Safety is a particularly important consideration at Aalbers because the company works with large parts and equipment. (Photo courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)
Membership in a local apprenticeship program is critical to attracting new talent at Aalbers Tool and Mold. Just as importantly, the people who work there tend to stick around once they’re on the payroll. In fact, turnover ratio is only 7 percent, and the average length of employment is 11.5 years. Asked about this success, company president Toni Hansen credits efforts to keep staffers engaged, show them they're appreciated and provide ample opportunities for advancement. All that is detailed in this article, which outlines the myriad factors that landed the company this year's Lead Time Leader—Honorable mention award.
However, the company's approach to managing its people doesn't stop there. Here are a few other notable aspects of its workforce development and retention strategy:
*Safety and Cleanliness: Providing a good place to work starts with providing a safe place to work, particularly given the fact that parts and equipment tend to be quite large at Aalbers Tool and Mold. Like any manufacturer, the shop conducts periodic walkthroughs to detect and remedy safety issues such as frayed extension cords, malfunctioning lighting and so forth. Beyond that, however, the company also places a premium on keeping things clean. In addition to making the operation more efficient, this makes periodic inspections much easier and contributes greatly to overall safety. “We make sure everything is neat, tidy and clean so that our safety walkthroughs and inspections are easy,” Hansen says. “If you do your housekeeping properly a lot of that stuff just falls into place.”
Also notable is the fact that the shop has formalized its safety procedures. Walkthroughs and checks proceed according to a strict schedule and fall under the responsibilities of a single employee who files monthly reports with the plant manager. Additionally, the company ensures at least one employee on every shift is qualified to perform first aid. This ensures a prompt and proper response in the unlikely event of an accident.
“State of the Company” Updates: Communication is critical to the success of any mold shop. Aalbers Tool and Mold keeps everyone on the same page through sales meetings, production meetings, and, particularly, monthly “continuous improvement” meetings. However, Hansen says it’s also worth cluing employees in on developments beyond the shop floor. To that end, everyone in the organization gathers periodically for updates on recent developments as well as the company’s overall performance, goals and strategic direction. For instance, one recent meeting focused on the opening of a new plant in Mexico. Hansen says these updates foster a sense of camaraderie; provide insight into what drives top-level decision-making; and help employees view their duties and responsibilities in the context of a greater whole. (Read the article for more on the shop’s Mexican plant and continuous improvement meetings).
*Standardized, shop-specific training: As detailed in the article, Aalbers Tool and Mold prefers to provide the training required to promote an existing employee rather than hire from outside. Just as notable, however, is how the shop goes about that training. First, training is conducted with the shop’s specific operations in mind. For example, an employee learning design will learn not just how to use TopSolid CAD program, but also how to leverage the extensive library of standard mold components developed in-house. Additionally, training is standardized. For instance, employees adhere to specific guidelines for various production strategies, such as acceptable parting line clearances and defined stepover values for certain types of cuts on certain types of molds. (Read the article for more on Aalbers Tool and Mold’s standardized mold component designs).
Click here for a video tour of Aalbers Tool and Mold as well as 2014's Leadtime Leader award winner, Westminster Tool.