Sponsored By
Bill Tobin

March 24, 2016

6 Min Read
How to find—and retain—the best injection molding processors in the business

Earlier this month, PlasticsToday published an excellent article by Garrett MacKenzie, “How to successfully train your injection molding processor.” He noted that the “necessary resources all exist within your facility” and outlined all the steps one should follow in the training process. But how do you identify these people within your facility?

Image courtesy imagerymajestic/

Many molders don't even try. They hear about talented people and hire them away from the competition. Usually, this backfires. One study I have seen showed that more than 25% of the employee’s first-year cost (salary and benefits) goes to training this person in your way of doing things. More importantly, after a few years, this person may leave to work for another company simply because he got used to his high salary and you “couldn't afford” continued increases because “it isn't in the budget” (and blah, blah, blah).

Promoting from within is based on three premises:

1. You save money on training someone new to do things “your way.”

2. You can recognize and nurture talented people.

3. You're betting on a sense of company loyalty that will keep the employee from leaving with the newly acquired skills.

Number 1 is a good premise. Numbers 2 and 3 are not, because your view from the front office doesn't tell you a lot about the people sweating down on the production floor.

How do we find these folks? Actually it’s fairly simple, but you have to leave your ego locked up in your desk.

You're looking for people who are smart and curious and who aren't afraid to fail. They view the “business” of injection molding as a kind of chess game. (Kind of like you, yes?) Here’s your game plan.

Step 1: Talent and IQ tend to be genetic, they are not a function of education. Start off with the basics—have everybody, from the sweepers and clerks to operators and techs, attend an in-house training course in molding. Be sure it includes a text book. Do it as a group with a lot of time for Q&As. After the course, see who is consulting the text book when something comes up. After a few weeks, hold an all-hands meeting and ask, “What should we be doing better to improve productivity?” having told them before the meeting to come with suggestions. The people who want to contribute are your candidates. The whiners are trouble makers or slackers.

Step 2: Ration your miracles. As MacKenzie suggests in his article, allow your candidates as much cross exposure to other areas, as possible. Spread this out over a period of months as opposed to an intensive six-week cross-training boot camp. Some of your candidates will thrive; others will drop out.

Step 3: The three Rs: Respect, recognition and reward. One of the biggest gripes in our business is wage discrepancy. The workers see the front office making a lot of money off their hard work, long hours and low wages. It doesn't matter how true it is--that's how they see it.

Respect and recognition

Most companies think that they are showing sufficient respect and recognition of their most valued employees with a photo of the “operator of the month” on the bulletin board and, perhaps, a prestige parking place for a period of time. In practice, while it does create recognition, it also promotes jealousy, in-fighting and favoritism, which contribute nothing to your bottom line. ("This month I saved them $50,000 and they put my picture up like a wanted poster!")

Truly talented people not only acquire and use their skills, they also leverage them by teaching others and implementing them plant-wide. From this they get respect and recognition. More importantly, they share this respect and recognition with their team. These are the people you want to nurture and develop.


Owners, stakeholders and managers often struggle with rewarding key employees. Somehow, they can't make the connection that the money handed out in bonuses, raises and so forth comes not just from their clever business acumen but also from the folks in the factory that make it happen. The front office pay scales are justified because those folks “take all the risks.”

You need to change your thinking! First, freeze everyone’s base pay. Use your in-house computers to figure out your shop’s profitability on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Then, instead of Christmas bonuses, figure out a proportional bonus system based on normal pay scales for everyone in the plant. Pay it monthly. In this way, when you have a very profitable month, everybody is rewarded for his or her efforts. If you don't have a good month, everybody takes the hit. No one is exempt.

Companies that have done this have benefited in interesting ways:

1. Slackers will be on notice. The other employees will see them as “eating my lunch” and encourage them either to find alternative employment or shape up.

2. When you tell your workers about a new job that will require “hiring four more people," you will be amazed at how diligent your current workforce will be at finding ways to become more efficient so that you don't need to increase payroll and lower their bonus.

3. Your employees will feel that they have a say in how your company is run. They are contributing members, not trained monkeys. This is real respect and recognition.

4. Perhaps you have a customer who expects you to spend a zillion bucks for a robot or a brand new machine (because yours are older than four years). Your employees can get you all the data you need to support or refute this expectation. They'll quickly see the light on the importance and profitability of preventative maintenance programs.

Remember, if they get paid the same running six cavities with a high scrap rate as they would running an eight-cavity mold, there's no incentive for them to see the benefits of full cavitation and maximum yield. As soon as they see this situation in terms of money coming out of their paychecks, they will have a newfound respect for paying attention to and implementing preventive maintenance, learning and applying good molding practices and so forth.

Managers don't manage. They should be providing their workers with the tools and training to provide the maximum profitability in their jobs.

Yes, the necessary resources all exist within your facility.” Take care of the people who take care of you, and you'll look back a year later and wonder why you didn't do this sooner.

If you don't think you've got “bonus” money, use the unexpected profits generated by your employees. As above, they took care of you, and now you take care of them using money you didn't expect to have!

Bill Tobin is a consultant and owner of WJT Associates. He has authored several books and articles and teaches courses on plastics processing. Books, additional articles and the current public training seminar schedule are available at www.wjtassociates.com, or contact the author directly at [email protected].

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