Optimizing Connections and the Synergy of Sharing

Clips & Clamps CNC wire bender“The strength of PMA always has resided in its member companies and their people,” Aznavorian says, explaining the significance of his theme. “A wise person once told me that an asset we all can utilize is the ‘power of people’ and the ‘synergy of sharing.’ The challenge, then, is finding out how we can harness that power and take full advantage of the synergies. One great way to overcome that challenge is to optimize the connections that we already have in place.”

PMA, Aznavorian says, connects people through four key areas:

  • Education and training
  • Networking
  • Benchmarking
  • Advocacy.

Educating the Workforce of Tomorrow

“In addition to the executive-level coaching I receive from networking within PMA, we also can use PMA-generated content to educate our employees in best practices, for today and tomorrow, and help us replace outdated practices,” Aznavorian says.

Aida Servo Press Coe Coil line Clips & ClampsAs a great example of this, he points to the continued development of METALFORM EDU, PMA’s online, interactive training system, which now features nearly 40 PMA-exclusive courses and more than 800 total courses, covering topics such as precision measurement, blueprint reading, SPC, CNC, Six Sigma, lean manufacturing and safety.

“In the coming months,” Aznavorian shares, “PMA will launch new online courses designed for experienced press operators and die setters, which contrasts with the training programs converted from its DVD series—designed as more of a basic program for press operators and die setters.”

Per PMA’s technical director Pete Ulintz, the first new topic in this advanced category is die protection, comprising these modules:

  • What is Die Protection?
  • Die Sensor Types 
  • Sensor Applications
  • Sensor Settings
  • Troubleshooting.

Clips & Clamps toolroomFollowing the die-protection module, the next topic on the agenda is lubrication for metal forming, shares Ulintz. That EDU course will cover, among other aspects: the purpose of metal forming lubricants and how they work; lubricant types and selection; and proper handling and disposal.

These new programs come on the heels of a 12-course press brake operation module introduced early in 2023.

Networking for Middle Managers, Too

Growing Bevy of Member Services and Benefits 

Among all of the programs that PMA oversees and offers its member companies, Clips & Clamps most recently has developed a plan to implement the PMA OnboardingME program, a component of its METALFORM EDU online training regimen. PMA offers OnboardingME as a set of free videos for use as a first-day-on-the-job orientation resource for new hires and temporary workers. Topics covered include personnel safety and safe work practices, emergency response, quality systems, employment law, code of conduct, and career advancement.

“We also have used the PMA’s purchasing program with Grainger,” Aznavorian says, “which provides PMA member companies with savings on MRO products and services. And, we’ve engaged with PMA special counsel Doug Ehlke a few times over the years, to help with OSHA-related questions.”

NOTE: PMA member companies receive 3 free hours of phone consultation with Ehlke each year, and special reduced legal-services rates are available if the 3 free hours are exceeded.

C-suite interaction among member-company executives helps drive innovation and investments in new technology, and training for shop-floor workers ensures that those investments pay off in driving productivity and efficiency. In between the top floor and shop floor lie the members of the executive team that company leaders such as Aznavorian lean on to execute their visions. And, what avenues do these mid-level managers have for continuously improving their skill sets?

“Development of our executive team at Clips & Clamps is critical to our ongoing success,” Aznavorian shares, “and PMA plays a vital role here. For example, over the last few years we’ve sent five of our managers through the PMA Management Development Academy (MDA).”

PMA’s MDA is an interactive three-part series of customized workshops designed to equip department supervisors, team leaders and other mid-level managers with the skills needed to inspire and lead their teams and organizations. Since its inception in 2012, PMA has led 12 of these workshops and counts nearly 300 graduates. And, the 13th cohort is scheduled for July 31-August 2, 2023, in Cleveland, OH.

“All five of our MDA graduates,” says Aznavorian, “have remained with the company. Sending them through the program illustrates our willingness to invest in their development, so we see that program as key from a retention standpoint.”
What better way to display Aznavorian’s leadership style than to show such commitment to his executive team by investing in their growth and in their careers. 

“Several team members have been promoted over the years, as well,” Aznavorian adds. “That’s certainly a goal that PMA has with the MDA program, which we see as a mini business school. That is, to help our industry’s mid-level managers assume bigger roles within our companies.”

Also helping to move Clips & Clamps forward are the business reports provided by PMA to participating member companies, including the Metalforming Insights personalized business reports compiled by Harbour Results, Inc. (HRI).   PMA partners with HRI to develop the reports, which provide cross-functional analytics across various manufacturing processes including stamping, tool and die, molding and precision machining.

A Self-Professed “Cheerleader for PMA”

Jeff AznavorianJeff Aznavorian, who calls himself a “cheerleader for PMA,” believes that the association represents “the best of the best metal forming companies,” he says, “and we need to lean on each other, even more than we already do. PMA helps us make important and deep connections, to other metal forming companies but also to industry experts that can help guide us in the right direction. PMA allows us the opportunity to gather data so that we can analyze it and use it to manage our companies, educate our employees in best practices for today and tomorrow, and help us replace outdated practices with new ones, rooted in technology, that ensure a healthy future.

“With this article and throughout my term as chair,” Aznavorian continues, “if I can pass that feeling on to others in the industry, to make them feel what I feel, the connection to PMA and other members, then I will have succeeded in my role. I feel like I have a partner in PMA that’s a webinar away, a phone call away, a click away. My goal is to convince others to feel the same way.”

Aznavorian earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Michigan University in 1996, and came to work for his father at Clips & Clamps shortly thereafter. He started in the maintenance department and later moved into the fabrication and assembly departments, material handling, and shipping and receiving, where he eventually served as a shift supervisor. His first management role came when he took over as HR manager, originally just to fill in when the previous HR manager went on leave, but which he wound up holding for 18 mo. That role turned out to be a great fit—for his personality and his education—and allowed him to begin to instill his idea of what the company culture should look like.

“When my father joined the company, he brought established best practices in engineering and process control,” says Aznavorian, “and we’ve remained an engineering-focused company ever since. I feel like I bring more of a people-management perspective to Clips & Clamps, retaining the smart engineering talent around me while I focus on team building and ensuring that our employees have pathways to growth and success.

“Everyone that works for us has to use their hands, their bodies and their minds,” Aznavorian continues, “so upskilling is our future. We’re looking to evolve into more of a technology company than a manufacturing company.”

Aznavorian took the reins from his father in 2016 after completing his MBA at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. And, while he leans on his education to run the family business, he quickly credits his involvement in PMA—the association’s resources as well as contacts among its member companies —for business advice and to learn best practices.

“Jeff’s involvement in PMA stems directly from that of his father,” says PMA president David Klotz, “who served as PMA board chair in 1996. Jeff’s been a force at the district level, having served as membership chair, vice chair and as director several times. Now he’ll bring his energy and expertise to headquarters.”
“The districts are the local heartbeat of the association,” Aznavorian says, “and as such we need them to support national, so national in turn

can support the local. We’re asking the districts, for example, to contribute to our efforts on advocacy and on workforce development, two of PMA’s key initiatives. These are areas that raise the tide for everyone in the industry, whether a PMA member or not.”

The reports give members a micro-level view of their businesses in four key categories:

  • Financials—This study focuses on financial performance by reviewing key trends in several areas including productivity, throughput, profitability and CapEx investment.
  • Operations—This study helps to identify gaps and opportunities in operational performance.
  • Sales and Forecasting—Use this knowledge to generate a stronger sales team, marketing strategy and improved forecasting.
  • Workforce—Learn from this report how best-in-class companies are managing the talent crisis, and understand new strategies for attracting and retaining workers. (Note: this report consists of two separate studies and report—one for wage and benefits and another for executive compensation).

"We have used PMA benchmarking data to gauge our performance for decades,” says Aznavorian. “In fact, the IATF auditors love the fact that we benchmark using industry data from PMA.”

HR Management as Critical as Ever, and PMA Helps Here, Too

With employee attraction and retention top of mind for every metal former, including Clips & Clamps, PMA has developed plenty of opportunities to help its member companies expand the skill sets of their human-resource executives. Clips & Clamps’ HR manager Laura Mullin is a perfect example, as she regularly participates in the dedicated PMA HR listserv where HR managers from dozens of member companies share best practices. 

Beyond the HR listserv, PMA also produces an annual Human Resource and Training Professionals Roundtable, a hybrid event (in-person or virtual registration) offering an opportunity to network with industry peers and participate in discussions on key HR and training-related topics.

Lastly, PMA’s workforce development director Connie King announced recently that PMA has become a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Gold Recertification Provider.

“Like many other positions, HR professionals who join SHRM can become certified by sitting for an SHRM exam,” King explains. “They can earn an SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) credential or SHRM-SCP (Senior Certified Professional) credential. Once certified they then must earn 60 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) in a 3-yr. cycle, which is where PMA now can help, by awarding PDCs for HR-related events and courses.”

Among the PMA events registered to provide PDCs:

  • MDA
  • HR and Training Professionals Roundtable
  • Leadership/HR-based webinars/events and METALFORM EDU courses.

“Among the areas available to provide PDCs,” King adds: “leadership and promoting organizational change; promoting core values, integrity and accountability throughout the organization; and creating a diverse, inclusive culture and ensuring equity effectiveness.”

PMA Moving Forward, with One Voice

“The PMA staff truly cares about the members,” Aznavorian says. “The culture at PMA has been nurtured and we can feel it as a member. We feel like we have a partner in PMA that’s a webinar away, a phone call away, a click away. And my goal as chair, and even beyond my term, is to convince others to feel the same way.

“Moving forward, the association must continue to stand strong for its members, while at the same time standing on the strength of its members,” he continues. “A lot of change is coming to our industry; rate of change will not slow down. Our trade association then needs to be the port in the storm, where members can turn for direction and guidance.”

A large part of that responsibility falls on the PMA advocacy team, under its One Voice partnership with the National Tooling and Manufacturing Association. That team, led by The Franklin Partnership and one of its founding partners Omar Nashashibi, will spend 2023 focused on several issues deemed top of mind by a recent survey of PMA and NTMA members. The top three:

  • Workforce recruitment and training
  • Taxes
  • Raw material prices.

Other issues noted in the survey include health care, energy supply/costs, OSHA and other regulations, and trade.
“In addition, we are proud to be bringing back the Washington, D.C., fly-in this year, albeit in a different format,” says Aznavorian. 

This year’s fly-in, set for March 28-29, includes a briefing with the PMA lobbying team and a reception, and Capitol Hill visits. It will be a targeted event with attendees primarily being members of the One Voice Government Affairs Team, and board members of PMA and NTMA. That said, the mission remains consistent with previous fly-ins. That is, to actively lobby Congress and the administration for reforms that will help the metal forming industry compete long into the future.

“This year’s format is designed for the Capitol Hill meetings to be more efficient and effective than ever,” Aznavorian explains, “with a core group of attendees, while also limiting time spent out of the office.”

Last Word

Reflecting on the last few years and all of the challenges that metal formers—and all manufacturers, in fact—have faced, including supply-chain disruption, Covid-19 and wildly fluctuating raw-material prices, Aznavorian says:

“Credit goes out to the PMA staff, leadership and every member company, in helping all of us work through the pandemic and weather a storm of supply-chain and material chaos. Through it all, we have been able to build momentum and strengthen our association. By leaning on the collective experience and knowledge that resides in our member companies and people, our connections will be strengthened, and our knowledge and potential will grow. We will be a Precision Metalforming Association that is united in our goals to support the best companies in the world of metal forming.” MF

Industry-Related Terms: CNC, Core, Die, Forming, Gauge, Run
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Clips & Clamps Industries

Technologies: Management


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