Small-town values drive big time success at Pointe Precision

Growing up in a small town in­stills stuff that you always take with you. People from all over Wisconsin attest to this fact. Hard work, self-reliance, commitment to family and friends, and paying attention to the little things set such communities apart.

Throw a dart at a map of Wis­consin and pretty much anywhere you hit, you’ll strike micropolitan paydirt. And if you’re aiming to put that dart in the center, you’ll be pretty close to the city of Stevens Point and the nearby village of Plover.

Connected by Interstate 39 and the Wisconsin River, the two communities (consider the former “big” with a population of 26,000, the “suburban” latter at roughly half that) are joined at the hip, its citizens proud and fortunate to be in an area where caring for your neighbor is seen not as an obligation but a privilege.

It’s here you’ll find Pointe Preci­sion, a company with a mission to make the best component parts in the world. How they get this done is rooted firmly in the belief that Pointe is more than a business.

It’s family.

Pandemics suck. For lots of reasons.

In 2020, Pointe Precision’s 25th anniversary celebration was postponed. The CNC machine shop specializing in pre­cision solutions to top manufacturing companies couldn’t hold a gathering for 130+ employees and their families.
COVID challenges affected the business in other ways as well.

As a prime supplier of precision components to the aerospace industry, Pointe Precision felt the slowdown in production and demand as passengers stopped traveling, customers deferred delivery of new aircraft, and the need for spare parts lessened.

Found in the fuel control and delivery systems on aircraft engines, these “life critical” parts — so called because if they fail, people are put at risk — have been a primary focus at Pointe since 1995.

Actually, even before there was a Pointe Precision.

“My dad was the general manager at a large aerospace manufacturing facility in Stevens Point,” said Joe Kinsel­la, Jr. “They were closing the facility and looking to move their headquarters, so dad and two other gentlemen started Pointe Precision.”

The elder Kinsella saw it as an opportunity to start some­thing new. More importantly, he knew it was a way to keep local talent in the community. Pointe began with 94 employ­ees in a leased building in Stevens Point, manufacturing high tolerance components for aerospace and industrial markets.

Joe Jr, along with his brother Dan — both Executive Vice Presidents — are the new generation of leadership at Pointe, but they remain true to their father’s vision in starting the company.

“Dad’s goal in 1995 wasn’t to make money. It was to save jobs.”

Joe Kinsella, Jr. , Executive VP

To accommodate growth, Pointe moved in 2004 to a 60,000 square foot facility in Plover. A decade later it added 25,000 square feet. The expansion was spurred by Pointe investing in equipment that would allow it to better serve a diversity of industry, including aerospace, medical and rec­reational markets.

And better serving their customers always includes keep­ing the talent it has.

Pointe Precision’s President Bret Kastein loves to talk shop.

“We get into more detail than perhaps is necessary,” said Kastein, “but that’s the pride coming out.”

But Kastein never insists on doing all the talking; he’s very willing to let employees on the shop floor do the talking for him. He considers them Pointe’s very best ambassadors.

“We bring customers in all the time and make everyone here available,” said Kastein. “If you have a question, just go ask someone.”

Clearly, Pointe leadership has created — and strives to perpetuate — a culture of camaraderie, buttressed by the shared passion and dedication of the people who work there.

One of Pointe’s strategic initiatives is to maintain employ­ee engagement at the highest possible levels, a bar set orig­inally by the founder. Providing opportunities for their talent­ed and motivated workforce, said Kastein, is a core value that will remain as long as there is a Pointe Precision.

“That’s what the company is all about,” said Kastein.

Employees appreciate that kind of commitment and respond in kind.
Tom Rowe is a perfect example. Only seven weeks out from his second hip replacement, the manufacturing engi­neer was supposed to be working half days, remotely. But there he was onsite, walking the shop floor.

“I’m feeling good and decided to work a little longer today,” said Rowe, an original employee who was with Kinsella, Sr. at the company’s founding in 1995. “Pointe Precision is a very good company to work for.”

That feeling is commonly expressed by members of the Pointe Precision family, and it extends to the community as well. You’d be hard pressed to find a group more motivated and dedicated when it comes to volunteering.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Plover and Stevens Point supporting us,” said Kinsella, Jr. “That’s why we give back, because they are why we are here.”

Away from the din of precision milling, drilling, turning, and grinding that’s at the heart of a full-service CNC machine shop sits Jackie Ritchay (minus the obligatory ear plugs), Director of Human Resources at Pointe.

In a typical year, Pointe Precision runs over 2,000 different components through its Plover, Wis. facility with quantities ranging from 1 piece all the way to 50,000 pieces.

While state-of-the-art technology and precision machining techniques allow Pointe to produce critical components of the highest quality and value, it’s Ritchay’s efforts that ensure that Pointe retains their talent.

And when it comes to taking care of employees, Ritchay immediately identified one of the biggest challenges for Pointe and other companies in the region: health care expense.

For a time, she said, Pointe was happy with their fully insured plan, the benefits it offered and the premiums they paid. Once employees started using the plan, however, Pointe saw steady increases in their premiums. To address the issue, Pointe went to a self-funded plan in 2020.

“If we had stayed with the fully insured model we would have seen a 30 percent increase in our premiums.”

JAckie Ritchay, Director of Human Resources

Self-funding has allowed Pointe more control and the ability to pick and choose what is needed from their plan.

“From a health care standpoint, going self-funded has been a very good thing for us,” said Ritchay.

Another opportunity for savings highlighted by Ritchay was Pointe’s adoption of the NOVO Health Bundled Pay­ment Program for Health Care Services to provide greater control of costs as well as outcomes.

NOVO Health’s flagship program bundles common procedures and offers them to employers as part of Pointe’s benefits package, a cost-saving option that augments traditional health care offerings. More than 100 procedures are bundled — many in the high-cost areas of orthopedics and spine — with a set of services presented in a single, under­standable bill.

According to Rowe, NOVO Health “came in and made their spiel” to Pointe employees about potential savings to the company and a much better experience for patients.

For Rowe, the proof would have to be in the pudding. He was to be the first Pointe employee to utilize the NOVO Health bundled option.

Rowe had been dealing with hip pain for several years and did what a lot of sufferers do: he just pushed through the pain. It progressed slowly, flar­ing up when he walked a lot, then receding until he wouldn’t be bothered for a week. His first action was to get x-rays; Rowe was told his hip joint had “a lot of life left in it,” and a steroid shot was the recommendation.

That was in January 2020. Rowe was pain-free for all of two days.

Gradually the pain came back. Two months later the pain was horrific.

No one would see Rowe, because no one was open. The pandemic closed the facilities Rowe needed to get into to find relief. Rowe remembered NOVO Health’s presentation at Pointe and decided he would give them an opportunity when things re-opened.

In June, Rowe got into see a NOVO Health provider to get a second opinion. The orthopedic surgeon took x-rays and shared what he saw: the joint was shot, bone on bone. Hip replacement was in Rowe’s very near future.

Rowe liked his surgeon and embraced the an­terior hip approach the surgeon would use for the replacement. And there was another influencer that resonated with the engineer: the surgeon utilized a robot in the procedure.

“I know about robots because that’s my work environment,” said Rowe. “That really intrigued me. After he explained how the surgical robot was used, that was it for me.”

Five weeks after his August surgery, Rowe was literally pain-free, but when he returned for his four-month follow up appointment, he admitted there was some pain — in his other hip. X-rays revealed similar cartilage damage there.

Whether at work or at home — or dishing out his award-winning sloppy joes — Tom Rowe
is back to living his life without pain.

“I was not going to go through years of agony again,” Rowe said.
A month and a half later, Rowe would have his second new hip in a year.
The money saved using the bundled program (compared to more expensive hospital sites) encourages many companies, like Pointe Precision, to share a portion of their health care savings when an employee chooses to use a NOVO Health provider.

Rowe received $2,000 per hip from Pointe for making that choice. His journey as a patient, however, made an even greater difference.

“If I had been on the fence with my first hip, the incentive might have pushed me in that direction. With my second hip, I would have gone with NOVO Health whether Pointe Precision offered an incentive or not. It was that good of an experience.”

Tom Rowe, Manufacturing Engineer

Ritchay gives credit to Pointe’s broker for introducing them to NOVO Health, a company who has not raised the price of any bundled surgical procedures during a time when double-digit increases are routinely seen in health care costs.

“With each meeting with our broker (Cottingham & Butler), we’re looking at solutions to implement to reduce costs,” said Ritchay. “We’ve been self-funded for only a year, and we’re still learning what’s available to help our employees.”

She mentions an HRA that’s fully funded by Pointe that helps reduce employee out-of-pocket expenses, agree­ments with a network provider for near-site benefits to bring down co-pays and lab costs, and other steps being taken so employees can spend hard earned money on things they want to spend it on while still being able to get the health care they need.

Regarding the NOVO Health program, Ritchay admits Pointe hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to use the bundled program, yet Tom Rowe’s experience is a promising example: with his two hip surgeries and a carpal tunnel pro­cedure done through NOVO Health, the cost to Pointe was $60,000.
The typical cost for all three is $95,350.

Joe Kinsella, Jr. is excited for Pointe Precision’s future. The signs of coming out of the pandemic, he said, are all around, and he and his brother vow to be true to their father’s vision while endeavoring to take things a step further, to continue to grow the business and meet new challenges as they arise.

“With COVID affecting two of our primary markets — aerospace and medical — we had to adapt on the fly,” said Kinsella. “For us to survive, we had to tap into other markets, like recreation, and these successes give us confidence to do things better, faster and smarter for our customers.”
No doubt Pointe employees will continue to do their part. Kinsella recognized that.

“We have great employees, and we will keep investing in them, just as we will with the newest technology and equipment,” said Kinsella. “I really think the sky’s the limit.”

That positive attitude is also an integral — perhaps component is a better word here — part of the small-town ethos, and nowhere is it exhibited more genuinely than in Plover, Wis., at Pointe Precision.

It’s a place confident that whatever needs doing, it’s going to get done. Little hype, less fanfare. Not a hint of swagger.

Well, maybe a bit. Call it family pride.

Scott Hutchinson

Scott Hutchinson

Scott Hutchinson is a writer and content creator for NOVO Health.

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