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.”
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.”
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.”