Editorial


 

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Pioneering Metalformers Providing "College Educations in Manufacturing"

By: Brad Kuvin

Friday, February 01, 2013
 

This issue of MetalForming features the final installment in our three-part series highlighting the Precision Metalforming Association’s Pioneer Award program. The program recognizes excellence in workforce development, tallying the benefits of such development to workers and their employers. Nine companies received recognition from the program, including the three profiled in this issue. The bottom line in every case: Investing in workforce development not only adds skills and creativity to the shop floor, but, when done thoughtfully and with purpose, results in a quick and easy return on that investment.

For example, training at Pioneer metalformer Diemasters Manufacturing, referred to by the firm’s facilities manager Bill Curtis as a “college education in basic manufacturing,” focuses on improving decision making at all levels of the company. In my article on Diemasters, you’ll learn how making the right decisions for the right reasons has helped the company reduce direct labor as a percent of sales while net sales have climbed, as well as reduce inventory and receivable days. And, you’ll learn of a whole new job description—at least one that was new to me—called Bottleneck Blaster.

Cross-training is the focus of workforce development at Pioneer metalformer Marlin Steel Wire Products, where employees receive pay increases for every new skill they learn. “We value ingenuity,” says the firm’s CFO Alex Levin. “We are incentivized to grow and learn by cross-training…Tactically, we compensate our employees and incentivize productivity and knowledge, which adds value to the company.” As Marlin Steel employees receive training and demonstrate proficiency in new skills, they receive an hourly wage increase that can amount to as much as a $2000/yr. raise. The payoff for the company: “Our people are agile and can jump from machine to machine,” says president Drew Greenblatt. Greenblatt introduced us to operators trained in almost every piece of large equipment at the firm.

Last but not least, Pioneer metalformer Eclipse Manufacturing Co. survived a fight for its life (as did many metalformers in the 2008-2009 time period) in part by launching a formal and in-depth lean-training program. At first blush, the story seems somewhat common and not-so-extraordinary. That is until you understand plant manager Dick Reese’s unique take on lean. To Reese, lean means shortening lead times to improve reaction time, and reducing process variability to bring consistency and predictability to the plant floor. Results have been impressive and truly pioneer-like, including a staggering improvement in PPM along with a 30-percent reduction in cost of quality, accompanied by increased operating efficiency and on-time delivery rate.

When we first introduced you to the PMA Metalforming Pioneer program just over a year ago, I said I was “lucky” to have the opportunity to meet with and report on companies such as these, who invest in their employees and have measureable results to show for it. The sentiment remains—and again, I hope you’ll join me in congratulating these company owners and managers, and their employees, on jobs well done.

 


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