Belgium firm thrives on the cutting edge

Sharon-Cutwell president sees up-tick in production of high-tech manufacturing tools

A NEW BATCH of drill bits manufactured at Sharon-Cutwell Co. in Belgium were examined by company president Jeff Prom (right), his mother Marilyn Prom and vice president Willie Perez. Mrs. Prom used to be the firm’s bookkeeper and continues to help out in the business. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

After doubling the size of his operations last year, Sharon-Cutwell Co. president Jeff Prom said the Belgium business has been picking up, and he’s been hiring employees and buying more equipment.

“It’s a brand new building on the inside, and we’ve become much more efficient with our operations, which has allowed us to grow our business,” he said.

The company manufactures cutting equipment such as specialized drill bits for major aerospace and automotive manufacturers that include Boeing, Ford and General Motors.

“We make drill bits,” Prom said. “There are tens of thousands of parts on an airplane, and most of those parts have holes drilled in them in order to fasten them together.

“The holes are very tight-tolerant and very specific.”

Since its expansion, the company’s footprint has grown to 22,000 square feet and it has added about 10 new employees to total approximately 30 people on staff.

The business has come a long way since Prom’s father Gerald bought the company in 1970. Gerald previously ran a machine shop in Grafton — Schwengel Manufacturing — which would outsource Sharon-Cutwell to sharpen his tools.

“My father got to know them when Sharon-Cutwell was his supplier,” Prom said. “He always told the original owner Ed Strady, ‘If you ever want to sell it, give me a call.’”

At the time, there was only one other employee with the sharpening company, which was based in Milwaukee. After a couple of expansions, the company relocated to Belgium at 2192 Hwy. D, where Allen Edmonds previously had a shoetree factory.

Over the years, the company gradually grew from sharpening to manufacturing tools. In the mid-1990s, it began purchasing computerized numerical control equipment for its tool and cutter-grinder machines.

“We evolved eventually to specialty-designed tools,” Prom said.

Sharon-Cutwell developed a patent for the geometry of its drill bits and subcontracts with a company in Germany for the diamond-coating process.  

“The company we partner with has the best diamond-coating process in the world,” Prom said. “With our geometry and their coating, we’re able to deliver a top product.”

Prom said the majority of business comes from Boeing and other aerospace engineering firms.

“They’ve expanded about 40% of their business with us last year and we have to keep up with them,” he said. “We also are growing with our other businesses.”

Since its expansion last year, the business has been buying more CNC machines, and Prom is focused on making the operations more automated.

“We’re trying to become as automated as possible,” he said. “It allows us to run the machines on their own. Our operators are essentially on call to run the machines and can check on them from their phones.”

Prom operates the business with his brother-in-law Willie Perez, who is vice president. Prom’s 83-year-old mother Marilyn used to be the company’s bookkeeper and still helps out with the company.

Prom said running a family business is essential for making the employees feel welcome at work, which includes providing incentives to a second-shift crew that include a four-day week and an extra week of vacation.

“We run our business like a family as well,” Prom said. “As we grow we want to keep it a family-friendly company. It’s a family in and of itself.”

Prom said that when he was growing up, he never thought he would take over his father’s company. But going to work for Boeing after college he realized the importance of owning a small business.

“Having grown up in a small family business helped me understand that was what I was programmed to do,” he said.

“With being a small business, you have to work hard and realize the fruit of your labors are very meaningful.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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