At Dee for Dentist, choosing the companies/suppliers we work with is a serious decision. Quality, respect, and relationships are what we focus on above all else. Although pricing is an important consideration, our belief is that if a company treats its employees right, makes good decisions, is involved in their community, and focuses on product quality and innovation, a higher up-front cost can often be offset by a product that has a long and dependable lifespan. Recently Mike & I had the opportunity to learn more about some of the companies we’ve been working with. One of these companies is Hu-Friedy.
In a nutshell, Hu-Friedy has been manufacturing some of the best dental instruments on the market since 1908 from their production facility in Chicago, IL. Last week we were treated to a private tour of their manufacturing facility in Chicago and it was one of the best tours we’ve ever been on. This wasn’t your average walk through of a plant, it was a hands-on touch everything kind of tour so Mike was in heaven. Our tour guide was a very nice gentleman with an infectious smile by the name of Errol who has been with the company going on 20 years. He began the tour by passing us through the Hall of Fame. Along the walls are plaques of people that have been with the company 15 years or longer. One of the first things we noticed as we were on the tour was employee loyalty and job satisfaction. The people we met have been there 20, 30, 40+ years and still loved the job! We’re not talking easy work either, this was hard manual labor on some intimidating machines like presses, cutters, furnaces, etc. Not only did people stay at their jobs but they brought family. We met husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and in-laws that all worked together. It was amazing.
The next thing we noticed was the quality of the product. As the tour continued we ran into someone collecting instruments that didn’t pass quality control in each department and dumping them into a large oil drum. Errol pulled some of these “bad” instruments out and asked us to find the defect. To us they seemed perfectly fine, but Errol pointed out a small cosmetic scratch. Functionally there was nothing wrong but Hu-Friedy refuses to put out a product that isn’t 100% and scraps the entire batch. Every product goes through anywhere between 10-30 steps to transform from raw steel to finished product with a quality control check at every stage, and EVERY product manufactured comes through this facility. It gave us a new appreciation to meet the hard working hands that made the instruments that we use every day.
The final thing of note was their integration of robotics into the manufacturing process. In terms of accuracy, these robots weren’t significantly better than the people working on the floor. We met a woman that has been working there for 40+ years and could tell by feel if an instrument was off by literally the width of a human hair! Mike asked Errol how the decision is made to replace hands with machines and was told that it was based on volume. If a production run was large enough, robots would take over, but that didn’t mean a person was replaced. Hu-Friedy invests significantly in re-education for their employees. Employees are sent back to school for training and Hu-Friedy also has a learning center and professors on staff to teach them how to run production by machine and move forward in their career.
The two hour tour flew by and we were just so excited about working with an established company that took such pride in the quality of their people and the products they produce, in much the same way we do here at Dee for Dentist. A big thank you to Errol, Julie, Barbara, and everyone else we met for rolling out the red carpet!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our partner series as we talk about our tour of the Ivoclar Vivadent facilities in Buffalo, NY.