Today Team 1 has about 70 employees, 25 molding machines ranging from 25 to 300 tons of clamping force running 24-7 in 45,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The company is 100 percent focused on automotive customers. It still molds a lot of parts for Japanese Tier 1 companies, and now it also does a lot of work with German transplants, too. Team 1 does very little work for domestic Tier 1 suppliers.
The company's specialty is molding precision and transparent parts. Team 1's parts end up in powertrains, air induction systems, and interior electronic switches. Operationally speaking, it focuses on “exceptional operational execution that will save customers time and money.”
How do they do that? A centerpiece is the proprietary production matrix, developed by Grigowski, which helps minimize waste. Robots also play a role. Team 1 has invested more than $2 million in automation.
“That's allowed us to be globally competitive. Some 15 percent of our production ends up in Mexico,” Carrel said.
Another major emphasis is on preventive maintenance. It may not be sexy, but Team 1 — like clockwork — does a complete mold tear-down after 25,000 shots, and machines get a complete screw and barrel replacement after 5,000 run hours. To make that work, it has a spare screw and barrel for every molding press.
“It's a huge cost up front, but unscheduled down time is down dramatically since we started doing it in the late 1990s,” Seedorf said.
Open-book policy with employees
Team 1 stresses employee relations, and the most visible way is the emphasis on worker safety. The company immerses new hires in the safety-focused culture from their first day. There are big posters in the plant highlighting the company's latest safety milestone.
The break room walls also have photos of safety milestone celebrations — the company has one every 500 days, and recently celebrated 5,000 days without a lost time accident. Sometimes it also treats employees to special dinners, outings at a local casino, raffles and jackets.
But safety isn't just about parties. The company has monthly safety meetings, and everyone is involved.
Another area that involves everyone is profit sharing. The company has had an open-book management philosophy with workers since 1999, so workers always know exactly how the company is doing.
When Team 1 had to downsize during the Great Recession, workers knew why.
“I tell people, ‘Profitable companies don't go out of business,'” Carrel said. “This helps workers make better decisions based on the profitability of the business.”
Everyone is eligible for profit sharing, and the numbers are based on year-to-date wages.
Shelley Lewis, lead captain in the assembly department, said the open-book philosophy is one of the things she likes about Team 1. She started at the company in 1990, right out of high school — she started as a production assistant on the second shift.
“I didn't even know what injection molding was,” she joked. “When I walked in, everyone was friendly. I just liked it, it just fit. I just really enjoy working here. I still learn.”
Carrel and Grigowski appreciate things like the Best Places to Work awards, which they feel validate what they've been doing since 1987. Now they're working on what's next for the company. They've been working with Laurie Harbour and Scott Walton at Harbour Results Inc. on strategic planning, including a succession plan — for when they get to the point where they're comfortable being a little less hands-on.
“We feel that the team we have is very well positioned today. Part of it is what we went through. We're battled hardened,” Carrel said.
“Part of [succession planning] is generating more profitable growth. We want to get to the point where we can afford another level of management,” he added.
Right now Team 1 has sales of about $12 million annually. That's up from about $3.8 million during the Recession.
“We want to be $15 million to $20 million,” Carrel said.