ITW Engineered Fastners Case Study
Working Partnerships with Vocational Rehabilitation Providers
ITW Engineered Fasteners is a division of Illinois Tool Works Inc. ("ITW"), a Fortune 200 company recognized around the world for its state-of-the-art engineering and technologies. An industry leader for over 25 years, ITW Engineered Fasteners manufactures plastic rivets, highly engineered panel fasteners, trim and weatherstrip clips, and plastic grommets for the automotive industry. These products, together with other items, make up over thirty lines of value-added products of consistent and exceptional quality. ITW Engineered Fasteners earned its reputation by investing in people, technology and customers. The result, which accounts for extremely high customer satisfaction, is controlled quality, functional value and on-time deliver. They have also been QS9000 approved since 1997 and ISO 14001 as of 2002.
The focus of this review is ITW Engineered Fasteners' production facility located in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. While ITW, the parent organization, is obviously supportive of the actions of the Chippewa Falls plant, the policies and practices discussed herein are specific to ITW Engineered Fasteners' Chippewa Falls facility.
ITW Engineered Fasteners' investment in people extends across its entire workforce including workers with disabilities and employees who have suffered injuries. Diane Mitchell, the Company's Human Resource Manager, stated "there is a commitment throughout the facility to not only hire individuals with disabilities, but also to do whatever it takes to make it work." Following is a review of a number of ITW Engineered Fasteners' exemplary practices:
- The company maintains a solid working relationship with a local Projects With Industry program and other vocational rehabilitation providers to identify potential workers with disabilities. ITW Engineered Fasteners has a long history of providing on-the-job training, work experience, and job try-out opportunities for individuals with disabilities from the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (WDVR).
Workers with disabilities are often brought in as "addon" workers over and above the general workforce to provide them the opportunity to increase their skills and physical tolerance, as well as establish a positive work record. Workers are carefully matched with jobs and supervisors to maximize their potential for success. Supervisors are notified of needed accommodations before the individual starts work in order to facilitate success on the job. ITW Engineered Fasteners utilizes various incentives programs through the WDVR agency to offset much of the cost of providing job opportunities for workers with disabilities.
- Supervisors are encouraged to participate in off-site training seminars on topics related to hiring and managing workers with disabilities. Over the part year, 16 supervisors participated in the Accommodating Workers With Hidden Disabilities training program, and 20 supervisors attended a program on Disability Awareness under Wisconsin's Fair Labor standards. Training plays an integral role in strengthening ITW Engineered Fasteners' commitment to addressing the needs of existing and potential employees with disabilities.
- ITW Engineered Fasteners is committed to an aggressive employee-focused return-to-work program extended to workers injured both on and off the job. New employees receive formal training on return-to-work policies and procedures as part of their initial orientation. They are also informed of ITW's philosophy that an injured worker must be returned to work as soon as possible, and that "lost time" must be avoided to the extent possible. New and existing employees are also instructed to inform their physician about ITW's light duty work program on their first doctor's visit after an injury.
The Company's human resource staff is in contact with injured employees and treating physicians immediately after an injury occurs to encourage light duty placements and other accommodations as a means of returning employees to work in the shortest possible time. There are no time limits for light duty assignments, but employees are returned to their previous position or an alternate permanent position as soon as they are physically able. ITW Engineered Fasteners has established
a culture where employees take pride in minimizing lost time injuries, as evidenced by the fact that the Chippewa Falls facility has not experienced a lost time injury for over 550 days.
- A clear example of ITW Engineered Fasteners' commitment to its return-to-work program involved a case of a production worker who sustained a serious spinal cord injury while at home. The employee returned to light duty as soon as he was physically able, and returned to his production duties soon after. When it was determined that the employee was no longer able to complete the essential functions of the production job, he was given a permanent transfer to the Customer Service Department where he remains employed today.
- ITW Engineered Fasteners demonstrates its commitment to its employees by providing them with the opportunity to participate in a variety of leadership positions within the community. The Human Resource Manager is an employer member of the local Business Leadership Network, which identifies, develops, and delivers training for employers on a wide range of topics designed to enhance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In addition, the facility's Safety and Loss Control Manager is President of the local chapter of the Wisconsin Safety Council, which sponsors training to minimize and manage workplace injuries.
ITW Engineered Fasteners has a clear and consistent commitment to all people within their facility and within their community. This commitment is backed by company policies and practices that promote including individuals with disabilities in the workforce. As with all organizations, established practices are the direct result of the attitudes and commitment of management, who sets the tone for the facility. ITW Engineered Fasteners' commitment to people has resulted in including workers with disabilities throughout the workforce, which has had a direct and positive impact on its employees, the Company, and the community.
For information regarding this Case Study contact:
McMahon, B., Wehman, P., Brooke, V., Habeck, R., Green, H., and Fraser, R. (2004). Business, Disability and Employment: Corporate Models of Success. A Collection of Successful Approaches Reported from 20 Employers. Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth University, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention.