When an inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed up at Dimension Molding Corp.'s plant in Addison, Ill., with a list of 19 complaints, Michael Degrenier, a partner in the company, couldn't believe it. As it turned out, the complaints, filed by an ex-employee, were unfounded. However, while the inspector was there he began checking for other things and Degrenier discovered what many molders learn the hard way: He was not in compliance with OSHA regulations that he did not even know existed.
That is when Degrenier and his partner, Mike Stiglianese, decided they would begin training employees in safety. For example, locking and tagging, or "lockout, tag-out'' of equipment that is not working properly is not just a maintenance issue, he said.
``People in the front office have to know what it is, the floor people have to understand it, and the maintenance people have to implement it,'' Degrenier said in a recent interview.
Because everyone in the company must be trained, Degrenier hired a teacher straight out of college. She not only conducts the company's training courses, but has written the company's safety manual.
``You have to protect yourself,'' Degrenier said, ``and that involves educating and training employees in safety procedures.''
The partners also have developed an interactive, CD-ROM software program on OSHA standards specifically geared toward the small manufacturing company. The program will be available in September for $595, sold through a new company the partners formed called Desktop Dimen-sions.
The self-teaching course comes in DOS and MacIntosh, and in English and Spanish. It covers such areas as personal protection equipment and clothing; lockout, tag-out procedures; emergency-action plans; and how to mark exits.
Degrenier said a tutorial comes with the program so that employees can study and go through the training on their own. However, pass/fail standards can be set by a teacher or someone designated by the company. The program prints out a certificate if the employee passes; a ``sorry, you didn't pass'' if the person fails.
Degrenier and his partner spent more than $25,000 on equipment to develop the program, excluding labor. They purchased a mixing board, studio microphone and a studio booth in which to make voice recordings, and even purchased the equipment to make up to 100 of their own CD-ROMs.
With three advanced degrees - in electronics, business and nuclear physics - Stiglianese has the expertise to push the company into realms into which most custom molders don't venture. For example, Dimension has eight patents on various process innovations and tooling that is proprietary to specific customers' jobs.
The company's latest invention is a device that pulls out 90 percent of the fines from material.
``We can run 40 percent regrind without any degradation of the material or black specks,'' he said.
Recently, Degrenier and Stiglianese completed a 12-minute electronic brochure also in CD-ROM, using a combination of photographs and animation to illustrate the company's mold-making capabilities and markets. The pair plans to offer this service to other molders as well.
Dimension Molding has 23 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 25-310 tons, and a mold-making facility called Micro Mold Co.