Crafts Night Out at the Ballpark!

Crafts employees spent a night out at the ballpark on August 29th with their colleagues, friends, and family.  In addition, they are continually support local companies in the area – they did not head to the big city of Chicago for this type of event but instead attended the Schaumburg Boomers Stadium just down the street from their plant facility.  It was a fun and relaxing evening out spent just enjoying each others company.

Company outings like nights out, lunches, coaching and internship programs can prove to be sometimes costly but they’re well worth the investment. A positive company culture that truly understands the employees’ both physical and mental needs, will result in highly engaged workforce to contribute to the company’s overall growth vision.  This is why Crafts continues to promote all these types of activities now and in the future.

Summer 2021 Interns Teach Crafts that Learning is a Two-Way Street

Crafts Technology welcomed two engineering interns this summer. The program provides experiential learning for young adults.  However, the Crafts team soon discovered that teaching leads to learning. Internships at Crafts give students real-world advanced systems and tooling experience in a manufacturing environment that allows them to develop their skills, gain valuable work experience, and explore career paths.

Crafts Technology welcomes Madeline Martin and Dominick Incapreo as 2021 Summer Interns

Madeline Martin is a student who benefitted from her internship at Crafts this summer. Studying industrial engineering at Iowa State University, Madeline is entering her senior year and has enjoyed taking what she’s learned in school and applying it on the job. Her experiences have included making and reading engineering drawings, designing parts using Solidworks (engineering 3D design software), managing a 3D printing cell, and working on a continuous improvement project.

Madeline has enjoyed assisting Mechanical Process Engineer Brett Staehlin in implementing Kanban, a lean manufacturing scheduling system that improves efficiencies. One project she worked on involved setting up automated notifications when a product is out of stock. The system sends a message by email to the person in charge of ordering to ensures that production isn’t interrupted.

Madeline chose industrial engineering because she likes the idea of reviewing systems and figuring out how to improve inefficiencies. She has undoubtedly accomplished that at Crafts. In addition to her contributions to the company, she’s gained valuable insights that can only come from being on the job. “Working as an intern at Crafts Technology has allowed me to learn through personal experiences instead of just from a textbook or lecture,” said Madeline. “I have been able to observe other engineers on the job and utilize what I’ve learned during my education to complete projects on my own.”

Dominick Incapreo, an incoming senior from the University of Iowa studying Mechanical Engineering, is another intern receiving valuable experience this year at Crafts.  He felt that an internship would help him better understand his career options.  He found that he’s gained much more than that. According to Dominick, “In addition to hands-on experience, I’ve learned about the importance of time management and communication.”  “ I’ve also developed a better understanding of the manufacturing process by being on the shop floor, a perspective I wouldn’t get in a more traditional engineering internship.”

One of Dominick’s responsibilities this summer is managing micro Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) cells. EDM is a metal fabrication process whereby a desired shape is obtained by using electrical discharges or sparks. Dominick’s responsibilities include programming the machines for specific operations, managing the machines, lean 5S, and developing a strategic plan for production.

Dominick is particularly excited about a special lean 5S project that uses 3D print technology. He’s currently designing a custom tray to organize EDM cells that will optimize productivity.  The tray includes cutouts in the shape of each tool. Once the design is complete, the tray will be printed using Crafts 3D printers. The result is a more organized workspace, where each piece has a home. Working alongside experienced engineers to design a project and using the 3D printer are skills Dominick knows he’ll use in the future.

In addition to the benefits that Madeline and Dominick have noted, internships are an excellent way for students to gain confidence in their skills. It’s also a perfect opportunity to network with professionals that can lead to finding a mentor or even a future job. But Crafts has found that employing interns has also led to learning opportunities for the company.

Rakesh (Rojar) Patel, Crafts Engineering Manager, oversees the internship program. He enjoys this responsibility because he fondly remembers his two internships during college, where he learned how to read blueprints, operate CAD software, and manage projects in a real-world setting. He’s privileged to be providing the same opportunity to future engineers.

What Rojar didn’t expect was that he would learn from the interns. He’s found that working with Madeline and Dominick has provided an understanding of the upcoming workforce. Not only do they bring valuable new ideas, they also offer insight about what’s important to the next generation of workers.

In the past, Crafts has benefitted by hiring interns once they graduate.  The internship period allows the Crafts team to get to know a potential employee and helps familiarize the intern with its culture. It also reduced the orientation period, which gives both Crafts and the employee an advantage.

The culture at Crafts is something that both Madeline and Dominick feel is a positive part of their internship. When considering her experience, Madeline stated, “The environment and the people at Crafts are friendly, offer constructive feedback, and are very considerate. Everyone is always happy to answer my questions and help without hesitation. My time here has given me the chance to grow as an engineer and prepared me for future endeavors.” Madeline says her experiences have led her to better understand what engineering consists of in the real world.

Dominick chose the Crafts internship because he wanted to work for a company that provided real-world experience and opportunities and hasn’t been disappointed. “Being able to intern at Crafts is a real pleasure,” he stated. “I work alongside great coworkers while learning new skills and receive the hands-on experience I’m looking for.  I will definitely be using what I’ve learned to move forward in my engineering career.”

The entire Craft team will miss Madeline and Dominick when they return to school this fall, but are comforted knowing that everyone learned this summer. 

ERP Becomes a Communication Tool

digital display
Crafts Technology has implemented a central display that can show larger-picture information such as financial info, who has been cross-trained in various departments and more.

Modern Machine Shop is the leading publication and media brand in North America devoted to CNC machining. To report on the ways CNC machining technology is advancing and succeeding, their staff writers travel the world exploring the ways job shops, contract shops and captive operations use machining equipment, processes and strategies to become more effective and efficient.

Recently, Emily Probst from Modern Machine Shop conducted an interview with Joe Abbate on the topic of JobBoss ERP Software and its benefits to Crafts Technology. “Everything that came along with the COVID-19 restrictions was the opposite of what we were trying to achieve as an employee-owned company in terms of collaboration, teamwork and business transparency,” says Joe Abbate, technical sales manager at Crafts Technology. According to Joe, the JobBoss ERP software is shown on digital displays located throughout the facility at Crafts “to provide transparent, digital communication which has accelerated the company’s ability to streamline its communication efforts”.

Learn how Crafts Technology benefited from the use of this software and others in this interview.

Crafts Technology Partners with Harper College to Offer Apprenticeship Program

This summer, Crafts Technology is launching an Apprenticeship benefit to the children of its’ employees.  The student level Registered Apprenticeship Program was developed by Harper College and adopted by Crafts Technology. The program is 4 years in length, registered with the US Department of Labor and is designed to lead to an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Advanced Manufacturing / Precision Machining CNC. There are several stipulations for the student-level apprenticeship program. The first stipulation is that the applicant will need to become a student at Harper College and 18+ years of age at the time of applying. The second stipulation is that the applicant is also a child of a Crafts Technology employee. Lastly, the applicant will need to submit a letter of interest that describes what interested them in a manufacturing career (minimum of 500 words).

Women are one of a number of economically disadvantaged groups and they are grossly underrepresented in manufacturing. As such, women are being strongly encouraged to apply for this apprenticeship program. This apprenticeship program is in keeping with the company’s long history of building a diverse and vibrant workforce at Crafts Technology.  The company is proud to offer a program that can help to increase opportunities for interested students and to encourage and potentially increase representation of economically disadvantaged and/or underrepresented groups within manufacturing.

For each of 2 semesters during the school year, the apprentice will be in class full-time at Harper College. The coursework completed each semester lasts for approximately 8 weeks and occurs twice during the school year. The apprentice will alternate between 8 weeks in school and then 8 weeks at work. There are many benefits to becoming an apprentice:

  • Gain practical skills and relevant training in the manufacturing industry.
  • Earn national credentials and an AAS degree.
  • No costs to the student apprentice.
  • Mentorship with experienced team members.
  • A career path with Crafts Technology.

While Crafts Technology is looking to further expand the Apprenticeship offering, this program is first being launched and offered to the children of current employees.  The applicants that are interested in beginning a manufacturing career with Crafts Technology, while also obtaining their Associates of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Advanced Manufacturing / Precision Machining CNC will be submitting their essay and an application internally at Crafts Technology. The deadline for applying is April 5th, 2021.

Participation in the program will require the apprentice to be ready for college-level work. Harper College will assist the apprentice in preparing for this eligibility requirement once the applicant has expressed interest. You can learn more about the Harper College Registered Apprenticeship program here: http:\harpercollege.edu\apprenticeship

Crafts Technology is committed to exploring how to build the program out to further expand employee skills and to attract/train new talent. Crafts Technology is a leader in manufacturing precision parts from superhard materials that deliver optimum life and corrosion resistance for the most demanding applications. Our expertise includes micro-manufacturing, composite fabrication, and new product development that benefits the entire value stream. Products range from tungsten carbide core pins for injection molding to nozzles and needles, cutting tools, modular composite countersink drilling, AFP blades, and wear parts.

* The deadline for applying is April 5th, 2021.

The Manufacturing Workforce of Tomorrow

Jeffrey C. Roberts MS, Vice President of Engineering for Crafts Technology along with Erin Guthrie, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) describe what the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow will look like and what young people have to look forward to when developing an interest in a manufacturing career. With $4.6 Million manufacturing jobs opening down the road, Crafts Technology is committed to developing the workforce of tomorrow through:

  • Technical programs to help unskilled labor develop careers
  • Engineering Internships with major colleges and universities
  • Developing relationships with local manufacturing associations
  • Working with local communities to find and promote talent
  • Showcasing employee accomplishments along the way

At Crafts Technology, we have identified more clearly the skills necessary to execute our business plans and improve our strategies and we train and recruit for those skills. We are developing the workforce of tomorrow, come learn about our company and join our team.

Reduce the Skills Gap : Skills Matrix

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but have you ever considered how it applies to your business?

Visual management boards are an essential lean manufacturing tool. They effectively communicate information at-a-glance to help coordinate and guide users towards continuous improvement. By developing a skills matrix board, everyone on the team can quickly identify strengths and potential skills gaps.

For clarification, according to Skills Base (https://www.skills-base.com), a digital skills inventory assessment company, “skills management is the practice of measuring and monitoring the skills of people within an organization, to develop workforce capability and align it with organizational objectives.”

In today’s changing and somewhat challenging work environment, cross-training capabilities are critical because there will be disruptions – it’s just a question of when. For Crafts Technology, embracing a visual skills matrix has been a powerful communication tool to assess, track, and report on skills, which has led to expected and unexpected continuous improvement throughout the organization.

Crafts conducts quarterly reviews where both the participant and manager evaluate an individual’s skills using an iPad multiple-choice assessment. Once both parties have completed the evaluation the numbers are averaged.  Data compiled may identify areas that need work, uncover demonstratable competencies, or discover growth opportunities.

By embracing self-evaluation, there is a natural check and balance that helps provide a more effective assessment by focusing on gaining agreement. When using a skills matrix, the focus is on the skill and not necessarily directed to the person, which reduces opinion bias and improves open dialogue.  See the below table for rankings used by Crafts.

Crafts Technology
0.      Not Applicable:  No working knowledge of the process or operation.
1. Low Skill: Minimal understanding of the process or operation. Capable of performing the operation with heavy guidance from individuals with a higher skill level. Does understand safety and quality compliance of the process or operation.
2. Basic Skill: Basic understanding of the process or operation. Capable of performing the operation somewhat independently, with some higher skill level guidance. Does understands safety and quality compliance of the process or operation.
3. Competent Skill: Competent understanding of the process or operation. Capable of performing the operation independently, with minimal higher skill level guidance. Does understands safety and quality compliance of the process or operation.
4. Developed Skill: Developed understanding of the process or operation. Capable of performing the operation independently. Is capable of training lower skill level individuals. Does understands safety and quality compliance of the process or operation.

At Crafts Technology, the skills matrix is the foundation of human resources’ continuous improvement initiative. Participants include operations, engineering, and leadership who are assessed on both soft and hard skills. The skills matrix board visually showcases information in one location, allowing everyone to work from the same perspective, which aids in setting goals and motivates team members to learn new skills. 

Crafts Technology team looks at skills matrix board

Since implementing a skills matrix board, Crafts Technology has experienced several positive changes:

  • Identified the mismatch between the required skills and the skills that are possessed by team members
  • Encouraged cross-training to develop a more flexible workforce that can adjust to spikes in demand or COVID related absences
  • Improved employees’ motivation to learn new skills because everyone better understands the expectations
  • Mitigated risk by allowing a backup system to surface so that roles can be filled when people are off, particularly in today’s COVID-19 environment
  • Increased company growth by improving communication and skills throughout the organization
  • Reduced the skills gaps by highlighting training opportunities
  • Improved retention rates by better utilization employee strengths and offering training to address weaknesses
  • Enhanced employee satisfaction by transparently sharing information and empowering each team member

By using skills matrix software, Crafts Technology has aggregated data that provides insights that far exceed Excel or other collection methods, which has been instrumental in setting company goals. As a company, Crafts is committed to continuous improvement – as individuals’ skills shouldn’t be static. By mapping skills across the organization Crafts can predict, adapt, and respond proactively to issues.

Jeffrey Roberts, Vice President of Engineering at Crafts Technology, reports, “At Crafts the skills matrix is an important lean management tool that helps us reach our goal of continuous improvement and best in class. It’s proven especially useful when evaluating our skills gap. We’ve used it to enhance cross-training and found it motivates all involved.”

By using visual management boards like a skills matrix, Crafts Technology provides a stronger message than words alone, which has enabled them to effectively maximize their entire team’s skills.

Learn More About How Crafts Uses Visual Management Boards

Governor JB Pritzker Gives Special Thanks to Manufacturers in Illinois

“Illinois manufacturers have a proud history of ingenuity, innovation and resilience. And, despite the extraordinary challenges presented by COVID-19, they continue to persevere by adapting operations and offering life-saving solutions to this crisis,” said Governor JB Pritzker.  “During this year’s National Manufacturing Month, we must give special thanks to the hardworking men and women who have gone above and beyond to create new products and devices and to put their communities first so that we can deploy the level of health response that this crisis has demanded from all of us. With the industry on pace to grow and to become even more critical in the years ahead, I encourage Illinoisans to join us this month to honor the role of our manufacturers.”
 
Each year, National Manufacturing Month represents an opportunity to recognize the essential economic contributions manufacturers provide and to call attention to the importance of this growing industry and the 21st century job opportunities it can provide to Illinois residents. Over the next eight years, it’s estimated that 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs will need to be filled nationwide.
  
Crafts Technology, an employee owned company, designs and produces advanced systems and tooling supporting some of the largest electronics, aerospace and medical manufacturers in the world. The company history of producing critical tooling paved the way for it to ramp up production of COVID-19 test equipment earlier this year. Its production scale-up has been central in the efforts of global medical diagnostics companies as testing capacity emerged and remains a critical need in the fight against COVID-19. These products are essential to the mass production of medical products such as vials, syringes, blood tubes and medical electronics, specifically helping frontline healthcare workers battle the virus. 
  
Under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, the state of Illinois has made continued investments to bolster the manufacturing industry and to prepare communities for the future growth of the industry – with extensive investments in workforce training programs, transportation infrastructure, and with an expansion of economic development tools, like the apprenticeship tax credit to expand the manufacturing pipeline of talent and extension of the research and development tax credit to ensure cutting-edge products are developed here in Illinois.

Governor JB Pritzker gives thanks for Manufacturers in Illinois

“As home to more than 400 manufacturers that employ 15,000 Illinoisans, Elk Grove Village salutes innovators like Crafts Technology and all the companies that have answered the call to produce goods and materials that are helping the overall effort to mitigate this global health crisis,” said Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson.  “Because Elk Grove Village is home to the nation’s largest industrial park, we are keenly aware of the vital role our manufacturers play in helping communities and families thrive and in keeping the Illinois economy moving forward especially during these very challenged times.”
   
For more information on webinars and manufacturing resources offered by the state of Illinois, visit DCEO’s website. Additionally, DCEO encourages you to join the conversation on manufacturing by following us on social @IllinoisDCEO and signing up to participate in free virtual events held all month long.

State of Illinois Proclaims October Manufacturing Month

​The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is joining manufacturing industry leaders and members of the community at Crafts Technology to proclaim October as Manufacturing Month in Illinois.  

Since COVID-19 hit, manufacturers have played an increasingly important role in protecting and powering Illinois communities. It’s estimated that over 1,000 Illinois manufacturers and distributors stepped up to support Illinois and the broader community by shifting operations to manufacture and deploy the life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to fight the pandemic.

“Stepping up to the needs of medical product manufacturers was no different than stepping up to a war effort, however, this time, the threat was a virus,” said CEO and President of Crafts TechnologyJeffrey Taylor. “Manufacturing is a central part of Illinois and for any healthy economy, and the pandemic actually reinforced our team’s resolve to expand our operations, increase employee training and to expand investments in equipment and technology to meet the ever-evolving needs of the medical products companies.  Crafts Technology has been producing high performance engineered wear solutions for critical and essential industries for more than 100 years in Illinois and we look forward to our next 100 years in the great state of Illinois.” 

DCEO was joined at Crafts Technology by industry organizations including the Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) and Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC). Manufacturing is the number one contributor to our economy, employing more than 550,000 Illinoisans and producing $108 billion in total output.  

“Illinois’ manufacturing industry is one of our state’s greatest prides. Not only do our manufacturers create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, but they also keep the rest of our economy moving, providing the supplies our essential workers need to continue serving our communities,” said Deputy Majority Leader Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines). “We are grateful for Illinois manufacturers year-round, but Manufacturing Month is a great opportunity to celebrate their contributions to our state’s growth.”

     Click to view a video on how Crafts Technology helped with a COVID-19 testing solution.

For more information on webinars and manufacturing resources offered by the state of Illinois, visit DCEO’s website. Additionally, DCEO encourages you to join the conversation on manufacturing by following us on social @IllinoisDCEO and signing up to participate in free virtual events held all month long.

Using Technology to Adapt to Today’s Changes

Joe Abbate is the Technical Sales Manager for Crafts Technology. Recently he was interviewed by Gretchen Salois, a senior editor at FFJournal magazine, which covers breakthrough technology and innovative manufacturing systems used by fabricators and OEMs. The purpose of the interview was to find how manufacturing firms like Crafts Technology were adapting to the COVID -19 pandemic and their use of software to help manage their business.

When the pandemic tied up the economy, Crafts Technology chose to add two software modules to its existing ERP system to streamline operations and communications between remote and on-premise departments.  Abbate stated, “We had to consider that a lot of our workers have gone in to work for 40 years and working from home seemed awkward.  It was not an easy change for them to make”.

Communication and collaboration are key to any teams’ success, and this is no different at Crafts Technology.  A coordinated live meeting among team members was now obstructed by alternating shifts, remote working, social distancing, and face coverings.  As if effective communication was not difficult enough.   

shop software
Joe Abbate showing how shop software helped company during pandemic

Using this new software, Crafts Technology was able to provide employees with updated visual display boards to increase information flow to the shop.  Workers back on site are also aided by electronic devices to help mitigate any confusion.  “We’re able to hold production meetings as we would normally,” says Abbate.  When we are not doing production meetings virtually, we socially distance (keeping 6ft apart) and have given our workers iPads and headphones to follow along during meetings on the floor. 

As part of the Crafts Technology management and leadership team, Joe helps develop, plan, and execute company strategic initiatives as well as support customer application solutions. Joe’s strong background in engineering, operations, grinding, and sales make him a great resource for solving industrial challenges both for customers and for Crafts Technology.

At Crafts, Joe has led projects for CRM deployment, ERP utilization and reporting, and capital equipment justification. Joe believes in communicating business information throughout the organization so that smart, data-driven decisions that align with company goals are made daily. He has a special interest in prioritizing on-time delivery, quality, and customer satisfaction performance. To read the entire interview – visit https://digital.ffjournal.net/issue/september-2020/fast-adaptation/

Providing a Helping Hand

Crafts Technology is a member of ENCLAVE for Entrepreneurs Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit economic development education initiative. The foundation focuses on finding highly personal ways to support entrepreneurial individuals and their influencers through capabilities assessment, educational programs, and professional support.

During an Enclave’s Founders First Academy meeting, Crafts technology met Chris McCarthy of Earthpaint.org.  This charity organization does paint recycling with an emphasis on hiring and training people with special needs. They have created a program that empowers adults with disabilities and trains job/life skills by collecting unwanted paint and recycling it into new paint and other products.

Earlier this year Earthpaint.org’s production facility became flooded.  It was during the Enclave’s meeting that Crafts decided to help this company by hiring a restoration firm to clean up the water damage at their facility.  As part  of Crafts COVID-19 Operational Response Plan they had hired BAC Restoration.  BAC is a family owned business that is certified in inspection, cleaning, and restoration.  They utilize EPA approved hospital grade disinfectant to clean work environments using protocols established by an Environmental Hygienist.   BAC also performs water restoration and was hired by Crafts Technology to assist Earthpaint.org.

According to Chris McCarty, “The restoration company that Crafts Technology sent worked hard all day to remove the water and left us with enough fans and dehumidifiers to solve the problem quickly.  Our mission of recycling and providing work for people with disabilities was barely interrupted thanks to your immediate response to our need.  We are fortunate to have your support and we look forward to a busy summer now that our building is ready for our team and our customers”.

At Crafts Technology, all our employee owners share our fundamental values, including transparency, innovation, and integrity in all we do.  Our shared commitment is seen in the quality of the parts we make, the advanced designs we conceive, and the way we interact with our clients and our community.