The Importance of Employee Morale…and Five Ways to Boost It!

Employee morale is incredibly important.  The level of morale in the workplace can impact productivity, safety, performance, creativity, number of leave days, and employee retention.  When staff morale is high, everyone works well. You’ll find that some people will arrive early or stay late just because they love being at work and enjoy the tasks. Also, when morale is high, people pay greater attention to detail. Employees are less distracted and more focused which results in higher quality of work and a safer work environment.

Below are five ways to increase employee morale: 

Recognize personal milestones and losses.
Individuals experience higher morale when employers appreciate them as people first and employees second. Respond as you would to a friend, with kindness and consideration. Seeing as how “78 percent employees spend more time with co-workers than they do with family,” a supportive community will go along way to fostering happiness.

Volunteer Days.                                                                                                                                         Companies that participate in community involvement programs have employees that are happier with their jobs on a 2:1 ratio.  It gives employees a chance to work together and build relationships and skills in a different setting.  Everybody needs a day away from the office to recharge, why not do it in a way that increases the skills and happiness of your employees?

Celebrate work anniversaries.
Work anniversaries are relationship milestones between an employee and a company. “According to a survey from Globoforce, 82 percent of people would feel good if people noticed and recognized their work anniversary, but only 36 percent of people say a work anniversary made them feel valued.” Because everyone is different in how they like to be recognized, have a conversation with your staff about the best way to honor work anniversaries. And while you’re at it, make sure to celebrate your company’s birthday. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with your mission while generating good feelings.

Give them a reason to believe.                                                                                                   From the first interview, potential candidates need to understand and share in the vision of what you are doing as an organization. That vision alone will motivate and inspire your team. Let your employees know that what they are doing matters.  One example for manufacturing in the region is that it provides 2.5 more jobs in other sectors.  So your employees are indirectly helping to create jobs for other people.

Promote from within.                                                                                                                  When your employees see that there is room to advance their career within your organization, it speaks volumes. When you have a stellar team member, help invest in the training they need to advance as your company grows. One of the worst things to feel in a work environment is stagnant.  Make sure your employees know how to advance their career with you.


The common theme in all of these ideas is caring, recognition, rewards and appreciation. These small steps can go far.




Into the Mind of a Millennial


Due to the fact that 80% of manufacturing workers are aged 45-60 years old, there are predicted to be millions of job openings over the next fifteen years.   Let me repeat that, millions of job openings. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s a good thing in that millennials entering the workforce have ample opportunity. However, it could potentially be a bad thing for manufacturers if those jobs go unfilled.  So how do we ensure that that does not happen?

First off, manufacturers need to understand what exactly makes millennials tick. Members of the millennial generation look at things a little differently than members of older generations.  They have different priorities and goals in life.  Millennials also work differently.. this is very important to remember.. they work differently.  Not less, not lazier, just differently.  Millennials ask questions.  Millennials want to make a difference. When you hire a millennial, chances are you are not getting a yes person.. you are getting somebody who wants a say in what they do and how they do it. This can be an incredibly great asset in the workplace if it is taken advantage of rather than treated as an annoyance. This kind of attitude can lead to an increase in innovation and improvement.

To help you get a better insight into the mind of a millennial, we talked to a few millennials working in the manufacturing industry in Southwest Virginia. We asked them what they enjoyed most about their job and why they stayed in the manufacturing industry. Here are their responses:

I guess for me it’s just that you’re actually getting to make something. For instance, being able to set up a process to make the desired product. It’s all very hands-on and requires making a number of adjustments on the equipment and its settings in order to make an acceptable product.  At the end of the day (if all goes well) you actually have something in your hand that can meet a customer’s need.

Manufacturing is inherently going to strive to make things better and more efficiently. This creates challenging problems that are interesting to try and solve. It is also pretty broad, which means there are a number of different areas that you could work in.

Being able to make a good living has been the most important thing for me. I went to trade school my junior and senior year in high school and was able to get hired full-time as soon as I graduated.  I’ve been given a couple of promotions in the last few years which has really been great.  Having the opportunity to get promoted has been the best part about being here.

I really like that I have a set schedule.  I know a lot of my friends work as servers and in retail and their schedule is different every week.  I know which days and which hours I’ll be working two months from now, so I can make plans in advance without any issues.


I work a swing schedule which actually gives me the opportunity to have a lot more days off than other people.  Yeah, I work more hours on the days that I work than somebody who maybe has a regular 9-5 Monday through Friday job.  But I also get to have four day weekends. That along with good pay gives me the opportunity to travel around and take trips regularly instead of having to wait for a holiday weekend to do so.

It seems that getting to play an active role in creating something, working to solve problems, job diversity, having time to travel (or make plans in advance), having room for movement, and good pay are all things that are important to the millennial generation when it comes to starting a career.

For even more information and insight into the millennial mind be sure to stop by the 2017 Southwest Virginia Manufacturers’ Expo at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, VA. where Te-kai Shu of Strongwell will be holding a breakout session on Millennials in Manufacturing.  Also, on August 22nd there will be a Lunch & Learn, Managing Five Generations at Work, at the Crossroads Institute in Galax, VA.

The Importance of Self-Care

There are times in all of our lives where we neglect ourselves a little bit.  Our busy schedules can get the best of us. We have a lot going on at work,  a huge to-do list at home, and there just seems to be no end in sight.  So what do we normally do? We skip lunch.  We decide not to spend that hour at the gym.  Our friend invites us over for dinner and we turn it down.  We think cutting out these things will give us more time to strike off items on our to-do list… but really it’s just making things that much more difficult. Stress builds up, fatigue sets in, and then we begin to lose productivity.  It can be a very harmful cycle.  To prevent this from happening, you need to have a good defense… and that defense is a regular self-care regimen.

So, what is self-care?  “It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.” Being intentional about self-care can help prevent burnout, it reduces the build up of negative stress, and helps you to refocus. So, by taking a step back and focusing on yourself, it can actually help you to be more productive in other areas of your life.

self care graphic (1)

Self-Care Isn’t a One-Time Deal

It’s the repetition of many small habits, which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your best.  The best way to do this is to implement small self-care practices every day. Below are possible practices to adopt into everyday life:

Ten ways to practice self-care that focus on the body:

1. Just Breath. Take three deep breaths.

2. Give your body ten minutes of mindful attention.

3. Dance!

4. Stretch out the kinks.

5. Excercise! Run or walk for a few minutes.

6. Narrow your food choices. Pick two healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and rotate for the week.

7. Make one small change to your diet for the week. Drink an extra glass of water each day, or have an extra portion of veggies each meal.

8. Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be quiet for a few minutes.

9. Get fifteen minutes of sun.

10. Have a good laugh.

Ten ways to practice self-care that focus on the mind:

1. Start a compliments file. Document the great things people say about you to read later.

2. Unplug. Switch everything to airplane mode and free yourself from the constant push notifications of social media and email.

3. Go cloud-watching. Lie on your back, relax, and watch the sky.

4. Take another route to work. Mixing up your routine in small ways helps keep the brain healthy.

5. Pay complete attention to something you usually do on autopilot, perhaps brushing your teeth, driving, eating, or performing your morning routine.

6. Goof around for a bit. Schedule in five minutes of “play” several times throughout your day.

7. Fix a small annoyance at home that’s been nagging you—a button lost, a drawer that’s stuck, a light bulb that’s gone.

8. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just talking to a stranger in line at the grocery store.

9. Be selfish. Do one thing today just because it makes you happy.

10. Have a good laugh. (This is good for your mind and your body.)





Living in the Future: 7 Real Items That Were Once Science Fiction

One thing that makes manufacturing so interesting is that there is always new technology.  The research and development sector of manufacturing can, for the most part, be credited with the technological breakthroughs necessary to make science fiction a reality.  In fact, manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. ( Sometimes these technological breakthroughs are used to support the advancement of the manufacturing process itself (3D printing is a good example of this) and sometimes it is the breakthroughs are the products being manufactured.

Below, we talk about seven items that were at one point just ideas in science fiction novels, television shows, and movies that are now used everyday.

1.  Smart Phones & Smart Watches:  If you were a Star Trek fan, you were pretty much watching a technology filled crystal ball. So many inventions in the last decade can be found in Star Trek (albeit slightly different versions) episodes from around fifty years ago! The Star Trek communicator and the NCC-1701 Watch were things of fantasy, but now almost everyone we know owns a smart phone and more and more people are jumping on the Smart Watch (also depicted in The Jetsons in 1967) bandwagon.  Not only are these things super cool and pretty much necessity these days, they have completely changed the way the world interacts with one another.

Wand_Communicator_7appale watch







2.  3D Printers: Another invention that was predicted by Star Trek is the 3D Printer… only aboard the Enterprise it was known as “The Replicator”.  It worked a little differently than the 3D Printers we have today, but our modern 3D Printers can get almost the same result.  There are actually multiple manufacturers throughout Southwest Virginia that use 3D printers on a daily basis.  For example Universal Fibers in Bristol, VA has an entire room filled with different kinds of 3D printers and they have created filament to be used for printing.

Replicated_martini3d printer


3.  Tablets: The tablet is incredibly similar to the Star Trek PADD (sound familar?). This technology can be found in homes, in classrooms, and on the plant floor of many Southwest Virginia manufacturing facilities!  Manufacturers are moving away from paper-based reporting and production information systems to using tablets that can easily send and receive the necessary information.



4.  Google Glasses: So far there has been a common theme to this list… Star Trek. This is the last Star Trek invention being mentioned…we promise.  The Star Trek Virtual Display Glass is eerily similar to Google Glasses. Although the purpose of the two are different – in Star Trek they were used to view the outside of the ship to better defend themselves – the real life version is used for less ominous tasks… like checking emails.



5.  Hover Boards: Any skateboarder or surfer who watched Back to The Future was immediately filled with envy.  Now, hover boards are not only real, they are affordable!  They may not be quite as cool as the on-screen version yet… but they are most certainly heading in that direction!



6.  NASA Canadarm: 2001: The movie, A Space Odyssey, had a mission robot that is incredibly similar to the NASA Canadarm.  The Canadarm has helped move equipment as well as astronauts for over thirty years.



7.  Robot Vacuum Cleaner:  In the 60’s, The Jetsons was one of the coolest cartoons there was.  The technology in the show made everyday mundane tasks (such as vacuuming) a thing of the past.  And now, a lot of those tasks really are things of the past.  Robot floor cleaners now cleans floors whenever you set a timer for it to do so. And they’re now affordable enough to become fairly commonplace.  



Honorable Mentions:

Things that are in the process of being created but aren’t quite finished.

  1. Jet Packs                                              Jetpack_Gorge
  2. Star Wars Speeder Bike -> Aerofex Aero-X  aerofexhoverbike-3
  3.  Iron Man Suit -> Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS)  16-TALOS
  4. Bionic Man -> Titan Armtitan-arm
  5. The Jetsons Robo Chef -> 3D Printed Food3d-print-food.jpg


5 Ways to Respond to the Retirement of the Baby Boomer Generation

The United States is currently facing an issue it has yet to see before.  The generation that was at one point the largest generation in the American workforce is now reaching the retirement age.  This will have an impact on the entire workforce, but studies show this will have the greatest impact on the manufacturing industry.  Over the next decade, it is predicted that over 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled.  It will be difficult finding enough workers to fill those positions,  but what will be even more difficult to deal with, is the loss of the job knowledge that Baby Boomers will be taking with them when they retire.  To try and address this issue, we have scoured the internet for research about how to best handle this situation.  Below we have listed the best five ways to respond to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation:

  1. HAVE A PLAN: This one may seem a little obvious, but it is too important not to mention.  A poll recently done by AARP found that nearly 50% of companies have not done any strategic planning in relation to the impact that the retirement of Baby Boomers will have on their business. First, it is important to know exactly how your company could be affected by this.  As previously mentioned, a large percentage of manufacturing employees are part of the Baby Boomer generation; therefore, your company will more than likely feel the impact of this in some form or another.  To understand the potential effects, perform a workplace analysis.  Once you know exactly how many employees could potentially retire over the next few years, you can begin planning a response to this in a way that is tailored to your company specifically.  There are a lot of “how to’s” out there, but none of those will fully understand the needs of your company like you do. 
  2. FLEXIBLE RETIREMENT PLANS: In response to the potential mass retirement of employees, some companies are now offering more flexible retirement plans.  In some cases this comes in the form of a half-retirement plan. With this retirement plan, retirees work part-time while drawing a portion of their retirement funds. This allows a company to phase out retiring employees while phasing in their replacements in a way that is not a drastic change to the organization. This proves to be a strategic way of skill transfer as well.
  3. JOB SHARING: Job sharing is when one job that consists of around 40 hours a week is split between two people.  This can be done in any number of ways: two people work 20 hour weeks, one person works 30 hours while the other works 10 hours, each person works a certain amount of days, or maybe even splitting the day.  Many companies use this method so the older employees can work less hours, but the same amount of work is still done.  Others companies use this method as a way to phase in new employees that are okay with working part time while they learn from seasoned employees.  Many members of the millennial generation prefer shorter and more flexible hours anyway, so it is a win-win.
  4. LOOK FOR CERTAIN SOFT SKILLS WHEN HIRING:  There are certain soft skills that members of the Baby Boomer generation have that contribute to them being such great employees.  However, it is important to remember that those skills are not exclusive to members of the Baby Boomer generation.  When hiring new employees, place an emphasis on things like loyalty, competence, track records, and common sense. These qualities often lead to higher quality work and greater attention to detail.
  5. IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF MANUFACTURING:  One major concern of large amounts of manufacturing workers retiring is not having enough young, skilled workers looking to fill those spots.  Many members of younger generations have an outdated viewpoint of working in manufacturing and are quick to dismiss it as a viable career path.  If this outlook can be updated to show the benefits of working in manufacturing, the workforce will strengthen and hopefully the skills gap will become smaller and smaller.  One way companies can help to achieve this is to invest in STEM programs at the middle and high school levels.  Another way is to participate in facility tours for students and teachers so that they can see for themselves that manufacturing is an exciting industry to enter.


Although this issue is a difficult one to navigate, we believe that with proper planning and a strategic approach, the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation can be dealt with in a manner that will guarantee a positive outcome.




The Benefits of Working in Manufacturing

Whether you are graduating from high school, college, know somebody who is, or you are looking for a change in careers, the manufacturing industry is something to seriously consider.  Here in Southwest Virginia, there are over 380 manufacturers, many of which are regularly looking for talented, hard working employees.  Below are six reasons why you should consider working in the manufacturing industry:

1. High Paying Jobs:

In Southwest Virginia, the average annual salary is around 34,000 dollars. Manufacturing workers make nearly 10,000 dollars more than that a year with an average salary of 44,000 dollars a year.  This salary difference isn’t just in Southwest Virginia.  Throughout the United States, manufacturing workers make 7% more annually than all other services and industries (and that’s not counting employee benefits like insurance and retirement).

2. Job Availability:

80% of the manufacturing workforce is aged 45-60 years old. This means that manufacturers will be looking to fill up to 80% of their positions over the next few years.  Also, the current economic recovery has witnessed a nearly unprecedented return in manufacturing job growth. Manufacturing has increased by nearly 500,000 jobs; the strongest rebound since the recessions of the early 1980s. The number of job openings has spiked by over 200 percent. Part of this can be attributed to companies moving their manufacturing facilities back to the United States for quality reasons.  Manufacturing needs new, young talent with the skills to meet its high-tech demands.

3. Benefits:

Another benefit to working in manufacturing is the actual “benefits.” Manufacturing workers usually have significant, highly-valued employer-provided benefits, including medical insurance and retirement plans. Taking these into account, manufacturing workers make nearly 15% more annually than all other services and industries.

4. Hire from Within:

Manufacturers are known for hiring from within.  That means when an upper level position opens up, manufacturing companies normally promote employees to fill the position rather than looking outside the company.  That means even if you start out at an entry level position, if you work hard and are dependable, you more than likely won’t be there long.  This benefits you and the company, it’s is much easier to move somebody up that already knows the ins and outs of the business rather than training somebody brand new.

5. Positive Economic Impact:

There are over 12 million manufacturing jobs in the United States, that’s nearly 10% of the workforce.  Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States is the 9th largest economy in the world, contributing over 2.17 trillion dollars to the United States economy annually. Furthermore, for every manufacturing job created, 2.5 more jobs are created in goods and services. Manufacturing also has the second largest marginal economic impact in the Southwest Virginia region’s economy.  1.5 manufacturing jobs equals 1 lost coal job.

6. Innovation:

Manufacturing is not only high paying and dependable, it is also an exciting and innovative career choice.  Manufacturing companies are responsible for most of the research and development (R&D) in the United States.  The technology that Americans use on a daily basis can be largely attributed technological breakthroughs in the manufacturing industry.

FINAL College #Made in SWVA Graphic (1)

For more information visit the SVAM website! 

To learn more about working in manufacturing visit

Or, for information about job openings in the region, visit


Environmental Stewardship & Manufacturing

Since we just celebrated Earth Day, we decided to be festive and write about something that is very important for the Earth and manufacturing, environmental stewardship! While there are many obvious benefits to environmental stewardship (i.e. protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, etc.), there are some that may surprise you.  Contrary to popular belief, environmental stewardship practices can actually improve the bottom line for businesses. According to, “Deep green businesses outperform less green businesses on nearly every dimension we tested, including revenue growth, product profitability and as a real source of competitive advantage.”

Here are three major ways environmental stewardship can benefit a company:

  1. Innovation. This one is pretty simple. Environmental stewardship can lead to some very innovative technology.  Innovative technology can lead to a reduction in production costs.   New technology can also create a new revenue source for companies.
  2. Consumer Cost Savings. There are two ways to define bottom-line value, a reduction in costs or an increase in market share.  Although some types of environmental stewardship can potentially increase cost, it is important to look beyond that to the likelihood of customer savings. Doug Kramer, president and CEO of Lapolla industries located in Texas stated, “When our company sought to make our spray foam products more eco-conscious, we collaborated with raw material suppliers to innovate through technology. This allowed us to achieve the new thresholds while also achieving a net cost savings for our customers. Although the technology cost was 10 percent more than our previous generation of products, the net savings to our customers was approximately 10 percent, achieved through a pick-up of 20 percent in added efficiency.”
  3. Improved Image. As the largest generation in the history of America, there are over 80 million millennials in America with over $200 billion in annual buying power. Studies show that they are also very brand loyal. So, it is very important to appeal to millennials. How do you appeal to millennials? Environmental stewardship.  Millennials are also known as the “green generation,” and for good reason.  Studies show that over 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product that was made by an environmentally responsible company over a cheaper product that wasn’t.


Does it seem a bit contradictory to you to talk about manufacturing and environmental stewardship at the same time? Well, we’re hear to tell you, it’s absolutely not! A lot of the time, manufacturers get a bad rap when it comes to the environment, but those stereotypes are very outdated. Right here in Southwest Virginia many manufacturers already implement incredibly impressive environmental stewardship practices. In our many tours of manufacturing companies across southwest Virginia, we have witnessed companies going out of their way to be good to the environment, beyond just what is required of them. Before these tours, we never knew manufacturers cared so much!

For the past three years, SVAM has awarded companies at its annual Manufacturers’ Appreciation and Awards Dinner (MAAD) for going above and beyond in the categories of Environmental Stewardship. Here is a little information about each of our winners:

  1. Tadano Mantis, Richlands, VA, 2016 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient.  Tadano Mantis was the first company to have implemented the imbrium manufactured Jellyfish Filter.  This filter is an engineered storm water quality treatment technology featuring pretreatment and membrane filtration in a compact stand-alone treatment system that removes a high level and wide variety of storm water pollutants. This filter removes floatables, trash, oil, debris, TSS, fine silt-sized particles, and a high percentage of particulate-bound pollutant. The implementation of the Jellyfish filter was a way to ensure that pollutants were not introduced into the Clinch River by this company. They paved the way for a new way of removing pollutants and the discharges in water. No one before them has implemented this sort of technology. The expert plan also managed and permitted habitat conservation for the endangered mussels in the Clinch River. A win-win situation for the environment.
  2. Universal Fibers, Bristol, VA, 2015 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient. Universal Fibers initiated an “Impact Reduction” plan in 2014. The project influenced Universal associates to think about impacts at home and outside the workplace in their personal, everyday choices. It influenced new product development. Refresh 75™ was formulated to be the floor covering industry’s leading sustainable fiber. The “75” stands for % recycled content.While Universal Fibers has pioneered the recycling of nylon feedstocks in fiber making, there are several other key aspects of environmental stewardship.  Universal Fibers developed a 5 “vector” environmental strategy. Several specific initiatives began while this measurement and certification process was occurring. Notably, Universal Fibers saw significant water consumption reduction within its Bristol, VA Color Compounding department. Among other key individual initiatives, production waste and plant waste [landfill] reduction were led by Universal associates. Goals were set, plans drawn and executed, and results audited by Green Circle Certified.
  3. General Dynamics, Marion, VA, 2014 MAAD Environmental Stewardship Award Recipient. Over 80 percent of the waste material the company generates is recycled. This was made possible by developing a partnership with a regional recycling company and evaluating the remaining waste products that were being landfilled.  In addition to making recommendations to enhance the existing program, the recycling company has placed equipment onsite at their expense to aid in the additional recycling. The result: a simple, easy to administer program with no additional cost to Bristol Compressors. They also vastly reduced the amount of cardboard they use in packaging; this has resulted in an estimated reduction of over 390,000 pounds of wood pallets annually.  General Dynamics wastewater pretreatment operation also led to a significant reduction in oil usage by the company as well; this was good for the environment, and reduced their costs.

Psst! Are you a manufacturer who goes above and beyond for the environment? Be sure to nominate your company for this award for our 2017 Appreciation Dinner. In September you will be able to find a link to this award nomination form on our website (
So, there are many competitive advantages and benefits of environmental sustainability and stewardship.  A study conducted by the American Bar Association states, “Commonly cited improvements include enhanced corporate reputation, better employee retention and engagement, cost effectiveness, risk avoidance and mitigation, innovation, market expansion and greater access to capital.”  Environmental stewardship is truly a win-win; it’s good for the environment and studies show it’s just as good for your wallet!!  







The Benefits of Community Involvement

As part of our #MadeinSWVA video series, we recently visited Hollingsworth & Vose, located in Floyd, VA, to film a video about their impressive community involvement. While discussing the many ways H&V gives back to the community, Site Manager Vince Hatcher mentioned that community involvement is just as beneficial to the company as it is the community. After hearing this, we decided to do a little study on the various benefits that community involvement has on a company. There are too many benefits to list them all in one blog, so we have compiled a list of the five benefits we found to have the most impact.

Employee Retention

The average company in the United States spends over 1 million dollars annually to train new employees.  The best way to lower that cost? Employee retention. Hollingsworth & Vose happens to have a very low turn over rate, so much so, that they have a “Quarter of a Century Club” for employees that have been with them for over 25 years.  Is it just a coincidence that they are also very involved in their community? We think not. Multiple studies show that there is a direct correlation between community involvement and low turn over rates.  A Net Impact and Rutgers University survey found that employees who are able to make a social impact at their place of employment are more satisfied with their jobs by a 2:1 ratio. It also found that 45% of employees who have volunteered with their company or co-workers report that they are very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 30% who haven’t.  It also stated that 65% of students entering the job market expect to make a social impact through their work and 44% stated they are willing to take a pay cut to do so.

Skill Development for Employees

Giving employees an avenue to volunteer not only makes them feel better about themselves and the work they are doing, it also helps them build and improve their skill set.  Many employees have stated that volunteering regularly has had a major impact on their leadership and communication skills.  When employees have the opportunity to develop new skills and improve upon the ones they already have, it is no surprise that companies that engage in their communities through volunteer work are found to have more productive and engaged employees than ones that don’t.

Builds Relationships in Your Community

Community involvement is a way to market yourself to your community as more than just a product, your company becomes part of their lives. When a company makes a point to work within a community, the residents of that community take notice.  If you sponsor the local high school’s basketball team, every basketball fan in that town is going to know who you are. When your employees show up to help build a Habitat for Humanity house for a deserving family, people are going to be appreciative.  So when community members go to buy their products, they are going to know your name, and feel that they are giving back to their community through supporting your business.  Also, in the unfortunate event that your business goes through a rough patch, there have been several instances where a community will rally in support of a business that has a reputation of supporting them.

Strengthens Your Community

Their are many ways a company can work to strengthen their community. Sometimes this will be a long term investment in things like education.  For example, Hollingsworth & Vose teaches classes to local high school students that consist of things like lean principles.  They also give out scholarships.  By doing this, they are helping to build the next generation of workers. Companies can also invest in things like community health and the beautification of the town.  Through these various ways of giving back, you can help ensure that your community is healthy, educated, and a place where people want to live. All of which will contribute to a strong workforce and customer base.

Increases Networking

Being involved in the community helps with networking in some obvious ways, like community members are going to know who you are.  But it also helps with peer to peer networking as well as networking with organizations that provide services you may need.  When your company volunteers or sponsors local events, you can lead by example and encourage other businesses to participate as well. Your not only helping the community by getting other companies involved, but you will have more chances to engage with these businesses.


Community involvement leads to a stronger customer base and  is proven to increase performance. Companies who regularly engage in community involvement significantly outperform other businesses.  Community involvement is important to customers. So much so, that it can even be the deciding factor when deciding between two businesses.

So, in short– when you are helping others, you help yourself!


Keep an eye out for SVAM’s next #MadeinSWVA video about community involvement!







Workers’ Compensation: The Nuts and Bolts – an overview

Although most employers take all of the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries at the  workplace, it is impossible to completely cut out the risk altogether. Therefore, employers are required by law to provide workers’ compensation in the event of an injury or illness that the state defines as compensable. It is important to remember that workers’ compensation is meant to handle all forms of illnesses and injuries that occur while at work, regardless of who is at fault. However, there are some exceptions: an employee who is proven to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, if the injury was self-inflicted, or if the injury occurred while the employee was in violation of policies upheld by the company. 

Trying to determine exactly what is and what isn’t compensable can be a little tricky. To clarify some questions people have regarding workers’ compensation,  SVAM hosted a Lunch & Learn about it!  Ramesh Murthy, shareholder at Penn Stuart, led this training. He currently represents and counsels management and the insurance industry in human resource matters as well as representing industry in workers’ compensation litigation.  SVAM members can access a video of the training here.

Here is a recap of what we learned:

What’s covered?



  • Must be a specific incident marked by some temporal precision. 
  • Fault is not an issue. 
  • Gradual onset or cumulative trauma is not an accident. 

Example 1: A worker has been lifting boxes all day. At the end of the day, their back is hurting.  Testing reveals a herniated disk.

Example 2: A worker has been lifting boxes all day.  At 3:30 PM they lifted a particularly heavy box and felt back pain.  Testing reveals a herniated disk.  

Example 2 is compensable while example 1 is not. 

Arising out of

  • Must be a risk peculiar to employment.
  • Just because someone gets hurt at work does not mean it is compensable. 

Example 1: A worker is bending over to pick up a wrench in an awkward, tight space. They herniate their disk. 

Example 2: A worker bends over to pick up a wrench. The worker is not in an awkward position. Nothing is in their hands.  As the worker bends down, they herniate their disk.

Example 1 is compensable while example 2 is not. 


Occupational Diseases

  • Doctor tells employee he or she has a disease due to their work related exposure.
  • Injurious exposure to the causation hazards of the disease which is being claimed. 
  • Existence of the disease as a result of the exposure. 

Compensable Ordinary Disease of Life

  • Involves conditions which diseases which do not have to emanate from a work related exposure. 
  • Have to exclude non-work related causes.
  • Prove claim by clear and convincing evidence. 
  • If work exposure aggravates or exacerbates a pre-existing ordinary disease of life, it is NOT compensable. 


Now what? 

Potential Benefits:

Temporary Total

2/3 average weekly wage. The injured employee is entitled to this if he or she is totally disabled or partially disabled and he or she has made reasonable efforts to look for work within his or her residual capacity. This can last up to 500 weeks.

Temporary Partial

2/3 of difference between post injury average weekly wage and pre-injury average weekly wage. This applies when the injured worker is back to less than full duty work, with any employer, and is making less than his or her pre-injury wage. In order to obtain these, the injured worker has to prove partial disability due to the accident. This can last up to 5oo weeks. 

Permanent Partial

Compensation for loss of use of a scheduled member (arm, fingers, toes, etc.). The amount of weeks this must be paid depends on the rating of the member. In example, loss of an arm entitles one to 200 weeks of benefits. 

Permanent Total

Catastrophic cases. Lifetime indemnity for the life of the claim when paralysis, significant loss of use of two or more extremities, or significant brain injury. Benefits last for life. 

Vocational Benefits

Assistance with job search, retraining, education, etc. 


Virginia is an award state. That means that once an injury is accepted as compensable, an award agreement is issued which outlines the period of disability , the nature of the injury,  the average weekly wage and the compensation rate.  Once an award is entered, at a minimum, the employer is responsible for paying reasonable, necessary and authorized medical expenses causally related to the industrial accident for life. If the awards calls for the payment of Temporary Partial or Temporary Total, those benefits have to continue unless the injured worker signs a form agreeing to terminate or the employer files an application to suspend or terminate those benefits.  It is the employers obligation to rehabilitate the injured worker to the point that they can physically return to and  perform all aspects of their pre-injury employment or to place them in a job that pays them equal to their pre-injury average weekly wage.  This requirement can last up to 500 weeks in non-catastrophic cases. 

This is just a brief overview of all of the great information that Ramesh provided us with at our training. Don’t miss out on our next Lunch & Learn!


Women in Manufacturing Thoughout History

Throughout history, women have made many contributions to manufacturing and technology that more often than not go unacknowledged. There are countless inventions by women that have innovated technology and are still in use today. Some of these inventions have even saved lives. In honor of Women’s History Month, this week we decided to highlight a few of the women who have made a lasting impact in the manufacturing industry.


Margaret E. Knight; “Lady Edison,” Invented Flat Bottom Bags and Machine Safety Device.


Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914) is widely known as the “Lady Edison”. Her first invention was a device that automatically stops a machine if something gets caught in it. This idea came to her after witnessing an accident at a textile mill when she was only twelve years old. Devices similar to this one are still in use today and have prevented countless accidents. Her most famous invention is the flat bottomed paper bag. While working in a paper bag factory, she decided it would be much easier to pack the bags if they had flat bottoms; so she created a machine that would manufacture flat bottomed bags. Variations of this machine are still used throughout paper bag manufacturing plants today. Margaret received over twenty patents in her lifetime and is credited with over 100 inventions.


Mary Anderson; Invented Windshield Wipers.


Mary Anderson (1866-1953) is the person to thank whenever you are driving in any type of inclement weather. She invented the windshield wiper. The idea came to her when she noticed a man who kept his window rolled down in freezing temperatures so he could continually reach his arm out to wipe his windshield off during a snowstorm. She received the patent for this idea in 1903 but every company she tried to sell it to turned her down. It wasn’t until about half a century later when automobiles were more widely owned that automobile manufacturers realized the need for such an invention. By this time her patent had already ran out.


Sarah Breedlove; First American Self-made Female Millionaire, Hair Products.


Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919) was America’s first self made female millionaire. She invented a specialized hair product for African Americans after she fell victim to hair loss due to a scalp ailment. Not only did she invent the product, she also marketed it and started the company, Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories, that manufactured it as well. She also trained women to work in sales and to work as cosmetologists. So, not only did she make her fortune through developing her own manufacturing company, she also made sure other women had the opportunity to learn and better their own lives as well.


Edith Clarke; First Female Professor of Electrical Engineering.


Edith Clarke (1883-1959) is the first woman to ever graduate from MIT with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering. She went on to be the first woman to ever be a Professor of Electrical Engineering in the United States of America. She was also the first woman to ever present a paper to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. This paper was of utmost importance at the time because it found a solution to the growing issue of power lines becoming longer. She also wrote an Electrical Engineering textbook that was used at universities throughout America and invented a specialized graphical calculator that assisted in solving electric power transmission line problems.


Hedy Lamarr; Invented Spread Spectrum Technology.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) is very well known as being a Hollywood starlet; however, what most people don’t know about her is that she is to thank for wi-fi. During World War II, Hedy helped develop a “secret communications system” that developed an unbreakable code to send and receive messages. This invention was later used during Cuban Missile Crisis. The full significance of her invention was not realized until recently; the spread spectrum technology is the basis for cell phones, fax machines, and wireless internet.


Marie Van Brittan Brown; Invented the Home Security System.

Marie Van Britten Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) is the person to thank for your security system, whether it’s for your house or the surveillance system at your company. Marie was a nurse in Queens, New York and consequently worked late hours. There was a spike in crime in her neighborhood so she decided to take action. The security system she developed included cameras, two-way communication, remote lock doors, and an alarm button that would alert the police. After the patent was filed in 1969, this became the standard security system in homes throughout America.


Stephanie Kwolek; Invented Kevlar.


Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014) is the person responsible for an invention that is used globally and has possibly saved millions of lives, kevlar. Stephanie was a chemist for DuPont Company when she was asked to develop a new generation of fibers that could handle extreme conditions. Through this, she developed kevlar. Stephanie also held over seventeen other patents and wrote numerous papers that contributed to the fiber manufacturing industry.

Hopefully you found these women as inspirational as we did!  It is important to remember that manufacturing is not an industry just for men.  The number of women in the manufacturing workforce continues to grow everyday; over 30% of manufacturing workers are women.


We would now like to take the time to acknowledge the winner of our 2017 Outstanding Woman in Manufacturing Award, Mary Myers, Manager of Operations at PBE Group in North Tazewell, Virginia.

Judges said, “To be able to work her way through production into management and continue to be a positive example in the midst of a company purchase is very inspirational.” “It is obvious that she has gained the recognition and respect of not only management, but her co-workers. She is not afraid to voice her opinion for the good of the company. Even though she is a Manager, she is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to get a job done with her team.”

The finalists for this year’s award are (in no particular order):
Trixy Surber, Scholle IPN Packaging
Angie Barr, Strongwell
Julie Fuller, Tadano Mantis Corporation
Stacy Street, Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., Glade Spring
Tina Clevinger, West River Conveyors

Congratulations to our winner and finalists!