March 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 3|
New HQ changes Seco Tools' culture
By Alan Rooks, CTE Editorial Director
When Seco Tools Inc. moved into its new headquarters in Troy, Mich., in July 2008, the toolmaker not only changed buildings, it also changed its corporate culture. Eighteen months after the facility opened, the company is still finding new uses for the modern, light-filled, 81,000-sq.-ft. building, according to Bob Goulding, manager of component engineered tooling and custom tooling.
“The building was designed with an open plan that puts departments that work with each other in close proximity,” he said. “The ambition was to open the entire facility up so everyone could see what everyone else was working on. It has helped generate more harmonious relationships since it’s so easy to drop over to talk rather than send an e-mail. We’re very proud of being in a superb facility and it feels like a new company is headquartered here.”
Seco Tools is located in the Automation Alley Technology Park, a regionally focused technology organization integrating business, education and government. In addition to offices, a product warehouse and order fulfillment center, the building is home to Seco Tools’ technology center, adjacent to the lobby in a glass-walled atrium. It includes, among other equipment, a Mazak Integrex 300-IV Capto C6 MillTurn, a Mori Seiki NV6000DGC 40-taper vertical mill and a Mikron Vario600 on consignment. Also within the technology center are four break-out rooms, an auditorium with stadium seating for 70 and a separate customer dining room.
“The original plan to move to new premises was driven partly by the fact that we had removed manufacturing from our original location in Warren [Mich.],” said Lisa Seidl, manager of marketing communications. “The focus was on being a sales and distribution center, but we wanted to stay in the Detroit area and support the local economy.”
The new headquarters also completed the company’s transition from Seco-Carboloy to Seco Tools, a name change announced in January 2007 (Seco Tools AB, Fagersta, Sweden, acquired Carboloy in September 1987).
“The tech center is our flagship, and the number of customers we’ve had visit the facility has risen dramatically compared to the old facility,” Seidl said. “We’ve had some 30-year customers who have never visited us come to the tech center to work on projects.” The company also hosted a standing-room-only seminar on developing business in wind energy last spring.
The Seco Tools warehouse features a semiautomatic picking system that assists workers with order fulfillment. According to the company, 97 percent of orders are filled from stock on hand, which includes 13,000 items valued at $20 million.
“When we first moved in, we had a learning curve operating the new warehouse, but everyone joined in to help,” Goulding said. “The warehouse staff worked hard during the day to fill orders, and then at night and on weekends the salaried staff would come in to help move and organize inventory. We’d compete against each other to see who could move the most inventory. One night our president, Kurt Nordlund, and his wife joined in. When you see the boss helping out in the warehouse, you know you are working at the right company.”
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