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The View from 30 Feet: Industrial Mold & Machine’s iPads and Social Network
   by Staff
   Production   Fall  2011
  

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

When those involved in plastics processing talk about upgrading technology, they often are replacing outdated machinery on the plant floor. At Industrial Mold & Machine (IMM), Twinsburg, OH, technology upgrades have put iPads in the hands of 19 employees and are changing the way the company communicates.

“Instant information – that’s how we’ve branded our goal,” explained Wendy Wloszek, president of IMM. With 37 employees and 19 iPads, that goal is being met for sales staff, CNC machinists, programmers and five apprentices who use the iPads to access a social network created by IMM. The network, dubbed IMM Connect, contains everything from employee handbooks and MSDS sheets to logout/tagout information and details about each job that runs within the shop.

Employees use iPads from wherever they are to log into IMM’s social network and view current jobs running on the production floor or to prepare for the next job. Each job has its own page on the network, containing the steps that need to be taken to produce that piece, detail drawings in both 2D and 3D and programming sheets.

“We’re changing the workflow,” Wloszek said. “We’re trying to cut the ties from printed sheets of paper and blueprints.” When asked if the goal for IMM is to be completely paperless in the future, Wloszek pointed to the overarching goal of instant information. “If you have to go look for a print, you’re wasting time. Paperless is just a result of instant information.”

Wloszek admitted that the journey hasn’t been seamless “There’s not a huge resource to look at and see how others have done it,” she said. However, IMM continues to move forward, becoming a resource for others who want to move toward a technology-based workflow. The next step is an interface that will allow IMM’s social network to pull data points from the company’s ERP system for clean and quick delivery of critical information.

For Wloszek, iPads and social networks are part of a necessary culture shift. “The apprentices we have now – the people who will be the future of IMM – come from the technology generation,” said Wloszek. “We’re starting this now to prepare the company for the next generation workforce.”