We interviewed Tim Horner, Operations Manager at The C.A. Lawton Co.’s new Minster, Ohio location in August 2020. In July, the private equity firm, Oakland Standard Company, expanded their iron foundries, by acquiring Midwest Manufacturing & Logistics. This foundry now operates under Oakland Standard’s specialty metals platform as a second location of The C.A. Lawton Co. The two foundries combined have 250+ years’ experience. The Minster, OH facility is a 117-year-old foundry and the De Pere, Wisconsin foundry is a 141-year-old foundry.
Tim, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Minster, Ohio and look forward to continuing to work primarily at this location of Lawton as the Operations Manager. My hobbies, when I’m not at work, are woodworking and metalworking. Yes, I work in manufacturing all day and I build things at home. I enjoy the creative process of building. I carry a lot of my skills and knowledge between my hobbies and my professional life. I like to build furniture and signs. I even have a CNC router at home. Right now, I’m doing a sign for Lawton, it will hang in front of the foundry in De Pere.
How has the integration of the Midwest Manufacturing & Logistics with The C.A. Lawton Co. been received thus far?
Our people are excited about the change. They recognize that the Lawton foundry team is moving into the future. One big advantage they see, is that we won’t have the ups and downs that follow with the machine and tool industry as we did previously. There were some struggles with operating such vastly different businesses, our workload was dependent on their economy and demand. We’re excited to have a partner that has objectives of continuous improvement and complementary foundry products and experience.
How did you know that employees were excited to be a part of the Lawton team?
Because the transition was done in such a thoughtful way and we really tried to communicate openly and honestly with everyone, things went very smoothly, and no one lost any jobs here. But the way I really knew the employees had accepted the idea of joining the Lawton family was this: The biggest question from employees was, “How do we get Lawton t-shirts and hats?” That told me they really respected the Lawton brand and all it stands for. The family values and priorities of safety, quality, and delivery (in that order), really resonate with the crew here in Minster, Ohio.
What are the biggest strengths of the team at the Minster location?
Like Lawton, our foundry always seemed like a family. It’s hard work, but our employees have a powerful work ethic, they can all be proud of. Many of our employees have seen other foundries and know the grass is greener here. We’re not old, dirty, and dark like foundries of the past (or living in the past). Our foundry is clean, organized, and well-lit.
Safety is a priority. If we needed safety equipment, we just buy it. We don’t overthink the cost associated with safety. We do all we can to keep our employees and their families safe. We have done air quality testing as long as I can remember, before it was required. Last year, we spent $600,000 on shower rooms and breakrooms. Our employees really appreciate the shower rooms. They can get in their cars clean and fresh. They’re not taking silca dust or any other toxins home to their families on their clothes or bodies. We also installed a kiosk system for food in the breakrooms. No “wheel of death” here! We know it is the little things that make people enjoy coming to work here. We have ice machines, waters machines, and free coffee.
What would you say are the top things that the new alliance with Lawton will bring to your location to make it stronger in the short-term?
The biggest thing that comes to mind are the shared resources. We will be stronger together. We’re not learning a new industry or a new set of jargon. For years we were owned by a machining company that didn’t necessarily understand all the intricacies of a foundry. Both Lawton foundries speak the same language and have the same goals. We’re going to use the same documentation – from our handbooks to our SOPs, we’ll formulate the best possible plans to carry us into the future. Our changes won’t be seen as flavor-of-the-day, we’ll keep implementing real, positive change.
We’re really excited about sharing knowledge. Some things they (De Pere, WI) do better and some things we (Minster, OH) do better. We’ll take the best from each and implement universal practices across all locations. We will be working with De Pere to do TIMWOODS training at Minster. We’re starting 6s training soon. The Minster, OH location has already adopted one-to-one meetings that De Pere does and we’ve already gotten positive feedback from the change. As soon as it is safe to do so, I’m looking forward to cross training across locations to really take us to the next level. We see why Lawton says, “Remarkable people, remarkable results.”
What do you see as long-term opportunities for the iron foundry industry?
I agree with Barry and Alex, the industry in this country is going to break loose with reshoring, once we get through the pandemic, Lawton will be truly poised for the growth of the iron industry.
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