The employees at W.S. Darley and Company in Chippewa Falls are fast learners.
Last Friday 107 Darley workers took part of a stimulation for the Lean program, aiming for the fire equipment manufacturer to better compete globally.
The state’s Department of Workforce Development gave the company a $87,149 grant to take part in the two-year program. Darley is working with the University of Wisconsin-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center on it.
Lean is intended to squeeze waste out of producing a product.
The first time the Darley employees went through the exercise, there was room for improvement.
Lots of room. In the first simulation, the employees managed to ship a paltry eight units.
By the time the exercise was done, Darley employees shipped 135 units.
“We made little adjustments,” said Amanda Normand, coordinator of the Lean program for the Chippewa Falls manufacturer.
“Everyone enjoyed the teamwork part of it,” she reported on Monday to Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Newson made several stops in western Wisconsin on Monday, including at a job fair with U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Weston).
Newson was impressed by how the Darley employees fared, and noted the Wisconsin Flash Forward worker training program that put aside money for Lean was the result of support by Republicans and Democrats.
“Governor Walker and
the Legislature are really
committed,” to Lean, Newson said.
Newson said the program is going well in the manufacturing sector, and is being tried out in the financial services, information technology and healthcare sectors.
“I don’t have the sense that financial services were as robust as manufacturing,” Newson said.
He said the state wants to create a pipeline that links high school juniors and seniors with employers. Newson said in Waukesha, 70 students are enrolled in classes at a technical college, getting college and high school credits. One company there has made a commitment to hire students out of high school.
“This is powerful stuff,” Newson said. “I encourage you guys to come together with your schools.”
The biggest goal of the state is to connect employees with employers, he said.
Charlie Walker, president and CEO of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, said Bloomer has submitted an application for a Fast Forward grant. He said the area will see more of partnerships between school districts, chambers of commerce and the EDC.
“We’re appreciative that we are partnering with the state with this grant,” said Mark Baker, general manager of Darley’s pump division.
Darley sells its products globally, including in China. Baker said the company has a five year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps for Darley products. “Every U.S. Navy ship has a Darley (water) pump on it,” he said.
Even though the program is called Lean, Baker emphasized that Darley will retain all of its workers and is looking to grow the company.