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FLEXO Magazine : April 2011
Plants & Processes Walter G. Anderson Isn’t Afraid of Commitment training Fosters long-term customer relationships, employee tenure Minnesota-based folding carton manufacturer Walter G. Anderson (WGA) prizes longevity. The family- owned business, now in its third generation, has been serving several customers for more than 40 years, some as long as 50. “ We’re keen on establishing relationships,” says Marc An- derson, owner. He says it’s important for WGA, a member of Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) since 1991, to have a solid foundation of business. “ We’re always looking to add to the list, but it’s a competitive industry. Customer retention is the key to our success. ” Building long-term relationships takes time, effort, consis- tent quality and a can-do attitude, says Anderson. “ We don’t say ‘no’ to customers. We ask what they need and determine how best to deliver it. A project can be a challenge—it could be a 2-day turnaround—and we’ll take care of it. But as we don’t have time to do it a second time, we have to get it right the first time.” A stable workforce is a solid foundation for delivering con- sistent quality, and WGA selects job candidates and makes hiring decisions with an eye toward career longevity. “ We have employees who have been with us 20, 30 years,” says Anderson, noting the company ’s low turnover rate of less than 2 percent. “If your turnover is high, you’re not doing some- thing right.” IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL According to Anderson, one way to avoid turnover is to ensure that employees are able to ride the tides of technologi- cal change. “As the technology changes, and you leave the mechanical for the computerized, your employees have to come along,” he says. “ T hings are changing so fast. What we’re doing is completely different than what we did 20 years ago, and you have to give employees a chance to learn.” To that end, WGA has turned to FTA’s Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST) certifica- tion for its flexo press operators. “ We like to invest in our employees. They are the experts, and the way to ensure our customers receive the best quality is to make sure our employees are up to date,” says Adam Snell, printing supervisor. “ FIRST provides the information and knowledge our employees need to fix problems as they occur, while still remaining productive on press.” The training has proven itself to be part of a successful strategy for slow but steady growth, as the roster at WGA has increased from 90 employees in 1985 to 225 today. Anderson points to the usefulness of training in adapting to new equipment. “ Our greatest strengths are our people first Photos: Walter G. anderson 40 FLEXO aPril 2011 www.flexography.org Lessons Learned • A stable workforce is a solid foundation for establish- ing long-term relationships with customers. • Training and FIRST certification enables employees to adapt to evolving technology. • Employee confidence in their own knowledge re- duces turnover and promotes customer service, thus furthering established customer relationships.