Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Competent Staff Needed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Competent Staff Needed

Article excerpt

These days, many smaller companies are finding ways to stay in the ring with the large players, and sometimes even deliver a knockout. The Internet helps to level the playing field in many industries, and advances in technologies often allow smaller organizations to operate at high levels of efficiency, turning limited resources into rapid, high-quality production and service.

The strongest area in which small companies have the advantage, however, has nothing to do with technology. It's in the people -- the kind of culture that a smaller company can create in which employees take pride in their work, communicate their obstacles on the job, and work together in efficient and flexible teams.

Albers Manufacturing in O'Fallon, Mo., has used this kind of flexibility and efficiency in the work force to become a leader in their market. Founded in 1979 by Rolf Albers, the firm produced control panel boards for industry. It manufactured customized controls for all sorts of industrial applications, particularly telephone companies.

Due to the emergence of computers and programmable controllers, however, the process of mounting and wiring relays and timers to control manufacturing operations had become largely obsolete. Albers managed to stay ahead of these market changes by instituting rigorous quality and efficiency controls, and keeping their staff strong and adaptable.

Albers initially responded to this threat to his market by increasing the efficiency of his manufacturing process, through instituting and utilizing best practices new technologies, such as computer-aided design. The firm was able to become so efficient that it entirely outpaced its competitors in turn-around time, turning out switchboards in a matter of days when the competitors (companies like Westinghouse and Square-D) were taking weeks. This radical increase in product development speed also came along with reductions in costs.

Even with these advances, however, the competition eventually began to catch up. This is when Albers realized that the efficiency he had been able to put into manufacturing control panels could also be applied toward the production of all sorts of other types of parts. Albers Manufacturing then moved into contract manufacturing, doing design and production of complete products for other companies. Although today it still produces panel boards for telephone companies, the firm now also is a place that companies turn to for outsourcing some of their operations. Its clients now include such companies as AT&T, Sprint and MCI WorldCom.

One of the keys to Albers' efficiency and adaptability in manufacturing has been its focus on the employee and the work team. The firm uses cellular-manufacturing techniques and cross- functional continuous improvement work teams. …

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