To keep up with goals of increasing sales and market share, the management of Engineered Profiles LLC knew the Columbus, Ohio, custom profile extruder needed to step up its game on hiring, training and retaining a strong group of employees.
But instead of buying an off-the-shelf training program, they developed their own way — using highly skilled current extrusion operators as the teachers.
The company formed a new branch of its human resources department that focuses only on teaching plastic extrusion as a science. Management invested in a dedicated training extrusion line — one used for teaching, not production.
The successful, homegrown training program geared to specifics of the profile extrusion industry has earned Engineered Profiles the Plastics News Excellence Award for employee relations. It's a great example for other plastics companies: Instead of hiring consultants or buying a one-size-fits-all training program, develop something that fits your factory process and your corporate culture.
In the past, Engineered Profiles did what many other manufacturing operations do and relied on a temporary agency. That does let prospective employees show they can show up on time and work hard. Even so, that process can be hit or miss — Engineered Profiles reports that it required four temp employees to yield one full-timer.
And it can take about two years for that new hire to become a senior extrusion operator. Traditionally, "training" a new person means to pair him or her with an experienced operator, to "show them the ropes," the company said.
"While valuable experience can be gained this way, it can also leave large holes in the education process due to the varying skill sets that are passed on in this manner," the company said.
Engineered Profiles' solution? Develop training that "blends a classroom environment with real extrusion line experience in a formalized structure." That also helps new employees visualize a career path and see how their education can help them advance within the company.
The instructors were selected from some of the most highly skilled operators at Engineered Profiles. And now these instructors are full-time trainers.
New employees that come with previous extrusion experience can be fast-tracked through the process to get them on the production line faster. Those with zero extrusion experience get a step-by-step instruction, including take-home materials and audio/visual aids to teach them best practices.
The result: 22 of the 25 new operators trained under the program in 12 months are still with the company. That proves how that type of training helps retain employees.
Buoyed by those results, Engineered Profiles expanded the program, using its expert instructors to prepare lesson plans for advanced extrusion technology, geared to current employees at all experience levels. Teams also have helped develop training for other areas, such as material handling, blending and quality control.
Another strength in employee relations is fostering good communications. Engineered Profiles has a "EP4ME" committee of employees from all areas of the company, to meet on a monthly basis to discuss operations and corporate culture — and recommend improvements.
Engineered Profiles is going far above the norm to find new employees. The extrusion company even is part of a pilot program in Franklin County, Ohio, to hire and train 114 employees over three years to support its growth. Part of the grant includes helping people in public assistance, partnering with the Columbus Urban League to help teach "soft skills" like life coaching, financial literacy and communications skills at work.
Another pilot program, called the Training Assessment and Placement Project, or TAPP, works to pair ex-low-level offenders with Ohio manufacturing companies, working with the Ohio Department of Corrections.
Engineered Profiles is one of the largest participants in TAPP — and has employed 17 applicants. The turnover rate is less than the national average for all employees, the company said. Importantly: "Not a single participant has been fired for poor performance or conduct," the company said.
By using these innovative training and public service efforts, Engineered Profiles' leaders are show they are not afraid to try new approaches to find and train the factory workforce of tomorrow. The company, with $43 million in sales, is No. 68 on Plastics News' ranking of North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders.