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Manufacturer of the Year Nominee

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by Barbara Radford-Kapp

SBJ Contributing Writer

Dayco is in the enviable position of being one of the three finalists for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce's Manufacturer of the Year Award. When you look at the company's 40-year history and its phenomenal growth in the last five years it's easy to see why.

Dayco Products Inc. opened a Springfield plant in 1959. The local facility is part of the industrial business division of the worldwide Dayco company. Here workers produce power transmission belts for companies like John Deere, Case and Caterpillar. The company has also been able to capture 100 percent of the market for snowmobile belts.

The addition of new customers and new products, along with a company-wide reorganization, has helped Springfield Dayco realize a more than 40 percent increase in both gross sales and number of employees since 1992. Jerry Parks, plant manager, attributes the success, in part, to a redistribution of plant functions within the overall Dayco system. That change, which began in 1992, made each plant responsible for specific products.

According to Parks, the Springfield plant benefited from the new arrangement, which enabled employees to produce a product from start to finish, as well as add new business. The wisdom of reorganization showed up in the bottom line.

Springfield Dayco's gross sales went from $54.2 million in 1992 to $76.25 million in 1996, and Parks estimates sales this year will reach $95 million. Increased production and profits have enabled the company to expand its local work force from 291 employees in 1992 to approximately 500 today.

Another factor in Dayco's success has been the implementation of a continuous quality improvement program. "We train all of our employees on this concept, and everyone belongs to a natural process team," Parks said. Each team comprises a supervisor and his or her employees. Each team identifies its key processes, measures its performance and asks, "Are we meeting the customer's needs?"

"This system keeps the lines of communication open, and we can deal with whatever comes up," Parks said. "The only way you can determine if you're making an improvement in your performance is by measuring it, and that's what we're trying to do," he added.

Employees benefit by having more input in how they do their jobs, Parks said.

"We're trying to create an atmosphere where employees do not mind coming to work every day," Parks said. "I've always found that, overall, people want to do a good job, and if you can create a positive work environment, you're going to see that good," he added.

"Our employees understand that if we are going to continue to thrive and be competitive in the marketplace, that we have to continuously improve," Parks said.

That desire to continuously improve led Dayco to seek ISO registration status this year. A company achieves the International Standards approval by inviting an outside auditing team to assess company processes and product outcomes.

"An ISO registration lets our customers know that we meet certain standards and that we do what we say we'll do," Parks said. Springfield Dayco received the ISO 9001 certification in May of this year.

Dayco is concerned about meeting certain community standards, as well. The company's most noted community project is the Dayco Bicycles for Christmas program. Dayco accepts donations of used bicycles, and employees raise money throughout the year by recycling aluminum cans and other projects to purchase new bikes, strollers and other toys. The company then matches those funds and pays for parts and paint.

All the bicycles and toys are donated to the Council of Churches of the Ozarks at Christmas time. "The workers spend their own time repairing and painting the bicycles," Parks said. Dayco employees have distributed more than 2,000 riding toys in the past several years.

Dayco employees support the United Way, the Red Cross, the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks and other local charities. The company pursues community involvement because it wants to be a good neighbor, according to Parks. "We live here, and we want to make sure we do everything we can to preserve our city's environment and lend a hand where we see the need," he added.

As for being a Manufacturer of the Year finalist, Parks said he is glad to see workers get the recognition.

"If we win, it won't be because of anything I've done. It will be because of our employees' hard work," he said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Jerry Parks, plant manager at Dayco, shows the riding toys Dayco employees will donate to the Council of Churches this Christmas.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Earl Childress works on the factory floor at Springfield's Dayco plant. The 40-year-old company's accomplishments are detailed in Barbara Radford-Kapp's article on page 41.[[In-content Ad]]

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