Westminster Tool Celebrates 20 Years in Business
If enough time is spent with our owner, Ray Coombs, it is only a matter of time before he says, “You never have to work a day in your life, if you love what you do!” Ray put this mantra into action by starting his own company. 20 years later, Westminster Tool’s Founder and President still loves what he does. While Westminster Tool has seen a lot of change over the years, we are thrilled to celebrate our 20th anniversary!
The Beginning of Westminster Tool
In 1997, Ray Coombs began doing part-time component work out of his basement. One year later, he took the leap and began building his team as he made the transition to working his business full-time. Two years after starting this venture, the team was up to six and Ray Coombs moved the operations out of his basement and into what we refer to as “the chicken coop”, officially marking the beginning of Westminster Tool. 1999 also marked the start of building complete injection mold systems.
By 2003, Westminster Tool began building a name for ourselves and had added 10 more employees. With a full team of 16 employees, we had outgrown the chicken coop. Westminster Tool moved again, this time into a 13,000 square foot facility, 5 East Parkway, the current home of Westminster Tool. Here, Westminster Tool continued to build a reputation for providing best in class, tight tolerance injection mold systems. Our team was made up of some of the best guys the local industry had to offer, and we were consistently able to resolve complex manufacturing solutions.
Flash-forward 10 years to 2013 and Westminster Tool saw the biggest changes in company history take place. Ray Coombs began to see the writing on the wall after spending nearly $30,000 on advertising over three months searching for a new toolmaker. The skilled employee workforce had aged out, limiting hiring options. With Westminster Tool’s average employee age over 50 years old at the time, there had to be a change. To overcome the nation-wide shortage, Ray led our company through a complete cultural shift.
To establish our new culture the right way, we created our cross-training program that creates a more versatile staff system where no one becomes complacent or stuck in one position. Developed by our president, the Westminster Academy exposes employees to every area of the shop. They learn the entire process, providing our team with the ability to fill multiple positions, in addition to having a better understanding of key challenges that affect different parts of the process. The Westminster Academy is a series of skills needed for the position established to help support cross-training and provides Westminster’s employees with opportunities to continuously improve. Currently, the training program includes over 3,000 unique lessons.
The shift in culture was supported when the company took a big step towards the future through the purchase of our second location in Sterling, Connecticut. The new addition serves as the home for training in the Westminster Academy, the company gym, and allows for future growth.
Building the Pillars
How do you completely change a company’s culture? Westminster Tool took the entire company back to the beginning, down to the foundation and rebuilt the groundwork. The result was the Westminster House. Built on the foundation of emotional intelligence, the Westminster House focuses on a team culture that embraces curiosity. By removing assumptions and never settling for good enough, our team constantly seeks out innovation by holding ourselves to higher standards. Back in 1997, Ray Coombs saw the value of emotional intelligence and how it affects the culture of an organization. 16 years later, Westminster’s founder implemented this as the foundation to change the culture from one that would cast judgment when mistakes were made to a culture that promotes accountability, using mistakes as new opportunities to teach. This cornerstone is an essential piece of the puzzle. Today, when a new employee joins the Westminster Team, the first step of their onboarding process is to be trained in emotional intelligence.
With emotional intelligence as the foundation, the pillars of the Westminster House are continuous learning, continuous improvement and accountability.
Continuous learning is created through each employee’s unique journey through the Westminster Academy. Without a set order, the training provides each employee with a custom experience helping them to develop skills needed in their current position or grow outside of their role. Demonstrated by our investment of $100,000 in employee training annually, Westminster Tool highly values employee growth.
Each morning, the team participates in continuous improvement meetings. The 30-minute discussions provide opportunities for every employee to assess challenges that may arise. Using this collaborative approach, communication becomes more effective as the teams become stronger.
At Westminster Tool, accountability is at the forefront of how we measure success. We have enforced accountability through global, local, and individual metrics by measuring quality for each job. The added responsibility has helped each employee to focus on their role so the team can meet the measures of accountability by delivering, “On Time, First Time, On Budget and Satisfied Customer Service”.
Attached to the change in culture, Westminster Tool also made a conscious effort to remove silos within the organization. The elimination of silos has helped us to improve our team dynamic, better adapt to meet our customers’ needs, and enhance our ability to grow and develop the next generation.
Westminster Tool also found value in removing job titles and the ability to nest in an area. By forcing movement, our team lives out our values of continuous improvement and curiosity. The improved versatility and mobility across the departments create a workforce that is hungry to learn, keeping curiosity at the core of what we do.
One last tool we have used to establish the new culture is a behavior assessment tool based on a personality profile test called DISC. Comprised of 28-word groupings, where participants identify the words in each group which they resonate with the most or least, this assessment provides a comprehensive profile based on four behavioral groups (Dominate, Influence, Conscientious, Steady). At Westminster Tool, The use of DISC has been key to the growth, as often one employee is teaching another. Using DISC, the team at Westminster is more equipped to understand how to communicate with co-workers more effectively.
Westminster Tool – Today and Tomorrow
Six years ago, Westminster Tool began the dramatic transformation mentioned above. The foundation has been set, but the transformation continues to take place every day. Over the years, we have seen the average employee age drop from over 50 years old to 33 years old. Westminster Tool is still evolving as we develop the future of mold making by hiring a team of curious individuals. Our team of eager to learn employees work together to deliver unique solutions to complex challenges.
From the inception of Westminster Tool, Ray Coombs has believed in promoting the manufacturing industry and maintaining a company that gives back to the community. Our president has been recognized for his commitment to promoting the industry through various awards over the years. He also has been able to continue a strong relationship with the local community through supporting programs at Plainfield High School and H.H. Ellis Technical High School that provide paths to a career in manufacturing. Westminster was also a key contributor in creating a makerspace program at Moosup Elementary School. In this program, kids develop skills useful for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through critical thinking and hands-on learning in a collaborative workspace.
The future is bright at Westminster Tool, and we look forward to what lies ahead for our industry and community over the next 20 years.
As Westminster Tool’s success continues to grow, we take this opportunity to thank so many individuals who helped us reach this position. Before we get back to work planning the next chapter of Westminster Tool’s future, we want to celebrate everyone who has been a part of our journey the last 20 years by inviting companies and customers to be honored as we celebrate.
On October 1 and 2, we will host a customer appreciation event for injection molders, which will include an appreciation reception and scotch-cigar-wine tasting. On October 2, the two-day event will conclude with an educational experience. In our spirit of continuous learning and improvement, the day will focus on topics which have been critical to our company culture and manufacturing process development. To learn more about the event or secure your spot, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.