It is with a loving and heavy heart, we share the news of our founder, Raymond C. Wenk Sr.’s passing on Saturday, April 27.
Wenk was the founder of MATRIX 4 and ran the company for 38 years before his granddaughter, Patricia Miller transitioned from a career in Pharma/Biotech to become CEO+Visionary of MATRIX 4 in 2014.
“He was a tool and die maker with an entrepreneurial spirit and a stubborn sense about him; a self-made man who achieved success but never forgot where he came from. To my family, he was the patriarch; generous, loving, challenging, funny. A sounding board and avid supporter but held the highest standard and always reminded me to keep my eye on the prize and that he loved me, keep going,” Miller shared.
The MATRIX 4 Legacy
Raymond C. Wenk Sr., a tool and die maker, saw an entrepreneurial opportunity and founded MATRIX 4 in 1976, alongside his wife, Patricia Wenk, and their four children. Wenk included the Roman numeral “IV” in the company name to represent his capabilities in engineering, tooling, designing and manufacturing as well as honoring the fact he had four children. Wenk’s daughter, Dianna later ran the factory floor as a processor and Wenk’s son, Raymond, later led maintenance. Several other family members have worked at MATRIX 4 in various capacities over the years.
Wenk invented the plastic hose clamp and patented the automotive technology in the late 1970s. Tools were built and as a molder, MATRIX 4, manufactured the glass-filled nylon parts for General Motors Corp. and other automotive companies. Production of MATRIX 4 clamps continues.
The business succeeded in making products for automotive and consumer products, but Wenk sequentially experienced the downside of allowing a single customer to account for a large percent of his business at any one time. In the 1980s, it was the buyout of an automotive customer. In the 1990s, a consumer customer went bankrupt. And in the 2000s, a maker of consumer coffee pots and blenders took the work offshore.
Volume at two points required Wenk to add capacity. He acquired an 80,000-square-foot building with a rail siding in Huntley, Ill., about 11 miles south of Woodstock and previously a building in Tacoa, Georgia.
Because Wenk never forgot where he came from, he was willing to lend a hand to employees and within his community including down payments for homes and cars, medical expenses and other life cares, while also supporting his own family which included taking care of his mother-in-law and mother as they aged, raising two grandchildren like his own, and supporting grandchildren as they pursued their interests in life.
A New Era of Making
Much like Wenk, his granddaughter embraces the entrepreneurial spirit. After spending years in the corporate world, Patricia Miller decided to join M4 in 2014 and serves as CEO / Owner + Visionary.
Five years in July 2019, Miller has transformed the company. She made major renovations to the space, implemented new technologies and operating systems, and redefined what a 21st-century plastics manufacturer looks like, including bringing industrial design in house.
The business has seen incredible growth with Wenk’s granddaughter at the helm, earning a spot on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list two years in a row, Plastics News Top Molders Ranking in 2018 and being named a Top Workplace in McHenry County by the Northwest Herald.
“We will honor my Grandpa knowing that although we have lost him in physical presence, his energy and spirit remain within each of our hearts and a legacy within M4 carries on,” Miller said last week.