Bridge the Shop and Office Communication Gap

Bridge the Shop and Office Communication Gap

Published: January 31, 2012

An Ohio manufacturer becomes an example to the industry, connecting shop workers to office workers in an innovative new way.

It sounds like a lot of manufacturing companies: Office workers at individual desks with up-to-date computers on one side of the wall. Shop floor workers on the other side with shared, old computers in just a few places. Plus the culture divide between them.

That was the situation at Industrial Mold & Machine in Twinsburg, Ohio, not long ago, according to a recent article on CIO.com. It changed when Larry Housel, knowledge and information manager, outfitted all 37 employees with iPads. Everyone now has constant access to e-mail and the company calendar, and can perform tasks like making vacation requests and getting work assignments – at their work stations or from break rooms.

Business users typically find the iPad is easy to use, carry and keep clean, is inexpensive relative to a laptop or desktop computer and has an intuitive interface that appeals to employees who may not regularly use computers. According to the CIO.com article, a user group meets regularly to discuss how employees are using the iPad and any applications they think the company might use. For example, one app allows drivers to sign electronic forms when they have picked up or dropped off a shipment. That signals to the office that a supply chain transaction is complete. The user group also lets Housel know when people find an app harder to use than he anticipated.

The company’s use of iPads to tie disparate employee groups together represents a new effort to use technology to bridge the communication gap. Many other companies have made inroads by outfitting shop or offsite workers with smart phones. Now, tablet computers can equalize the type of information available to both desk-based and machine- or truck-based employees.

The View from 30 Feet

The View from 30 Feet: Industrial Mold & Machine’s iPads and Social Network

By: Plastics Business Magazine
Published: Fall 2012

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big
picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however,
the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific
processes and procedures that make an impact now.
When those involved in plastics processing talk about upgrading
technology, they often are replacing outdated machinery on the plant
floor. At Industrial Mold & Machine (IMM), Twinsburg, OH, technology
upgrades have put iPads in the hands of 19 employees and are changing
the way the company communicates.
“Instant information – that’s how we’ve branded our goal,” explained
Wendy Wloszek, president of IMM. With 37 employees and 19 iPads, that
goal is being met for sales staff, CNC machinists, programmers and
five apprentices who use the iPads to access a social network created
by IMM. The network, dubbed IMM Connect, contains everything from
employee handbooks and MSDS sheets to logout/tagout information and
details about each job that runs within the shop.
Employees use iPads from wherever they are to log into IMM’s social
network and view current jobs running on the production floor or to
prepare for the next job. Each job has its own page on the network,
containing the steps that need to be taken to produce that piece,
detail drawings in both 2D and 3D and programming sheets.
“We’re changing the workflow,” Wloszek said. “We’re trying to cut the
ties from printed sheets of paper and blueprints.” When asked if the
goal for IMM is to be completely paperless in the future, Wloszek
pointed to the overarching goal of instant information. “If you have
to go look for a print, you’re wasting time. Paperless is just a
result of instant information.”
Wloszek admitted that the journey hasn’t been seamless “There’s not a
huge resource to look at and see how others have done it,” she said.
However, IMM continues to move forward, becoming a resource for others
who want to move toward a technology-based workflow. The next step is
an interface that will allow IMM’s social network to pull data points
from the company’s ERP system for clean and quick delivery of critical
information.
For Wloszek, iPads and social networks are part of a necessary culture
shift. “The apprentices we have now – the people who will be the
future of IMM – come from the technology generation,” said Wloszek.
“We’re starting this now to prepare the company for the next
generation workforce.”

Social Networking

Social Networking, Industry Participation Keys to Moldmaker’s Success

By: Sherry L. Baranek
Published: September 1, 2011

Industrial Mold & Machine (IMM; Twinsburg, OH) considers itself fairly diverse. A majority of the company’s work is smaller molds (under 400 tons) in industries like appliance, computer/business equipment, electronics, lawn and garden, marine, medical/optical/dental, telecommunications and toys.

IMM President Wendy Wloszek has embraced both involvement in the industry and new technology—determined to take IMM to the next level and ensure the company’s long-term success. She is a Champion member of AME (Association of Manufacturing Excellence), a MAPP (Manufacturing Association of Plastics Processors) board member and serves on the Board of Directors for the AMBA (American Mold Builders Association). Membership to these organizations provides Wloszek not only with networking opportunities and information sharing—but also access to cutting-edge business strategies to keep IMM on top of its game. 

“I volunteered to be on the AMBA board because I believe our industry is ready for things to be a little bit different than they were before,” she says. “Our company motto is ‘Building Better, Together’ and we feel like in order to help moldmaking and manufacturing survive we need to volunteer our time, and dedicate some resources to making that happen. I love it. It is such a great group of people and from a networking standpoint it has been phenomenal. We just can’t do enough of leveraging each other’s skills and sharing information.”

Looking Back


Wloszek’s father started IMM in 1988. An experienced machinist, he gradually started adding moldmaking equipment to his shop floor to offer mold manufacturing services to his customers. In addition to building blow, compression, gas assist and insert molds, the company also offers machining, polishing, repair and mold sampling/try out services. “As we discussed at a recent AMBA meeting, we are moldmakers, we never turn work away,” Wloszek comments.

Growing up, Wloszek had little to do with the company. When she discovered her career choice of teaching wasn’t meant for her during a student teaching job, her father made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She started at IMM benching molds before heading to the mold design department. “I really enjoyed the technical aspects of working on the computer,” she recalls. She quickly worked her way up to engineering manager, then head of operations before assuming the role of president in 2008. “I consider my specialty customer relationships,” she says. “I am always looking for new ways to best service our customers’ needs. I am currently developing daily job status tracking and starting to involve our customers in our social network.”

Her father remains involved with the company—working on EDM carbon preparation and offering technical assistance. “He isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, but there are times we need his expertise,” she notes. “I just don’t have the manufacturing expertise he does. That’s why we have a great working relationship—we complement each other. He has no desire to run the financial/schedule execution end of the company and manage the customers.”



Facing the Workforce Challenge

A current challenge the company faces is cultivating new talent. “We have looked for people on Monster, Career Builder and through classifieds, but we just aren’t getting the candidates we are looking for,” Wloszek says. “So we started hiring on attitude and character, and then training them ourselves. I put a note on our employee communication board asking our employees if they had any family members or friends that were looking for work. We are finding much greater success this way because the longevity of the employees is just greater.”

To that end, IMM is developing its own apprenticeship program instead of partnering with a technical school. “We have four apprentices right now and we would like to have six,” she says. “We may consider a school for some pockets of formal training at some point, but we believe we can do the majority ourselves.”

The company has had the program in place for approximately four months. “The apprentices do two-week stints in 12 functional areas in the organization, like polish/assembly, machining, engineering, etc.,” Wloszek explains. “We will probably also have them do a two-week period in the office in areas like data assembly and receivables, so they get an understanding that all of these areas are just tools to get our job done—each piece fits together and has a purpose to getting our product out the door and running a company.”

Building an Internal Social Network

Wloszek notes that she is on a mission to get people excited about looking at new ways of doing things. “We need to stay modern both in equipment—which is important—and what I think is more important is in business philosophy,” she elaborates. “The way you run processes and manufacture molds can—and does—change,” she says. “Sometimes people don’t embrace change. It was a long struggle but we are over this, and have made it to the other side. It is ingrained in who we are now: we are constantly striving for the best way to improve our process and it doesn’t mean the way you are doing it today. 

“We are working on some internal development tools to provide our employees with business training,” Wloszek continues. “Again, we think we can do some of it ourselves. We haven’t done much in this area, but we know we need to and we are considering hiring a trainer to help us. Our employees love professional development and want these opportunities.”

IMM has tapped into social networking opportunities to help its employees communicate—something that Wloszek is particularly proud of. “Our employees have developed a pretty substantial social network (IMMConnect.com) that is similar to a Facebook/Twitter feed that also contains job information, a Center for Learning, Employee Handbook, etc.,” she explains. The information is stored on 19 iPads.

“One of our apprentices just figured out how to get the iPad attached to a 32-inch TV that is mounted onto a board in front of one of our CNC machines,” Wloszek states. “Through our social network, they can link to a job the next piece that needs to be made and the blueprint and 3-D image which can be rotated and zoomed for it. You can zoom in and out of it on the TV. I am so proud of them. The CNC machinists are now involved and begging for more. So now we are all trying to figure out how to build infrastructure behind this. It is a constant challenge. This is the way we have been focusing on technology here at IMM.”

Moving Forward


Brainstorming about how to bring more technology like this into the shop and keeping busy with getting molds out the door has left IMM little time to make any short- or long-terms plans. “We are so busy it’s overwhelming,” she says, “which is a good thing. Of course, we’d like to continue to grow, in a controlled way so we can continue to be profitable. I am really encouraged to be in this industry right now. There is a lot of manufacturing in Ohio right now and we plan on continuing to produce our product to fill this need.”