Thursday, December 14, 2017

CVTC Partnership Boosts Quality at Phillips-Medisize

Employees earning technical diplomas through training

Article Photo - CVTC Partnership Boosts Quality at Phillips-Medisize

Phillips Medisize quality team members Wendy Martin and her children Ali and Brady Siler examine a Zeiss O-Inspect system at the CVTC Manufacturing Education Center. The family members were all enrolled in the Manufacturing Quality program at CVTC this fall.

When it comes to the manufacturing of medical devices, the need for quality control takes on critical significance. That’s why employees of Phillips-Medisize are filling classrooms at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Menomonie campus.

The quality technician workers enrolled in a 17-credit Manufacturing Quality program that leads to a technical diploma, all at company expense and on company time. For Phillips-Medisize, it’s an investment in hundreds of quality technician employees. For the workers, it’s a required step to advance.

“We make complex life saving devices,” said Matt Jennings, Phillips-Medisize CEO and President. “Investing in our people to give them the tools to produce quality products is critical to servicing our customers. When you look at what our customers and our user needs are, we have to meet all of those needs through our workforce.”

CVTC originally created the Manufacturing Quality program several years ago to meet the needs of Phillips-Medisize. The program provides knowledge and skills for a technician to evaluate hardware documentation, perform laboratory procedures, inspect products, measure process performance, record data and prepare formal reports. It consists of a core of six classes, plus a mathematics component. Credits earned can be applied to CVTC’s Manufacturing Engineering Technologist associate degree program.

“We partnered with CVTC because they are the subject matter experts when it comes to providing good technical knowledge,” said Kim Egan, Phillips-Medisize quality manager. Egan also leads the training program and is a CVTC graduate.

Originally, the training was not required for a person to be hired as a Phillips-Medisize quality technician, but was required for the workers to advance beyond the first level of the quality program. Last year, the company changed the policy.

“We were invited to participate in an education fair at the Phillips-Medisize Menomonie and Eau Claire facilities so employees could learn ways to further their education,” said Kendra Weber, CVTC recruitment manager. “The company approached us and said they were going to require all of their quality technicians to have the Manufacturing Quality technical diploma.”

Of course, that was going to mean a big influx of students into the program and require a lot of planning by CVTC and Phillips-Medisize.

“They anticipated that over the course of three to four years they would have upwards of 200 people who would need to complete the program,” Weber said. “We had the program, but it wasn’t offered in an adult-friendly way, and we didn’t offer it at the Menomonie campus.”

Working with Weber and Dean of Skilled Trades and Engineering Jeff Sullivan, Phillips-Medisize worked out a plan in which employees would spend five hours of work time one day per week in program classes, with the company paying the tuition and fees.

According to Eagan, the investment is well worth it.

“We want to make sure our employees are given the skill sets to be successful, both for us as well as for their future,” Egan said. “One of the things Phillips-Medisize really wants to make possible in this community is to give people the opportunity to be on a journey. This isn’t just a job; this is a way for us to journey into the future.”

Among the employees on that journey is Wendy Martin and her children, Brady and Ali Siler, who all work in quality areas.

“My daughter and I take classes on the same night and my son takes classes on a different night,” said Martin, a meteorologist and team leader who has been with the company 19 years. “And there is a little bit of competition when it comes to the homework.”

Wendy and Brady work in the same lab, while Ali works in a lab in a separate building, but all have common needs that the CVTC program is addressing. “It’s really important to understand exactly what you’re looking for when you’re looking at these parts,” Martin said. “We are learning that in class.”

Martin sees the education she and her co-workers are getting at CVTC as a benefit to themselves as well as the company. She’s totally bought in on the company’s philosophy.

“I’m a true believer in lifelong learning and I have a passion for what I do at work,” Martin said. “This opportunity to learn more things is a huge benefit to us.”