Plastics Pipeline

Practical Tips for Keeping Employees Safe in High Temperatures

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. July 31, 2018

Cooling VestsIt’s summer, and the temperature is soaring outside. It’s also soaring inside many plastics manufacturing plants. We all know that high temperatures can cause health issues such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and we all want to keep our employees safe. But, how do we do that? You remember that old adage, “prevention is better than cure.”

In the blog, Tips to Prevent Heat Stress in Warehouses and Manufacturing Plants, for Reliable Plant, Nikki Heinkel wrote that “heat-related illness is largely preventable.” She then gave five tips “… you can do to keep your facility cool, comfortable and safe.”

  • Educate
  • Hydrate
  • Ventilate
  • Circulate
  • Dehumidy
Let’s look at each of these tips more closely and learn what Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, does to keep its Team Members safe in hot conditions.

Educate: Make sure every employee knows about the dangers of heat stress and how to recognize, treat and avoid it.

Rob Clothier, Human Resources Manager for Team 1 Plastics, said that at the beginning of the summer, the company places Heat Safety Awareness information on its Safety board in the company’s Break Rooms for all Team Members to see. He also shares heat safety information with the company’s supervisors, reminding them to “keep an eye on their teams and allow for extra breaks when it’s extremely hot.”

Hydrate: Dehydration is a major contributor to heat-related illness. Provide your employees with drinking water and/or sports drinks at all times, and encourage them to drink frequently.

Clothier said that Team 1 Plastics supplies Gatorade, popsicles, and ice to its Team Members during the summer. Team Members are able to help themselves to these items at any time during their work shift.

Something new that Team 1 Plastics is using to eliminate Team Members’ dehydration are evaporate cooling vests. Team 1’s Production Buyer/Planner, Marcus Battin explained how these vests work. “The Team Member soaks the vest in cold water for 2-5 minutes, wrings it out, and puts it on. As the temperature and humidity increases, the water in the vest evaporates, but the material used in the vest keeps the inside section of the vest cool, keeping the Team Member’s body core cool for up to six hours.” Team 1 originally purchased five vests to test how they worked and to determine if they would be effective for its Team Members. Feedback from the Team Members was so positive that the company ordered 15 more. Battin said, “We’ve got 17 vests currently being used by Team Members in the plant."

Production Assistant Scott Castle said, “The cooling vests are very helpful on hot days to keep you cooler and prevent you from feeling bad from the heat. The vests only weigh about 2.5 lbs. when wet -- which isn’t that heavy.” He added, “They really help me be more productive.”

Jessica Farmer, another Production Assistant, said, “I really like my cooling vest. I can work very comfortably in 96-98 degrees and barely sweat. Since this was issued to me, I haven't had any problems with the heat or heat-related illnesses. In my opinion, this is the best investment to the Team Members who have to work in the heat.”

Rather than cooling vests, Team 1’s Maintenance Department asked for and has been furnished with cooling headbands. Battin said that the material in the headbands is the same as the vests. “Using a cooling headband helps keep the sweat out of your face and helps keep your head cool.”

Ventilate: Exhausting the hot air from your facility will go a long way toward keeping the temperature at a safe level. Equipment such as air conditioning, portable fans, ceiling fans and exhaust fans are suitable for this purpose.

According to Gary Grigowski, Team 1’s Vice President and Co-owner, Team 1’s plant has an exhaust system at the top of its walls, and exterior doors are routinely open in the plant. The company added some additional ventilating equipment this year. “Leading up to this summer,” Grigowski said, “we installed an additional through wall ventilation fan. We also purchased two additional spot coolers [portable, compact air conditioners] for use out on the floor. We have a total of five spot coolers on the plant floor.”

Grigowski also said that Team 1 is testing an energy savings idea that has a side benefit of reducing the amount of heat that the plastics injection molding presses give off. “We’ve installed heater band blankets on two of our presses with the idea that the machines will dump less heat into the plant. It’s mainly being driven as an energy savings item, but it would undoubtedly help with the temperature in the plant.” Although the company has not measured the difference in temperature of a press wrapped in a blanket with one not wrapped, Grigowski said “I can walk up to the blanket that we have on a press, and I can safely set my hand on it.” Normally, placing a hand on a press would seriously burn a person.

Circulate: Without movement, air in a large structure can stratify and stagnate, creating pockets and layers of hot, humid, stale air. Use high-volume, low-speed ceiling fans and portable fans to improve air circulation, especially in irregular areas.

Team 1 utilizes several high-volume, low-speed fans (HVLS) in its plant to circulate the air. In addition, Clothier said that the company recently added fans to each station in the Assembly department (located in the Warehouse) to make that area more comfortable.

Dehumidify: High humidity worsens the effect of heat because it reduces the evaporative cooling effect of perspiration. Installing dehumidifiers in high-use areas can help keep conditions more comfortable.

Although Team 1 doesn’t use dehumidifiers or have air conditioning throughout the plant, the Break Rooms and Offices are air conditioned.

Team 1 Plastics is in a unique position this summer of having the flexibility with its production schedule to shut down or reduce production during days with the worst humidity conditions. Grigowski explained, “We have the flexibility to decide which Saturdays we were going to shut down, and we ended up choosing to do things a little bit differently based on the heat index warnings. If we have the ability, we change our schedule to shut down on what we believe will be the worst days.”

“This summer, don't let high heat get you down.” Heinkel concluded. “With proper awareness and prevention techniques, you and your employees can stay cool, productive and — most importantly — safe, no matter how high the mercury rises."

Topics: safety, Team 1 Plastics, Gary Grigowski, Robert Clothier, Marcus Battin

Are Employee Performance Reviews Still Effective?

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. June 19, 2018

employee reviewYou might agree that “the term ‘Performance Review’ is a loaded term … and many people have a negative emotional experience simply thinking about it. It’s most often preceded by the word ‘dreaded,’” according to David Hassel in his article, The Performance Review Is Dead, Long Live The Performance (er…Best-Self!) Review.

There has been debate in the last few years whether or not Employee Performance Reviews are still effective. Some companies have completely eliminated annual performance reviews while others continue to utilize them.

The problem is, according to 15Five.com, that “for years now, managers and employees have repeatedly trudged through their annual performance review process – grading people for past performance instead of improving it in real time.”

Yet, Chris Arringdale argued, in his article, 4 Reasons You Should (Not) Trash Company Performance Reviews for talentculture.com, “Performance reviews are … critical to the success of your performance management system.” His four reasons for keeping them are as follows:

  • They do improve team performance.
  • You can empower management.
  • Employers can ensure consistency.
  • Employees want performance reviews.

Robert Clothier agrees. Clothier is the Human Resources Manager for Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. “Many companies are favoring a constant feedback approach as opposed to a traditional review process. We feel that by having a review process that is fair, structured, and consistent, both parties get the most value out of it. Scheduled reviews are a great way to document and track progress, and it’s easy to tie our review process to our training programs.”

Arringdale continued, “Most of the arguments to get rid of the performance appraisals all together are largely based on poor performance management practices. You can, however, improve the effectiveness of performance reviews in your organization without trashing them.”

That’s exactly what Team 1 Plastics did in mid-2017 when it reworked its employee performance review – the 360 Review. Clothier explained the changes. “We added a [Team Member] self-evaluation form which is filled out before the review meeting. It was created to get Team Members more engaged in their own review process and to give them an opportunity to speak about their performance by sharing strengths and opportunities for improvement, and to share any goals that they may have at Team 1.”

“The supervisor evaluation form was also changed,” Clothier added, “and is now specific to a Team Member’s position. We take each task from the job description, and the supervisor marks the Team Member’s performance based on two choices: ‘meets expectations’ or ‘needs improvement.’ Any task that needs improvement requires further review. We then try to create a training plan to boost that performance. Our goal is to have the next review come back where every task meets expectations.”

Clothier said that Team 1’s 360 review goes beyond the traditional performance review because it gathers information from multiple sources. For example, there is a peer review that is conducted via an online survey. When a Team Member’s review is coming up, links to the survey are sent to Team Members who interact with him/her on a regular basis.

“The questions for a peer review vary based upon whether the Team Member being reviewed is hourly, a Supervisor, or is in a leadership position,” said Clothier. “A Supervisor’s review expands upon the hourly Team Member’s review by asking questions like, ‘Does the Team Member encourage your development?’. An example of a leadership question is ‘Does (s)he provide leadership and vision for the company as appropriate for his/her position?’.”

Clothier said that since Team 1’s review process is tied to wage increases, Team Members are reviewed near the anniversary date of when they began working at their current positions. When Team Members move into new roles, they receive both a six-months and an annual review. After that, they are reviewed annually.

Clothier acknowledged that, if not done properly, a 360 review can turn into a meeting just to have a meeting – a lost opportunity. However, he believes that the updated review process makes it harder to have a review where the Team Member only hears some brief praise, signs a document, and waits for a year to have another review.

“We ask our team each year whether somebody has discussed their personal and professional development within the last 12 months. Team 1 does a lot of internal hiring, and we want our team to get excited about the growth opportunities that exist here.”

Clothier said that the updates to the company’s 360 Review are working. “The improvements in dialogue and written comments have been outstanding. In addition, we currently have 10 Team Members with training plans that we’ve identified through the training portion of our review.”

Are Employee Performance Reviews Still Effective? For Team 1 Plastics, the answer is a definite, “Yes!”

Topics: Team Member Success, Team 1 Plastics, Robert Clothier, Employee Performance Review

Guest Blogger - Glenn Stevens

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. May 22, 2018

Glenn StevensTeam 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, is thrilled that Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Detroit Regional Chamber MICHauto and vice president of the chamber’s Automotive & Mobility Initiatives, graciously agreed to be a Guest Blogger for the Plastics Pipeline blog. In an email interview, Stevens shared his perspective on how Michigan’s automobile industry is fairing.

Many companies have moved facilities to the southern region of the United States or to Mexican locations. For example, Porsche, Mercedes, Nissan, and Toyota all have their headquarters in southern states. Is Michigan losing its competitive edge as the center of the automotive industry in North America?

Over the past couple of decades, there has certainly been an expansion of new OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) facilities in the southeast and in Mexico. With that shift has come a relocation of supplier facilities around those clusters of OEM plants. At the same time, the industry has a whole has become more and more global.

However, Michigan is certainly not losing its mantle as being the center of the automotive industry in North America.

There are 17 OEMs with global headquarters and/or North American R&D (Research and Development) and Technical Centers located in Southeast Michigan. 93 of the Top 100 suppliers to North America either have their global headquarters in Michigan or have a North American headquarters in Michigan. There are over 2,200 technical, research, and engineering centers in Michigan.

While Toyota did consolidate its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, they also made a very significant move in relocating their purchasing functions from northern Kentucky to Michigan. All of Toyota’s North American purchasing and engineering is centered in Michigan.

The automotive supply chain is incredibly dense and complex in Michigan. In fact, there is no other cluster like it in the world.

With the rise of Asia and other markets, suppliers have had to make the decisions to expand, create partnerships, or became more efficient in how they compete. The critical factor that enables companies to succeed, particularly smaller tier suppliers, is the ability to apply lean principles and innovations on the shop floor and in the overall management of their companies.

How is “car sharing” affecting the auto industry in Michigan?

The world is changing. There are megatrend forces at work that are shaping the present and will be key to how people, goods, data, and services move more efficiently in the future. These mobility trends are at the forefront of today’s conversations. As hyper-urbanization – the trend of people moving to and living in cities – rises, the simple fact is that everyone cannot, and may choose not to, utilize traditional transportation. This has brought on the growth of MaaS (Mobility as a Service). This is where ride sharing, and connecting of different forms of intermodal transportation utilizing technology, comes into play, and it is definitely impacting Michigan.

It is said that the global auto industry today is a $3 Trillion industry. Personal mobility in a shared-use economy is projected to be a $10 Trillion industry. “Traditional” OEMs and suppliers must adapt. They need to change their business models and their ability to be able to capitalize on the market and to fulfill the changing shifts of transportation and consumer preferences.

Michigan is not standing still. Just like the Ford Company is adapting to the shifts of technology, the State must also. There is a tremendous amount of synergy that is being driven from Governor Rick Snyder. Economic development groups, business groups, universities, transportation organizations, and many others are all working together to make sure that we protect and retain the State’s traditional auto industry, while at the same time, making sure that the State is leading in the testing and research for next-generation mobility solutions. As transportation changes, Michigan must change with it.

Thinking about the emerging technology of autonomous cars, electric cars, and connectivity, when do you think these technologies will become mainstream and begin to dominate the automotive industry? How will these new technologies affect vehicle production in Michigan? How is Michigan trying to attract some of the new disruptive automotive companies (such as Tesla, Google, and Apple)?

The convergence of the auto and tech industries has certainly been something to watch. Companies in Detroit, global auto OEMs, and suppliers have opened offices in Silicon Valley. At the same time, tech companies have opened facilities in Michigan. With the density of the automotive cluster, the number of OEMs, research facilities, and testing that is done in next-generation mobility, tech companies are finding that they need to be in Michigan. The cross-currents between Detroit and the Valley continue to grow stronger every day.

There are 50,000 lines of code in a typical phone app, 5 million lines of code in a jet fighter, and 10 million lines of code in the Ford GT. The connected car is here. The car is the most high-tech consumer product on the face of the earth, and it is one of the centers of the Internet of Things.

EV (Electric Vehicle) technology continues to grow. While it is currently a small percentage of the market, both government mandates around the world and demand from consumers will fuel its growth. Automated technology is coming. While far from mainstream, it is already being deployed in “last mile” applications, and it will continue to grow in its deployment.

If I could forecast when these technologies would become “mainstream,” I would be in a different business, but all of them are quite prevalent in our transportation world today. Michigan and the companies that make up our automobile industry are evolving with the changing world. Michigan still produces about 20% of NAFTA production. Our 11 assembly plants have been modernized and are quite busy with successful products for the market, especially in truck and SUV production. As mobility technology changes, propulsion systems evolve, and the global market continues to take shape, the companies that build vehicles in Michigan will evolve with it.

There will continue to be a demand for F-150 trucks for the foreseeable future, but these vehicles will change as they become more electrified, connected, and automated. It is my hope that companies in Michigan will continue to design, engineer, and build the cars and trucks of today and the next-generation of mobility solutions for many, many years into the future.

How can small Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers like Team 1 Plastics prepare for these changes?

All companies must evolve and change with the times. Standing still and trying to do the same things into the future is not an option. Companies must find and implement the new tools of Industry 4.0 while continuing to apply the very best continuous improvement and collaboration processes that they can deploy. Companies that adapt to compete will survive and thrive.

One of the privileges of my job, and things I am very grateful about during my career, is the ability to see so many different companies, the products they make, the processes they deploy, and the people that make them go. I can sincerely say that Team 1 Plastics is certainly a very world class and unique company. You can see it on the production floor with the Team Members. It is clear in the lean principles and automation that is utilized. It is evident in the statistical process control and data that is utilized. It is also clear to me that the people that lead the company care about the people that are part of the team.

There will continue to be a bright future for Team 1 Plastics if everyone adapts to change, collaborates to compete, and keeps an undying eye on providing the customer with the highest quality, on-time, plastic components, along with the world-class customer service for which the company is known.

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, Michigan, automotive industry, Guest Blogger, Glenn Stevens

Utilizing an Employee Recruitment Program

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. May 1, 2018

Employee Referral“Employee referral is the best recruiting channel I know,” states Liz Ryan in her article, The Truth About Employee Referrals, for forbes.com. It “…reinforces and celebrates your employees in a tangible way for contributing to your company's success. It's the only one [recruiting channel] that builds on the community you've already established in your organization. It's the only one that says to your employees ‘Of course we want you to recruit for us. You know us better than anyone. You know which people will like it here and be successful. You know your friends. We rely on you!’"

Simply put, “An employee referral program is a recruiting strategy in which employers encourage current employees, through rewards, to refer qualified candidates for jobs in their organizations.” According to www.shrm.org in its article, Designing and Managing Successful Employee Referral Programs. “Creating and managing a vibrant employee referral program makes good recruiting sense because employee-referred job candidates are usually a good cultural fit and may need less onboarding when hired.”

In addition, “Referred candidates, if hired, stay at their jobs longer than traditional hires and a great referral program improves a business’s overall retention rate,” according to linkedin.com’s blog, The 6-Step Guide to Building the Perfect Employee Referral Program.

Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, began its Employee Referral program in July 2017, according to HR Manager, Robert Clothier, “to aid in bringing in quality team members. The great thing about the referral program is that instead of having one or two recruiters at Team 1, we can have 20 or 30 recruiters who are hopefully thinking about whether the person they refer would be a good fit in our culture. Each year we ask our team if they would recommend Team 1 to family or friends. The Referral Program gives Team 1 the opportunity to reward those who recommend us to future team members.”

Clothier compared an employee’s referral to a job reference. “It’s common in recruiting and selection to contact references before a job offer is made. Having a referral program can add more credibility to this step since we already have a reference that we are familiar with working for our company.”

In setting up an Employee Referral Program for your company, paycor.com suggests four steps:

1. Set your program goals – What are you trying to achieve? Who are trying to hire? Make sure you communicate this to your employees.

Every open position at Team 1 Plastics is announced to its Team Members via the company’s Sharepoint collaborate software which is accessible to all Team Members. It also appears on the company website and the digital signage in the plant facility. Information about the referral program is also available on Sharepoint and is featured during a new Team Member’s orientation with HR.

2. Design a structured user-friendly process and participation rules – make it easy for the employee to make a referral.

For Team 1 Plastics, the process of making a referral is easy. Clothier explained that the Team Member simply sends an email to Human Resources with the candidate’s name, contact information, and position for which they are being referred.

3. Make sure your referral bonus structure is well-organized – most companies offer monetary rewards, but other ideas include paid time off, gift cards, and public recognition.

Team 1 Plastics has two levels of rewards in its Employee Referral program. The referring Team Member chooses either $150 or the equivalent amount of paid time off after the referral is hired in and completes 90 days of service. After 180 days of service by the referral, the referring Team Member receives an additional $350 or the equivalent amount of paid time off.

4. Measure, measure, measure -- Measuring the success of your program is the first step toward improvement. It’s important to measure your employee referral program to figure out which parts work well and which don’t.

Clothier said that Team 1 Plastics has just recently experienced its first success story of its Employee Referral Program. Marcus Battin, Team 1’s Purchasing Manager / Planner, referred Kimberely Williams, who was hired by Team 1 on January 2, 2018. Williams has now completed 90 days of service with the company, and Battin has been awarded $150 -- he chose the cash option.

And the success of Team 1’s referral program continues according to Clothier. Williams “has expressed interest in our Quality pre-training program and is scheduled to begin training shortly to become certified as a Quality Auditor. And, we just made our second hire through the referral program!”

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, Robert Clothier, Human Resources, Employee Referral Program

Guest Blogger – Shawn Scott

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. March 20, 2018

Team 1 Plastics is pleased to periodically feature Guest Bloggers to share their perspectives of the plastics industry on Plastics Pipeline. We thank today’s Guest Blogger, Shawn Scott of D & L Tooling, one of Team 1’s high-quality mold suppliers.

Shawn Scott.jpg“Trust is a huge factor with all working relationships,” said Shawn Scott, Co-Owner of D & L Tooling in a recent interview. He added that sometimes a relationship goes a step farther and has “Trust with Confidence” – the ability to be completely up-front and honest with each other and know that each person (or company) has the other’s best interest in mind. That is how Scott described his company’s relationship with Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. “I believe we mutually trust one another -- 100%.”

Founded in 1977 by Don Carpenter and Lynn Scott, D & L Tooling is a “world-class tool shop, specializing in plastic injection molds in the automotive, agricultural, electronics, and furniture industries.” Over its 18-year history with Team 1 Plastics, D & L has supplied Team 1 with nearly 150 plastic injection molds.

“This long-term working relationship has allowed us to have an excellent understanding of Team 1’s needs and expectations,” Scott said. “We realize that not only is it important for us to provide top quality tools and service to customers like Team 1, we also need to provide them with support that they can pass on to their customers.”

“We are always thinking about potential longevity challenges and production concerns for our customers and will communicate these concerns if we see anything that may become an issue.” Scott believes that it is D & L’s attention to detail and its continuous “looking out for our customers’ best interest that makes us unique.”

D & L Tooling is also constantly looking for ways to utilize new technologies. Scott, who joined the company in 1994, works primarily in its CNC (Computer Numerical Control) and CAD / CAM (Computer-Aided Design / Computer-Aided Manufacturing) departments. He has seen many changes in technology during his career and loves the challenges that these changes create. “Technology is always improving. Finding ways to automate, while still maintaining the same quality and craftsmanship, can sometimes be a challenge. But challenges motivate us.”

He shared an example of how D & L Tooling helped Team 1 solve one particular challenge it had with a mold for a lens part. “The mold itself was simple enough, but the lens’ specifications were an obstacle. Team 1’s customer insisted that the only way to build the mold cavities was by using a five- axis machining center.” Scott said that at the time, five- axis machining centers were not common – most mold suppliers did not have them. And the machine time on a five-axis machining center was incredibly expensive. D & L suggested an alternative way of machining, and after a sample test for proof, convinced Team 1 that the alternate way would produce as good or better results. “To the best of my knowledge,” Scott said, “the project was a success for Team 1 and its customer with no issues.”

Scott believes that the “Trust with Confidence” relationship between D & L Tooling and Team 1 Plastics has greatly benefited both companies and added that “It’s been a pleasure working with Team 1 Plastics for 18 years, and we look forward to working with them for another 18 years and beyond.”

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, Guest Blogger, quality supplier, Shawn Scott, D & L Tooling

Spin That Wheel

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. February 20, 2018

Do you agree with thisPrize Wheel.jpg statement? Every employee appreciates the validation of a job well done.

How about this one? By rewarding your employees for a job well done, you can boost the morale within your work environment.

And this one? A happy employee tends to be a more productive team player.

All three statements are true, aren’t they? So, how are you rewarding your employees? How are you boosting their morale? What tools are you using to keep your employees happy?

One tool that Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, uses is a Prize Wheel. And they are not alone. According to prizewheels2go.com in its article, American Companies are Spinning Prize Wheels to Win Back Employee Morale, Prize wheels are “… popping up in offices around the nation.”

A reason for their popularity? HRDirect.com suggests that a prize wheel is “…perfect for celebrating shared success and reaching team goals.” You can “…use it to bring life to employee birthdays and anniversaries, company parties and much more. It’s a great way to get everyone motivated, involved and excited about improving performance and reaching higher!”

Team 1 Plastics invested in a prize wheel several years ago as a way to encourage attendance at its monthly Open Book meetings. Susan Muma, Controller for Team 1 Plastics said, “We were looking for ways to improve the attendance at our Team meetings. I saw an advertisement for a prize wheel and asked Team 1’s owners if we could buy one of these and try it for a while.” The owners agreed, and the prize wheel has “become an integral part of Team 1’s culture.”

According to Robert Clothier, Human Resource Manager at Team 1 Plastics, “The prize wheel is a unique way to increase participation, engagement, and attendance in our monthly open-book meetings where we share company financials. The meeting is voluntary, but we use it as a way to reward those who attend.”

Clothier explained how the prize wheel is used. “At the end of the open-book meetings, we randomly choose two team members who receive a spin after answering a Team 1 related question, such as explain the tuition reimbursement policy, or what are the four parts of the Championship Dream?, or who is our largest customer?”

The prizes on Team 1’s prize wheel have changed over the year. “Many years ago,” Clothier said, “the prizes were gift cards to local restaurants or stores. In 2016, we added a $100/8-hour PTO (paid time off) wedge to replace the $30 prize. Also in 2016, we added a birthday spin to the monthly meetings so that everybody with a birthday in that month gets a chance to spin.”

And the $100/8-hour PTO prize [winner chooses either $100 cash or 8 hours PTO] is the most coveted prize on the wheel according to every Team Member who participated in a brief survey about the prize wheel. The survey also revealed that the most common prizes won are between $5 and $20 cash.

How do the Team Members feel about the prize wheel? Sandy Bunker, Customer Service Assistant said, “It is awesome that Team 1 lets everyone that is a Team member get a Birthday Spin. You also get other opportunities to spin the wheel during monthly meeting upon guessing the right number and answering a question about Team 1.”

Kiera Carter, Human Resources Assistant, shared her feelings. “I personally think the prize wheel is like the icing on the cake during team meetings. Being able to know where we stand financially as a company is something that is unheard of and something that most companies keep very private. Team 1 shares all of that information so everyone has the opportunity to see how we excelled for the month or even when we lose for the month. Then you get a chance to spin the prize wheel if it’s your birthday month, and even if it isn’t your birthday month, you get a chance to spin and win up $100 bucks! It’s fantastic!

Of course, who doesn’t like to win a prize? Prizewheels2go.com also suggests that a prize wheel is a part of American culture. “Not only does the spinning wheel with bright color evoke a feeling of winning chances but the clicking sound associated with the wheel in action is a noise that is part of American culture. Wheel of Fortune is as much a part of our culture as apple pie, Chevrolet and Jeopardy!”

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, open book management, Culture, Postive Work Environment, Kiera Carter, Robert Clothier, Susan Muma, Sandy Bunker, Prize Wheel

Guest Blogger – I.H. Lee

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. December 19, 2017

IH Lee.jpgRelationships greatly impact your company. This is a truth that I.H. Lee, President and Owner of Beom Jin Company of Seoul, Korea, has learned and experienced. In a recent interview, Mr. Lee shared how his relationship with the three original owners of Team 1 Plastics has positively impacted him and his business.

Mr. Lee was introduced to Team 1’s original owners, Craig Carrel, Gary Grigowski, and Jim Capo, when they all worked at Celeanese in the 1980s. At the time, Mr. Lee, whose job was in marketing, was stationed in Korea. He was sent to the United States for several months for molding trials and applications training. It was during this time that he became acquainted with Carrel, Grigowski, and Capo, and a friendship was formed. Mr. Lee said that after work hours, the four of them would “mingle together and enjoy talking, drinking, and eating.”

Then, in the late 1980s, Carrel, Grigowski, and Capo left Celeanese and started Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. About the same time, Mr. Lee also left Celeanese and started his company, Beom Jin Company, in Korea, a mold-making business and engineering plastics exporting.

Beom Jin was selling molds, and Team 1 Plastics needed molds for its injection molding presses. And, a strong relationship had already been formed between the two company’s owners. It made good business sense that the two companies would form a business partnership.

And, the partnership has lasted for more than 25 years and has been beneficial for both companies. Beom Jin is a quality supplier for Team 1 Plastics, having provided more than 200 molds for Team 1 Plastics and working with them to solve many challenges.

Mr. Lee shared a story about one specific challenge. Team 1 had contracted with Beom Jin to make a mold for a small part. Things were progressing nicely until the timeline for delivery was changed. The part was needed by Team 1’s customer much sooner than originally scheduled. Team 1 requested that the mold part be rushed overnight and hand carried to the United States. Mr. Lee said that the mold makers worked overnight to finish the mold part, but he still needed to find someone to hand carry the mold to the U.S. This was a challenge because, at that time, very few people in Korea could speak English. Mr. Lee found a friend who “could speak English better than most” and he agreed to accompany the metal part to the U.S. The metal mold part was delivered in time, and Team 1 was able to produce the plastic parts for its customer.

As with every business, Beom Jin has its challenges. Mr. Lee said that the increase of Korean labor costs has made it difficult to obtain orders. Korean-made molds are not cost competitive with molds built in other parts of the world, especially China. Beom Jin continues to get orders for high quality steel-time molds, but many plastic parts makers, including Team 1 Plastics, are sometimes choosing to purchase less expensive molds.

But, even with the challenges, Mr. Lee acknowledges that he is “very happy” with the relationship with Team 1. He stated that “close cooperation, best faith, and mutual trust could keep the long-term benefits.” And, he considers the owners “my best of friends. It was really fortunate for me in meeting the three guys over there.”

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, Craig Carrel, Gary Grigowski, Jim Capo, partnership, I.H. Lee, quality supplier

MAPP Business Assessment Valuable Tool for Team 1 Plastics

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. November 21, 2017

Business Assessment.jpg

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a perfect time to take stock of your company. How are you doing? Is your business achieving its goals? Is your business growing and prospering? Have you reached a revenue plateau that you just can’t seem to get past? Do you spend a lot of time on problems that keep returning? What do you need to focus on next?

A tool that can help you answer these questions is a Business Assessment. According to First Beacon Business Advisory Group’s website, “A business assessment is an objective look at your business designed to provide you with a clear picture of:

  • Where your business is today
  • What will help you get to where you want to be tomorrow
  • What might hinder or impede your progress, and
  • What specific actions can be taken to address all these issues.”

Those are exactly the questions that Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry, sought to answer when it took advantage of the Business Assessment that MAPP (Manufacturers Association of Plastics Processors) offers to its members. Through MAPP, Team 1 contracted with Harbour Results, Inc. (HRI) for a two-day Business Assessment, which according to HRI’s website, “takes an up-close look at a company’s entire operation to identify specific areas of strength and potential gaps.”

Craig Carrel, President and Co-owner of Team 1 Plastics, explained the process of signing up. “It is pretty simple to sign up for the Business Assessment, and it is available to any MAPP member. It costs $4,500 plus travel expenses and two days of time for most of the management team.” He added that there is some preparation work that a company needs to do prior to the on-site assessment. “HRI sends out a data request a few weeks prior to the assessment. That preparation work does require several hours of time for each department to collect and report its data.”

Next comes the on-site assessment. “Harbour Results brings in a team of three or four people that spend the first day talking and reviewing the company’s functional departments,” Carrel said. In Team 1’s case, that was nine departments. He continued, “The HRI team then spends the evening together reviewing the information collected and preparing the follow-up questions they will ask on the morning of the second day. By the afternoon of the second day, they have wrapped up their data collection and review and put together a final assessment report. The report is then presented to management and gives both recommendations for improvement to the overall company and to the specific departments reviewed.”

This was the second time that Team 1 Plastics has taken advantage of MAPP’s Business Assessment through HRI. Carrel said, “Our first MAPP assessment was done in May 2010. It was a critical first step in our strategic planning process and development of our company’s goals. As we reviewed the company’s progress since 2010, we found that many of the items identified in the first assessment had been accomplished. Now, seven years later, we felt that it was time to have another assessment done.”

Team 1 Plastics’ score after the 2017 assessment was in the “top quartile of all MAPP assessments.” Carrel said, “This score was not surprising and was about where I thought it would be. We have seen significant progress since our 2010 assessment. The 2017 assessment is of a much different company. The main takeaway was that we have room for improvement and that we can work to make Team 1 a stronger company in the future.”

He noted that HRI’s three main recommendations for Team 1 Plastics focused on these areas:

  • Continued development of the Leadership Team
  • Utilize data to continue to drive improvement in company performance
  • Develop a strategic sales plan

After the assessment, the management of Team 1 Plastics met together and assigned tasks and people responsible for these three main recommendations. And progress is being made. Carrel said, “The managers met together to suggest company improvement areas, and we are in the final stages of implementing them. In addition, the sales team developed and presented its strategic sales plan to the company in September. We will be using it to drive activity to achieve our long-term sales growth targets.”

In addition, each individual department has reviewed its specific recommendations and has selected the top one to three items on which to focus. Carrel explained, “We cannot implement all of the recommendations right now. All this activity must fit into our daily job responsibilities, along with other strategic objectives we are working on. So, we try to focus on the recommendations that have the biggest potential for overall improvement.”

In evaluating the Business Assessment, Carrel said that “it is hard to have someone critique your company and identify weaknesses and areas for improvement. But, if you want to be world class and compete globally, it is critical for you to get an unbiased opinion from someone who is very knowledgeable and seen many similar operations.”

He highly recommends the MAPP Business Assessment. “The payback is significant if you take the time to analyze the recommendations and implement the ones that make the most sense for your operations. Our first assessment in 2010 helped drive us forward over the last seven years, and we expect the 2017 assessment will do the same.”

Topics: Harbour Results, MAPP, Team 1 Plastics, Craig Carrel, continuous improvement, Strategic Planning, Business Assessment

Do You Have a “Great” Supply Chain?

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. November 7, 2017

Supply Chain.jpgEvery plastics company wants to be known for delivering quality product on time and within budget. Part of achieving that goal is how well your company can manage its supply chain.

In the article, What Makes a Great Plastics Supply Chain by Custom-Pak.com, the point is made that “A healthy supply chain is the circulatory system of a strong business. You rely on it as much as your body relies on your heart, and without it, the lifeblood of your company would cease flowing.” The article then lists several characteristics to a good supply chain, including Transparency, Transportation, and Systems Integration.

Transparency - “Strong supply chains sync many moving parts. Transparency is crucial to keep suppliers, manufacturers, and executives all on the same page.”

Marcus Battin agrees that transparency is a key to successfully managing a plastics supply chain. Battin is the Purchasing Manager/Planner for Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. In a recent interview, he said that it’s vital to be in constant communication with Team 1’s plastics suppliers – currently numbering at 19 material suppliers and 15 component suppliers. “We need to know if they are experiencing any difficulties in supplying their products to us. When I know what their current challenges are, I can work with them and get a little more stock into Team 1’s inventory so we can avoid any interruptions to our production.”

Transportation - “Every stage of the plastics supply chain depends on transportation that functions smoothly. From the ship or train that delivers resins … to the truck that freights your finished product to your customers, a great supply chain runs on well-managed logistics.”

Battin said, “One of the greatest challenges in supply chain management is being up to date on natural disasters that can affect the distribution of materials. I have learned that it is important that you try and maintain a certain level of inventory so if there is a hurricane or fire that disrupts suppliers’ production or shipping, you can avoid any major delays to your production.”

Team 1 Plastics’ main material suppliers are located in Battle Creek, Michigan (only 25 miles from the Albion, Michigan company), Wyandotte, Michigan, Orlando, Florida, and Sugarland, Texas. Cross country transportation is pretty reliable for Team 1 Plastics.

Battin continued, “The recent hurricanes did not interfere with Team 1’s production because we continued to monitor when and where they might hit land. And, we communicated with our suppliers in the potentially affected areas to get in more stock before the hurricanes hit, anticipating that after the storms, there would be a delay before distribution was back up and running.”

Systems Integration“Great plastics supply chains integrate procurement, quality control, production, inventory, transportation, and warehousing to reduce redundancy and increase efficiency.”

Team 1 Plastics relies on both its proprietary Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, Promon, and the human aspect to manage its suppliers. Battin explained, “Promon tracks how much material is being used during a production run and deducts that amount from inventory records to maintain an accurate inventory level. When I run the Material Shortfall report, I can see what needs to be ordered and when to order the material, based on lead times.”

Team 1 Plastics’ ERP software works well for the company. It’s another company’s ERP system that is currently causing the largest challenge for Team 1 in managing its supply chain. Team 1, like many other plastics companies, continues to struggle with the reliability of product from Sabic, a company that is, according to its website, “a global leader in diversified chemicals headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” with its U.S. headquarters in Houston, Texas.

According to Plastics News’ article, “Sabic to close Huntersville Office in 2018,” Sabic’s “customers for months have been reporting shipments that were late or incomplete or that were of the wrong material.” The article cited that Sabic has been having struggles “… with resin deliveries since installing a new enterprise resource planning computer system in October 2016. Market sources have told Plastics News that they were seeing delays for shipments of PC, PC/ABS, polybutylene terephthalate and related compounds made by Sabic.”

Battin said, “Sabic’s inability to deliver product efficiently has affected Team 1 by pushing out our orders and creating interesting communication between ourselves and the supplier.”

It’s been over a year since Sabic installed the ERP system. According to the Plastics News article, Sabic’s spokesperson, Susan LeBourdais said that the company has made “substantial progress” and continues “ … to pursue post-implementation actions that will take us to industry-class fulfillment levels.”

“Substantial progress,” is debatable in Team 1 Plastics’ perspective. Battin said, “As of now, there has not been any improvement from Sabic.”

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, Plastics News, supply, ERP, communication, Marcus Battin

Survey says … What does the Survey Say? And how Important is it to your Company?

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. September 12, 2017

Survey.jpg“Customer satisfaction measurement is one of the most overlooked yet important tools that management has,” wrote Roger F. Jones in his ebook, Strategic Management for the Plastics Industry: Dealing with Globalization and Sustainability. He continued, “Unless you know what your customers think of your company, you are effectively navigating by dead reckoning.” He suggests that you survey your customers to find out what they are thinking about your company, products, and services.

Ian Linton of the Houston Chronicle agrees. In his article, “Benefits of a Customer Satisfaction Survey,” Linton wrote, “Customer satisfaction surveys are a valuable tool for small businesses, helping you gain a better understanding of your customers' requirements and concerns so that you improve your products and your standards of service in line with customers' needs. By monitoring customer satisfaction and responding to problems, you can improve customer loyalty and protect revenue and profitability.”

One company that agrees with this advice is Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the transportation industry. According to the company’s Customer Service Manager, Kari Masternak, “Surveys are a key indicator of how well we service our customer -- a vital role within Team 1 Plastics. At Team 1 Plastics, we strive for Customer Service Excellence.” Masternak said that the company routinely conducts surveys of their customers. Those surveys allow them to “… identify problems within the company that might create an unsatisfied feeling from our customers. It also allows us to measure our customer’s loyalty, our progression through the years, and to verify that processes we’ve implemented in the past have worked to increase the customer’s satisfaction.”

“Feedback from customers and contacts offers a wealth of information you can use to improve your customer service, pinpoint small issues before they become big problems, and even gather suggestions for new products or services,” wrote Megan Totka of business.com in her article, “The Best and Worst Times to Survey Your Customers: What You Need To Know.“ However, she cautioned, “When you're surveying customers, timing is everything. The key to gathering useful data is asking the right questions – at the right time.”

And, of course, you don’t want to annoy your customer. Jones wrote, “Mailing out bland survey forms to customers is not an acceptable or reliable way to learn how your customers view your company. In fact, such surveys are as likely to irritate your customers as they are to obtain genuine expressions of their concerns.” He suggests that a company “… conduct formal benchmarking studies by questionnaires and telephone interviews. These latter studies are best done through outside, neutral parties, for example, consultants or market research firms, who have the necessary experience in conducting such surveys in a nonintrusive way.”

Masternak agrees. That’s why Team 1 Plastics’ utilizes several different surveys as well as different survey methods. The company uses Survey Monkey for most of its customer surveys and limits the length and topic of the surveys to one single subject. And, the company has utilized an outside vendor, VIVE, LLC, in the past to help them conduct customer phone surveys. In addition, Team 1 offers its customers the option to remain anonymous, which Masternak said makes some customers more comfortable in responding.

These are the types of customer surveys used by Team 1 Plastics:

  • Customer Satisfaction Survey – annual survey to every customer
  • PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) – given to a customer at the time that PPAP approval has been finalized
  • SOP (Start of Production) – given to a customer shortly after a new part has gone into full production
  • Customer Phone Survey – conducted in 2014 by VIVE, LLC; expecting to conduct another survey in 2018

The annual Customer Satisfaction Survey is sent to all of Team 1’s contacts in each customer’s company -- positions such as buyers, program management, and quality. Masternak said that the response rate is typically 10-20%. However, she said that “if we work with a contact on a day-to-day basis, they are normally willing to respond.”

She added, “We had one customer express to us how pleased he was with Team 1. He said that he appreciated that we value his responses. He also relayed that he was honest with us on the survey because he knew that we would hear his concerns and take action. He added that a lot of customers send him surveys, but if he doesn’t feel the customer will value his opinion, he does not complete their surveys.”

Listening, Linton wrote, is one outcome of customer satisfaction surveys. “A satisfaction survey provides a channel for customers to express their views … Asking your customers for their views on your company’s products and performance indicates that you’re prepared to listen to customers and take account of their views.”

But, listening isn’t enough. You need to do something with the information your customer gives you. Linton wrote, “Analyzing the responses to a satisfaction survey highlights your company’s strengths and weaknesses from your customers’ perspective. Focus on areas of your business that achieve very low satisfaction scores and prioritize improvement programs so that you can remedy any serious problems in those areas.”

According to Masternak, the management team of Team 1 Plastics “discusses the responses to the surveys, celebrates its successes, and implements a plan to correct any identified issues. These are tracked through the Customer Service Department’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and monitored regularly.”

She added that Team 1 has “… recently implemented face to face meetings with customers who have given us adverse feedback. We take this time to meet with them to discuss their concerns and the steps that we have taken to help correct current issues and prevent future issues.” And that only increases the customer’s satisfaction and retention.

So, what does the Survey Say? And how Important is it to your Company? Totka concludes, “When you ask the right questions at the right time, you can use customer opinion to steer your company in the right direction.”

Topics: Customer Service Excellence, Team 1 Plastics, kari masternak, customer surveys