How Midwest Control Products Didn’t Lay Off Any Employee. Instead Did Some Gardening.

mcpYesterday, Mark Rauschert, President of Midwest Control, told me “keeping your long time employees employed during tough times is a normal thing to do”.  With a business way down Mark succeeded not laying off any employee. Read his wonderful story as told by Jillian Stambaugh, Eagle Staff Writer. Everybody is starving for good news in this dismal economy. So, please read attentively.  

“Most people…if you’re running a machine doing the same thing eight hours a day in a hot factory and you get a chance to do something else – go outside and do three or four different things throughout the day – they like it,” said Kerry Rhodes, Vice President of Bushnell’s Midwest Control Products (MCP). While the company is known worldwide as a fabrication plant for John Deere, Caterpillar, Volvo and Mack Trucks, as well as for creating several common shelf hardware products, MCP has taken their production line a step further this summer after having considered their financial options in the face of a dismal economy and being left with two options – lay off employees or create more work for them. 

While the news was stark, Rhodes said they knew what they wanted to do from the beginning of their discussions. “We knew our sales would be down for the year to a level we hadn’t seen in a long, long time – the same has been true for everyone,” explained Rhodes.  “We have a good core group of people here that do a very good job for us and have had a lot of years of loyalty. We decided to make it a mission and a goal to try and weather this economic down-turn without laying anybody off.” As layoffs were occurring all around them, MCP employees found themselves performing all sorts of labor, from the traditional shop work to the newest company endeavor, farming and selling produce, in order to keep bringing home a paycheck. “We started brainstorming what we would do to keep people busy knowing we didn’t have enough traditional revenue producing work with our product line to keep employees busy 40 hours a week,” he said. 

“Someone tossed on the table having a company garden in the summer, which happens to always be our slowest time. We followed that up with having a vegetable stand for the produce that comes out of it. Everybody jumped on it and was excited. The hands couldn’t have went up fast enough.” MCP employees are not strangers to alternative work projects, as most every summer they find themselves performing odd jobs around their two Bushnell plants. However, this year’s alternative projects consume more time in order to keep all 30 of the shop employees working. Workers might spend anywhere from two hours to more than 50 percent of their shifts each day on alternative work. In order to ensure the employees are performing at their best, checks each employee’s efficiency on a daily basis; something which was developed and perfected over the years through the use of small-scale alternative work projects. 

“We cautioned them if their efficiency went down, which affects the pricing of our products, we would have to reverse our approach,” explained Rhodes. “It came across (to employees) pretty quickly that if we take care of business the company’s going to take care of us. Ninety-five percent of them never do anything but give us their best everyday, so it’s not really a problem.” Since April, Rhodes said 690 man-hours have been spent in the 1.5-to 2-acre company garden tending to the variety of vegetables: corn, green beans, onions, cucumber, squash varieties, radishes, tomatoes, egg-plant, peppers and more. Employees have also helped in the beautification of the 15 acres where Plant two is housed along Route 9. “We have planted over 200 trees and our intent is to maybe plant between 1,000 and 2,000 this fall since we have the land to do it on,” said Rhodes. “On the road-side by Plant two, we got the Quail Forever people to work with us and they gave us the wild, natural cover seed to make a natural habitat for birds. “The idea was to create work that would support our infrastructure,” said Rhodes of the non-traditional labor, “which is what the trees do for us – they add value to the property. Someday they could have value in terms of lumber and will beautify the area.” 

In addition, Plant one has seen three-fourths of its production machinery painted and refurbished, as well as all the factory sealings. The brick exterior has also been tuck pointed – all by employees. “It’s all stuff that would need to be done anyway, so now’s a good time for us to blast through and get some of it done and keep our people working,” Rhodes said. Even with the equivalent of 10 people a week working on jobs that do not produce MCPproducts, the company has seen shocking results to their profits. “If someone would have asked me if this was possible a year ago, I would have said there was no way you could put one-third of you labor effort per week on non-revenue producing products and still remain profitable without feeling the pressure so many people have,” said Rhodes. “We have done that.” While sales are down 35-40 percent from last year, MCP miraculously still sees profits every month. Part of their profitability can be attributed to their extreme-ly stringent budget-cutting program. Rhodes said whether it was “$2 or $2,000,” each expense is reviewed and accepted only if deemed absolutely necessary. 

Through the various alternative work projects, MCP and the company’s employees have managed to maintain their bonds in hopes of a brighter future when the economy is back on track. “I get stopped over and over again when I walk through the two factories by employees thanking us for what we did,” Rhodes said. “We’ve got a good core group here right now and we know when things turn around and pick back up we are going to need these people.” When the economy does turn around and traditional labor is once again filling eight-hour work-days, Rhodes thinks the vegetable garden will still be on the minds of many. “If we’re never in a position to put enough time and effort into our company garden again, it will at least be a topic of conversation for the next ten years,” said Rhodes with a laugh.

About Midwest Control Products. Midwest Control Products Corp (MCP) began operations in 1967 and operates factories in Bushnell, Illinois and Hidalgo, Mexico with Sales Offices in Bushnell, IL, USA, and Oxon, United Kingdom. Originally a tube fabricator, MCP has expanded its product line over the years to now include: •linkages (ball joints, clevises, clevis spring pins, spherical rod ends and yoke ends). •flat bar fabrications •tube fabrications •upset forgings •wireforms •contract zinc electroplating •contract powder painting •push pull cables.  Today, MCP ships to over 5,200 different OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) and distributors worldwide.

14 Responses to “How Midwest Control Products Didn’t Lay Off Any Employee. Instead Did Some Gardening.”

  1. 1 steveb Aug 22nd, 2009 at 8:19 am

    smart & creative

    How American!

  2. 2 BikerMarc Aug 22nd, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Now, this is the America we remember and as it should be.

    Kudos to the owners of this company for being smart enough, strong enough, and caring enough to take constructive action in these times.

    This story should be published in every major media outlet throughout the land.
    And, a visit from the President (Obama) should be in order. Great example of our “can-do” American spirit.

    Just my 2-cents…


  3. 3 Fluke Aug 22nd, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Yeah, how all companies should be.

    Without decent loyal staff who know their jobs and work as a team, a company is nothing. Something that most companies seem to forget. ….Sales are down, 2 months in a row, so lay off a bunch of workers that took 6 months plus to train to do the job well in the first place. Those left will have zero company loyalty and just move on with their skills as soon as things do pick up. But the shareholders are happy this week so what else matters?

  4. 4 David Aug 22nd, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Mr. Rhodes, Would you and your staff like to have great jobs retraining the hundreds of people than now run our govt..Maybe you would consider running for office in 2010 and then again in 2012.If you do maybe we can get this country back on the right track as you have done with your current co.
    By the way please let us know, these must not be union employees!!!

    Congratulations on your outstanding EFFORT !!!


  5. 5 David Aug 22nd, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I went back and reread the article and noticed I left out Mark Rauschert. Congratulations to you also!!!
    Do we now know where to invest our stock market money!!!!


  6. 6 Garden Mad Aug 22nd, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    When I started reading I wondered what it had to do with gardening – then the penny dropped! What a great story; my husband has lost his property business because of the recession and we have turned to many things to try to make money to keep up the mortgage repayments. The most important thing is to keep a sense of still doing something useful – and what could be more useful than gardening. He even got to write a couple of pages on the website!

  7. 7 Scott Aug 23rd, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Great job MCP, sounds like you are a great company to work for. Your creativity has realized continued profit today. You have also improved your infrastructure and reduced future repair expenses. Your actions have also forged a stronger bond between the company and the employees. I wish you many more prosperous years to come.

    The company I work for did some similar things. They utilized the existing work force to do the grounds upkeep. They let the large open areas grow up for hay. The project I helped initiate energy saving saved $18,000 a month by shutting off nearly half the lights in non critical areas. An effort by all has turned what would have been a disastrous year in to a not quite profitable one. Not one layoff has occurred and the order books look promising for the rest of the year.

  8. 8 hobie burgnon Aug 23rd, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Great story. Congrats to the owner and all the employees.

  9. 9 Grayhawk Aug 23rd, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Very heartning story, good to see the workers have the flexibility to perform different jobs within their company and a company do same to retain employees. But do ask how big, production quantities and workers employeed, is the US portion of the company’s manufacturing capability compared with the companies manufactoring facilities, etc. residing in Hildago, Mexico. How much of my John Deere tractor is shipped in from Mexico?

  10. 10 MDK Aug 24th, 2009 at 6:46 am

    A fine example of a company that cares about their employees, local community and country.

  11. 11 adam@customfighters Aug 24th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    haha. my boss at the cycle shop tries to give us extra work to keep us busy at work and most employees scoff at doing something different, cuz that isn’t their job! typical.

    Good to see real hard working americans still exist, as do company owners that care about their employees!

  12. 12 Don Bennett Sep 2nd, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I grew up in Macomb and remember meeting Kerry, who was married to one of my classmates at the time. I heard about this on my local NPR station yesterday and must say I am very impressed!
    Mark, Kerry and all the folks at MCP deserve a hearty thumbs up. This embodies the true meaning of “doing your part”.

    Way to go!

  13. 13 tattooeddmike Sep 15th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    To David: Why the slam to the union workers…. if not for the unions a lot of people could still be working in sweat shops, working for substandard wages without benifits making the profit margin larger to satisfy the greedy shareholders. All organized labor was designed for, was to help the working man or woman earn a decent wage and lay some ground rules for a standardized workweek, (40 hours) and overtime after that. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest with you or anyone else about the unions,… Good, Bad, or Ugly,….. but, I believe more good has come from them than bad. I know from my experience that union workers have gotten a bad rap, (those that abuse the protection of the union do not deserve the job), but on the other hand, we also have some good, hard working members that know their jobs and do them well. With this so called recession, and from my past experience there are people that are willing to work rather than get layed off,….. on the other hand the whining about not wanting to do something thats out of their job discription goes both ways, and if that person does not want to work, then lay that person off! Contracts, with the unions that include clauses about senority in a layoff, be damned, if a person
    doesn’t want to work in a position other than their job discription accepts a layoff. End of Story! PERIOD!

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