HM Manufacturing’s founder celebrated his 80th birthday this week. Ken Wolter started the business in 1979 out of the basement of his parents’ home, granting the company its name of HM (Home Made) Manufacturing. His passion for manufacturing stemmed from his interest in Formula 1.
Prior to 1979, he worked as the assistant chief engineer for a stamping company where he managed over 700 employees. In his free time on the weekends, Ken pursued Formula 1 racing, going all over the country to race and tinker with the gearbox in his car. While getting more and more familiar with the cars
engineering and design aspects, Ken noticed a need for certain automotive parts to become more efficient. With a background in mechanical engineering, Ken was able to reconfigure these parts while creating pieces of his own to significantly improve the efficiency of the vehicle. Ken began traveling to
different races where interest in his custom parts continued to grow. As more and more people inquired about his parts, he started to manufacture them out of his basement and sell them on the road.
What began as a business in the automotive industry evolved into other power transmission components. As demand continued to increase for his custom gears, Ken opened the original 2,500 sqft shop in Schaumburg, IL. The business mainly serviced the automotive and printing industries. In the past
44 years, HM’s capabilities have expanded to service a wider range of industries while still serving the original industry that fueled the business. The company now operates out of a 15,000 sqft facility in Wauconda, IL and offers custom transmission components, along with engineering services.
I was able to sit down with Ken today to talk to him about his biggest milestones throughout the history of the company and what he is most proud of. He shared with me that his continuous milestone,
that also happens to be what he is most proud of, is the constant innovation that is prioritized at HM. Ken also added that he always stays on the cutting-edge of innovation when it comes to machines as
well. The company was again one of the first to introduce CNC lathes to their facility. Ken is very proud of the business that he built and all the people here. He was kind enough to share with me a variety of the
different approaches that continue to set HM apart and overall, be successful.
In honor of his birthday, a few of the HM team members had some words to say about Ken. Our production manager, Adam, when asked about Ken said that he was “one of the most intelligent
individuals I’ve ever worked with. He’s someone with knowledge about everything and there’s nothing
he doesn’t know.” Linda, who works in our customer service department, also shared that “as a newer member of the team, I’ve found that working with Ken has taught me more about manufacturing than
I’ve ever thought to know. I love that you can count on him to help with any issue that arises. He’s a hands-on type of person who always has time to answer your questions.” Not to mention, “he’s dedicated and truly cares about his employees,” says John, another HM team member who is the lead in
the lathe department. Our team members are proud to be a part of an organization that was created by someone who
is a role model to all. We are grateful to be able to celebrate Ken’s birthday with him and continue to help grow his vision even more. Happy birthday, Ken!