Employees come first, then customers, then shareholders.
That’s the operating approach that Bill Hindle, president of HindlePower Inc. in Easton, has taken with his company over the past 13 years. It’s a move that he believes has paid off in rapid efficiencies in production processes, little-to-no employee turnover and sustained revenue growth of about 15 percent each year.
It’s all because the stationary and utility battery charger manufacturer made a concerted effort to empower employees.
“The more you get employees involved, the harder they swing the bat for you,” Hindle said during a recent tour of the production plant near Interstate 78. “It’s all about people. People do everything. There’s no manual for it.”
Employees are trusted with independently meeting with visitors on plant tours, creating new manufacturing processes, developing new techniques and teaching other employees fresh skills.
By focusing on employees first, Hindle said he has been able to increase customer satisfaction because workers are committed to showing up, getting orders out on time and developing as professionals who learn new skills and gain promotions.
“Everybody understands that they are important to the job; we have no turnover,” Hindle said. “They do a phenomenal job of taking care of customers.”
Rather than punching a time clock, all 75 employees complete time sheets, which Hindle said builds trust throughout the company. Even with no attendance policy, the company regularly gets close to 100 percent attendance, he said.
All employees can enter the company’s computer system to find out what equipment is needed. They know how many dollars the company receives for finishing each project, since the amounts are printed on the production orders for all to see. Transparency takes a further step with weekly revenue figures posted on large TV screens in the plant.
Employees also take active roles in determining better production methods.
Manufacturers Resource Center in Bethlehem proved vital in showing the company how to operate the plant more efficiently.
With a recent project called “5S” and point of view storage, the company learned concepts for lean manufacturing processes. With MRC’s help, employees decided how to recreate the production line for better efficiency so tools are readily available where they need them.
“The end result, we saved tons of labor, it really cut out a lot of waste,” said James Buniak, an employee who was integral to the process. “The other day, something that took four hours [instead] took 45 minutes. We focus more on the product.”
Cecilia Ortiz, assistant production manager, said the new production process proved to be a big difference in having parts more accessible.
“We don’t have to run all over for parts,” Ortiz said. “It’s less work, less stressful for everybody, so things are running smooth.”
These modern manufacturing techniques didn’t arrive overnight.
“MRC has taught us everything, that’s who we really leaned on,” Hindle said.
The center’s CEO forum helped the company succeed through developing a gain sharing plan for employees, creating marketing techniques and learning how to compute on the cloud, Hindle said.
Hindle recently stopped being part of the forum, but had been a member since 2001. After each meeting, he returned with skills he could use in the company.
MRC evaluated HindlePower’s processes, and, in turn, the company has sent employees to MRC for additional training.
For a company to achieve success, it’s necessary to have a female perspective in executive decision-making, otherwise, decisions from the top that affect the company are often skewed one way or the other, Hindle said.
HindlePower has Deborah Behler on its team as general manager.
The company’s emphasis on creating a positive, productive environment can be seen throughout the work spaces.
In the plant and offices of the building, the company added little touches that aim to boost people’s moods. The walls of the production facility are painted in light landscape colors, and large windows allow employees to see outside. Indoor trees in the middle of the office area create the feeling of being outdoors.
Regular employee recognition awards and nugget (idea) presentations help raise the level of quality and professionalism in the departments, Hindle said.
Employees tend to stick with the company, even after gaining new skills.
“We promote from within whenever possible; we try to tap that all the time,” Hindle said. “The young people are the greatest asset to business today. They just drip with enthusiasm.”
Often, it’s the youth that offer creative solutions for using technology to make processes faster and more convenient.
Robots will assemble the company’s new product line, an idea suggested by a young employee. Now, employees get trained to operate robots and can do the work of three to four people, Hindle said.
Although the company’s roots date to the 1970s, according to Hindle’s history, the Hitran Power Systems division grew successful enough that it moved from the Flemington, N.J., plant to a larger location. In 1999, Hitran Power Systems relocated to a new facility in Easton, renaming itself as HindlePower on Jan. 1, 2001.
Bill Hindle became president at that time and counts not only revenue growth, but company culture growth as a key to HindlePower’s success.
“I think we are growing now faster than we ever have in 13 years,” Hindle said.