The skills gap that manufacturing has been experiencing over the past several years has given many in the plastics processing industry the incentive to implement training programs. Mack Molding (Arlington, VT), a custom plastics molder and supplier of contract manufacturing services, uses several tools, including workforce cultivation, prudent fiscal planning and vertically integrated services, to position itself for future success.
Key to Mack’s success is its workforce training, and this week the company announced the addition of a core competency program ensuring that employees are prepared to meet customers’ increasingly sophisticated needs. Dubbed Mack U, the program recently graduated its first seven students from the initial curriculum, Electro-Mechanical Operator I. In all, the graduates completed 14 courses and 21 hours of classroom time and hands-on training.
To receive certification, successful trainees must demonstrate their proficiency through tests, on which they must score 90 or better. “We believe employees are the company’s most valuable assets,” said Mack Headquarters Plant Manager Rich Hornby. “We developed Mack U because our work is getting more complex, making the quality of our output more important than ever. We carefully looked at what we are doing and where we are going, and this program gives our team the tools needed to meet the demands of our customers, as well as a pathway for advancement.”
According to Hornby, the initial program was foundational, helping to improve safety awareness and explain the reasoning behind Mack systems. They tapped into the talents of 12 veteran Mack employees who channeled their expertise to become subject experts and develop courses on topics like customer communication, electrostatic discharge (EDM) and wiring assemblies.
While there are seven employees in the first graduating class, a significant number continue working toward certification. Moving forward, the trainees will take on Electro-Mechanical Operator Levels II and III in which they will be introduced to advanced topics such as drawing and wire schematics, pneumatic connections and plumbing, soldering and the integration of firmware, software and hardware. Additionally, Mack will be rolling out a molding program.
In addition to improved customer experience and being better prepared to deal with marketplace changes, trainees are benefitting personally. Finishing Operator Sarah Warren used what she learned in the 5S class (a Six Sigma method that involves sort, straighten, scrub, standardize and sustain) to alter the way she sets up her toolbox, taking her organization skills to the next level.
“It’s made everything easier to find, and I am working more efficiently,” she said. “This is my first job, so this is totally new to me. I am even using what I learned at home. Just yesterday I was talking to my dad about the state of his toolbox.”
Another key to Mack’s success is its internship program, implemented as a way to attract college students to a possible career in manufacturing. During the last year, Mack has welcomed a record number of interns back as full-time employees at its Arlington facility. In all, six former interns have returned to Mack, bringing with them an intimate knowledge of Mack’s operations coupled with fresh ideas and the promise of a strong future in manufacturing.
|Former Mack interns (from left) Brendan Gleason, Kelsey O'Dell, Peter Bush, Aaron LeBeau, Matthew Comar and Britany Coley have now returned to the company in full-time positions.|
The returning interns, now Mack employees, are:
- Peter Bush, Quality Engineer with a BS from the University of Vermont in mechanical engineering, with previous experience as a sales and engineering intern at Mack;
- Britany Coley, Program Coordinator in Mack’s medical device sector, who has a BS in biology and psychology from St. Lawrence University;
- Matthew Comar, who studied advanced manufacturing at Hudson Valley Community College, joins Mack as finishing technician with experience in SolidWorks and Mastercam software as well as CNC mills, lathes and manual machine tools;
- Brendan Gleason joins Mack as Quality Engineer with a BS in science and technology studies from Cornell, and also has developed a deep understanding of Mack’s medical device manufacturing business as a quality technician intern;
- Aaron LeBeau from the University of Vermont is a quality engineer with a BS in mechanical engineering, who interned on Mack’s quality engineering team;
- Kelsey O’Dell joins Mack as a manufacturing engineer in the company’s medical business, with a BS in biomedical engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“Welcoming these young professionals back to Mack has been a great pleasure, not only because of what they bring to the organization but the fact they represent the measurable impact of our workforce cultivation efforts,” said Mack Molding President Jeff Somple. “As a manufacturer, and a New England one at that, we are keenly aware of the challenges associated with recruiting for skilled and professional positions. This is why we have invested in opportunities to influence the next generation of engineers and technicians.”