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Growth Manufacturers Case Study

Workforce Investment Board and MassMEP Create Training Consortium to Strengthen Local Manufacturing Community

Employees at Workforce Central's Southbridge Career Center often heard frustration from manufacturers in the community who had similar training needs, but a variety of reasons that these needs had not been met. They contacted the Workforce Development Team of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) to discuss putting together a program where these smaller sized companies could get the individualized training each required, along with the benefits of being part of a larger group.  

Interested manufacturers learned about the consortium and voted on the training options. They decided on:

  • Basic manufacturing skills like shop math, metrology, and blue print reading
  • Advanced machine skills and CNC training
  • Lean manufacturing training and Leader Effectiveness Training (L.E.T.)™
  • Team Involvement Problem Solving (TIPS) programs for managers and supervisors

To cover training costs, MassMEP assisted with a consortium grant application through the state's Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP). The Central Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board took on the task of grant administration for the group. MassMEP staff and resources provided the training.  Manufacturers G&F Industries, H.T. Machine, A&M Tool and Die, INCOM Inc., and Swissturn/USA, Inc. began Southern Worcester Country Manufacturing Consortium (SWCMC) classes in June 2012.

G&F Industries
G&F Industries, a custom injection molder for over 50 years, employs 130 in Fiskdale, Massachusetts. They sent employees of various skill levels to eight of ten training programs. Their goal was to improve internal and external scrap production. Mark Berry, VP of Manufacturing, felt the training met G&F's needs. "Our employees gave very positive feedback and feel more valued and involved now. Those who received training are being given more responsibility!" stated Berry.

In less than a year, G&F racked up the following results, enabling them to successfully take on new product lines:

  • Increased new customer sales by 20+% during this year
  • Built Class 7 clean room for medical device work
  • Hired and trained 3 employees
  • Reduced Scrap produced from existing products by 74+%

H.T. Machine
Steve Leighton, President of H.T. Machine, Webster, Massachusetts, used the consortium to train a new hire up to speed. The employee had lots of natural mechanical ability but no real machining experience. Some initial training was done at H.T. before the Basic Manufacturing Courses: blueprint reading, shop math, and micrometer reading. The employee then returned to H.T. to hone his skills before participating in Lean Manufacturing training. Next, he took Advanced Manufacturing Skills classes including GD&T and SPC, Leadership Skills, and advanced CNC training through Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Between consortium classes, he was able to apply what he was learning on the job at H.T.

Leighton said, "The process worked wonderfully. Our employee took part in every consortium class, is doing very well, and is much further along in his skills and productivity than if he had simply learned on the job!"

Other H.T. employees participated in a 5S Kaizen and learned to run similar events at their own facility. Leighton acknowledged improvements in lead time and productivity due to this work.

  • Fully trained new employee
  • Lead time was reduced by more than two weeks

A&M Tool and Die
Robert Rea, HR Manager and Controller at A&M Tool and Die in Southbridge, Massachusetts, feels the supervisory training L.E.T. and TIPS was very successful. Four A&M supervisors, who had never been exposed to this type of training, participated and were able to put it into practice right away.

Said Rea, "Working through problems and employee issues is difficult when you used to be ‘one of the guys' yourself! This training is invaluable for those who promote from the shop floor."

A&M specializes in producing high quality parts with extremely close tolerances for their customers. Focusing on quality while producing these parts helps the company avoid costly and time-consuming bottlenecks like second inspection.

  • In the few weeks since training ended second inspections have been reduced by 5%.
  • Efficiency has increased because of consistent quality improvements.
  • Costs of additional rework and inspection have been reduced by over 7.5%

"Working with the Mass MEP trainers gave the outside voice and perspective that was needed to help our training take hold. Employees recognized the benefit and want to do more of it!  In fact, we are applying for a general grant to do additional continuous improvement work on our own," said Rea."We can't take everyone off the shop floor at once, so being able to send a few people to train here and there every few months was doable. This is a great use of grant program that we have paid into. I would strongly recommend the consortium to anybody!"

Swissturn/USA, Inc.
Swissturn/USA, Inc., Oxford, Massachusetts, recently moved to a larger, more efficient building and retained all employees. Lean concepts were incorporated into the layout and planning of the new facility.

It is so difficult to find skilled help that the company is focused on growing their workforce from within by providing training to advance employee capabilities. Swissturn had a larger number of lower skilled, less experienced employees. After the training these people can move up more rapidly. Owner Ken Mandile said, "Basic Skills Training was a big thing for us!"  

All employees participated in Basic Lean Manufacturing training so everyone had the same foundation. Training has created more awareness and self-confidence and, in turn, Mandile now has more confidence in his employees. Supervisory training was also valuable as they promote from within.

  • Growth from 45 to 50 employees
  • Saved approximately $14,000 on returns

INCOM, Inc.
With 185 employees, INCOM, Inc. of Charlton, Massachusetts, was the largest company in the Consortium. The company has a strong history of building and maintaining a sustainable "talent" organization by developing and investing in high potential team members. One of the key attractions of the SWCMC program for INCOM was the soft skills training, which closely relates to its corporate values. Many of the company's high potential employees participated in the Consortium classes and returned to the workplace prepared to put their training into action. In addition to the immediate impact of core manufacturing skills training, INCOM saw noticeable benefit from both the TIPS and L.E.T. courses. INCOM is interested in providing additional soft skills training to additional employees, recognizing that improved team and leadership skills enhance communication, in general.

"The results of the TIPS training at INCOM Inc. were impressive," said Director of Manufacturing, Gary Tavares. "It was great that the trainer used our own internal problems when facilitating TIPS so we could work on things that actually benefit our company. The consortium training has created momentum. Supervisors come in and ask if they can take people off the floor to work on problem solving!"

In reporting tangible "measurable impacts" with respect to the grant, INCOM saw:

  • Decreased per piece scrap 13% over the training period
  • Reduced per piece rework from 4.7% to 1%

Consortium: What's Next?
On the grant application, each Consortium company provided the metrics they anticipated within two years of the grant funded training.  Though the consortium training was completed in June 2013 after only one year, each of the five companies has already had positive impacts. These manufacturers continue with implementation and improvement activities and track their metrics, looking forward to reporting continued gains at the two year mark.

After completing the SWCMC Program, the companies expressed interest in additional training and suggested course offerings for a new collaborative, including advanced follow-on training for previous participants as well as repeat offerings for new attendees.

"It (the consortium) was a great use of time and provided access to training that a company our size could not afford to do on our own financially or would not be apt to do because of our small staff," shared Leighton of H.T. Machine. "Being part of a group and having access to funding in this way also made the grant process much more attractive because small companies do not have the manpower to handle the grant administration and therefore would not be as inclined to apply individually."

The Consortium companies recommended the SWCMC to their suppliers and other local manufacturers which resulted in the formation of three new consortia in Central Massachusetts.

G&F said that the training received through the Consortium had an impact on growth, allowing them to secure new customer business. They are now a Tier II automotive supplier and have built and trained people to operate a Class 7 clean room.

"Participating in the consortium allowed G&F to effectively schedule a large part of the workforce to be trained in areas of SPC, Kaizen, Lean Manufacturing, and Team Involvement Problem Solving with minimal disruption to daily manufacturing requirements. Our employees feel more valued and involved now. Those who received training are being given more responsibility!" – Mark Berry, VP of Manufacturing, G&F Industries

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