For 25 years, Ronnie Ehle of Brunner Manufacturing in Mauston has not missed a minute of work.
Ehle started at Brunner in 1989 as a die builder, but his streak of perfect attendance began in 1995. Since that time he has never showed up a minute late or clocked out a minute early, had an unauthorized missed day of work or had an error on his time card. Over the years he has received trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Alaska from the company for his streak, and this year he received a cash prize.
Brunner Manufacturing has locations in Mauston and Elroy, and makes cold form specials, threaded fasteners, near net forged shapes, special bolts and other products.
Ronald Brunner, Chief Executive Officer at Brunner, said the program got its start about 60 years ago.
“This was the early 60s… this girl came to me and said look at these time cards, it’s perfect,” Brunner said. “So at the company Christmas party I called them up and gave them a $100 savings bond and patted them on the back. Next year, four guys.”
Although the program began in the 60s, Ehle is the first employee to make the 20 and 25-year marks.
“We’ve had people lose it because they punched the wrong time card, we’ve had people lose it because they forgot to punch their time card,” Brunner said.
Ehle has had several close calls where he almost lost the streak, including when a power outage turned off his alarm clock and when he had to drive around flooded roads.
“One time he drove to work with no tire, the last 10 miles he drove to work just on his rim,” said Paul Arbanas, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “I think I have a good work ethic, I’m willing to work hard, but I couldn’t do what you guys do.”
Although Ehle recognizes that luck has played some part in his streak, he also said that his perfect attendance is a result of hard work and taking pride in his job and company.
“I do try to do the best job I can (and) getting to work, staying the whole day and not leaving is probably the building block that starts it all,” Ehle said. “When my folks were still alive I’d tell them, ‘Well another year of perfect attendance,’ and they’d look at me, because I was the kid that couldn’t get out of bed and go to school, and say ‘Yeah, sure you did, that’s nice.’”
Although Ehle has the longest active streak among employees, several other Brunner employees have streaks starting. Thirteen employees have one year streaks, two employees have two-year streaks, and one employee has a four-year streak.
“People say you’re forcing them to work, but no, we have a sick day program, a cancer program, you can miss work, we’re not forcing you to do this stuff,” Brunner said. “We’re just saying if you’re lucky enough to make this, we’re going to reward the hell out of you.”
Although there are cash incentives every year, the milestone years of five, 10 and 20 reward trips to Las Vegas, Hawaii and Alaska, respectively. The incentives might have played a part in some of the unorthodox anecdotes Brunner shared about the employees who have taken extra efforts to ensure they do not miss out on the program.
“We had a guy here in Mauston who hit a stop sign, knocked a stop sign down on (Highway) 58/82,” Brunner said. “He’s standing out there with the police officer and he has his hand out, the police officer is reading his driver’s license, writing it down, and he grabs the license out of the officer’s hand, says ‘See me at work,’ jumps in his car and took off.”
A similar event took place a few years later. Brunner recalled when a police officer was writing a ticket for speeding and the passenger, an employee at Brunner, ended up jumping out of the car and took off running. The officer later told Brunner he was going to stop the passenger, but saw him running toward the factory so he let him go.
Brunner credits people like Ehle with the success of the company.
“I’ve surrounded myself with a bunch of… good people,” Brunner said. “They’re the ones that have made it successful.”
Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.