Most manufacturing companies care about their employees. Their leadership realize that an engaged workforce is fundamental to achieving their objectives whether those goals are operational, technical, financial, or societal. This essential engagement has been particularly evident during the recent workforce crisis. Manufacturers with an engaged workforce have weathered the “great resignation” and even attract more people to join their organization.
Polydeck Screen Corporation in Spartanburg has a unique caring culture that really stands out. This family-owned business was founded on the Christian values of humility and integrity and incorporates these core values into their daily operations.
In an OpExChange plant visit on March 10, 2022, they shared this culture with peer manufactures across South Carolina. Eighteen participants from twelve peer companies attended including Adidas, Adornus, Auriga Polymers, BorgWarner, Dantherm Cooling, Dish Network, Firestone Building Products, First Quality, Graphic Packaging International, Phoenix Specialty, Shakespeare, and Starbucks Roasting Plant.
Polydeck Screen Corporation is the leading manufacturer of modular synthetic screen panels for the aggregate, energy, and mining industries. Polydeck is an organization with a foundation and culture centered upon taking care of their employees. In this event, they demonstrated how they are building on this foundation to improve their true-North safety goal of zero incidents. Polydeck treated their visitors to lunch while giving their introductory presentations. After the presentations, the group split into three groups to visit six tour stops which focused on utilizing their caring culture to build engagement. Each group then participated in an observational safety audit conducted on the shop floor.
Todd Nalepka, Director of Manufacturing, orchestrated this three-and-a-half-hour event. Along with Linda Coltrane, Caring Manager, and Robbie Miller, EHS Manager, they provided an overview of Polydeck’ s history, foundation of caring, and safety initiatives.
Who Cares? Polydeck Does!
The caring culture at Polydeck is truly unique. How many companies do you know that have “Caring” managers and coaches? Linda introduced the genesis of their caring culture with an inspiring video from their CEO and Owner, Peter Freissle.
Peter shared that the purpose of his company is not to chase profit, but it is to “care for our employees in a way that honors God.” Peter created a Caring Fund for Polydeck that is budgeted for 1.5% of their total revenue. These dollars are poured back into caring for employees, their families, and the community. One of the presenters on the tour shared that after only three weeks on the job, Polydeck helped him with a personal crisis. His air conditioning system went out and Polydeck paid two-thousand dollars toward a new air conditioning system for his home.
As new employees join the Polydeck family, they participate in a week-long orientation program that blends safety and caring with performance. On the first two days, they are introduced to the “Why” behind Polydeck’s business – “We are in the people business.” They learn about the Polydeck Way, participate in an offsite community service event, and receive personal finance training. Day three is devoted to operational excellence including understanding quality training, standard work, and customer applications. The fourth day is devoted to safety culture and training. The final day includes a tour of the entire four building campus, employee care overview, and a virtual tour of their sister facility in Santiago, Chile.
On the tour, the group visited the “Caring Wall” in the employee canteen which is the portal for employees to participate in several caring programs.
Caring Specialist, Rich Brown discussed a few of the numerous caring elements available to employees including the benevolent fund for employees “down on their luck,” assistance with home and car repairs, wellness incentives, employee emergency loans, and the “caught you caring” program.
Safety Pledge Wall
One of the walls in the employee canteen is dedicated for “My Safety Pledge” where employees voluntarily post their pledge to safety and the “why” behind their pledge.
EHS Manager, Robbie Miller explained how this pledge wall is engaging employees to work safely not just for themselves but also for their “neighbors.” This is helping their organization go beyond compliance and incorporate the caring element into workplace safety.
Safety Book Club
To help foster safety awareness, Todd established an ongoing, six-week book club where employees read and discuss the book, “Safety 24/7.” The round-table discussions are led by operations leaders who facilitate lively discussion on safety risks and how to conduct meaningful safety discussions with teammates.
The collective goal is to get everyone to a “level 4” safety commitment, where the employee is committed to a belief in safety not just for themselves, but also their family and their teammates.
Safety Catch Program
Polydeck tapped into the innovative spirit of their team and repurposed their existing work order system to track and manage “safety catches” from employees. Employees may now enter safety observations into this system from any kiosk and even from personal devices to generate work orders to address safety catches. In a recent contest to generate safety observations, there were forty-six submittals in two days. The information is captured and displayed in a safety dashboard for operations management.
Observational Safety Audit
As a part of the OpExChange tour, visitors split into three groups to participate in an observational safety audit on the shop floor, utilizing a job-safety-analysis sheet and an observation guide. Polydeck created this audit guide to focus on areas of particular concern in their operations.
The Foundation for Safety
The caring culture at Polydeck is unique and inspiring. There is a literal litany of ways that Polydeck is helping their employees develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Todd and his team emphasized that although their safety record is comparatively good, they are still pursuing safety excellence. He asked, “If your goal is to have three incidents in a year, who would raise their hand to be one of those incidents?” Their goal is zero incidents. By leveraging their caring culture, they intend to meet this goal.
About the OpExChange
The OpExChange, sponsored by the SCMEP, is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com) or visit the OpExChange website to see current companies: https://www.scmep-online.org/pages/memberlisting