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Growth Manufacturers Case Study

Ideas Drive Interprint Forward

By Kathie Mahoney, Center Director, MassMEP

The Interprint Group (Pittsfield, MA) has had a core philosophy for more than 40 years, "Think global, act local." With over 1,200 employees worldwide, the company is one of the leading décor printers. Their décors decorate the surfaces of wood-based panels that are processed into furniture and flooring and used for interior finishing. Interprint’s wood, stone, and creative décors are eye-catching because of their ‘authenticity,’ which is part of the corporate culture. The people work with real passion at Interprint and come from more than 30 cultures around the world.

The Challenge
Interprint was struggling with the culture at the company. They had implemented the "Idea System" developed by Dr. Alan Robinson about six years ago, but still struggled with safety concerns and sustainability. The basis of Dr. Robinson’s Idea-Driven System is this: Idea-driven organizations have many times the improvement and innovation capabilities of their traditional counterparts. If you learn how to tap the ideas of your front-line workers, you can truly break free of the reductionist, "more with less" mindset. You and your employees will thrive in environments where you once would have struggled to survive.

Creating a Safety and Sustainability Culture
Interprint was contacted by MassMEP regarding a consortium of area companies that it was putting together. The consortium training programs, facilitated by MassMEP, allow small companies to train together without interrupting each company’s production, and offer a wide variety of training programs within a set time frame. Each participating company has input into the training included in their consortium program.

The consortium holds about two classes a month, which makes the training very manageable for the employees at the companies. They don’t feel they are rushed through the training or that production is impacted. The introduction to the MassMEP’s training has been key to uncovering additional training gaps within all divisions of the company.

The concept of belonging to a consortium of like-minded companies was appealing to Interprint as it allowed them to learn and network with area companies. In addition to the knowledge from the training programs, another long-term benefit is that the networking provides the employees of Interprint with a host of resources from the area that demonstrate best practices in manufacturing. Everyone is sharing best practices and helping each other with training concerns; they are learning the training topic and from each other.

Interprint put into place the Idea System program about six years ago. It complements the Training Within Industry (TWI) program that was being offered as part of the consortium. Both programs teach companies to rely on their employees to identify issues and involve them in the correction.

Putting the Training to Work in Safety
The TWI Job Safety course was of particular interest to Interprint as Job Safety has become the #1 priority within the company. After the training, the Job Safety tools were immediately implemented on the shop floor, in particular, on one of their new product lines. Interprint found that they were using new materials for this particular product that they had not used before and employees were having reactions to the chemicals and materials. The Job Safety training changed the way they approached the situation.

In the past they would have only spoken with the employees directly impacted. As a result of the Job Safety training they received and utilizing the safety analysis charts, they knew to address the concerns with a larger group of employees. Through the training, they learned to work with the people involved…any witnesses, supervisors and other folks from the area where the incident occurred. All the while, not placing blame but looking at it as "how could this incident have been avoided and what can we do to prevent any future incidents."

Interprint is now running a proactive safety program, which includes direct impact from the employees. Part of the program addresses cost avoidance when purchasing new equipment. They expect the program to provide a cost savings in the future. The company has changed their standard purchasing requirements for new equipment to include a review of safety issues on any equipment purchased.

Job Safety tools are now a permanent fixture at Interprint. Job Safety is a key element on all the Idea System boards located throughout the company. As a result of the change, they have seen a significant decrease in safety incidents and there is now accountability on all safety improvements.

Some additional training programs that Interprint has participated in include: TWI Job Relations, Team Involvement Problem Solving (TIPS), Leadership Effectiveness Training (LET), and Lean Management in the Fast Lane. All of these training programs were offered by MassMEP. Interprint has seen a tremendous value in MassMEP’s training method of providing classroom training along with application time. Interprint believes the employees are retaining more of the information and, as a result of the time spent applying what they’ve learned, are able to implement immediate changes based on lessons learned. The availability of MassMEP staff for follow-up questions and mentoring after the training has been of value to Interprint, as well, and they are looking forward to additional TWI with MassMEP.

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