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May 17, 1999

3 Min Read
Employee empowerment pays offfor custom injection molder

By tapping into the creative ideas of its employees and empowering them to more effectively respond to problems on the production floor, custom injection molder Kelch Assemblies has seen an increase in productivity of more than 20 percent.

The process change behind these results—Kelch’s Production Partners program—was begun in July of 1997 as a way to give employees new skills and help them translate their creative ideas into actions that positively impact their personal and work lives.

After all, human resources experts say people who feel they make a difference in their jobs are better employees than those who are just shown what to do and told to do it.

Bill Foster, general manager of Kelch Assemblies, a division of Kelch Corp. (Cedarburg, WI), agrees. “The program represents a shift in thinking from traditional training models,” he says. “We are as interested in what people think as we are in what they do.”

As part of the program, employees participate in a wide variety of training sessions. Skill assessments are conducted independently of these sessions to help employees concentrate on learning course material without being concerned about whether or not they will pass the tests administered as part of the course.

“The ability to fill multiple choice circles isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for an effective employee,” comments Foster. “Effective employees are those who can put their knowledge into action on the shop floor.”

Real-world Scenarios

Each assessment reflects actual scenarios at Kelch Assemblies. For example, one assessment is called “The Parts Don’t Fit.” It asks workers to evaluate out-of-spec parts and determine the root cause of the problem. In addition, it tests newly-learned mathematical, computer, problem-solving, and interpersonal communication skills.

Another is “This Place is a Mess.” This assessment asks employees to get a portion of the facility back in order before a shift change. It involves housekeeping, organizing, computer, and interpersonal communications skills.

“The Supervisor is at His Sister’s Graduation and the Backup Supervisor’s Basement Flooded” is a unique assessment in which the employee is asked to become a backup supervisor on very short notice. It tests management, human resources, conflict management, and prioritizing skills.

After passing six of these real-life-scenario assessments, employees become production partners—a title that brings with it job enrichment opportunities and a series of pay increases commensurate with the competence level attained. Employees who elect to participate in the voluntary program also find they are much more empowered on the job, having attained new confidence in their ability to make decisions and act on them.

Kamal Bridge, program coordinator, says the program offers employees the opportunity to apply their learned skills on the job. “This program will help us to retain good employees and recruit people who understand the importance of learning new skills and want to have fun doing it.”

Kelch Corp. is a custom injection molder whose offerings include non-automotive around-the-engine components and a proprietary product line of fuel caps, gauges, and steering wheels. In addition to its Cedarburg, WI operation, Kelch has plants in Me-quon, WI and Lenoir, NC. Kelch Corp. was recently purchased by Bemis Mfg. Co. of Sheboygan Falls, WI, also a molder of custom and proprietary products.

Contact information
Kelch Assemblies
Cedarburg, WI
Bill Foster
Phone (414) 376-2500
Fax: (414) 376-2525

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