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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.

Women in Manufacturing Hosts a Virtual Tour of Crafts Technology

Please join us for a free Virtual Tour of Crafts Technology on Thursday February 25th at 8:30am CT. This special event is being hosted by WiM IL (Women in Manufacturing) along with SME Chicagoland and IMEC.

Women in Manufacturing® (WiM) is the only national trade association dedicated to providing year-round support to women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. At present, more than 5,800 individual members representing nearly 1,000 manufacturing companies have joined our growing ranks of industry professionals. WiM encompasses manufacturers of all types and welcomes individuals from every job function – from production to the C-Suite. Membership is available to women and men working within the manufacturing sector.

Some highlights of this Virtual Tour of Crafts Technology will include the following:

  • Micro Manufacturing – Producing features below .001″
  • Skills Matrix – Visual Representation of Cross Training and Addressing the Skills Gap
  • KPI Management – See how KPI’s throughout the operation help promote efficiency and company success. 
  • CNC Precision Grinding – see the evolution of manual to CNC while holding tolerances below .0001″
  • Ownership – See how Equity for all translates to success for the company. 

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. Crafts harnesses a 4 pillar approach to provide significant value to the industrial marketplace including:

  1. Culture of Ownership
  2. Materials Engineering
  3. State of the Art Manufacturing
  4. Engineering Innovation

* Registration is free and open until 2/24/21 at 4:00 PM (EST)

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

How Manufacturers Respond to a Pandemic

Mr. David Boulay, The President of Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) highlights in this video how manufacturers have come together as one unit to help the community. Over the past few months, Crafts Technology – the same makers who power electronics, aerospace and medical products companies around the world – have pivoted their business to help other manufacturers and their community by:

  • Developing and sharing a COVID Response Plan 
  • Helping the city identify manufacturers that may be able to produce PPE
  • Working directly with the city to develop the Elk Grove COVID-19 response site
  • Producing 3D printed mask adjusters for employees and donating them to Mariano’s Food Store to help prevent damage to the back of the ear from wearing a mask all day at work.

“Illinois has been an early leader on building out testing capacity – just recently reaching the 5 million test mark – thanks in part to local companies like Crafts and the ‘makers’ they employ who are making a difference,” according to the governor’s office.

State leaders kick off Manufacturing Month at Crafts Technology

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity joined manufacturing industry leaders and members of the community at Crafts Technology to proclaim October as Manufacturing Month in Illinois. “Kicking off October’s National Manufacturing Month, the event recognized the contributions by Crafts Technology as one several Illinois companies that have stepped up and joined the statewide response to the pandemic,” according to the governor’s office. The kick-off took place on Friday, Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. at Crafts Technology at 91 Joey Dr. in Elk Grove Village.

Since COVID-19 hit, more than 1,000 Illinois manufacturers and distributors shifted operations to manufacture and deploy personal protective equipment. Crafts Technology – the same makers who power electronics, aerospace and medical products companies around the world – have pivoted their business to produce a tool for COVID-19 test equipment. “Illinois has been an early leader on building out testing capacity – just recently reaching the 5 million test mark – thanks in part to local companies like Crafts and the ‘makers’ they employ who are making a difference,” according to the governor’s office.

DCEO will host a number of virtual events throughout the month of October to recognize the essential role in Illinois communities, and to highlight its growing role in the economy. For more on these events, visit DCEO’s website or follow us on social @IllinoisDCEO.

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.