Sunday, March 23, 2014

DYMAX University: "If you want results others don't get......... need to be willing to do things others won't do."

Picture a 23 year old (with chiseled good looks), recently graduated Chemist, graduation party briefcase gift in hand. I was hired by a brand new company (10 or 12 people) called Dymax (Torrington, CT). The Owner, Andy Bachmann, was a Chemist and one of the best formulators I have ever known. I learned quickly that nothing was impossible. Automotive, electronic and medical adhesives we take for granted today didn't exist. But they would, and very quickly. Andy drove innovation hard and fast. About four weeks into my tenure, Andy told me he wanted me to go to a meeting in Indiana. Road trip! Put the new briefcase to good use. An automotive company (GM) had requested a meeting to discuss the design of a UV-curable headlamp adhesive. Very matter of fact, without any hint of reservation, Andy was sending the kid. Gulp.  He coached me hard and seemed confident I would do him proud. If HE thought I was capable, I was capable. Talk about a learning curve.
Many companies give lip service to the 2nd P of the Toyota Production System....develop your people and partners. Many say that their people are their "#1 asset", but they don't spend much real time developing them.  
The 125 or so people of Dymax have completed over 200 improvement projects (kaizan) over the past 15 months. The only constant is change, a relentless, deliberate march toward flow. Employees from every single part of the business have led these self-directed work teams. They have leveraged diversity, gained agreement and "closed"-formally shared their learning with their peers. Every employee was given the opportunity last year to be trained in the Oz Principle. 
And now they have kicked off Dymax University. 31 people have enrolled in the first course offering, Dymax Finance 101. The course is taught by the accounting department. 30 people are spending their lunch break learning together once a week for 10 weeks. The class is split between the office and the plant floor, and  subsequent course offerings will include Dymax Equipment 101 (they design and build adhesive dispensing and curing systems), Adhesives 101, and Project Management. The University steering committee has also decided to include employees in Europe and Asia in the opportunity to learn and grow together. Nothing promotes "respect for people" more than getting an up-close, in- depth look at just how incredibly smart your peers are.   
Some of the best companies in the world have deveolped their own internal learning organizations. Hamburger U (McDonalds), Crotonville (GE), Pixar U, The Disney Institute and Apple U are examples. I led the development of Duraflex (East Hartford, CT) U, a 40 credit, 4 year curriculum in courses ranging from Chemistry to IT from Sales and Marketing to Lean Principles, and electives like guitar playing, personal finance and beer making.
Back to Dymax. For the seventh year in a row, they have been identified by Inc. magazine as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States (190% growth over a 3 years period). These 5000 companies represent the backbone of the U.S. economy. Dymax is one of a handful of companies who have appeared on the list multiple times. In addition to its ranking in the top 5,000, Dymax is ranked 53rd amongst manufacturing companies, and 20th amongst Connecticut companies. They have also been ranked in the Marcum Tech Top 40 in the category of Advanced Manufacturing.
Consider me a very proud alumni of Dymax Corporation, and something tells me Andy would be very proud.   

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