screens all day, but it would introduce chaos in manufacturing. Still, as Jor-Mac has found, shifts don’t
necessarily need to be at conventional times, either.
“We understand that it’s very hard to find people,”
Sayles said, “and we found that we needed to work
around their schedule. These days, it’s an employ-
Hence Jor-Mac’s flexible shifts. Some people work
five days a week on first shift; some work 36 hours
(and get paid for 40) on Sunday, Monday, and Tues-
day. Some work 12-hour shifts Wednesday, Thurs-
day, and Friday (and again get paid for 40 hours).
She added, however, that the management team
developed these shifts carefully, and each department works specific shifts. In the brake department,
for instance, some work Monday through Friday;
others work Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; and still
others work Wednesday through Friday. And overtime is still available.
And that’s just one department. Glance at the
schedule, and you’d think capacity planning would
be chaotic. But look closer, and the logic emerges.
The overlaps in the schedule make it easy for everyone to communicate, both within and between
shifts. And because the schedules overlap, someone is almost always available to process parts and
move them on to the next fabrication step. In this
sense, flexible shifts aid part flow.
The schedule also eliminates the typical challenge
of finding workers for a conventional second shift—
or any work schedule, for that matter, that requires
employees to put in hours late into the evening.
“It’s tough to find daycare for your children at 3
o’clock in the morning,” Sayles said, adding that
this challenge reduces the available labor pool.
And when any fabricator works with a shallow labor
pool, troubles arise.
“With our flexible schedules, we were able to hire
many people from other area businesses, simply
because they saw they could still work full time, but
only work three days a week,” said Kwakkel.
He added that this flexible schedule has helped
shorten typical lead times from six weeks in 2008 to
two or three weeks today. Another key element has
been sequentially producing jobs by the due date
and not producing ahead just to be able to nest on
the laser a little more efficiently.
“We used to push nesting for maximum material
utilization,” he recalled. “But then we’d be cutting
on a certain gauge everything we needed for the
next two or three weeks. That consumed too much
capacity, and it prevented us from getting to jobs
that had to get out the next day. So now we’re cut-
ting only what we need over the next few days.
“It really just goes back to the proper scheduling
of equipment,” he added.
The flexible schedule wouldn’t work in such a high-
product-mix environment if people couldn’t move
where needed. Jor-Mac hires workers who special-
ize in certain processes, of course, but it also has an
official position called flex operator in which a per-
son moves where he or she is needed during a shift.
It’s well-suited for those who don’t like doing the
same thing every day. “We progress these people
up the pay scale based on the processes they know,”
Kwakkel said. “They’re eager to learn and they want
So how does the company identify someone who
would make a good flex operator? As Kim Bohman,
HR manager, explained, “During the interview pro-
cess, we ask [potential hires] what their expecta-
tions are of the company, and what would make
them stay here long-term. That’s where we often
hear that people would like a variety of work.”
What really exemplifies the company’s flexible
work environment is when you see Sayles, not sit-
ting in her office poring over reports, but out on the
floor operating a brake or hardware insertion press,
taking parts off the powder coat line, even on occa-
sion driving parts to a customer’s loading dock.
“There is no hierarchy here,” Sayles said. “It’s OK
if I hang parts on the powder coat line, or if I’m over
in assembly putting parts in boxes.”
She doesn’t make it a regular practice, of course,
but doing it occasionally conveys several messages
to people. First, the boss isn’t above any sort of
work in the shop. She’s even been seen cleaning out
the freezer in the breakroom.
Second, nothing trumps getting quality parts
out on time. Sure, Sayles spends most of her days
working on the future of the enterprise. But say a
job needs to move through the powder coating line
to meet a deadline, and the department is short a
worker. In this case, strategic planning isn’t the most
“We’ll train you to do anything.
If you come here with a
can-do attitude, you’ll win all
day long. I’ll take a team player
with a positive attitude over
people with 20 years of
experience who think they
know it all.”
— Kelly Sayles,
The Jor-Mac Co. Inc.
Kelly Sayles joined The Jor-Mac Co. in 2008 as quality
manager. In 2010 she became director of operations,
and in 2011 she was promoted to president and general manager.
From left, HR Manager Kim Bohman, President and GM Kelly Sayles, Account and Customer Service Manager John
Bores, Office Manager Heather Buhalog, Director of Operations Mike Kwakkel, Controller Sharie Stuebs, CEO Paul
Luber, and Director of Engineering Jonathan Dowe stand by the company’s newest investment, an 8-k W solid-state
laser from TRUMPF.