Concrete results

Some labor market experts predict that we are headed for an employees’ labor market, in which employers, at least in some industries, will be in a bidding war for workers.

If you find yourself struggling to find workers to fill your ranks, you might be spending a lot of money on job fairs, recruitment consultants and help want ads.

Another approach might be to apply the principles of lean manufacturing, a process that Laura Kerckhoff, CastCon Stone Inc.’s president and the subject of this month’s One On One feature, is pursuing.

For a company such as CastCon Stone, which manufactures architectural stairs and other pre-cast concrete products, quality isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Shipping a defective product several hundred miles could be a costly proposition in terms of replacement and lost customer confidence.

CastCon Stone decided that it would reap the full benefits of its green manufacturing facility only by applying a kind of green human resources policy; that is, devise processes that produce the highest level of productivity and quality as possible.

In creating a lean operation, it seems that paying attention to the little things pays off big. Jim Clark, CastCon Stone’s COO, showed me a few simple steps the company has taken to improve efficiency.

Use of a mezzanine area for a coating process frees up valuable shop floor space, while a storage panel for tools with painted silhouettes that show where each should be placed reduces time wasted looking for them. And lots of other small measures taken will add up to big savings over the long term.

Far from taking a slave-driver approach, CastCon Stone strives to involve its employees in making the manufacturing process more efficient and, in the long run, able to produce better, more competitive products. Those products, it follows, should produce more business, more profit and more jobs, which won’t eliminate the need to find new employees. But a profitable, efficient company should be more attractive to the best candidates.

And that means one more competitive edge in a world where doing the little things right makes all the difference.