We refer to Cormetech, a forward-thinking manufacturer in Cleveland whose workforce — hourly production associates, supervisors and upper management — who were recently named recipients of the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards for Excellence in Materials Management.
Readers of this newspaper will recognize the corporate name.
Not so long ago the Cleveland plant popped up in the headlines as a nominee for the prestigious 2014 Secretary of Defense Employer Freedom Award. Rightfully, the company was nominated by one of its own — an employee named Courtney Moore who recognized the local operation for its commitment to U.S. veterans and the high value it places on military appreciation.
Moore, a 13-year serviceman in the U.S. Army and now a dedicated Army Reservist, credited Cormetech leaders for giving him the opportunity for a face-to-face interview when others would not, and eventually a job.
Although today’s tribute to Cormetech centers on the environment and not military appreciation, Moore’s experience with the civic-minded company points to its belief in people and community; and, it gives a face to a much-respected manufacturer that believes in doing the right thing.
That’s what it takes to earn a state environmental honor of this caliber; it requires a company and employees and managers who want to do the right thing.
Gov. Bill Haslam agrees.
Singling out Cormetech, as well as other environment-friendly Tennessee businesses which will be recognized on June 23 in a Nashville ceremony, Haslam credited the innovativeness of companies that find ways to enhance efficiency in their own operations while benefiting those — and everything else — around them.
In the governor’s words, “Recognizing these innovative efforts that help conserve and protect our natural resources is important in keeping our communities strong and economically viable. I am proud to work alongside each and every one of the winners.”
Assuredly, Cormetech is not the only Cleveland and Bradley County manufacturer committed to protecting the environment. Many others are stepping up in the same shared cause. But it is Cormetech’s efforts this year that are being showcased in the governor’s leadership spotlight.
Cormetech’s efforts began in 2009 as an endeavor to decrease and reuse waste generated in the manufacturing process. Who better to tackle such an effort than employees working alongside supervisors and managers? It started as a team project to reduce waste at the local facility by 15 percent.
The results were phenomenal. Thanks to a willingness to think outside the box and a commitment to view the existing operation from deeply within, the project team didn’t just slice waste by 15 percent or 25 percent or 30 or 40. By project’s end, the initiative was saving Cormetech 50 percent in manufacturing waste.
Individual ideas and a commitment to recycling landed significant improvements in catalyst waste reduction, hazardous waste stream elimination, module paint elimination, and recovery and reuse of excess liquid solutions.
Some of those terms sound complicated, especially to outsiders looking in. But Cormetech team members were insiders looking out and they came up with procedural changes that began making a difference. Some were big. Some were small. All were effective. And lumped together as a collective, they established the Cleveland manufacturer as a credible force in the world of reuse and recycling.
That’s what it takes in today’s world. It’s not just about producing good numbers. It’s about making the commitment to make the changes necessary that will lead to those good numbers.
Cormetech did, and is continuing to do, both.
It’s also more than helping the environment. Along the way, Cormetech has netted some $100,000 in annual savings in raw materials. The total number of hazardous waste streams was reduced from seven to two.
Denise Rice, director of Cleveland operations and development for the local plant, did what good leaders do. She listened to employee ideas. She empowered workers to pursue them. She provided the tools and resources necessary for deployment. She evaluated the results with a keen and savvy eye. Then she made her decision.
In the corporate world, it is called employee engagement.
That’s just a fancy term for asking the right questions to the right people.
Cormetech again has shown its willingness to explore innovation, to experiment with change and to experience its positive rewards.
We congratulate the workforce of this 15-year-old Cleveland plant.
We applaud their willingness to see the forest beyond the trees, and we encourage other businesses to consider the same. And to those already enjoying recycle and reuse strategies of their own, bravo!
Saving the environment takes a village. And in each village, it takes a bold leader and a first step.