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Member Manufacturers

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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Member Manufacturers

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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Member Manufacturers

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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Member Manufacturers

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.

Categories
Community Partnership

MVMC helps build Valley manufacturing summer camps

As summer rolls on, so do different summer camps across the Mahoning Valley.

 

Among those are a handful with manufacturing- and STEM-based elements, in which the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is helping.

 

“We have had identified several summer camps across Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties that attract a variety of students with the common goal of opening their eyes to manufacturing, and we’re thrilled to support them,” said Allison Engstrom, MVMC project manager.

 

Students have been touring local manufacturing facilities, listening to career ambassadors talk about manufacturing careers and take part in hands-on activities.

Starting the conversation early

So far this season, MVMC has supported a Trumbull County Technical Center  camp financially and Trumbull County Educational Service Center camp by organizing manufacturing tours and hands-on activities.

Students tour the BRITE facility.
Students from Trumbull County tour the BRITE Energy Innovators in Warren as part of a STEAM-based summer camp.

 

MVMC associate member BRITE hosted students from the Liberty Learning Center and TCESC summer camp.

 

“We had a variety of grade levels and they all enjoyed our lessons about batteries along with a tour of BRITE’s lab space,” said Joe Paloski, operations manager of BRITE.

 

During their visit, students “enthusiastically” learned about the company’s Wet Lab, Io Lab, microgrid and battery testers, Paloski said.

 

“They loved connecting the battery circuit to the motor to make it run. The kids asked great questions about whether we meet Elon Musk to cell phone charging and building RC cars. Their engagement made the lesson even more interactive and fun,” Paloski said.

 

Students from the Engineering Camp at TCTC were joined by City Machine Technologies’ Claudia Kovach.

 

She spoke to children and led them in an activity – trying to put a wooden skewer through a blown-up balloon without it popping.

 

“There are plenty of great careers that just require a little bit of schooling or a certification,” Kovach said.

 

“For so long, teachers and schools always say ‘go to college,’ and here at CMT, we are just letting the kids know there are opportunities in manufacturing,” she added.

Looking to the future

It’s one of MVMC’s goals for students to leave summer camps with an understanding of what manufacturing is, Engstrom said.

 

“We want to show the variety of STEM-based career opportunities in the industry right here in the Mahoning Valley,” she said.

 

The manufacturing industry “has and will always be important,” Paloski said.

Chris Allen of Ultium talks with students.
During a tour at BRITE Energy Innovators, Chris Allen, human resources manager of Ultium Cells, talks with students.

 

“It’s great for children to learn about it so they can appreciate the things they have even more, potentially even seeking a future career in manufacturing.”

 

These summer camps are another way to introduce youths to “grow in areas they already love or learn about an area of STEM that they’ve always been interested in,” said Shelby Russell, TCTC welding instructor.

Coming up

There’s still time to help with three more summer camps:

 

 

If members are interested in volunteering for upcoming summer camps, email Engstrom at Allison@mahoningvalleymfg.com.

 

 

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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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Member Manufacturers

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.

Categories
Media Coverage

Study: Traditional four-year degree losing steam among teens

More than half of teenagers are open to alternatives to a traditional college degree to prepare them for a career.

 

According to a 2021 survey by ECMC Group, just 48 percent of high school students are considering a four-year degree. That number is down from 71 percent from May 2020.

 

More than half of those surveyed feel they can achieve success in three years or fewer of education, including through apprenticeships.

 

Among the “quicker pathways to careers” they view as most appealing: trade skills and on-the-job training.

 

What can that mean for manufacturing?

A new phase in manufacturing

 

Alex Hertzer, MVMC assistant director, said the timing of the survey’s findings is great news for Mahoning Valley manufacturers. To capitalize on the opportunity, he said we must acknowledge and defeat the still-lingering stigmas of industry along with a misconception of how to approach growing the talent pipeline.

 

“We need to promote to job seekers that we’re in a new era in manufacturing,” Hertzer said.

 

Employee works machine at Extrudex.
Hunter Wess began his career in manufacturing through WorkAdvance, a program teaching him the basics of the industry.

That new era includes more technology, automation, safety, clean and bright facilities, and real career paths.

 

It’s finding a way to relate the new industry shifts to Gen Z and future generations, Hertzer said.

 

“As a high school senior, some information might come from influencers.”

 

Using local influencers is a way to show teens “manufacturing is enticing. There are benefits, good pay and the biggest thing right now: culture.”

 

Job seekers want to have that life-work balance, Hertzer said.

 

It’s important that job seekers see a logo or hear a manufacturing company name and immediately associate it with a positive culture, he added.

 

Hertzer said to reach Gen Z to dispel old ideas about manufacturing, the approach of explaining is key.

 

“It’s about rebranding manufacturing as an opportunity. It’s not just an option.”

 

Hertzer said collectively we need to convey a consistently positive message about today’s manufacturing careers.

 

“Let people know yes, you’re going to work hard and sweat, but you’re going to feel you’re part of a family, you’ll have great benefits, your supervisors are there to help you. You’ll have a career path and will grow,” Hertzer said.

Learning while earning

 

Providing opportunities for Gen Z to start making money right as they graduate can be crucial, Hertzer said.

 

Apprenticeships give people a feel for what work needs to be done, and it allows apprentices to mesh with seasoned employees while learning on-the-job.

 

In the survey, 65 percent said they felt skills should be learned in a lab setting or somewhere hands-on. Another 53 percent would opt to gain skills in apprenticeship-type experiences.

 

Locally that can be done through programs like WorkAdvance and registered pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.

 

Categories
Faces of Manufacturing

In Demands Job Week Profile: Tool and die maker molds future starting with apprenticeship

While he was already inching toward a college degree and working full time, Joe Zagorec changed courses and took a chance.

It was 1995 when he decided to leave his studies at Youngstown State University and go into a skilled trades apprenticeship.

“It’s kind of a big career change, but the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it,” Zagorec said.

He’s now a tool and die maker at ClarkDietrich in Vienna, where he’s been since 2016.

Previously, he was at Delphi Electric for 25 years working on molds and progressive dies after going through their tool and die apprenticeship.

Tool and die maker stands at grinder.
Joe Zagorec is a tool and die maker at ClarkDietrich in Vienna. He began his career in the mid-1990s with a four-year apprenticeship.

Making the switch

He realized he enjoyed the atmosphere of the classroom-machine shop setup.

The apprenticeship was two years in the classroom then two years in the plants applying what he learned while working under a journeyman’s mentorship.

“It’s different” learning in a traditional college setting and working, compared to applying lessons hands-on, Zagorec said.

Completing an in-house apprenticeship allows for the employer to “mold” the training employee to learn different roles within the company, Zagorec said.

New beginnings

Before joining ClarkDietrich, Zagorec didn’t work with rotary dies.

Instead, he worked on progressive dies, running 1,500 strokes a minute.

Learning the new skill wasn’t difficult, he said.

“The concept is the same as far as die work.”

During his apprenticeship, Zagorec learned mostly conventional, he said.

As his career has evolved, he’s gotten involved with wires and sinkers, which are more CNC aspects.

Looking at the numbers

The average hourly wage for a tool and die maker is $27, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Annually, that’s about $56,200.

Closer to home, the average hourly rate is $21, or $43,700 annually.

To earn credentials in tool and die making, courses can be taken at Trumbull County Technical Center, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, and Eastern Gateway Community College.

A career path for everyone

Becoming a tool and die maker has provided a stable life for Zagorec and his family.

“It’s been an excellent career choice,” he said, noting he was able to pay his daughter’s college tuition to become a teacher.

For high school students, “manufacturing is an excellent opportunity” to research.

Even students with straight-As and those who are National Honor Society members should consider the skilled trades if they like working with their hands and minds, Zagorec said.

“I never would have pictured myself” in manufacturing “because no one ever pushed it in high school.”

That’s why talking with students about apprenticeships is crucial, Zagorec said.

“There are so many opportunities for trades… that are great, stable careers.”

For information on funding apprenticeships or upskilling employees, visit TechCred and WorkAdvance.