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Going With the Flow at Menardi in Edgefield County
July 31, 2018
Navigating a sometimes turbulent marketplace requires vision, experience ― and the right balance to stabilize the ship. Management at Menardi Filter Elements in Edgefield County realized that sailing along the same way as always only brings the same results. All the while, their competitors were changing tack in the midst of an approaching sea change.
“We have been in business for a long time, and the market has changed for us,” said Kirk Trykowski, vice president of finance and general manager at Menardi. “We continued to try to run our business the way it was in its heyday but realized the market has changed, so we had to change with it.”
Trykowski and HR Manager Kerry Watson both knew that staying competitive required not just a training solution but an overall cultural shift. And that meant swimming against the longstanding current.
“When I started a year ago, my overall goal was to get people training,” Trykowski explained. “Kerry and I both came from a largely pro-training environment.” At the time, some Menardi employees hadn’t received any training for several years. “Kerry and I are trying to bring that forward,” he said.
The two saw apprenticeship, in partnership with Piedmont Technical College, as an opportunity to secure training and update employee skills at a significantly lower cost while, at the same time, instigating a progressive shift in mindset. To begin, they asked the company’s supervisors and managers to identify promising candidates in various areas. “They put a list together along with suggestions for bringing in an instructor,” Trykowski explained. “We just followed that list verbatim.”
For its part, PTC provides onsite instruction for Menardi employees.
“Right now, we have a process improvement manager and seven employees participating,” Watson said.
“To begin, we had two weeks of event training. Then we moved into value stream mapping,” Trykowski added. “We had another three days on shop floor layout. The result is that we are re-examining our layout as we discovered that we have opportunity for improvement.”
Menardi officials were pleased with the quality of instruction employees received and especially appreciated the Piedmont Tech instructors’ flexibility with pace and scheduling.
“They really worked with us, which is great,” Trykowski said. “It’s hard to take five people off the floor and tell them you will be in the classroom for the next two weeks. So the instructors were flexible and worked with us, two days here, three days there. Since they came here (to our worksite), it was really nice.”
As a result of the training, a worksite floor layout was modified to improve flow and efficiency by reducing and combining some formerly wasteful steps around a tubing machine.
The next round of apprenticeship training has been LEAN principles, and Trykowski said he would like in the future to introduce some leadership training and specialized instruction for Menardi’s sales staff.
“That is the kind of ideal training I want to provide for our sales people,” he said. “We are in the process of hiring for sales. Once they get in, we want to get them some training.”
Having the instructors come to Menardi rather than sending employees offsite is a huge advantage. “By having someone else come in who is considered an expert, I think that carries a lot more weight than something we might offer internally,” Trykowski said.
While not everyone was on board in the beginning, the mindset is shifting.
“Now people are actually starting to see how this is supposed to work,” he explained. “Now that those people have gone through it, I think their eyes have opened up. They are seeing the advantages.”
Trykowski noted that the apprenticeship platform makes training more affordable as well as supports improved retention of employees.
“This is a plant that offers people opportunities that they might not necessarily have at a bigger company. We want to keep who we have here and educate them,” he said. “We have already had people inquiring about upcoming training. We are getting people more engaged and making it part of our culture, to constantly be looking at process and flow.”