Finding, retaining talent: Culture is key for motor manufacturer

Whether you choose to believe there is no shortage of engineering workers (such as those purported in the BusinessWeek article, “The Science Education Myth”) or you’re among the many manufacturers wrestling with filling engineering vacancies today, there is one fact that is indisputable: once you have the right person doing the job, it’s in your best interest to keep her there.


Lyman, SC – Whether you choose to believe there is no shortage of engineering workers (such as those purported in the

BusinessWeek article, “The Science Education Myth”

) or you’re among the many

manufacturers wrestling with filling engineering vacancies today (as covered in our January “Closing the Skills Gap” cover story

,) there is one fact that is indisputable: once you have the right person doing the job, it’s in your best interest to keep her there. Finding and retaining talent, particularly in today’s jittery market, is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Retaining talent and process improvements were among topics discussed with


– global provider of gearmotors, drives and associated technologies. That company recently provided Control Engineering with a behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s production and assembly operations in Lyman, SC. In addition to highlighting the innovative processes which earned the company a

2007 Top Plant award from Control Engineering’s sister publication Plant Engineering

, the company was just as eager to praise the SEW workforce for playing a critical role in the company’s ongoing success.

According to Carl Hinze, SEW’s plant manager, this attitude is driven from the top-down.

“The leadership at SEW takes a very open approach to process improvement,” said Hinze. “If you have an idea to improve the way you do your job and can make a case for investing in new tools or equipment, you can make it happen. That’s one of the key reasons why we can keep pace with quickly-rising demand.”

Hinze also cites personal accountability as another component integral to the organization’s ongoing success. Individual machine operators, for example, are responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of the machines they manage. This not only creates an incredibly clean shop floor, but also increases a “pride of ownership” at the operator level and streamlines preventive maintenance.

The sum total of these activities creates a work atmosphere where people feel valued, personally invested in the success or failure of the business and committed toward achieving a common goal. This has resulted in greater efficiency (fewer shifts necessary to meet demand) and improved profitability (measured by reduced average cost per unit produced.) Perhaps the most telling metric, however, comes from the workers themselves.

“We’ll often have operators approach us and tell us that they have the capacity to operate more machines during their shift and actually ask for adding equipment to make this happen,” said Chuck Chandler, assistant plant manager. “They let us know where we can make investments to improve throughput and productivity, and lately we’ve been bringing in new equipment on a very regular basis.”

When operations are not running at peak capacity, SEW takes the opportunity to offer additional training to employees. This, combined with the ability to work on new and varied equipment, keeps the job from becoming mundane, and helps employees to keep their skills sharp and their jobs interesting.

“We have incredibly low turnover and most of the people you see on the plant floor have been here for 10 years or more,” stated Hinze.

So if you’re looking for another innovative way to help close the skills gap, stay focused on your existing workers. It will likely provide the greatest return on investment your company will make.

Related technology coverage from Control Engineering includes:

Material handling: Monorail system with non-contact power transfer demonstrated in Germany


Marc Moschetto, editorial director
Control Engineering News Desk
( Register here and scroll down to select your choice of eNewsletters free .)

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
2015 Mid-Year Report: Manufacturing's newest tool: In a digital age, digits will play a key role in the plant of the future; Ethernet certification; Mitigate harmonics; World class maintenance
2015 Lubrication Guide: Green and gold in lubrication: Environmentally friendly fluids and sealing systems offer a new perspective
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Cyber security attack: The threat is real; Hacking O&G control systems: Understanding the cyber risk; The active cyber defense cycle
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths
New industrial buildings: Greener, cleaner, leaner; New building designs for industry; Take a new look at absorption cooling; Offshored jobs start to come back

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.