How one CEO turned around a troubled company by setting up an ESOP, and by focusing on training and quality.
How one CEO turned around a troubled company by setting up an ESOP, and by focusing on training and quality.
How one CEO set out to turn around a troubled company by setting up an ESOP -- only to find that employees didn't want to be owners
It's no fun being up against the wall, which is where Harry Featherstone found himself in the autumn of 1985. He had recently taken command of The Will-Burt Co., a troubled manufacturing outfit in Orrville, Ohio. The company's troubles began with a product liability lawsuit.
The lawsuit centered on a scaffold that collapsed in Miami in 1980, killing one person and crippling another. The scaffold maker declared bankruptcy. But Will-Burt, which had produced one of the parts, was sued under the principle of joint and several liability. Its insurer settled out of court in 1984, paying $6.2 million. A year later it canceled the company's coverage.
Amid the legal proceedings, Will-Burt's chief executive dropped dead of a heart attack. And with other lawsuits pending, the family that owned the company, fearful of losing everything, decided to sell or liquidate Will-Burt. And why not? It was a Rustbelt job shop that had been in business since 1917. It had literally billions of parts out there -- its liability exposure was immense.
Harry Featherstone, however, had always yearned to run a company. He had spent most of his career with Ford Motor Co., finally landing at Will-Burt as vice-president in 1978. He'd grown fond of Orrville, its people, its rural lifestyle. And his community involvement ran deep. For three years he'd been president of Boys Village, an Orrville school for inner-city teenagers in trouble with the law. He served on the local board of Goodwill Industries. As he settled into the top slot at age 55, he scanned his options.
"We could have liquidated, but I didn't want to tell 350 people and their families that the business was closing," he recalls. "We thought of merging, but who wants a com-pany burdened with all that litigation?" The only thing Featherstone knew for sure was that he'd do practically anything to rescue the place. "Ford had moved me 17 times in 16 years, and I was going to fight to stay. I really liked it here. And my job and pension were wrapped up in it like everybody else's."
Finally Featherstone's lawyer proposed that he do a leveraged buyout and place Will-Burt into an employee stock ownership plan. This made sense in a rather elegant way. "My attorney told me that if we got ourselves highly leveraged, we wouldn't make much money, but neither would we be a deep-pocket target for some liability lawyer," Featherstone says. "Lawyers love rich companies, and we wouldn't be one." And so on December 30, 1985 -- the deadline set by the owners to avoid liquidation -- Featherstone completed a frantic two-month negotiation with an Ohio bank. He borrowed $3.2 million to buy 97% of Will-Burt stock, all he could get hold of. As collateral, the bank took title to everything the company had -- all its real estate, inventory, and every piece of machinery.
The company was in dismal shape. It had $20 million in sales, but profitability ranged from 1% to 5% over the past few years. Product quality was such that workers spent nearly 25,000 hours a year redoing faulty parts. Its wage rate was $2 below the area's average, and turnover often topped 30%. The pension plan was so bad that a 35-year veteran could expect to retire with $80 to $120 a month.
Most of the workers labored in dark, grim brick factories built before World War II, horrendously outmoded and crammed with inventory. They machined and fashioned metal parts for the likes of Caterpillar, Parker-Hannifin, and AMC. But Caterpillar, which accounted for a third of Will-Burt's sales, was itself on the ropes, being battered by Japanese competition.
Dissension in the ranks ran high. "The company had been family owned, and a lot of guys felt that they'd been taken advantage of," recalls Cecil Martin, who was then an assembler. "Every year we would hear that we were fighting for our lives, but we also saw that the family lived pretty well. We thought, well, we're fighting for our lives, but we seem to be the only ones doing the fighting."
Moreover, the company faced two other product liability suits, one from a scaffold accident in Texas and another in San Diego. Either could have wiped it out, now that Will-Burt had no insurance at all. The workers knew the company was in trouble, and they were edgy. "The lawsuits were a big worry," says Bill Varney, an assembler at the time. "We were very aware of what could happen. We all feared for our jobs."
And now, on top of everything else, Will-Burt had the ESOP loan to repay -- at a first-year cost of a cool $1 million and a second year tab of almost $900,000. That weighed heavily on Featherstone. "This company had never even made $1 million a year," he says. "So I had quite a task."
A task? Any CEO likes a challenge, but this looked more like a kamikaze mission. Featherstone wasn't a miracle worker -- he was just an accountant and an engineer who didn't want to move. Calling in a Mayflower van would have been much easier than what lay ahead, as he'd soon learn. For his real troubles were only beginning.
Featherstone's first steps, imperative though they were, won him few friends. He stopped making parts for ladders, scaffolds, and aircraft -- anything that could create liability problems -- and shut down some plants in the process. That forced him to let go of 80 people, factory and office workers alike. If morale was low before, this stomped it to the ground.
"Our previous president was one of these big huggy-bear-type people who always talked about the Will-Burt family," says Kathy Harmon, who works in the electronics department and has been with the company since 1970. "Suddenly the whole atmosphere changed. We were all kind of stunned."
"It hurt to let people go," Featherstone admits. "It seemed cruel. Everybody started asking 'Are we next?' This wasn't just bitching in the bathroom. They came right out and asked me. I just told them the truth -- if we could make money, there'd be no more layoffs."
But making money would be even harder now. The plant closings backed sales down from $20 million to $15 million and eliminated some high-margin items. To curb costs, Featherstone brought in "the toughest controller I could find, somebody who would say no even to me." He slashed capital outlays, cutting machinery purchases from $1 million a year to $500,000. He postponed roof repairs and kept ramshackle company trucks on the road. Money was so tight that Featherstone got rid of paycheck envelopes -- "and people even complained about that," he says.
But the controversy attending those early moves was nothing compared with the conflicts that erupted over the ESOP itself. Companies converting to ESOPs often spend months preparing employees for the change. But in Featherstone's scramble to do the leveraged buyout, he had told the employees very little about what was going on. "We all heard the word ESOP, but nobody knew what it was all about," Cecil Martin recalls. "We all said, ESOP? What's an ESOP? They got some pamphlets out to us and said we'd all own a piece of the place. But a lot of people had trouble grasping the concept."
Featherstone was under no illusion that the ESOP would work instant wonders. After all, he had resorted to it out of desperation, not altruism. But he did think it would create at least some commitment. "I figured if people own a piece of the rock, they'd work a little better. I expected the transition to be very easy."
Will-Burt's employees have a strong work ethic grounded in the area's Mennonite and Amish roots. But they weren't exactly sophisticated in matters of finance. Ownership, in fact, was an alien and even evil concept to many of them -- as Featherstone quickly discovered. "They hated it," he says. "They were scared and didn't want anything to do with it. Most of their parents came out of the depression, and they had a tremendous fear of stocks. I had many of them tell me not to give them any stock. These were good, solid, wonderful people, but they wanted nothing to do with the world of finance."
The rumor mill kicked into overdrive. Will-Burt had never been unionized, but that didn't matter. There was labor-management animosity, and the workers harbored suspicions about Featherstone's motives. "There were lots of misconceptions," recalls welder Russ White. "Some guys said it was Harry's way to get control of the company for his own private gain." Others thought it was some kind of trick, a ruse, so that if the company fell apart, then they, the new owners, could be blamed.
But gradually the fog cleared. "As we had more meetings and got information, we learned that the ESOP was under strict government guidelines," says Martin. "We learned it wasn't just for Harry but all of us. That made everybody feel a little better. We also liked the fact that it might stave off some lawsuits."
Featherstone wasn't shy about explaining Will-Burt's grim situation. "I told everybody that we were flirting with bankruptcy," he says. "But I don't think they believed me. Most of them thought we were making a 30% profit when in fact we were making less than 5%. I had a big misperception to knock down."
Under ESOP law, Featherstone didn't have to open the company's books. But since the workers had equity, he thought, they should know the numbers. If they had the facts, they would better comprehend his decisions. So in mid-1986 he began posting profit-and-loss statements on bulletin boards. He stopped after outsiders started noticing them and, instead, passed the P&Ls out. Everyone got a copy.
That didn't work either. "People told me they couldn't read the thing, that it made no sense to them," Featherstone recalls. So he reduced the data to a few lines -- this is what the sales were, here is what it cost us, this is how much we made. That did work. But now that the employees could clearly see the costs, they didn't like what they saw. Why did you paint the office? they'd demand. Why did you buy that chair, and that piece of machinery?
That wasn't all. In late 1986, after countless meetings, the workers began to understand that they did, in fact, own the company. And as owners, they wanted benefits -- namely, some fat raises. Featherstone kept explaining that the company needed to invest what money it had to improve quality, to grow. They'd all be better off in the long run.
That didn't go over too well, either. "The guys wanted to hear about tomorrow, not the long run," says Bill Varney. "People eat in the short run." But money wasn't all they wanted. "When people hear employee owned, they think, hey, I'm a boss now," says Larry Murgatroyd, a gear machinist. "That means control." They wanted to elect the board of directors and the president and call the shots on all major decisions.
This wasn't everyone, but enough to make life miserable for the beleaguered Featherstone. "I tried to explain that this was a business, not Athenian democracy," he recalls. "You can't have 300 people making decisions -- it would be anarchy. People told me it would take 5 to 10 years to create a real sense of ownership here. I didn't believe them. But let me tell you, the first 2 years were pure hell. I got bitter complaints. Meanwhile, I was trying to fight these lawsuits. I had all these minuses. It was the biggest disaster I had ever been in in my life."
But it was not unmitigated. Will-Burt had some nice proprietary products. Sales were particularly robust in its pneumatically raised telescoping masts. The military bought them for communication at mobile missile sites. Television crews installed them in "eyewitness" news vans to beam signals. Will-Burt dominated that market. And sales remained strong in coal-fired heaters, one of the company's oldest lines.
The bulk of the business, however, 65% or so, remained in producing metal parts for Caterpillar, Parker-Hannifin, and other customers. They ranged from engine shields for trucks to stainless-steel meat-grinding tubs for supermarkets. And it was here that the company was burning up $800,000 a year just to rework rejected parts.
Will-Burt could no longer afford that -- not with the bank loan casting its shadow. And it couldn't afford to be just another metalworking shop. Competition was intensifying. Honda Motor and Japanese parts plants were entering the Midwest, raising quality standards. Will-Burt needed some edge, Featherstone knew, something to set it apart.
He decided to shoot for perfect quality and perfect on-time delivery. Perfect quality meant manufacturing parts exactly to blueprint -- zero defects. That sounded good. But pulling it off, Featherstone knew, would require the dedication and participation of each and every worker. Ownership alone would not generate the kind of commitment he needed. No, the employees would have to be given a more sharply defined role in the running of the business -- more power to make their own decisions. They'd have to work harder and smarter.
His work force, though, was hardly eager to pioneer newfangled techniques. Its overall education level was somewhere around the 10th grade. There were fourth-generation welders. Many workers were high-school dropouts, and more than a few were illiterate. "I think we had four degrees in the company at that time," Featherstone recalls, "and I had two of them." If Featherstone needed a work force that would move mountains -- and he did now -- he was starting with little muscle.
"I had been a troubleshooter all my life," he says. "I had spent a lot of time in Japan with Ford and was really interested in how the Japanese did things. I studied them and decided that their success hinged on education, training, and their emphasis on business. I mean, they teach business principles in grade school. So I synthesized all I'd learned and put it into a coherent package and turned it loose at Will-Burt. I had no idea where we'd end up."
For openers, Featherstone focused on math. "Our people work from blueprints, and to make sense of them you have to know some math," he says. "I started out on a voluntary basis, on company time, and it just didn't work. You take someone who's been out of school for 20 years and put him back in a classroom atmosphere, and he hates it. Here's a teacher saying, 'Go home tonight and figure out the cosine of this tangent,' and the guy says, 'You've got to be out of your mind! I volunteered for this?' We started out with 25 people and ended up with 3. It was bad."
So Featherstone made the training mandatory, still on company time. He began with basic blueprint reading for all production workers -- it remained voluntary for office workers -- taught by a local high-school teacher for an hour or two a week. There were tests and homework. From there he moved into advanced blueprint reading, and for this he enlisted the continuing education staff of the University of Akron.
Once again, there were pitfalls. "I'd say the majority of people resented having to go to school," says CecilMartin. "They just didn't like being told to do anything. A lot of them weren't aware of how important it was. You had a lot of people in the plants who didn't know how to read a blueprint. They felt that was up to the supervisors. You have to know the people in this area. This is not a big city with a lot of career types. It's rural, it's farms, it's laid back. They want to have a job, raise a family, live comfortably, and retire so that they can go fishing. They thought, hey, I've been here 12 years and never had to read blueprints. Why should I start now?"
Even those workers who supported the training saw a downside. "I agreed with the mandates," says Russ White, 30. "A lot of younger guys had very little idea of what they were doing. But in some ways it was unfair. There were some older gentlemen who could not pass the math tests but who could have told you everything you needed to know about welding. But they just couldn't swing the schooling, and that cost them."
One 20-year employee grew so discouraged by the training, for instance, that he quit. Featherstone went to see him three times, trying to convince him to return. Finally the man admitted, "Harry, I can't read, and I don't want anybody to know it." He never did come back.
Featherstone himself caught some flak. "When I made it mandatory, some people got mad at me, called me dictatorial," he says. "I even got hate mail." But the price was worth paying. Almost immediately, product quality picked up and the number of rejects dropped. "Now I knew why we were getting hammered," he says. "It turned out we had guys running machines who couldn't read a scale, let alone a blueprint. And they worked with blueprints all day long."
In the midst of this, Will-Burt got some heartening news. In October 1986 it prevailed in the product liability case in Texas. And the quality improvements, along with cost cutting, enabled the company to meet its first-year bank payments. With the outlook brightening, the workers started to look upon the training with a less cynical eye. "A lot of us thought it would be a waste of time at first," says Noah Zimmerly, who runs sheet-metal cutting shears. "But I think most of us liked the idea of improving ourselves. I mean, if you quit and go someplace else to work, it's a plus for you."
And go someplace else they could. Orrville, despite its rural character and population of only 9,000, is a veritable beehive of industry, home to some 40 companies. It is the world headquarters of J. M. Smucker, the $400-million food company. Westinghouse Electric has a combustion controls plant right on Main Street. Rubbermaid, a $1.4-billion manufacturer, is based in the neighboring town of Wooster.
Featherstone couldn't count on the stock plan to retain his people -- at the end of the first year, most workers' holdings came to less than $2,000. And even though Will-Burt had won in the Texas courts, it still faced a brand-new suit in the Northeast, where a furnace had exploded. The workers were nervous.
"I couldn't keep talking about these lawsuits all the time or I wouldn't have anybody here," Featherstone says. "The troops only stay with you so long. And meanwhile, Volvo was buying the General Motors heavy truck division and moving that to Orrville. It was recruiting heavily."
Something had to change. In 1987 Featherstone decided to put the floor workers on salary. He totaled up each one's base compensation and overtime pay and divided that by 40, effectively raising wages by up to $3.50 an hour for a standard week, which didn't include overtime. That made Will-Burt competitive. Turnover dropped to single-digit numbers. Featherstone cashed in some insurance policies, enabling him to increase pensions nearly tenfold. He started a 401(k) retirement plan and installed a disability program that provided full pay for up to six months. A new policy awarding two extra floating holidays for perfect attendance over a year cut daily absenteeism from 8% to 2%.
And Featherstone pressed on with education, relying heavily on a University of Akron industrial training specialist named Hank Jeanneret. He sent his floor workers through a rigorous course on geometric tolerancing, a three-dimensional view of blueprints. Then came basic high-school mathematics -- fractions, decimals, a touch of algebra. And the courses were no joke. "All the tests were graded and scored by somebody outside the company," states Russ White. "And you had to pass certain sections before you could move on."
Finally, Featherstone introduced statistical process control, which entails measuring and tracking parts through a manufacturing process. By examining random parts, for instance, one can spot deviations and trends that might signal problems with machinery or tooling. "I said we had to do this or we wouldn't have a company," he recalls. "The people we sell to were preaching quality and beating on us to provide better products."
But Will-Burt was looking better all the time. In December 1987 the San Diego product liability suit was dismissed. By 1988 the company once again could obtain full-coverage liability insurance. Banks suddenly agreed to lend the company money. And Featherstone, Will-Burt's main idea man, introduced new product lines -- an environmentally sound storage shed for hazardous waste, a cast-aluminum engine head for Ford.
There was a sense that things were starting to jell. "We used to have all these factions fighting each other," says Cecil Martin. "Guys in one plant didn't talk to guys in other plants, and most of the factory people thought of management as the enemy. But as things improved and people felt more secure, they really started pulling together. I mean, it was almost tangible."
On-time delivery was running at 98% for months on end. Product quality was surging dramatically. In 1986, for example, the part rejection rate stood at 35%. By late 1988 it fell below 10%. Time spent reworking faulty parts dropped from 2,000 hours a month to 400, even though Will-Burt was doing far more high-precision work than ever. That slashed annual reject reworking costs from $800,000 to less than $180,000.
Featherstone figures he laid out close to $200,000 in training expenses. There were teachers to pay, books to buy, a classroom to maintain. But the bulk of it was wages. The employees, remember, had taken the classes on company time. But the training had more than paid for itself in savings. And the ESOP finally seemed to be making a difference.
"With all the education, people really knew what they were doing," says Martin, who advanced through the ranks to become the company's quality control manager. "And a lot of it comes from this feeling of teamwork. If we lose scrap, that's money out of our pockets. A lot of people might not openly admit it, but down deep they know they own a piece of this place. And if they see somebody running a lot of bad parts, they'll jump on him. You just didn't see that before. There's more pride."
A case in point is Rick Stoudmire, a 29-year-old assembler in plant 9, the mast and furnace factory. Plant 9 sits in an industrial park on the north edge of Orrville. It's a beautiful facility, several years old, high-ceilinged, uncluttered, and well lit. It stands in stark contrast to Will-Burt's ancient factories downtown. In this plant, almost every worker can do every job, pitching in wherever they are needed (a future goal for the other Will-Burt plants as well).
"Harry wants us to have more input on the products we make," says Stoudmire. "That's the way a company really learns, from the people actually doing the job. We don't need someone looking over our shoulders. We want to do things right the first time."
As that kind of attitude grew, Featherstone began pushing authority and responsibility into other areas. In 1988, for instance, he switched the ESOP advisory committee from a management-appointed unit to one including workers elected by the factory crews and office personnel. Of the panel's eight members, five are elected -- managers and trustees round out the cast. Decisions are made by simple majority.
What has surprised Featherstone is the conservatism of those elected folks. Where the company once had both a Christmas party and a picnic, they opted to have only the picnic, to save money. The glossy-papered company newsletter cost $4,000 a year to produce. They voted to mimeograph it instead. Some workers suggested that the company close for "swing days" -- such as taking off Friday when Christmas fell on a Thursday. The accountants calculated the cost of a paid holiday -- $90,000, all told. When the committee heard that, it backed away from the idea.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time they make the same decisions management would make for things like purchasing and time off," Featherstone says. "Obviously, they don't run every aspect of the company. But on anything that materially affects us all -- pay, benefits -- I want to get the workers' views."
Trust kept building. When it came time to buy new machinery, Featherstone didn't dispatch engineers and managers to scout the options. He sent the machine operators themselves. Larry Murgatroyd, a 25-year-old gear machinist, traveled to Montreal last year to look at a used rack cutter. The company needed it to perform a $100,000 contract to make racks and pinions for Parker-Hannifin rotary actuators.
"Those are used for opening hatches on nuclear submarines, so if you have a gear that binds up you could actually kill some people," Murgatroyd says. "We had to make sure that the machine in Montreal was good. My plant manager went with me -- to share the blame if we brought back a lemon. But he relied on me in evaluating the equipment. It made me feel real good that he would trust my judgment. That's the sort of thing that makes you a loyal employee."
And quality kept improving. Cecil Martin and his inspectors catalog rejected parts at each of Will-Burt's four plants every day. "We break them down by department and pass out the reports weekly to every supervisor," Martin explains. "We assign a cost to each of those rejections and pinpoint their origins. The problems can stem from purchasing, engineering, or even sales. It shows them that we are tracking this and pointing the finger where it belongs, so the operators aren't getting blamed for everything anymore." That program wasn't something Martin was ordered to do -- it was his idea. And while it complicates his job, it has eased life immensely for the sales force.
"We used to ship anything even close to specification," says Terry Wheeler, who handles sales to Volvo, Westinghouse, and Parker-Hannifin. "Now, it takes an act of God to get something out of here that's not exactly to print. The customers love it." Parker-Hannifin, for instance, no longer even inspects the pinions the company provides for those rotary actuators. "What we get from Will-Burt is flawless," says Dean Sullivan, materials manager of the actuator division.
Such quality doesn't come cheap, of course. And while companies talk quality, they usually buy on price. "That's what we run up against all the time," says Will-Burt sales director Ken Lazar. "There are companies that will pay us a premium price knowing they'll have no rejects, and they will get parts on time. That's our niche, really. Still, it forces us to come in high on bids sometimes. But if we are close enough in pricing, they will ask us to take a second look. We don't like to cut our bids, but if it's a question of our manufacturing process, we go in and see if we can improve it. We have that kind of rapport with our customers. They do appreciate quality. It's not all on three quotes and a cloud of dust."
Wheeler himself has got the religion. In 1988 he proposed a new profit center, the so-called quick turn department. With a team of eight tool-and-die makers, QT can crank out parts overnight -- taking them from raw material to finished products -- for customers in a jam. That kind of 24-hour service commands a price premium approaching 40%.
A year and a half ago Wheeler tried to get this program approved. Featherstone knew it made sense -- he just didn't know how to do it. "When you say QT, you're saying you'll have the material you need regardless of what the customer wants this minute," he explains. "I needed someone who knew systems and production and could coordinate all this." That person turned out to be the new executive vice-president, Dennis Donahue, who'd learned those skills at Atari and Worlds of Wonder.
"QT is finally working," Wheeler says. "I said we can do $2 million a year in QT parts, and I think we'll turn $1.2 million this first year. I put my neck on the line for this thing, but it's what's expected. You'd better be a believer in Will-Burt or get the hell out. If you're just here for a job, you're not going to make it. You have to get involved every day and be a part of it."
In the factories, Donahue is discovering the value of involvement. Last October a team from Honda came through Will-Burt at the tail end of a whirlwind tour. They had visited some 20 U.S. manufacturers, searching for a company to make gears for Honda's Gold Wing motorcycles, produced in Marysville, Ohio. Before the visit, they sent Will-Burt the prints for the parts.
"We knew this could be a major contract for us," says Larry Murgatroyd, who heads the gear department. "We thought we could show them the machines we'd be cutting their gears on. But then the guys in the plant and I decided to go a step further, and actually manufacture some gears. It wouldn't take much time or material to do it, plus it would help us in time studies. So we took their prints and made about 12 gears, and we had them sitting there when the Honda people came through.
"One of the gentlemen spoke mostly Japanese, and we couldn't understand him. But he kept holding this gear and turning it around in his hand. It turned out he wanted to take it back to Marysville and put it on his desk -- as the first gear for the Gold Wing made in the United States. So we put the Will-Burt name on it, and Made in the U.S.A. Around here we have the freedom to do things like that. Management doesn't shut you down and act like you don't know what you're talking about. They're willing to listen to anything."
To get the employees even more involved in decision making, this year Featherstone launched a two-year cross-training program he calls the "Mini M.B.A." The University of Akron's Jeanneret is leading the instruction, which embraces everything from accounting to inventory control. Featherstone is negotiating with the university's president to award the graduates credit toward associate degrees in manufacturing.
What astounded Featherstone was the turnout. He expected 15 people. Instead, 54 signed up. They are welders, machinists, metal punchers. By and large, they are the younger workers, the ones betting their future on Will-Burt. "It's remarkable," he says. "Four years ago I couldn't get 10 people to stick with basic blueprint reading on a voluntary basis, and they see blueprints every day. Now, I've got 25% of the factory guys taking these classes on their own time. And they're pretty much the same people. It's a long process to teach people what ownership is all about, but education is really working."
His problem now is trying to figure out what to do with his fledgling "M.B.A.s." "When they finish, they'll want to move up in the company," he says. "They'll come out educated, and I've got to be ready for them -- I'm putting a demand on myself. But I'll tell you, after what I've been through, that's a very pleasant challenge."
As a start, Featherstone has purchased a 35-acre site on the outskirts of town and hopes to break ground next spring for a new factory. The company's sales have climbed back to $20 million. And for the second year in a row since initiating the ESOP, Will-Burt expects to be profitable. Featherstone has bid on the Honda job and on a major contract with Volvo to stamp truck panels. "If we get those jobs," the ever-optimistic CEO exults, "we're going to explode."
BY THE NUMBERS
Employee turnover 30%-40% 5%
Manufacturing efficiency* 65% 90%
Hours of product rework (per month) 2,000 400
Product rejection rate 35% 8%
Work force literate in math** unknown 100%
Daily absenteeism 8% 2.3%
Share valuation*** $24.60 $27.16
*1986 is base year; measurements are speed and productivity, tracked by computer from time cards and job tickets
**As tested by the University of Akron
***The value of shares is set annually by Ameritrust Corp., a Cleveland bank