Wilson Tool Celebrates 50 Years of Worldwide Tooling Solutions

Basement shop grows from nine to 800 employees with operations around the world


WHITE BEAR LAKE, MINN. (May 18, 2016) – Wilson Tool International (www.wilsontool.com), the largest independent manufacturer of tooling systems for punch presses, press brakes, and punch and die components for the stamping industry, will celebrate 50 years in business on June 2 this year.

When Ken and Ruth Wilson opened The Wilson Tool Company in a basement shop in St. Paul, Minn., they never would have imagined that fifty years later, Wilson Tool would become an international leader in tooling solutions for fabricators and manufacturers around the world. “Starting your own business was just what people did back then,” Ken recalled.

Ken Wilson received his first patent in 1969 and decades of growth and expansion followed. The basement shop moved to White Bear Lake, Minn. and now houses 350,000 square feet of manufacturing space, an R&D division, business offices, an international sales desk and the Well at Work employee wellness center.

Through numerous acquisitions and expansions, Wilson Tool grew to include offices or plants in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, England, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and China. Innovation naturally came in tandem with business expansion. From the first computer grinder patented before the company experienced significant growth, Wilson Tool went on to receive patents for the first “shimless” punch assembly; the first punch press tooling with interchangeable punch tips; forming tools that rolled on, rather than penetrated the sheet; and many, many others. To date, the company has been granted 56 patents.

Wilson Tool’s growth allowed the company to become a leader in industry progress, including lean manufacturing processes and application training. Emerging as a thought leader in the industry, lean seminars, webinars, training opportunities, and industry forums gave Wilson Tool the opportunity to connect in meaningful ways with customers.

Dedicated to delivering “exceptional customer service, along with the most reliable and innovative products and solutions so our customers can be more successful,” Ken and Ruth Wilson maintain that customer relationships and the company’s employees are essential elements to Wilson Tool’s success.

“Although we ultimately owe our success to our customers, we could not have become the world’s largest independent tooling manufacturer without the commitment of dedicated Wilson Tool employees,” Ken Wilson wrote when celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary. “I am very proud of the fact that Wilson Tool is a family-oriented company. Each individual is a member of the ‘family’ and deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect afforded our customers.”

All office locations and manufacturing centers of Wilson Tool’s global operations will be in full celebration on June 2 – 3. Ken and Ruth will speak at Wilson Tool’s international headquarters in White Bear Lake, Minn., and a video of their address will play at all international locations. Second and third generation members of the Wilson family – many of whom work for the company – will be in attendance at different locations throughout the world.

Part of the celebration will include the debut of a Living History Center (LHC) at Wilson Tool’s headquarters in White Bear Lake. Dubbed “living history” because the permanent small museum will feature past and present innovations produced by Wilson Tool with additional museum space dedicated to showcasing future company innovations as they become available to the market. Items on display in the LHC include Ken Wilson’s first patent for his “locking vise with true and square jaws,” vintage product catalogs, original punches and dies, retro photographs from the basement shop, and more artifacts, which will guide visitors through the past to Wilson Tool’s present-day innovation.

The LHC will also feature the progression of the Wilson Golf Group, a sub-entity of Wilson Tool Enterprises that owns and operates nine golf courses across the country. Founded in 1985, the venture employs over 400 people at courses in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Ken Wilson designed several golf courses, the drawings of which are on display in the LHC.

Governor Mark Dayton of the State of Minnesota has issued a proclamation that June 2 will now be known as “Wilson Tool International Day” in Minnesota, honoring the contributions of Wilson Tool to the people of Minnesota. 

The media is invited to visit Wilson Tool’s headquarters in White Bear Lake on June 2 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. to tour the LHC and visit with long-time company employees and members of the Wilson family.

May 18, 2016