April 27, 2016—Waupaca Foundry, a Hitachi Metals company, announces that its COO and President, Mike Nikolai will be appointed to Chief Executive Officer effective July 1, 2016. Longtime CEO Gary Gigante, announces his retirement effective the end of the company’s first quarter 2016. Also announcing his retirement, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Kris Pfaehler who will be succeeded by Executive Vice President John Wiesbrock.
Gigante started at Waupaca Foundry in 1981 as a metallurgist. He held positions as plant manager, vice president of manufacturing, President/COO and accepted the position of CEO in 2007. He also serves on the board of directors for Hitachi Metals Foundry America. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is a life-long Badgers fan.
During his leadership, he introduced ductile iron production to the company with its Marinette, Wisconsin foundry, led the company through two ownership changes, and flexed production and staffing to meet the challenges of the Great Recession. In the industry, he serves on the board of the American Foundry Society through 2017, he was on the board of directors for the Foundry Educational Foundation, and was a member of the board of directors for the Ductile Iron Society. In his home state of Wisconsin, he was elected to and serves consecutive terms on the board of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Association.
“Our company was founded by entrepreneurs who fostered a culture of innovation,” said Gigante. “I have had the pleasure of working with the best and most inventive foundry people in the business and I learned from all of them.” Gigante said the company is in good hands as parent, Hitachi Metals’ core business is in metalcasting, has a culture that matches Waupaca Foundry, and is committed to growing the foundry globally. “Our bench strength is extremely strong,” he said. “All of our leaders have hands-on experience serving our customers and our employees.”
Stepping into the CEO role is Mike Nikolai who started at Waupaca Foundry in 1993 as a metallurgist at the company’s gray iron foundries in Waupaca, Wis. He held progressively responsible positions as production manager, assistant plant manager in Tell City, Ind., plant manager in Etowah, Tenn., and vice president of operations. He was appointed president and COO on April 1, 2015. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and holds a masters degree in metallurgical engineering as well as an M.B.A. from the University of Louisville.
“I am humbled to follow in the steps of my predecessors,” Nikloai said, “but I am excited by the opportunities ahead following the merger with HMAC and our plans to increase revenue and profitability. Together, we will be able to offer our customers unprecedented access to metals technology and casting innovation.”
Pfaehler began his career at Waupaca Foundry in 2007 after holding executive sales and business development positions in the automotive industry. Wiesbrock joined Waupaca Foundry in 2002 and has held positions in sales, operations, and supply chain management. He has more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, fourteen of those with Waupaca Foundry. Wiesbrock will assume responsibility for sales and marketing in addition to supply chain management.