Cleveland — Ken Bather, a 32-year-veteran of rotational molding, thinks the process is amazing.
“Rotomolding is a very strange bird — I loved it ever since I first saw it,” said Bather, plant manager at Hedstrom Plastics' factory in Dunkirk, Ohio.
The same goes for employees. “I am passionate about the people that work on the shop floor,” Bather said.
Bather gave a presentation about hands-on management during the Society of Plastics Engineers' Rotational Molding Conference in Cleveland, held June 5-8.
Speaking in his Scottish accent, Bather gave a glimpse into the factory floor that was funny and entertaining — he started out by imitating Scotty on Star Trek.
He talked about his pet peeves, including lousy molds. “Why do you hate your operation so much? Why make them suffer with a bad mold?” he asked.
Rotational molding employees build up myths about the process, Bather said. They see patterns and think they are 100 percent correct. They will argue about things such as bolts vs. clamps to hold the mold closed. What's the answer? It depends, he said.
“One size doesn't fit all in rotomolding.”
Bather said it's important to listen to machine operators, who see problems first. “When I walk up to a machine, I go up and treat it as if it's their office,” Bather said.
At the same time, managers have to “control the terminology” when explaining the process, and decisions.
“You have to take as deep breath,” he said. “Please have people sit and use their eyes before they use their mouths.”
Bather said work instructions need to be updated and changed to make them as clear as possible. Plant floor workers are responsible for inspecting for quality at the Dunkirk factory.
In response to audience question, Bather said the Dunkirk factory starts new employees as parts finishers, then moves them to operators later. That way, he said, as finishers they see first-hand problems that can come from bad molding work.