What do Kraft Foods, 3M and Edmonds Dental Prosthetics have in common? They've all had the distinguished privilege of being named Manufacturer of the Year by the Springfield, Missouri area Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes the accomplishments of local manufacturing firms and showcases the significant impact of manufacturing on the local community.
"Dental laboratories have historically been thought of as artistic entities so to be deemed a 'manufacturer' is an honor. Whether you operate a one-person or 100-person laboratory, you're a manufacturer of a custom product," says Bob Edmonds, owner of the full service, 117-person laboratory, which received the 11th annual award last December.
Each summer, the Chamber of Commerce calls for Manufacturer of the Year nominations. One of the seven 2005 nominees, Edmonds Dental Prosthetics was nominated by Ozarks Technical Community College, with whom the laboratory had worked on a state program that offers funding for technical training. The laboratory had to complete an application and go through an on-site evaluation by a panel of seven judges comprised mostly of previous Manufacturer of the Year honorees. The judges toured the laboratory; learned about its operations; and evaluated the lab's business stability and growth, employee development, product development and sustainability, environmental and safety performance, community involvement, and impact on the local economy.
None of the judges were familiar with the workings of a dental laboratory and they were especially impressed with the lab's employee development efforts and the skill required to fabricate restorations. "It's a tremendous skill level those employees have. It's incredible that they can do the things they do," says Judge Ronnie Walker, director of quality for Northrop Grumman Interconnect Technologies. The judges also complimented the long-term service of many of the staff members: 13% of the employees have been with the lab for over 20 years. "In an age where people change jobs a lot, this company defies that," says Judge Robert Wyatt, director of the Drury University Breech School of Business Administration.
Edmonds credits the lab's low turnover rate to a very selective hiring process, extensive training program and career-oriented philosophy. "We hire very few trained employees; most are trained in house by Dale Wester, CDT, our director of training and education. We offer a good benefits package and our wages are typically higher than the average wages in the area. Our emphasis is on giving our employees an opportunity to build a long-term career, not just a job," explains Edmonds.
Edmonds Dental Prosthetics and the two other finalists, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and Tuthill Vacuum and Blower Systems, were invited to the Chamber of Commerce awards luncheon. "It was an honor just to be nominated but when they announced us as the winner, it was the biggest surprise of my life. Nine of us attended the luncheon and everyone back at the lab was wondering what had happened. When I presented the award to all of the employees you could feel the pride surging through the laboratory. It was an amazing feeling," says Edmonds. "The publicity we've gotten in area papers and trade journals and the accolades from local companies, our clients and our laboratory friends has been incredible."
In addition to a commemorative plaque, the award includes four scholarships for training and education at Drury University, Ozarks Technical Community College, the Safety Council of the Ozarks and the Management Development Institute at Missouri State University (MSU). The laboratory employees are sharing the scholarships.
Having reached this pinnacle, where does the lab go from here? "We'll maintain our emphasis on training and improving our manufacturing processes and techniques," says Edmonds. "We'll continue to determine ways to be more profitable, consistent and competitive in the marketplace, especially in light of overseas competition, so we effectively position ourselves for the future."
Edmonds Dental Prosthetics Springfield, MO
Bob Edmonds opened a laboratory in Springfield, Missouri with a partner in 1968. When he bought out his partner 14 years later and renamed the lab Edmonds Dental Prosthetics, he had eight technicians. Today, the full-service laboratory has 117 employees, including four of the original eight technicians: Maryann Frye, CDT, fixed production manager; Larry Brooks, cosmetic department supervisor; Jim Bauer, CDT, general manager; and Bob's son, Steve Edmonds, CDT, technical supervisor. His wife Linda, vice president, and daughter, Patty Keener, customer service representative, also work at the laboratory, which has annual sales of approximately $8 million.
In addition to the Springfield, Missouri headquarters, the laboratory has two other locations--both of which handle removable prosthetics--in West Plains and Jefferson City. Thanks to its recent addition of 5,000 square feet of production space, the lab plans on adding another 25 people to its staff.
For the past 15 years, Edmonds has been a member of TEREC (Technical Research Consortium), a group of independently owned, North American laboratories whose goal is to research, develop and bring new technology to the industry. He is also a long-time member of the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association (SAMA) and the Springfield, Missouri area Chamber of Commerce, which named Edmonds Dental Prosthetics as Manufacturer of the Year in 2005.
The laboratory follows the principles of Lean Manufacturing, a comprehensive philosophy of production that focuses on reducing waste; enhancing quality, cost, delivery and people; and adding value to the product at every step. "It helps us improve workflow and consistency, reduce waste, and gives us techniques to measure productivity and a method for continuous improvement," explains Edmonds.