Business is booming at Milliken’s 116-year old plant in New Holland, Ga. While its traditional textile businesses have been steady, recently it has been grabbing a larger share of the high-performance flame resistant fabric market which supplies both the U.S military as well as fire-retardant fabric for mattresses.
Consequently, the company needs to bring on new associates in this busy industrial city. Competition is tough for skilled workers but that hasn’t discouraged this company from putting new hires through a rigorous safety training process. Participants who toured the facility during SCL 2017 conference in Atlanta saw first- hand the extensive “New Hire Safety Process” that new employees must master if they are to remain as associates.
As part of the presentation, a panel of Milliken employees explained to tour participants their experience at the company. One of the employees had left the company, thinking that the pasture was greener elsewhere, only to return realizing that not all companies had the strict safety and empowerment code that she was used to. Not only did she return to the plant she became a safety instructor for others.
Plant manager, Jared Morgan put into perspective the emphasis on safety saying that his dream job, since he was young, was to become a plant manager. When he hit that goal, he was informed that in order to keep his coveted position safety had better be number one in his book.
One of the ways he carried out this directive was to organize associates into a variety of eight safety committees. Each team focuses on safety in different disciples throughout the plant which consists of 550,000 square feet on six floors that contain diversified product platforms. Ensuring all 239 associates have an opportunity to participate, events occur on both shifts. Most associates work 12-hour shifts. Offering a variety of teams ensures that the safety culture exists across all functions.
In fact, one employee on the panel said that the variety of committees and the ability to serve on different ones enables her to be in a constant state of learning. It also gives her a variety of venues to express here opinions.She told the attendees that her philosophy was that “if you don’t stand for something, you fall for everything.”
This high standard, reflected in engaged employees is part of the reason why the company is one of the top three in the country to have received the Voluntary Protection Program(VPP) STAR certification. In fact, the company, teaches others about “The Milliken Safety Way” through its Performance Solutions division.
It’s a program that others need to learn, according to one of the panels, who said that she has seen the difference between working for a company that puts safety first and one who doesn’t.