mornings, probably to give our mother a break," Treiber said. "We'd play in his office while he worked, and then he would take us by the hands and walk us through the manufacturing areas."
In high school, Treiber worked at the family business during summer vacations, mostly in the shipping department, but also doing a considerable amount of heavy duty cleaning. That time at CWM gave him the opportunity to meet great people, he says, some of whom are still on CWM's team today.
"Our vice president of manufacturing started when he was 16 years old, and he's been working here 46 years," Treiber said.
After high school, Treiber went to college at the University of Illinois at Champaign, and after graduating in 1985, headed to the East Coast for a job in manufacturing, but ended up starting a restaurant on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.
"We were quite successful, and it was a very exciting time. I'm so happy we had that experience," Treiber said. But from time to time his father would send him interesting newspaper clippings and magazine articles about manufacturing. "In his way, he was subtly trying to see if I was interested in returning to Chicago and working in the family business."
Four and a half years later, Treiber, his wife and two children moved back to the Chicago area, and he started to work with his father and a dedicated team, moving the business into the third Treiber generation.
Eric's grandfather, Walter G. Treiber, was born in Germany and came to America in 1920. He was a metal craftsman, making casting molds and then eventually brass and bronze castings. The elder Treiber specialized in doorknocker pieces in those early years, before he began making die castings.
In 1937, Eric's grandmother financed her husband's $500 purchase of a Madison-Kipp die-casting machine (below), which remains today in the main lobby entrance of CWM. In the 1950s, the company expanded their facility on Chicago's northwest side, and Eric's father, Walter Treiber Jr, joined the company in 1959. He continues today as CWM's chairman.
CWM began producing magnesium castings in 1978. Today, with an array of die castings available to its customers in aluminum, magnesium and zinc alloys, CWM employs over 300 associates.
"Our customer base and our market base are both highly diversified, and we've planned it that way to keep the business growing," Treiber said.
"Before the surge in the automotive market in the past few years, there were tough times for many U.S. die casting companies. Some in the industry saw their revenues decrease by up to 70% at the lowest points around 2009. While CWM does serve the automotive market, it's a relatively small portion of our market portfolio overall. Our revenues fell only 15% in 2009, which was not the norm in the die casting industry for that time."
CWM supplies die cast solutions to many industries, including medical, dental, digital projection, 3D printing, data scanning and consumer recreational, just to name a few.
"The culture that we've created at Chicago White Metal is at the core of everything we do. And at the top of the list is the positive attitude the CWM team brings every day and the tremendous respect shown for customers, suppliers and all employees."
"Failing to live up to commitments is not acceptable," Treiber said. "A team that consistently does what they've promised will have a high degree of success in the long run."
As with other manufacturers, Treiber says health care costs are an impacting issue, as are worker's compensation insurance and labor costs. The company has reinvented itself, as castings they produced years ago such as housings for laptops and cell phones went overseas. Today you might find them producing frames that go into a state of the art 3D printer, housings that are used in a very high end digital projection system, or castings you would find in a dentist's office.
"There are at least a couple dozen die castings in most dentist's offices and chances are we manufactured many of them," he said.
Heading a sizable family-owned business like Chicago White Metal is a challenge, but it's also rewarding for Treiber.
"Once a motivational speaker challenged me to ask myself, 'Why do I do what I do?' You'd think it would be a really easy question, but I had to really dig deep to get to the true core," Treiber said.
Then he asked the CWM management team their reasons why they do what they do. Treiber says he was pleased when the team's answers lined up with his - even before he shared his thoughts with them.
"In the end, my reason was to further the growth, development and education in others' lives," he said. "And that echoed what the CWM team also stated."
Treiber says he hopes Chicago White Metal Casting will move into a fourth generation, but he's not pressuring either of his young adult children to get in.
"I didn't start here until I was 27. They've got lots of time to decide what they want to do. We've got a great team here, and I think we'll continue to be successful for years to come."