JENISON, MICH. — After a long career in manufacturing, Al Kindig took early retirement a few years ago from Johnson Controls Inc. Kindig, 61, stayed on as a consultant — but after three months, he got bored. "I said, no, I need a change of pace. If I'm going to retire, I'm going to retire." So the former director of advanced development at JCI left the working world behind — until Clarion Technologies Inc. recruited Kindig and four other veterans for something called its Advanced Development Team.
"I come over here and quite frankly, I have fun," Kindig said.
Every Monday, the five-man ADT meets in the lunch room of Clarion's technology center in Jenison. The mission: Use the 100-plus years of combined experience to hash out molding jobs up front, well before they go into production.
"We're taking the experience of these people, and we're using it early in the process," said Tom Boerema, team leader.
Kindig and Russell Clark, former director of advanced engineering at Prince Corp., are retired. The other three ADT members are full-time Clarion employees — Boerema, Curt Herrington, a toolmaker and Rob Zylman, a process engineer. They cover all facets of plastics processing, from product design and engineering to molds to molding and assembly.
The atmosphere is casual, with a good dose of kidding around. But they scrutinize every angle, then look at costs. Sometimes they recommend that Clarion needs another size of injection press, or new assembly equipment.
One recent Monday, they brainstormed ways to cut costs from a product. Boerema researched the patents. The technology center's industrial designers joined the meeting. They listed ideas on a board. They doodled sketches. "No idea was a bad idea," Boerema said. They picked the five best suggestions. Later, the designers got to work on formal sketches.
ADT members also are available to help specific molding problems. Right now, Boerema said, they're developing a special type of processing technology to give the company an edge, although he wouldn't say too much.
Kindig works a few hours. Then he goes home. "This allows us to make a contribution and still sleep."
After decades of work, team members have seen it all. They've made mistakes.
"Young people have skills that far exceed mine," Kindig said. "I have experience and hard knocks that exceed theirs."