By Benjamin Hoffmann, manager polymer technologies at STIHL Inc.
We live in a world where advancements in polymer technologies provide lighter weight, durable products. It’s hard to find an aspect of our lives that is not affected by polymers, especially outdoor power equipment where they are used in things like housings, fuel tanks, and handles to name a few.
This year, forty companies were nominated for the most prestigious award in polymer technologies. We are proud to say that this February STIHL Inc. was named the 2014 Processor of the Year at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Las Vegas, Nev. The award honors companies with superior achievement within their organization, community, and polymer operations. Judges scored the top four finalists in several categories including technological innovation, employee relations, quality, environmental performance, and industry and public service. You can watch our award submission video here.
One of the award judges, and Plastics News reporter, Bill Bregar, said that our high level of automation impressed them. We are about four times more automated than the typical U.S. manufacturer, according to data from the International Federation of Robotics. Through automation, we make our processes more efficient. And we are pleased to say that no full time employee has lost a job to automation. Instead we provide employees the opportunity to move up, often to more highly skilled positions.
Bregar also stated that our apprenticeship program should be a national model, not just for the industry, but the entire U.S. manufacturing base. We teach current employees new skills that broaden their qualifications and prepare them for a variety of new skilled worker positions. Our apprenticeship program is adapted from the German model of vocational training. In this “dual system,” trainees split their time between hands-on training and classroom education.
STIHL Inc. not only assembles final products here in Virginia Beach, but we also manufacture many of our components here as well. This “vertical integration” provides more internal control over supply, delivery, and most importantly, quality. In our operations, polymers compounds are stretched, shaped, molded and extruded into thousands of individual components found on STIHL products.
The Processor of the Year judges were especially impressed with our activities in the environmental performance category. Among the initiatives that impressed them was the fact that we recycle 89 percent of our waste, our green roofs, and that some of our electricity is generated by small windmills.
Industry and public service
We believe that being a good corporate citizen is just as important to our brand as the quality of our equipment. The judges recognized our support of many associations and community events.
We are certainly proud of this award. Of course the most important accolades we receive are from our customers, and we look forward to earning these each and every day.
*A majority of STIHL powerheads are built in the United States from domestic and foreign parts and components.