Micro-Tronics, Inc. (MTI) is a high-precision electronic discharge machining leader. The company was founded by retired Air Force fighter and test pilot John Marusiak Jr. and his wife, Angie, in 1968. In the beginning, the pair ran production in the morning and made deliveries in the afternoon. Today, the company has a 100,000-square-foot multibuilding campus in Tempe and 100 employees. The company’s capabilities include conventional and computerized wire EDM, CNC EDM, rubber molding, and production machining for the aerospace industry.
With a reduced demand from the aerospace industry over the past two years and the extremely tight labor market, MTI has focused on improving manufacturing, safety, and employee management systems. In anticipation of industry demand ramping up in the future, the company wanted to be able to meet this increase with its current workforce.
Jeff George, MTI’s president had worked closely with a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) when he worked for another company located outside of Arizona. George knew each state had an MEP and asked his Administrative Services Manager, Brandy Wheaton, to investigate the Arizona MEP service offering. Wheaton learned that the Arizona MEP’s Emergency Assistance Program offered in 2020 and 2021 allowed manufacturers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to access subsidies to help pay for services.
“Once we had been approved, I gave Arizona MEP a list of the training I was interested in, and they made it happen,” said Wheaton. The training focused on lean manufacturing practices, safety, and leadership.
Training Reduces Equipment Setup Time by 70%
Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) training helped MTI reduce equipment setup time on one part by more than 70%. In SMED training, each step of the equipment setup is analyzed to see if it can be eliminated, moved, simplified or streamlined. “The trainer conducted sessions in two machining departments,” said Wheaton. “In one department, setup time was four to five hours per job, and now we are down to an hour and 15 minutes. The labor hours savings is what we were hoping to see.”
In the other machining department, the team continues to work with the principles taught in the class to reduce setup time.
Focus on Safety Training
Another goal for MTI was to reinvigorate its safety training program. Wheaton, who was new to the safety role, needed a knowledgeable resource to review the company’s current safety program, and she proposed changes to its personal protective equipment policy. The Arizona MEP’s safety expert started with a review of the company’s safety manual and then conducted a mock OSHA inspection, and Wheaton received a report detailing areas for improvement. The Arizona MEP also developed new safety training designed to engage employees.
“The training was integral in getting us back on track with what was required,” stated Wheaton. “I think the trainer came across to the employees as a very knowledgeable resource.”
Leadership Training Aligns Employees and Expectations
Arizona MEP also worked with MTI’s leadership team to develop tools to assist managers in communicating expectations and aligning its workforce based on skills. “Arizona MEP worked closely with us to develop a template for the job descriptions, review the job descriptions, and provide feedback to get us on the right track,” said Wheaton. “The leadership training helped us connect the dots, starting with the job description and ending with the performance review. These should match and tie together.”
Following the review, the team developed a skills matrix and used a DiSC assessment to help everyone understand the team’s different communication and personality styles.
Arizona MEP Recruits for Key Leadership Position
MTI was also looking to fill a key position to lead some of the company’s improvement initiatives. The position reports directly to the president, who was looking for a candidate with a specific skill set and experience. “I reached out to Arizona MEP to see if they could help recruit for this position because we were not having a lot of luck,” said Wheaton.
Arizona MEP works with staffing agencies across Arizona to help manufacturers find skilled talent. Using the Arizona MEP’s recruiting connections, presented several qualified candidates. Arizona MEP stayed on top of the interview and selection process until MTI had selected the candidate that best fit the requirements and company culture.
Through the entire training process, Arizona MEP has become a valuable resource and go-to partner for MTI as they continue forward on company improvement initiatives.
“The assistance program was definitely a big driver to go with Arizona MEP, and we’ve made some great connections through our work together,” said Wheaton. “Arizona MEP is the first place I go when I have industry questions. They help me find the resources and information I need.”