In the middle of the Monongahela (or “Mon”) Valley in Pennsylvania, innovation is underway for at least one manufacturing company. This is likely to be the case all around the region that surrounds Pittsburgh, which was once known as “Steel City” and is now being dubbed “Roboburgh.”
On one of the nearly 3,000 recent Manufacturing Day tours, dozens of students, educators, community members, a senior official from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and representatives from Manufacturing USA – including America Makes and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) – got the chance to learn about DMI Companies.
The company, which makes heating, ventilation and air conditioning products for commercial use worldwide, was founded in 1978 by Peter Arnoldt, Lou Ward and George Mayer as Ductmate Industries. It has since grown to include multiple facilities across the country. At its headquarters office in Charleroi, Pennsylvania there’s a training center named after the first employee – William Bradford who was recently spotlighted in an industry publication. Ray Yeager, President and CEO, now runs the company and is the champion behind various strategic initiatives, including employee recruitment and retention, advanced manufacturing innovation, and sustainability.
Collaborating on Employee Recruitment and Innovation
This focus on employees was evident during the tour of the huge facility and its numerous production, engineering and research and development areas. Many employees have worked at the company for decades, with some having pursued opportunities to move into other positions or take on promotions. In fact, two senior leaders have been there close to 40 years; quite an impressive tenure.
As the company embarks on its manufacturing innovation journey, employees receive extensive training to learn how to implement and work with new advanced manufacturing technology such as fiber lasers, robotic arms, 3-D modeling and printing, automated systems and a variety of operational software solutions. During the Manufacturing Day tour, participants heard a number of stories about the benefits automation has provided to employees – from reducing the amount of repetitive work to increasing safety to learning new skills. This type of training, or upskilling, is what manufacturing companies of all sizes are faced with as the industry (and the world) continues to go through this Fourth Industrial Revolution.
To help the company evaluate which new technologies make the most business sense and how best to implement them, DMI joined two Manufacturing USA institutes (MxD, digital manufacturing, and ARM, advanced robotics).
And to build a talent pipeline and connect with much-needed advanced manufacturing training resources, DMI works closely with key partners in addition to MxD and ARM, such as its local MEP Center, Catalyst Connection, workforce development nonprofits like BotsIQ, Westmoreland County Community College and area academic organizations. DMI leaders serve on regional and national boards and strive to champion manufacturing and its importance to the local community and the nation.
One really rewarding aspect of the Manufacturing Day tour was hearing from not one but two former students who participated in past Manufacturing Day events at DMI, who have since been hired! These young men, Jonas Cramer and Steve Gerba, shared stories with students who were in their shoes just a few years ago. They talked about the value of work experience programs that led them to have hands-on career and technical experience at DMI and ultimately helped them get full-time jobs at the company.
After attending MFG Day with his BotsIQ team and completing a co-op (both at DMI) during his senior year in high school, Jonas was immediately hired as a production worker upon graduation. One year later, he was accepted into the SMART Local 12 sheet metal workers apprenticeship program. During his three year tenure at DMI, he has worked in numerous capacities throughout the pipe and fittings and round connector areas. According to Doug Poundstone, DMI Operations Production Manager, “Anywhere we put him, he learns quickly and excels.”
Steve started with DMI as an engineering intern the summer after graduating high school. As an intern, he designed an interactive PLC activity that he then facilitated at DMI’s MFG Day event. Steve continued to intern with DMI for the next four years while he studied Mechatronics. During that time, he learned how to design machines, program automation, and lead other interns - all of which added depth and context to his education. He has proven to be a fantastic addition to the DMI team.
A key part of DMI’s culture revolves around its sustainability and energy reduction mindset. This is woven into recruiting and onboarding practices, so that new hires like Jonas and Steve learn about the goals and objectives and how employees contribute to reducing waste, recycling, and reuse efforts. DMI has continuous energy efficiency training for employees and even created its first sustainability and environmentally-focused management position in 2011 to take their existing programs to the next level.
DMI’s Monongahela site is the first TRUE Silver zero waste to landfill manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. That’s quite a remarkable undertaking and achievement.
In addition, the company has woven sustainability into all aspects of its manufacturing processes, installed solar panels and sensor-based or LED lighting at most of its facilities with plans to do the others by 2020, and implements many other water and energy reduction practices throughout its operations and plants. For these and other sustainability focused efforts, DMI Companies was awarded the Green Building Alliance (GBA) “Enterprise Award.” If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a short video and article.
This widespread commitment is a testament to the type of empowerment and buy-in the employees have toward making an impact to society, as well as to the vision of its senior leaders.
We believe sustainability is in our DNA. We built this company focusing on energy and labor-saving products. It is DMI Companies’ goal to operate in a manner that protects and promotes the health and well-being of the environment. The True certification provided our organization with a means to quantify and recognize the amazing efforts of employees toward achievement of this goal.
- Ray Yeager, President/CEO of DMI Companies