Palmer Hamilton: Overcoming Workforce Challenges and Doubling Growth Through Strategic Partnerships


Palmer Hamilton, established in 1880, began its journey into education furniture in 1965. Since then, it has grown into a company that offers comprehensive services, creating innovative designs and furnishing solutions for various markets like K-12, higher education, commercial sectors, libraries, fab labs, and makerspaces. Based in Elkhorn, WI, with over 200 employees, the company operates through an extensive network of dealers, agents, and contracts at local, state, regional, and national levels. Notably, they were recognized among the fastest-growing privately held businesses in southeastern Wisconsin in the 2023 BizTimes Media Future 50 list.


Challenges arose when Palmer Hamilton faced difficulties in hiring employees, having 34 open positions, a 4.5-month sales backlog, and grappling with supply chain issues, leading to a stagnant business. 


To tackle these hurdles, Palmer Hamilton enlisted the help of WMEP Manufacturing Solutions. Together, they devised a new strategy for recruitment and employee retention. WMEP conducted a TPI (Transformational Productivity) assessment, identifying key projects such as Strategy Execution and the development of KPIs across various business areas. They also initiated a program called “Winning the War for Talent,” leveraging existing employees to attract new talent, overcoming their workforce challenges.  Addressing the supply chain issues, WMEP performed a Value Stream Mapping in the shop to enhance output and plan for the company’s new CNC tube bender, enabling them to manufacture critical parts in-house.


  • Close to fully staffed, adding 70 positions.
  • Reduced turnover by 50%.
  • Successfuly retained 15 employees.
  • Doubled revenue.
  • Invested $2.5 M in new both new processes and equipment.

Palmer Hamilton has been very nimble in adapting to the challenges over the past few years, many of which continue today. From a supply chain point of view, well over 90% of what Palmer Hamilton purchases is made in America, which has helped. However, Palmer Hamilton has invested in manufacturing capabilities to insource some critical parts to control more of the items used in manufacturing. Palmer Hamilton heavily invested in employee recruiting and retention, especially for skilled labor. The 18-month effort has paid off in significant ways. Our turnover rate is about half what it was in 2021, and we are very close to being fully staffed for the first time since 2020.

John Gardner, President/CEO Palmer Hamilton