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Managing Human Capital

Alfred Spada

In this issue of Modern Casting, the main feature focus is melting and pouring. When most people think of metalcasting, the first thought usually is of molten metal. It is the blood that brings life to every casting operation. The three features in this issue that focus on the heart of every casting production will provide your facility with potential opportunities for improvement and advancement.

But to accompany this issue’s focus on melting and pouring, Modern Casting also dives into the brains of the metalcasting operation in the profile article, “Employee Engagement,” about Lethbridge Iron Works, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, on p. 22. “The brains” being the people.

Whenever I visit metalcasting facilities, one of the regular comments made by management will be that their people are their greatest asset. It is a great phrase and one that if practiced is a powerful tool. But the reality is that some of the facilities that use this phrase perceive their people similarly to the melting and pouring equipment in their facilities—as tools used to produce castings.

At Lethbridge, this same perception may have been the case until a few years ago.

“We had to ramp up our hiring practice from lots of screening to hiring anyone with a heartbeat,” said John Davies, president, Lethbridge Iron Works, when talking about his facility during production ramp ups in 2007 and 2011. “We did what we had to do to meet our customers’ needs, but it didn’t meet our bottom line very well to have people who were not well trained, not showing up andwithout much interest.”

After the last growth spurt in 2010-11, the management team at Lethbridge decided a turnaround in its approach to securing and engaging human capital was necessary. From the interview and hiring process to training to reviews to the distribution of production and profitability information, Lethbridge redeveloped the entire human resources system. This turnaround went as far as bringing in a corporate coach in 2012 to further enhance employee engagement.

“We have seen our profitability go up,” said Davies. “Employees are key to business success these days. It starts at the top and must filter down to the shop floor.”

The results for Lethbridge from a production perspective include lower reject rates and increased on-time deliveries. In addition, profitability is up. All while following through on phase two of an expansion that is re-engineering its molding, coremaking and melting.

Managing human resources is a challenge in the best of environments. In a metalcasting facility, this skill requires the same attention to detail as required on the melt deck to ensure production stays on track. Make sure you review the recommendations presented in all our features this issue. Both your mind and your heart will thank you.