Case Study:  ITW Coding Products

ITW Coding Products, located in Kalkaska, Michigan, manufactures hot stamp ribbon, thermal transfer ribbon and hot ink rolls for printing on a wide variety of materials. Key markets supplied include communication cables, plastic pipe, food, parts packaging, medical credit card, print shops and bar code labeling.


During their strategic planning process in June 2001, company management decided they needed to do things differently. Employee turnover was high, employee morale was low, and on-time shipping was less than 90%. They knew that they could do better.


A Management team comprised of eight Coding Products employees was created to take a new look at the organization. The team consisted of the General Manager, Manufacturing Managers, Sales Managers, Controller, and Human Resources. The Management Team began looking for answers to questions such as: Is there a way we can better serve our customers and employees and how can we make Coding Products a better place to work?


In 1999 and 2000 Coding Products had experimented with a team approach that attacked new product development and scrap issues. Those teams were very successful, and led the Management Team to determine that a team-structured organization would best achieve their goals.


The Management team objectives were to:

  1. Create a structured environment where all employees can be most effective by adding value to our customers and serve them well.
  2. Position the company to adapt and respond to the changing world and markets.
  3. Improve internal communication to effect change, react quickly, better solve the customers’ problems and preserve the long-term survival of the company.


The decision was made to align human assets and equipment resources by the market segments they served. According to Human Resources Manager Marcia Anderson, “The structure needed to satisfy customers first and focus, focus, focus! We felt we needed to change and simplify our processes. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task and the team couldn’t do it alone. We needed input and involvement from all employees at our facility if we were to succeed.”


Coding Product's transition to a team structured organization began by inviting twenty key employees to a meeting to discuss the future direction, and adopting a mission statement. The steps they followed to achieve the reorganization included:

  • Establishment of focus groups to develop a Value Proposition (VP), a source of sustaining competitive advantage, for each major market segment by analyzing what Coding Products was good at, what was their competition good at, and what the customer wanted.
  • Involving all employees at an off-site meeting.
  • Providing financial and business operations training as well as reinforcing the VP strategy.
  • Utilizing small focus groups divided by business unit and by market focus to develop VP strategies.


After several meetings, lots of discussion, and involvement at every level of the organization, Coding Products was ready to launch a team environment at their facility. The foundation had been laid, but the Management Team knew that just forming teams was not enough. The two ingredients necessary to make the transition successful were the buy-in of key employees and training on team concepts for all employees. To accomplish this, Coding Products contacted GDC – Total Business Solutions, to see if they could help with the transition. The objective was to improve all team members’ interpersonal skills in order to improve the effectiveness of their teams.


Curtis Walker of GDC responded and developed a program to provide team training for the entire Coding Products organization. The program included 16 hours of required off-site initial team training for all employees. The training was comprised of experimental exercises, stages of team growth, Myers-Briggs type indicators, listening skills, consensus decision making, conflict resolution, conducting effective meetings, and problem solving models. The training was done by business unit, within the market-focused teams. In addition to the initial training, each employee received 20 hours of follow-up training. Financial training was also included so that all employees had a basic understanding of the business including revenues, costs, profits, etc.


Making the transition from a departmentalized structure to the new team culture made 2001 a very challenging year for Coding Products. But the benefits have been remarkable, including lowered scrap, reduced costs, lower turnover, greater employee involvement, improved decision making at every level, reduced supervision, and increased profitability. “The training program provided by GDC has been a big factor in the success of our switch to a team culture. All of the Management Teams’ planning would have been in vein if the employees didn’t understand, and buy into the changes we made. Curtis did an outstanding job of working with our employees, “ said General Manager Jim Landry.


“All of the benefits we’ve seen as a result of our transition to a team structured organization have contributed to providing a great work environment for our employees. We celebrate our successes, we’ve improved pay and benefits, we’re expanding our facility, and hiring new employees why they enjoy working at ITW Coding Products, they will respond it is the people they work with,” says Human Resource Manager Marcia Anderson.


Summary of Results

  • Developed company-wide team culture
  • Improved employee morale
  • Reduced employee turnover by 25%
  • Reduced costs and lowered scrap rate by 60%

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