About 60 people work for Meyer Housewares on PEI. The facility is currently revamping its operations with a state-of-the-art automation process. The new technology will help meet growing market demand in Canada and expand into new markets, improve productivity, and better accommodate the employees, as well as attract new ones.
“Changes to the plant will make it a more productive and safer workplace,” says Neville Warren, Plant Manager. “The equipment is now enclosed, there is no more dust in the air, and the lighting is better.”
Newly installed robots are now doing some of the repetitive tasks formerly done by human workers. “Automation gives employees an opportunity to be more productive. They can stand back and prepare for the next job or make adjustments while the robot is doing the manual work. We want to give our people more value-added jobs, to be involved in continuous improvement, and to organize the shop more efficiently.
“Last year, we put through 334,000 pieces,” says Curtis MacMillan, Vice President Operations. “We give credit to the people working here. They have always risen to challenges and done what is needed to look after our customers.
“We are now asking our employees to take on more responsibility, and we want to work towards giving everyone the power to decide what needs to be done. We will also make sure they get the proper additional training to work in the new environment.”
- Maintenance: someone who ideally has mechanical and industrial electrical experience working with motion control, pneumatics, and hydraulics in a production environment.
- Machine Operators: people who have taken an electromechanical or mechatronics program or have grown up fixing things and can figure things out on their own.
- Forklift Operators in the Distribution Centre: those without forklift certification will receive the training course.
- Class 3 Truck Driver: a day job moving product between the distribution centre and the plant.
Other staff titles
- Machine Operators in many different roles, such as pot polisher, impact press operator, draw press operator
- Piercing and riveting to put handles on pots and frying pans
- Maintenance: electromechanical specialists and one licensed industrial electrician who also knows motion control and automation
- Supervisors, Managers, Quality Technician
- Office Administration: Accounting, Customer Service, Marketing
- Distribution Centre Manager, Assistant Distribution Manager, Packers, Order Pickers
Some employees have been with the company up to 37 years. “Our staff has a lot of pride in what we do here,” says Curtis.
Wages and benefits
“We pay competitive wages, and offer benefits cost-shared between the company and the employee, including a pension plan, medical, dental, vision, and drugs,” says Curtis. “Offering those benefits has always been important to us, because we are interested in our employees’ welfare.”
“I look at work-related courses, and ask about their interests and hobbies and what they are good at,” says Neville. “It really helps if they have a mechanical aptitude, because they will have to learn how to set up and work with the machines,” says Curtis.
“We need people who can look at a problem as a series of challenges and can find solutions. Even if someone has no mechanical skills, we value people who are socially adept and can work well with others in a group.”
How do you attract, develop and retain staff?
“We will be doing a lot of cross-training now that people will no longer be chained to a machine, putting product on and off. We want everyone to understand how to use each machine.”
“Companies and managers need to be sure they are doing what they can to develop the people who work for them,” says Neville. “We try to support a person’s self-esteem, give them the training and the tools they need, and give them the opportunity to succeed. It is all about respect.”
“A cover letter is not necessary, but it shows you have made an effort.”
Typical interview questions
- Do you have mechanical abilities? Do you know how to fix your car or repair things around the house?
- Where do you see yourself in three years? “If the person says they see themselves in my chair, I like that,” says Neville. “It shows initiative and a desire to work hard.”
- Why did you leave your previous employment? Did you enjoy your time there?
“The job interview is an opportunity to sell yourself beyond what is on your resumé,” says Curtis. “Stay positive in describing your former employers and co-workers. Let your honesty and integrity shine through.”
When working for the company, what are the keys to successful employment?
“When you have down time, don’t sit and wait for a supervisor to tell you what to do next,” says Neville. “We want people to work as part of the team, take ownership, and help each other succeed.”
Future business plans
“We are growing,” says Curtis. “We have been fortunate to have long-serving employees who have been with us through thick and thin. We want to build up to making 600,000 and eventually over 1 million pieces per year, and we hope to expand our markets.”
For more information, visit www.meyercanada.ca.