2016 Top Plant

The 2016 Plant Engineering Top Plant winner, MFC Netform, makes people the cornerstone of their manufacturing philosophy.

By Bob Vavra, CFE Media December 12, 2016

We talk a lot about technology in manufacturing-about the machines and software and the strategies around them that make our plants safer and more efficient. Those are important advancements in developing a modern manufacturing facility.

One aspect we try not to overlook, but one that is even more crucial to a plant’s success, is the human element. Improving the way humans work with the plant operations and with each other go a long way to making your plant more successful. People are at the cornerstone of the manufacturing philosophy at MFC Netform, the 2016 Plant Engineering Top Plant recipient. As Tim Cripsey, the executive vice president of MFC Netform, notes in the story to follow: "The technology is a secondary tool. What makes us successful is our people and how we trust our customer focus and our employee focus."

When asked why his plant was recognized as this year’s Top Plant award winner, Cripsey said simply, "There are only two real reasons in my opinion: The people and the culture."

As manufacturers aspire to be a Top Plant, the focus is on metrics and measurements. Plant managers offer key performance indicators and overall equipment effectiveness-data we reduce to acronyms such as KPIs and OEE. What we cannot reduce to data is the way workers feel about their jobs and about their organization. In developing a plant strategy, MFC Netform started with its customers and built a manufacturing process that met their needs. This allows for MFC Netform to customize and even redesign products to meet the needs of their end users.

To accomplish this, MFC Netform’s focus on employee input and employee training makes every worker part of quality control and of process improvement. They also have embraced a Lean manufacturing philosophy, which brings workers and processes closer together. They also have a fundamental commitment to safety at all times.

All this reliance on people doesn’t mean the company has overlooked technology of course. Quite the contrary; MFC Netform has a sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and it uses robotics and automation extensively to enhance the manufacturing process.

But it was the people-first commitment from MFC Netform of Shelby Township, Mich. that elevated the facility to this year’s Top Plant Award. It stands as an example of just how important people are to building a successful manufacturing plant.

-Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant Engineering