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ClarkDietrich celebrates employee’s 50th year on the job

He’s already an institution, a mentor, a workhorse and all-around good guy, but if Melvin Bragg ever gets around to calling it a career at ClarkDietrich, his name will not soon be forgotten.

Bragg’s Vienna employer celebrated his 50th anniversary at the plant with a warm reception including his wife, current and former co-workers, and corporate executives who traveled in for the occasion.

 

Days earlier, the plant revealed the winning entry in a “Name the Robot” contest among employees to memorialize a new piece of automation equipment brought in to help load and stack pallets. The name plant employees decided on? “Melvin.”

 

“The timing could not have been more perfect. It’s definitely a sign of the amount of respect they have for him,” said Tina Parker, Senior HR Business Partner.

 

The accolades didn’t stop there.

 

Everyone’s got a kind word to say about Melvin

 

“He just loves to work,” said Melvin’s wife, Gertrude. “He ain’t quitting. I tried a few years ago and he said, ‘No, I’m working.’ He’ll retire when he’s ready.”

 

“He’s had a tremendous career here,” said Chris Plant, Plant Manager. “I think he’s done every job in the plant, and we appreciate everything he’s done.”

 

“He’s just a pleasure to be around,” said Safety Manager Ken Von Bergen. “To make it 50 years with one job I think it’s just incredible. He’s an asset you don’t want to lose.”

 

“He’s a great guy, always very helpful,” said Mill Operator Stephen Nyako.

 

“He doesn’t keep his institutional knowledge to himself, Melvin’s going to give you everything he’s got,” said Supervisor Mike Fountain.

“He puts in more hours than anybody, and everybody likes him,” said Supervisor Mike Long.

 

Secrets to Melvin’s longevity

 

It was September 1972 when Bragg’s brother-in-law told him about the opening at what is now ClarkDietrich. Bragg, then just 18, had been performing warranty work at Martin Chevrolet.

 

“I went in, applied for the job and started working the next day,” Bragg said.

 

His starting wage was $2.30 an hour as a guillotine operator, which Bragg said was among the highest paying jobs in the area at the time.

 

Bragg, a man of few works but countless smiles, attributes his staying power to two time-tested pieces of advice: “Keep a positive attitude and you’ve got to enjoy what you do,” he said.

 

Congratulations, Melvin! And keep up the great work.

 

ClarkDietrich is a member-manufacturer of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

 

 

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Seated in Youngstown, Gasser Chair is global winner in game of thrones

How many times have you gone to a restaurant, hotel or casino and paid attention to the chair?

 

From now on, you probably will.

 

In Youngstown, MVMC member manufacturer Gasser Chair Company builds chairs that can be found around the world.

 

Founded in 1946 by the Gasser family, the company originally manufactured aluminum for helicopters.

 

In the 1960s, there was a transition into dining room sets and chairs, which in time evolved into the product Gasser is known for.

What’s in a chair?

 

Just about every piece of a Gasser chair is made in-house at the facilities on Logan Way.

 

“It’s amazing what all goes into making a chair,” said Tony Brown, human resources manager.

Gasser Chair employee makes foaml
Nearly every part of a Gasser chair is made on-site in Youngstown, including the foam.

 

There are hundreds of types of chairs, he said, and each creation depends on what the customer is looking for.

 

Gasser specializes in hospitality and gaming chairs.

 

Each is designed to a customer’s specifications.

 

“It’s a pretty intricate process,” Brown said.

 

At the corporate office, the sales team comes up with the name of each chair, oftentimes pulling inspiration from the Mahoning Valley.

Putting each other first

 

There are 100 employees at Gasser, between manufacturing employees who make the foam, sew fabrics, weld, hand-craft wood and sew final pieces together.

 

When a potential employee walks in for an interview, they usually always have the same thing to say.

Gasser employee installs rivets into a chair.
There are 100 employees at Gasser, who sew, weld and assemble chairs.

 

“I can’t tell you how many times interviewees will say ‘the culture feels different here,’” Brown said.

 

Oftentimes, employees from different departments check in with others just to see how everything’s working and flowing.

 

“It’s what we pride ourselves on. We’re family-owned and the culture is inclusion and family-oriented.”

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Part 4: Training for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

Training is the key to ensuring that the proper processes are taking place on the plant floor.

 

Many companies, unfortunately, just do training through osmosis.

 

“Go stand next to Jim and watch what he does.”

 

It’s a very hands-off and frankly lazy way of training people.

 

Just like with boosting the morale in your company, you must be intentional about your training.

Mapping ideas for employees

 

The old adage says if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

 

Well, if there is no training plan for employees, you are setting them up for failure. Employees must not only have a plan but know what the plan is for them.

 

This type of engagement puts accountability on the employee to really own their training plan. Most often when we are setting up new training or rethinking our old programs, we so often forget the human element of training as well.

 

We choose trainers who have the most knowledge or who have been doing the job the longest.

 

However, we forget to equip those trainers with the soft skills needed to give effective training.

 

Because of this obstacle, the MVMC has found a solution.

Upskilling internal trainers

 

We help offer a “train the trainer” course through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

 

(Click here for more information)

 

While culture in a company is a very complex idea and takes a lot of effort to change and maintain, start with something small, and then be more intentional with incremental workplace culture changes from there.

 

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Part 3: Leading for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

A mentor of mine once told me that you should always know at least one thing about a person outside of the workplace.

 

This is something that has always stuck with me. It is something so small it could easily be seen as insignificant.

 

But it is something that can be so powerful.

 

It’s real simple. People want to be treated like people. Not a number.

 

Bringing “home” to work

 

Culture is built on small everyday moments.

 

We have all heard for years that what happens at home should stay at home and you shouldn’t bring it into work.

 

Well, I think we all know that this is near impossible. People are going to struggle with things outside of work that will always affect them in the workplace.

 

When you know what is going on in your employees’ lives, you can do a better job of setting them up for success in the workplace.

 

While changing and maintaining culture is found in these emotional moments, it’s also found in our daily operations.

 

Changing tired thinking

 

I once heard a story of a woman who always cut the ends of her ham off before placing it in the roasting pan and then into the oven.

 

When asked why she did this, she responded, “That’s how my mother did it, and that’s how I was taught.”

 

Then her mother was asked why she cut off the ends of the ham. She also stated, “That’s how my mother did it, and that’s how I was taught.”

 

Finally, when they asked the grandmother why she cut the ends of the ham off, she said, “My pan was always too small to fit the whole ham. So, I cut the ends off.”

 

You can see easily how this story relates to the workplace. Maybe that’s why Joe always sweeps the end of the line first when he is cleaning up. Or why Jill always cranks down on that last pass to make a good part even though that’s not how the task instructions read. Or however this concept plays out in your workplace.

 

There are many tasks and habits spread throughout a facility that were not originally intended to be done that way. But, over time and through tribal knowledge these tasks and habits are picked up. The operational culture is just as crucial to the business as the morale of the employees.

 

And what’s at the heart of operational culture? Training.

 

Read Part 4: Training for Workplace Culture, here.

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Part 2: Campaigning for Workplace Culture

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

We have heard the term “culture” used quite often last two decades.

 

It’s one of those things that we all know exists but can’t quite seem to define. Defining what culture is must come before we can change it.

 

Knowing what culture is and what it is not will lead us to know how it works. Trying to change the culture in your facility without understanding the mechanism would be like trying to change the direction of a cruise ship, without even knowing how it works.

 

Trust me, changing culture in a facility is much like steering a cruise ship. It doesn’t happen fast.

 

Explaining “culture”

 

Defining culture is extremely difficult because it is not something that you can touch, and it is different for each person and company.

 

Culture is how we perceive and feel about our workplace and the people we work with.

 

It is also the machine that keeps a business running. It is the answer to most of your operational questions, too. It is how each employee interacts with the world around them.

 

Like the DNA of your workforce.

 

The role of leaders

 

Whether it is a positive environment or a negative one, every workplace has a culture.

 

As a leader you don’t get to decide whether or not there is a culture in your facility, but you can choose to make it a good one.

 

The leaders of a company are who ultimately decide how the culture will display itself.

 

To have an equitable, encouraging, motivating, empowering workplace, you must first have an equitable, encouraging, motivating, and empowering leader or group of leaders.

 

The leaders within a company or a facility must take responsibility for this part of the business. Otherwise, a company culture left unattended will inevitably flounder. Someone must be in the driver’s seat.

 

Read Part 3: Leading for Workplace Culture, here.

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Member Manufacturers

Examining the Role Workplace Culture Plays in Workforce Development

For a printable version of this 4-part series by Alex Hertzer, assistant director of Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, click here.

Culture. It’s a common buzzword in the world of workforce development. What is it? Why does it matter? How does it happen? Who’s responsible?

 

These are some of the questions employers should be asking if they want to exist in a post-pandemic job market. Which begs the question …Why now?

 

Is this something new to workforce development? The short answer is, no. Culture is a part of how we interact with other people and the world around us. Culture, whether positive or negative, is always present.

 

It is our responsibility as leaders to build a culture of top performers who are empowered to elevate themselves, those around them, and the company. The longer answer is that culture is built on everyday moments. And over a period of time.

 

Culture is built over time the same way an election is won through a well-thought-out campaign. It’s a series of events of engaging the workforce in big, small, and medium ways from the top down.

 

It’s not shaking one hand that wins an election. It’s shaking a thousand. Same with culture. It’s built over time and incrementally.

 

Agree but not sure where to begin? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to help shape a positive and encouraging work environment at your organization.

 

What is Culture?

 

Culture is the sociological features of the workforce within your facility. Culture could be as simple as saying hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of the day.

 

Culture is measured by the way people feel while interacting, including yourself. Do they feel confident in their abilities and encouraged by their circumstances?

Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director.
Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director.

Culture should be equitable, ethical, and moral. Culture is the DNA makeup of a group of people and cannot be built or broken by any one person, even if one person is the driving force.

 

Why does Culture matter?

 

Culture is what makes or breaks a workforce.

 

While in the past, workforces were able to be maintained through workarounds to culture. No longer can businesses rest on their laurels of wages, stability, and benefits. Job seekers have seemingly taken the driving wheel from employers. Job seekers want to be happy and fulfilled in their careers.

 

The way an employer can articulate how potential job seekers can find what they are looking for is through their cultures.

 

To be fulfilled, there must be something rewarding and fulfilling about the employee’s job. To be engaged there must be a sense of purpose to what they are doing.

 

None of this can be done if the stale cultures that once were manufacturing facilities remain.

 

While manufacturing may have some hurdles to the modern idea of work culture, it still begins with a first step in the right direction.

 

How does Culture happen?

 

Culture happens through a series of small changes in the way that we interact with the workforce in our facilities. It can only be completely invasive if started from the top down.

 

Culture happens similarly to the way an ice cube melts.

 

Imagine you have an ice cube sitting in a room at 26 degrees. Then you add one degree. 27 degrees. (Start changing the way you greet people) 28 degrees. (Free lunch on Fridays) 29,30,31. Still nothing has happened to the ice cube. Then you hit 32 and the ice cube begins to sweat. 33,34,35,36.

 

The ice cube is now a puddle. Sometimes even as we are taking small steps in the right direction it can look like nothing is changing and then all the sudden things can pick up speed. The key is to keep moving forward.

 

Who is responsible for the Culture?

 

Everyone!

 

While it should start from the top down, everyone plays a role in the culture within a facility.

 

Everyone is equally important in maintaining a sustainable way of treating each other and the facility.

 

Culture is what people do when no one is looking. Culture is doing things right and doing the right thing.

 

Everyone in the canoe has a different role, but everyone must be rowing in the same direction.

 

It’s simple. Culture may begin with a single action, but it is fully realized when the entire group is boldly singing the same song. Like a butterfly flapping its wings in India.

 

Read Part 2: Campaigning for Workplace Culture, here.

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Member Manufacturers

New owner focuses on future, company honor at Dunaway

Tucked off Leffingwell Road in Canfield near state Route 46 is a 40-year-old manufacturing company undergoing some changes.

 

One of those changes at Dunaway Inc. is the transition of ownership.

 

In March 2021, Jason Markijohn purchased the company from founder Mike Dunaway.

 

Hearing Dunaway was considering selling, Markijohn sprang into action.

Dunaway owner Jason Markijohn.
Jason Markijohn is the new owner of Dunaway Inc. in Canfield.

 

“I’d always wanted to own my own company, and the opportunity presented itself,” said Markijohn, who has an engineering background.

 

Dunaway Inc. is a newer member manufacturer of MVMC.

Everything to everyone

Founded in 1981, Dunaway Inc. has historically been associated with maintenance and field service, as well as being a machine shop for aluminum extrusion.

 

Over the years as services and demand grew, so did the building to its current 25,000 square feet.

 

Throughout everything, Dunaway himself “was the company. He was everything,” Markijohn said.

 

To continue the integrity Dunaway is known for, Markijohn recently hired an experienced engineer to ensure operations run smooth.

Building a support system

For 2022, “it’s a transition year,” Markijohn said. “Year one was me being here and trying to understand things, trying to learn as much as I could from Mike.”

 

Now, it’s letting Dunaway retire.

A CNC machine operator works on a project at Dunaway Inc. in Canfield.
Founded in 1981, Dunaway Inc. is a machine shop for aluminum extrusion.

“It’ll be a big gap to fill,” but Markijohn will be able to call Dunaway up with any major questions.

 

There’s also focusing on the field service part of the business, which Markijohn said was well-established.

 

In the meantime, Markijohn is also busy surrounding himself with “knowledgeable people,” which weighed into the company joining MVMC.

 

He wants to learn from other business leaders what they’ve done to build and maintain a lasting company.

 

“This is a big undertaking, and I want to have a supportive team around me.”

 

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Austintown manufacturer promotes trainings for employees to grow

MVMC member manufacturer Xaloy LLC in Austintown is building a stronger culture by improving communication skills of team leaders within the company.

Thinking before talking

 

Jesse Shaffer is a production supervisor covering the second and third shifts at Xaloy.

 

He manages about 30 employees, taking care of timecards and executing plans set by the day shift leadership.

 

He’s been participating in the Leadership Essentials program, a six-part training series to better communicate with employees.

Jesse Shaffer talks during a training session.
Jesse Shaffer, a supervisor with Xaloy LLC in Austintown, shares insight during a training session on how it’s helped him learn to communicate with his team.

“It’s been a lot about communication” and learning about generational habits, he said.

 

For instance, Shaffer has learned to ask open-ended questions to elicit more information as well as provide an opportunity for an employee to share something he didn’t think to ask.

 

The training has also taught Shaffer to assess what he wants to say during a conversation.

 

“I can take a step back and think about how I’m going to say something,” he said. “Sometimes, how I think it is going to come across isn’t going to be the same as how someone will receive it.”

 

He’s also learning how to interact with and guide different generations, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z.

 

Shaffer’s goal in his leadership role is to help his team work cohesively.

 

The training gives him a chance to work on his leadership. “It’s always going to be a work in progress, but it’s very useful” to have this knowledge and awareness, he said.

Investing in the workforce

The leadership essentials program was built especially for Xaloy through the Center for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University.

 

There’s a certificate for participants after completion, said Trudy Cheney, global human resources director for Xaloy.

 

“This training gives our employees the tools they need to draw on when they run into challenging situations,” she said.

 

Kamal Tiwari, CEO of Xaloy, also “made it very clear” that training of all types is important to him, Cheney said.

 

By investing in employees, they can develop and grow along with the company.

 

Shaffer agreed that Xaloy creates chances for employees to evolve.

 

“I started as an entry-level employee. One of the positions someone can get coming off the streets,” he said, adding he was able to work his way up in several years due to all of the training company offered him. “Being given the opportunity to advance and have career development is refreshing.”

 

Xaloy LLC has been an MVMC member since 2018.

 

Calling on resources through the partnership with MVMC was one of many benefits of joining the coalition, Cheney said.

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Valley Partners, a nonprofit funding source for local businesses

Are you preparing to finance a project to expand your business?

Look no further for option than to MVMC new member Valley Economic Development Partners.

Since 1978, the nonprofit has helped local small businesses with loans.

“We offer and facilitate a variety of loan programs to support small businesses with specialized flexible lending solutions.,” said Teresa Miller, executive director.

Think of it as bridge or gap financing packages.

There are a number of options, including larger SBA-partnered programs, where Valley Partners mitigates risk to the bank and client by funding a portion of the project.

“We take a second position on collateral behind the bank,” Miller said.

Valley Economic Development Partners employees pictured, left to right, front row, are: Julie Swauger, office manager/trust manager; Madison Hoover, loan assistant/marketing manager; Teresa Miller, executive director; Cassie Wyatt, business coach. Left to right, back row, are: Mario Nero, director of economic development lending; Greg Lutz, financial specialist; Maureen Stenglein, SBA lobal officer; and Wendy Walters, director of servicing.

If a business applies for a loan at a bank, the bank can say the business must have 20 percent equity for a $5 million project.

Valley Partners enters, offering funding for 40 percent of the project, while the bank offers 50 percent. That will leave the business portion to 10 percent.

There are smaller loan programs, where Valley Partners is able to fund without bank participation as well.

A long-time popular option which will likely see a resurgence Miller said is a loan fund from the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) called the Regional 166. It is targeted for the manufacturing industry.

While interest rates are on the rise, Regional 166 loans will most likely remain around 3 to 4 percent.

This is great for expansions, equipment purchases, location moves or purchasing a new building, Miller said. If a company wants to finance on their own, Valley Partners can utilize the Regional 166 loan for 75 percent of the project if the business funds the remaining 25 percent.

“This is a perfect loan fund program for fixed assets a manufacturing company might be looking for.”

For more information or to being the application process, visit www.valleyedp.com.

“We’re here to help and partner with their banks to make the best loan package that’s possible for small businesses in the Valley.”

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Member PanelMatic aims to grow staff

How many times when you’re driving along a stretch of interstate, and you come up behind a massive building-like structure creeping along, escorted and plastered with “WIDE LOAD” signs?

Chances are, some of those could be modular buildings manufactured by MVMC newer member PanelMatic Building Solutions of Brookfield.

The modular buildings are largely used as substation control buildings, power distribution centers and switchgear motor control centers.

PanelMatic can also create modified shipping containers, mull pulpits, operator cads, large enclosures to shelter equipment, battery storage enclosures and general heavy fabrication skidded equipment.

Founded in 1957 in Youngstown, PanelMatic split from Dearing Compressor years later.

Founder Bud Dearing was making his way into electrical controls, and to keep distribution, the company had to separate the electrical side, said Dan Vodhanel, general manager of the Brookfield location.

Splitting further in 2019, PanelMatic moved the modular building out of the Youngstown Plant, which now handles control pandels. That’s when PanelMatic Building Solutions was born.

Since 2019, employees have worked in a 73,000-square-foot facility at 6882 Parkway Drive in Brookfield.

PanelMatic Building Solutions in Brookfield builds and then ships specially crafted modular containers and buildings.

“We’re a very large job shop. Every order is custom to suite our customers’ needs,” Vodhanel said.

There are currently 30 employees, and Vodhanel aims to hire another 20 in the next two years to cover positions in manufacturing, engineering and electricity.

The process of creating a modular building begins when the engineering team reviews a quote and specifications. Then, the design is drawn up and sent to the customer for approval. After that, crews begin manufacturing the building.

Once the building is erected, it’s painted, then electricians from IBEW Local 2241 – PanelMatic’s union – install electrical components.

When the building is done, it’s shrink-wrapped and shipped.

Vodhanel has taken advantage of various programs to help upskill his employees, including On-The-Job training payment programs and TechCred for welding certification and software for engineers.

PanelMatic in Brookfield was also awarded the Excellence in Manufacturing in 2020 from the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.