Here, Carolyn Goodner, Plant Manager at Klein Tools’ Fort Smith, AR manufacturing facility, discusses her career at Klein as well as the safety improvements she has spearheaded that have helped revolutionise the 167-year-old leader in hand tools.
I have been fortunate throughout my 30-year career to not only watch the manufacturing industry evolve, but to also play a role in that evolution. I’ve experienced first hand a change in tide – namely in two critical areas: safety in the workplace and female representation within all facets of the manufacturing industry.
While on paper, these two might not seem related to one another, though I can say both have played a critical role in positively impacting the overall work environment, making it more inviting while also benefiting the overall bottom line for companies.
For people who’ve been in manufacturing for a long time or for those looking to begin their journey, there may be a perception that injuries are a commonplace occurrence. And it’s easy to believe this when statistics have shown that many companies are reporting nearly two dozen recordables a year.
However, in the past decade, facilities have made it a priority to improve the safety of employees on the floor. One way it’s been done is through the implementation of programmes that partner with local physicians and physical therapists who conduct in-depth audits of facilities. Upon completion of these audits, physicians then work with companies to educate employees on safer movements while also enhancing work zones to make them safer for employees.
Through these efforts, we have seen trials conducted where floor employees are allotted 15 minutes ahead of their shift as well as time after lunch for stretching and mobility exercises. The addition of these workouts has proven to be tremendously successful, resulting in a significant decrease in recordables and work-related injuries.
Concurrently, as many organisations are seeking to create a safer environment, they are also making great strides at making their workplace a more inclusive one. And while there still are companies that are in the early stages of enacting change, I feel as if the attitude throughout the majority of the manufacturing space is that we, as an industry, need to continue to evolve in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Giving all employees ample opportunities for personal and professional growth is key. Many will feel more inclined to stay with a company long-term if they see others like them who are able to work their way up in the company and learn multiple elements of the business. Additionally, when it is time to bring in fresh faces, it is important to consider candidates that bring a new and unique perspective to the team.
Women are bringing many new attributes to manufacturing positions, and it has been shown to impact companies for the better. In my experience, women in leadership positions have demonstrated an appreciation for work-life balance. I have seen them show compassion for colleagues who are looking to have both fulfilling careers and lives at home.
But elevating women within manufacturing cannot be done alone. Mentorship has proven to be key for retaining women within these roles. In male dominated fields, women may feel like they shouldn’t be asking questions. But by creating a more inclusive and welcoming manufacturing industry, women can feel more comfortable to ask and learn. In the end, asking questions can show a desire for growth, which is something managers notice and take into account when assessing who is interested in staying in an organisation long-term.
Additionally, seeing the rise of women in the manufacturing space in all roles is a net positive. For women looking to enter the field or to be elevated within a company, it’s beneficial to see a fellow female already in these positions, as it demonstrates an organisation’s willingness to afford opportunities to everyone.
Beyond providing career path opportunities for women, I have also experienced companies working to make sure that benefits and pay are equal for both men and women. While this may seem like a small step, in my experience with Klein, having standardised benefits that are based on your level, and not your gender, is a critical component in creating equality among teams.
Developing a truly employee-first company takes time, but I am seeing more and more organisations take the necessary steps to doing this and am optimistic we will continue to watch this evolve in the coming years.
By improving safety and elevating women in the manufacturing space, all individuals within the organisation will feel the positive impact.
About the author
Carolyn Goodner is the Plant Manager of Klein Tools Fort Smith, Arkansas facility. She has been with the company for almost 40 years serving in a variety of roles including Manufacturing and Operations Mangers. She is passionate about safety and the empowerment of women in the manufacturing industry.