SMALL BUSINESS – Opening doors – Oshkosh company's success hinges on teamwork

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

With 1,800 heavy-duty architectural doors leaving its plant every week, Oshkosh Door can’t afford any missteps in productivity.

Fortunately for the company — whose roots stretch back to the

city’s founding in 1853 — one of its core missions has made all the difference in today’s economically challenging times.

“We’ve created a culture where our team members know we listen and we care,” says Tony Clementi, head of human resources and information technology at Oshkosh Door. “Our job is to help them problem solve (and give) the team members a real opportunity to be heard.”

Several recent human resources initiatives — all aimed at helping employees develop and succeed — have borne out that culture, helping Oshkosh Door slash turnover rates and remain profitable.


Living the mission

Oshkosh Door is the last remaining remnant of the historic C.N. Paine Company (later Paine Lumber) which, according to the company, was the largest plant of its kind in the world in the late 1920s. Technology and trends may have changed over time, but the core resource of this manufacturing company — its employees — didn’t.

And today the company is driven by President and COO Gene Miels’ vision of teamwork. “I was really attracted to the vision Gene had in … wanting to develop employees,” says Clementi, who has worked for Oshkosh Door since 2007. “We have a real vision around our team members,” he adds. “We have a series of programs and initiatives and our value base that is centered around our team members …and it goes way back. I’ve been able to see the impact on a daily basis.”

One thing the company did, Clementi says, is make a concerted effort to keep its health insurance affordable — at a time when many rates are going up. Oshkosh Door has taken on much of the cost itself, providing several options for its 93 employees — many of whom have worked there for more than 20 years.

“Retention is always a key for us,” says Clementi, noting that in 2007, the company’s turnover rate was 147 percent; last year, it plummeted to only 2.4 percent.

Clementi also credits the company’s foresight to create plans to lessen the effects of the recent recession. “We certainly have felt the impact, but we felt we adjusted for it beforehand,” he adds.

In 2008, the company went from two shifts to one, adjusting capacity accordingly.

Also that year, the company created an incentive program that rewards employees for meeting quality, efficiency and safety standards. Team members can earn up to 6.5 hours paid time off per week, for example, based on meeting determined metrics.

“As we did that, they knew that there were opportunities for them here,” Clementi says.

Those moves have helped the company remain profitable, and while indicators showed their market was down 8 to 11 percent in 2011, sales increased by 8 percent, he says.

And this year, adding a structured wellness program — with no out-of-pocket costs to employees — has further cemented the company’s dedication to its employees.

Affinity’s Network Health Plan manages the wellness program, which includes free health screenings and blood draws and offers rewards to employees based on achieving certain levels of health.

“We do have a deep concern for our team members,” Clementi says. “We want everyone to be as healthy as they can.

“This is simply a step to put a tool in our team members’ hands.”

And that tool can have a definite impact on productivity. According to University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Director of Human Resources Tim Danielson, multiple studies have confirmed that “a healthy workforce is a productive workforce.”

And such efforts to increase workplace health have become a goal of the entire city – its Well Oshkosh program encourages local businesses, organizations and schools to improve the health and productivity of their workforce, reduce health care costs and solidify the image of Oshkosh as a great place to live and work.


The culture and commitment

Maintaining a culture of teamwork at Oshkosh Door extends from the top down – and that’s imperative, Danielson believes. “That makes the culture stick,” he says.

“The complex problems that businesses face in today’s world are such that it’s very difficult for one person to solve them,” he adds. “It’s much easier when you have a team of people coming up with complex solutions. That has been an industry standard in human resources.”

Oshkosh Door employee John Lewis, 28, agrees. “Teamwork definitely is there,” he says. “(The company) strives for everyone to produce the best quality.”

Wood, glue and hardware are essential raw materials in creating heavy-duty doors.

But Oshkosh Door has put its money where its mission is — clearly advocating for its most precious commodity, its people.

“The more we can identify who we are as a company and what we care about, it becomes easier to live that out,” Clementi says.

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