Profitable companies care as much about shrewd business practices as they do about production.

Your core business is composites, but being an expert in resins and reinforcements isn’t enough to thrive. Successful companies combine industry know-how with business management savvy. They choreograph efforts between operations, human resources, marketing, sales and finance. That’s not an easy task.

Both brick-and-mortar and online libraries are filled with information on running a business. This article examines three critical functions from the unique perspective of composites manufacturers. It offers a behind-the-scenes view on how companies handle – and excel – at plant safety, employee training and business marketing.

Plant Safety

Company Name: MFG Composite Systems Company (CSC)
Headquarters: Ashtabula, Ohio
Business Focus: A manufacturer of reinforced plastics and composites for a variety of markets
Employees: 331
Plant Size: 250,000 square feet

CSC-Shop-Floor-web

From left: Chuck Lawson, health, safety and environmental manager at CSC, discusses safety suggestions pertaining to press operations with Pat Steadman, press line supervisor, and Lavazhia Williams, press operator. Williams is wearing an “I Got Caught” T-shirt, given to employees who are “caught” taking extra safety precautions on the shop floor.

During one of MFG Composite Systems Company’s weekly safety audits in September, Chuck Lawson chatted with a tow motor driver. The driver shared with Lawson – the health, safety and environmental manager at CSC – that new employees were walking down the center of aisles rather than using designated walkways. This could lead to an accident if the driver of a tow motor loaded with materials doesn’t see someone in the aisle. The following week, Lawson conducted an educational session with plant employees on pedestrian safety.

“You can’t manage safety from your office chair,” says Lawson. “I’ve got a hundred topics I could talk about, but if they aren’t the issues CSC is having, there’s no sense in covering them. Topics have to be driven from the floor.” Lawson and CSC supervisors make unannounced weekly rounds of the plant floor, rewarding employees for safe behaviors and noting any unsafe situations that need correcting. The latter typically become topics for the company’s safety education.

CSC is one of 13 nationwide operating entities of Molded Fiber Glass Companies (MFG), which serves customers in markets such as wind energy, automotive, heavy truck, defense, construction, material handling and water treatment. While MFG’s corporate office mandates plant safety, each facility creates its own safety program. “We have corporate policies and procedures, but we generally believe that safety should be managed at the entity level,” says Perry Bennett, corporate health, safety and environmental director for Molded Fiber Glass Companies. “It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to safety.”

At CSC, safety training is about more than merely meeting government requirements. “OSHA has a lot of mandated training on everything from personal protective equipment to hazard communications,” says Lawson. “Unfortunately, a lot of companies offer what I call ‘check-the-box’ training. You sit down for a couple hours once a year and go through safety training.” CSC promotes plant safety year-round in three primary venues: monthly management meetings, company-wide safety education sessions and on-the-floor training called “toolbox talks.”