Carpenter Technologies, Latrobe Specialty Metals
Embracing best-in-class manufacturing practices, Carpenter’s SAO (Specialty Alloys Operations) facilities in North America, Europe and Asia manufacture and warehouse cast-wrought stainless steels, high temperature (nickel, iron and cobalt-base) alloys, high-strength alloy steels, medical alloys, magnetic and controlled expansion alloys, tool and die steels, and other specialty grades in long product form. Carpenter produces a full range of products including titanium alloys, down-hole tooling, contract manufacturing, and conversion of stainless steels, high temperature and other specialty alloys, and tool and die steels.
Carpenter’s Latrobe plant team has had a long-standing relationship with David Adams and the Adams Strategy Group team, learning from David and the team both in the plant and in the classroom in Saint Vincent College’s Master’s Degree in Management: Operational Excellence.
Recently, the Latrobe team embarked on a journey to world-class performance led by the Adams Strategy Group as architect and head coach. Connecting at the senior team and internal operational excellence team levels, Adams Strategy created a two-year plan for transforming the culture in the Latrobe operations, having a substantial effect on safety, sustained operational gains and engagement.
Richard Tinsman, Vice President, Latrobe Operations says about their safety improvement, “At Latrobe Steel, our injury rate was high for many years (~12 OSHA rate(Total case incident rate)). Today, the OHSA rate is around 4.4. The key point in the improvement with safety was the engagement of the workforce. As Safety was and is our first pillar (on the operational excellence balanced scorecard), it created a better connection to process issues and opened up dialogue. In addition, our improvement (innovation / suggestion) system created a process for employees to engage in safety through their ideas. This system help explode to potential which is needed as there is a lot of ground to cover.”
Tinsman goes on about engagement, “In Latrobe, we used our rolling mill as our pilot. The reason was based on multiple facts: horrible morale, low productivity and not cost competitive. As I would do quarterly meetings to update everyone on the business, I used to dislike heading into this mill as there was never a response or question…. total lack of engagement. As we started the pilot hall, the employees were very unsure of where we were going and if we would stick it out. Well today, the rolling mill probably has the best morale in the plant, productivity doubled and employee engagement happens every minute. The quarterly meetings in the mill became my favorite as it became conversations not presentations. I had one employee after the meeting state to me, ‘I now feel like a person who can make a difference’. This process created an environment where we could all learn together, we could make mistakes together and in the end, we could grow together.”
Concerning operational gains, Tinsman tells us, “Outside of the rolling mill, the story was repeated:
- Arc Melting – 33% gains
- Vacuum Induction Melting – 50% productivity gains
- Finishing – 10% gains
Elaborating on engagement, Tinsman adds, “What made this system help with engagement overall was the daily cadence and visual management. On our Tier I balanced scorecards, the employees on the floor got connected. They feel that they can see and impact the problems in front of them. Employees could see all of the problem solving sheets in their area, which helped with the communication. Additionally our support functions like Maintenance saw consistency across the organization. The standard format was also useful as employees could engage in any location. The engagement improvement was driven by the tools but also by the methodology. It forced everyone to focus on process first not the person. This basic plan helped employees feel more free and open up. One of your best improvements to show engagement from this model is with community involvement. Our united Way contributions skyrocketed. We had an employee from the floor volunteer to help engage the workforce. We started a Carpenter Cares group that focused on sweat equity projects, community financial support and the United Way campaign. This group grew rapidly to 33 employees from all parts of the mill. I view this as the best result of our engagement. Overall, this system is built to create engagement and solve problems. It is built to balance all that comes our way. It is built to create a bond from the top to the bottom of an organization.”