by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Plastics Business

Founded on the power of a good idea, Intralox, a global, comprehensive conveyance solutions company based in New Orleans, Louisiana, has held true to the values, environment and culture instilled by founder J.M. Lapeyre. Now, more than 40 years later, Gregory Washington, extrusion supervisor, describes Intralox as “a company of ideas and self-managed people who play well together, respect one another’s contributions and have lots of fun at work.”

In the early years when the company first formed, Washington said he could imagine it was a challenge to help employees be inspired and productive in their work. This created a less than ideal working environment and led to a great deal of employee turnover. For Lapeyre, this reality was unsustainable. He understood the key to his company’s success resided within the bonds it created with employees and clients alike – that success was dependent upon a healthy company culture. “Today, our growth and sustained success are the result of a diligent focus on continuous improvement, a core belief that self-managed people are our greatest asset and a commitment to ideas, teamwork and effort,” Washington commented.

Employing more than 2,100 people across its 11 global locations, Intralox focuses on four key areas: service, technology, accountability and results. Every employee at Intralox contributes ideas and takes action to make continuous improvements. It’s a culture of constantly seeking ways to produce greater results from actions – to improve processes and increase productivity before problems even arise.

Maintaining the positive culture and environment at Intralox isn’t something that happens by sheer good luck. It takes a great deal of effort, attention and the collaboration of everyone involved. The company has enjoyed its success by reflecting the values of its founder, who was committed to treating employees, customers and suppliers with honesty, fairness and respect, and then applying those ideas to challenges and opportunities encountered within the business.

Intralox employees
Maintaining a positive culture takes effort, attention and collaboration from everyone in the company. Photos courtesy of Intralox. For a closer look at Intralox, attend the MAPP Plant Tour on March 27. More info: www.mappinc.com

“Our culture is a very friendly, diverse and inviting environment where management and front-liners work hand in hand as collective units, leveraging ideas and employing unimpeded strategies for getting the job done,” Washington explained. “Our tightly knit culture and flatly structured teams promote and fuel idea generation by heightening workplace enthusiasm and engagement from all members.” He said these are not just buzzwords or fluffy leadership concepts, but “these attributes are deeply rooted and grow out of a team-managed culture that is uncompromisingly supported by leadership and team members.”

Of course, the company culture does encounter obstacles and challenges, needing occasional tune-ups and improvements. Team building remains a near-constant process at Intralox. Early on, the company sought and adopted a more feedback-styled leadership approach. This approach began with listening to all team members’ concerns and then transformed the way Intralox does business and engages its manufacturing teams.

Intralox team members are paid based upon on their contributions, attitudes, ideas and teamwork abilities. They earn individual and team-based incentives for their commitments. In a manufacturing production environment, this sometimes leads to competitiveness and brings about disharmony among team members. However, Intralox has developed agreed-upon global practices to proactively resolve issues and challenges to the following: promoting innovativeness and idea sharing, encouraging a more self-management-style of sustaining highly engaged team members and team conflict resolution. “We do this fairly and are each held accountable for the practice’s execution and results,” Washington shared. It’s called the Laitram Continuous Improvement Program, or LCI Principles. “It’s our culture’s bible, and it is supported by all at Intralox.”

Washington believes that focusing on culture-building is vital to a company’s success. “Companies need to embrace culture as if their future depends on it, because it does,” he stated. “It will help them thrive on a game-changing level.” Starting small, by communicating positively with all team members daily or weekly, can bring about the positive change. Sharing positive thoughts or words of encouragement can lead to town hall huddles. “These huddles are small group meetings where leadership truly listens and does not insert themselves or their directives into the agenda. Just listen,” he added.

Listening to the front-liners seems like common sense, but Washington said it is not commonly exercised in many companies. “Listen to the people closest to your products, services and customers – those closest to your processes and day-to-day practices.” A little empathy goes a long way. “Be unique in addressing the team’s concerns, ideas and hopes as if you were in their shoes… because at one time you were in their shoes,” he added.

Once Intralox put the plan into action, the company’s established culture seemingly changed overnight. “It went from a culture of heavily managed team members to partners of self-managed individuals who are highly engaged, highly productive and work as collective units for success,” Washington said.

Intralox’s team members have responded positively to the company’s culture and its practiced principles because “our values and philosophies embody their feedback and their hopes for a greater workplace and career,” he confirmed. “They feel a sense of ownership and are fully engaged in their tasks, and they are mindful of the important role they play within our organization’s mission.”

No one at Intralox is forced to buy into the culture’s ideologies; however, survival or success without adhering to the culture’s practices is virtually unachievable. Furthermore, there are a host of benefits that come from being a part of this highly engaged culture. For instance, biweekly, quarterly and annual incentives and profit sharing are awarded to team members. And, a family-friendly environment offers team members the ability to experience family day in the park, at motocross and in the children’s museum, or they can bring family to work for a day. They also can take advantage of various services for their families, such as free tutoring and education services, an on-site dietician, physical trainers, a gym and much more.

Washington said culture building starts from the top of the organization if the team wants to win. “Laitram Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jay Lapeyre and Intralox President Edel Blanks are at the helm of our LCI Principles’ accountability adherence, and they truly believe and champion these principles. These principles are what make us unique in the marketplace and unique to the communities we serve.”