AFR

manager, said, “It always helps to build a good relationship with our customers. Our drivers know all the people on the docks at our customer sites, and they get to hear about what the customer needs. That’s truly important to us.”

Pietrowski added, “They get into the customer’s plant and see them every day. Our drivers really keep their ear to the ground as they load and unload the trucks. What they learn helps us to do a better job for the customer.”

He added, “In many ways our drivers are our sales reps. They get the praise when things go right. They also take the beating when things go wrong. In that way they are more than just the face of AFR, they are also our eyes and ears.”

The drivers are good at what they do, Kremer said, and they have been doing it for quite a while. AFR’s transportation subsidiary has one employee with a quarter century of service and another few with more than 15 years under their belts.

Door-to-door service

This door-to-door service helps AFR deliver on its promise to keep coating removal customers up and running.

To make this happen, drivers will depart from their respective plants somewhere between 1 and 3 a. m.

The longest route heads to Harley-Davidson in Kansas City, while others are mostly local in Wisconsin and Illinois.

As technology grows, the drivers have begun to embrace it as a vital part of their job. They are working with e-logs, GPS systems and hands-free phones.

In addition to the Chilton plant, AFR also operates out of Eldredge, Iowa and Shelbyville, IN.

Key community relationship

Team leaders at AFR credit the success of their drivers to the dedication they find in the workforce from Chilton and the greater Calumet County area.

“Finding good, qualified drivers and workers is an ongoing challenge,” Pietrowski said.

“We realize at AFR that we have a heavy reliance on the local workforce in order to be successful at what we do,” he said.

Director of Operations Joe Dyer reflected on those comments.

“We are always working hard to recruit, train, re-train and harden workers to the demands of our workplace,” he said.

To Dyer and the other team leaders at AFR, recruitment and retention of a quality workforce means going the extra mile.

“We strive to have an engaged workforce at AFR. We are working hard to have our workforce take ownership for new employees, taking them under their wing and making them feel welcome,” he said.

To this end, new employees are bolstered by a mentor-mentee program. The mentors act as coaches and sounding boards, helping the new worker to acclimate to the work environment. “We want our newest employees to feel comfortable and safe here, which allows them to become productive sooner for AFR,” Dyer said.

Gemba conversations

AFR has also instituted Gemba conversations with its staff. (Gemba is a lean manufacturing term referring to the work area as ‘the real place.’)

“We are investing time in the process,” Dyer said. “We are talking about how we all can get better at what we do. It has evolved into an employee-led discussion.

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Many of our best company innovations and suggestions have come out of these discussions.”

Dyer said that the Gemba discussion process has extended a feeling of ownership to all AFR employees.

“We believe that we offer people careers here rather than jobs,” he added. That means, the company remains committed to things like full-benefit packages for employees along with a wellness program.

Youthful involvement

AFR’s human resource coordinator Billie Jo Emmer said the company has also taken on a new initiative to engage young people in the community.

AFR has been working in the planning phases with Chilton High School’s Capstone program to build work-study opportunities. “We want to offer high school students insights into the world of work and the trades. It’s important for us to engage our young people to insure that we will have a solid work force in the future,” she said.

American Finishing Resources has also participated in round table discussions with Fox Valley Technical College. FVTC asked for input from local industry on its training needs. The company is working with FVTC on its mentor-mentee programs. “We are looking at how we can train the trainers,” Emmer said.

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