2011 Top Plant winner: NMHG

2011 Top Plant

Manufacturers around the U.S. and around the world are succeeding in manufacturing because they have placed their bets on the right aspects of their business.

Bob Vavra, Content Manager


Photo courtesy: Tim Webb PhotographyPhoto courtesy: Tim Webb PhotographyPhoto courtesy: Tim Webb Photography

For the past three years, manufacturing must have seemed like a high-stakes poker game to some people. It also seems the game has been played only two ways—fold, or go all in.

If you have ever seen the World Series of Poker, though, you know the only people who go all in are either supremely confident or desperate, and neither seems like an especially sound business strategy.

There is a third way to play, of course. It takes a lot more work and a lot more patience, and it won’t always yield positive results on every play, but it is a surer way to build your chips. You have to place your bets in the right places, at the right moments. You must manage the game for the long term, and not just play the game looking for the one big hand.

Manufacturers around the U.S. and around the world are succeeding in manufacturing because they have placed their bets on the right aspects of their business. They cannot control what other players have in their hands. They play the cards they are dealt and seize the opportunity to improve when it comes along.

2011 Top PlantOur 2011 Top Plant winner, NACCO Material Handling Group of Berea, Ky., is an outstanding example of placing your bets in the right place. NACCO bet on its people to help grow the organization. In doing so, the company has helped grow the community.

NACCO manufactures lift trucks for Hyster and Yale, and the lift truck business is a good bellwether for what is going on in the rest of manufacturing. That business improved as other manufacturing sectors began to perk up, and NACCO’s Berea facility increased its workforce by 40% in 2011. NACCO did more than just add bodies, however. Understanding that a flexible workforce would allow the company to continue to grow and change, it placed its bets on extensive training before workers ever stepped onto the production floor.

As NACCO managers put it in their Top Plant application: “By increasing overall knowledge of assembly lines and manufacturing areas, we can increase workers’ overall depth of knowledge that is instrumental in maintaining efficiency levels. Looking forward, we see the changes to the production of different product mixes that will require workers to assume new positions as we rebalance lines to match the market conditions. Additional training of the workers with a broader base of knowledge will facilitate growth both of the workers and in our ability to quickly adapt to market conditions.”

Among the reasons for its ability to hire so effectively are co-op and internship programs with Berea College and with Eastern Kentucky University. That has given students a chance to see what a career at NACCO can be like. That has facilitated the growth the company has enjoyed in the past three years.

NACCO is a good corporate citizen, actively participating in United Way donations and providing a lift truck to a local food bank. It has reduced its environmental impact by 10% a year for each of the last three years, and continues to look for savings throughout the facility.

Rather than just sit back and protect the chips it had, NACCO Material Handling Group placed its bets on its people, and grew as a result. It is now well positioned to keep growing. At a time when some seem reluctant to bet on manufacturing, NACCO Material Handling Group is a great example of how it can be a winning strategy.

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