BEST PLACE TO WORK
A lot of workplaces have diversity, but few can match Amano Cincinnati with 15 countries represented among its 70 employees.
And Amano is keenly aware of the challenge of integrating so many different nationalities into a workforce and still keeping everyone on the same page. So, the company is proactive, melding workers into a happy, productive and cohesive unit.
celebrates workers' birthdays and baby showers, hands out attendance
awards, holds multiple cookouts, rewards workers for their progress in
learning English by factoring it into raises, and even recognizes every
worker's heritage by flying the flags of all their
native countries in the plant.
"Every day when they walk in they're proud of the fact that their company recognized their heritage," says HR Manager Paul Kattelman. The flags are from every corner of the globe — Uzbekistan, China, India, and Central and South American countries, among others.
The workers responded last November, putting their faith in management by decertifying a union that had been in place for 63 years in favor of a merit-based system.
When American Fan held a 40th anniversary party for the company, one of its many celebrations for workers, it was thought that a dunking booth for employees to take their shots at management would be a good idea.
"There was a really long line," says Vice President Dave Nadler with a wry smile.
It was all in good fun, and actually part of American Fan's mission. "We have a philosophy of employee involvement," Nadler says.
American Fan's workers enjoy many festive events throughout the year, including pig roasts, cookouts and catered events. The company also hands out annual service awards for milestones, and offers liberal vacation and holiday time off.
Also, employees have numerous opportunities to be part of the decisions that affect them, including participating in a formal suggestion program and "lunch and learns" with department managers.
In addition, "I have a monthly meeting with each work cell so there's a chance for some one-on-one feedback," Nadler says.
Even if MAG didn't have such good pay and benefits, the equipment alone makes it a great place to work, according to Vice President/General Manager Paul Texiera.
"We have probably what I would call the most interesting equipment to work on," Texiera says, noting that MAG's advanced manufacturing tools include the latest technology in computers, computer software and electrical/mechanical assembly. "When you talk about excitement, you walk in the building and just what you see with the equipment gets your blood boiling because it's different, it's unique, it's something you don't see normally in the marketplace."
That commitment to cutting-edge technology makes MAG a draw for potential employees.
"We just cover such a vast range of job skills that we can attract people from the highest level of PhDs all the way through right out of high school, and we need them all," Texiera says.
The company, in turn, retains that talent by offering employees numerous leadership programs. Workers also get four hours off their regular duties a month for "Creativity Days" to think of ways to improve the company.
Mazak reported its best month of revenue in its 42-year history in 2011. The company manufactures large industrial machines, many of which cost $1 million or more, and orders have picked up.
Mazak traditionally has had low employee turnover, but many employees are close to reaching retirement age, so the company is staying ahead of the curve. "Because of the difficulty in finding people with technical skills in the workforce, we've determined that we need to reach out and do some of that training ourselves," says Vice President of Human Resources Mike Vogt.
To ensure the company keeps its momentum, management has created an apprenticeship program at Gateway Community and Technical College. The goal is to bring in 10 apprentices each year.
After seeing revenue drop 20 percent from 2008 to 2009, ILS ownership didn't sit back and ride out the storm; it aggressively invested more than $2 million in two new state-of-the-art presses, an automated workflow, and a training and development program, as well as launching a strategic sales and marketing plan.
The investment made 2010 a banner year, with revenue growth at 20 percent — 70 percent in the digital packing division.
"The team that we have they've done a phenomenal job of expressing what that innovation brings to the products that our customers have on the shelves," President Jay Dollries says.
The company was the first in the world to have three HP Indigo WS6000 presses in one location, resulting in increased production capacity and turning its digital printing unit into a revenue powerhouse, accounting for 50 percent of its business, up from 20 percent.
ILS is now positioned as a label and packaging printing leader for local, national and international consumer product companies.
When Mario Listo started his company in the middle of a recession in 2009, more than a few people said, "Wow, are you sure?" Listo recalls.
But Listo had a game plan, and it's working well.
"I took my 401k, savings, and took a shot at it," Listo says. "But I had a good customer base, and had built up a good reputation with the people and support that I've had over the years. And we've grown since then. Now, I just don't want to stop."
The company started with three employees in 2009, jumped to 21 in 2010, currently stands at 28, and is poised to "add 10 more" by the end of the year.
One of the benefits of starting his company during a recession is that there were quality people available to hire because so many had been laid off.
"We've got great people," Listo says. "I think we've got the best people that were out of work, they may have been the last people let go at their companies, and we were fortunate enough to pick them up. The biggest thing is they care. The passion is there with every employee that we have."
Listo is aiming for $10 million in revenue just two years after earning $750,000 in their first year.
In 2010, Eagle Coach spent $700,000 to add production capacity for a line of executive and funeral limousines, creating 30 new jobs to bring its total number of employees to 94.
"We were fortunate this year when a lot of companies were not only not hiring, but they were downsizing. We were able to grow," President Tim Lautermilch says. "(We had) a great group of people to choose from. The pool was fantastic."
The company also renovated its facility to accommodate the new limousine production line, working side by side with the existing lines to produce custom Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chryslers.
The added production capabilities helped lead to a 23-vehicle sale to a Louisville consortium of funeral directors, a significant revenue booster and the company's largest sale of 2010.
"This important investment will allow us to meet the increasing demand for our premium steering components and expand our manufacturing footprint in Northern Kentucky," President and CEO Pierre Abboud said at the time of the investment announcement. "The area's skilled workforce and competitive business environment were among the reasons we chose to locate here, and we look forward to continued growth in the region."
Formica has recently pioneered two products that are having a dramatic impact on the company and the surfacing industry.
Its 180fx series, introduced in 2009 and expanded in 2010, is the only laminate on the market to capture the true scale and color variations of granite, natural stone and petrified woods in large spans. The new technology allows for larger scans of 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets with less than two repeats, resulting in a realistic look. Until 180fx, laminate patterns repeated every 18 inches.
"It's a game-changer for us as a corporation," Director of Communications Bill Roush says. "This is a premium product, and it's essentially the price of regular laminate plus. And so, our mix of what we sell has now gone up because of the great success of 180fx."
It is Formica's most successful laminate launch in its 100-year history. "Ever. Period. It's not even close," Roush says. "This is how you really know when you're successfully with something — that our major competitor is knocking it off."
Most companies dream of creating a product that singularly doubles operational revenue. Interplex has done it, co-developing a stent delivery device platform that can be used in both vascular and non-vascular stent delivery applications.
Interplex has hired new personnel and expanded its facilities to add technologies to support the manufacturing of the product, one of the first of its kind.
The product line was designed and is currently being manufactured for a German-based company, allowing an increase in international sales from nearly zero to more than $2 million in less than a year.
When it comes to new products and innovation, Gold Medal has been at the forefront of the specialty food industry for decades. Recently, it developed an electronic control thermostat for its popcorn makers, making them safer and easier to operate. It was scheduled to introduce a reduced sodium version of its popular Flavacol seasoning in May, and it continues to expand into sweet and savory popcorn flavoring.
But when it comes to innovation and domination, nothing compares to its vice grip on the cotton candy market, which essentially built the company.
"We probably sell about 95 percent of all the cotton candy machines sold in the world," says President and CEO Dan Kroeger. "We have several models. I think when people think cotton candy, just as they do popcorn, they think Gold Medal."
One area where innovation may be a necessity is a foray into agribusiness, as Gold Medal seeks the corn required for its expanding reach. It sells to 190 countries, and its international business is exploding, growing 30 percent last year and 20 percent in 2009, to now account for 35 percent of its $100 million overall sales.
After nearly shutting its doors amid low sales two years ago, D & E bounced back in 2010 thanks to a key contract to manufacture and distribute an icemaker.
TechSolve gave several shops the opportunity to look at the project, which was being manufactured in Japan for Macallan Scotch whisky.
D & E was awarded the contract, bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. and helping it increase gross revenue 36 percent, which it used to purchase a new building and add an employee, with hopes to add two more employees in the near future.
"We were able to come up with a new design, a better design, and cut the price in half. So that is what has helped us with our growth tremendously," says Vice President Kim Coomer. "And there's more growth to come. We've just started."
Over the next two years, D&E is expected to see an increase in sales of more than $4.5 million — almost tripling current sales.
Nilpeter USA has nearly doubled sales (93 percent) since 2005 to $49 million, and increased employment 19 percent.
Hiring continues, particularly in engineering. "That's really where the job growth has been," says Vice President of Finance and Administration Tim Taggart. Nilpeter's expansion includes the purchase of adjacent property and an investment of $1.6 million.
As it keeps pushing into the frontiers of renewable energy, Melink partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo this year to develop the largest publicly accessible, urban solar array in the nation, a system with 6,400 panels installed on a canopy structure over the zoo's Vine Street parking lot. The multi-million dollar project will supply the zoo with 20 percent of its power.
"The zoo gets 1.3 million visitors per year and all of them will park under a solar canopy and learn about solar power," says Vice President of Operations David Boezi. "It's nice not only from a revenue standpoint, but also from what we call the three Es: Economic, Environment and Education."