True Teamwork in the Dantherm Arena

True Teamwork in the Dantherm Arena

Visitors to the Dantherm manufacturing floor in Spartanburg, South Carolina, get to experience the Dantherm Arena. What started as a way to streamline our production processes and make sure everyone was working toward common goals and could actually see what was happening in real time. Now, the Arena has become a destination and a point of pride. The reason for this is because it physically demonstrates the importance of every single member of the Dantherm team.

A common definition of team describes it as a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport. For Dantherm, the definition of team is far stronger than that, although we would agree we’re all on the same side in our mission. The Dantherm team is united behind the common goal of creating solutions for our customers, and our team strategy is bound by a culture of servant leadership. No one member of the team is more important than any other one, and whether we win or lose in our daily pursuits, we always start and finish together. Nowhere is our culture of servant leadership and true teamwork more evident than on the literal backbone of the Dantherm Arena, set in the middle of the production floor. The Arena has become our hub of communication for the entire team, and it is the literal and physical epicenter of how our team functions on a daily basis.

Explore the back of the Dantherm Arena and you’ll see our entire team outfitted in Dantherm jerseys, and you’ll notice the players, the ones who make the plays and get the cheers from the fans (for us that’s our customers), are the ones on the floor making Dantherm solutions come to life and sending them out the door. The bottom level of the team, visually represented as a support crew for the players, is comprised of management and leadership, but at Dantherm we take a different approach. Our support crew of leadership is ensuring the players on the manufacturing floor have the tools, the equipment, and the supplies and training they need to play their best each and every day.

We’ve all watched the rise and fall of star athletes. The ones who seem destined for ultimate success, but without the support of a team as strong as their weaknesses, those once lauded first round draft picks are left looking for new careers and forgotten by most. However, at Dantherm, it’s the team that gets the attention. It’s the Dantherm team that produces electronic cooling solutions on a daily basis that keep other teams around the world connected, functioning, and winning at their own games.

Just Call Us Crazy

Just Call Us Crazy

There are many things a company or leadership team might aspire to be known for, but have you ever encountered a team that calls themselves crazy?

At Dantherm, you’ll learn we view crazy as a compliment and a mantra. Look up the word crazy in the dictionary and you’ll find a definition offering some form of explanation that the word is an adverb expressing an extreme state of being. We can agree with that. We are extremely passionate about creating solutions for our customers to protect their critical equipment and systems.

Dantherm uses crazy to describe our approach to solutions and engineering for our customer’s needs because, well, it just fits. We’re crazy enough to believe we can achieve the impossible. We’re building a reputation for providing cooling and thermal management solutions for critical network systems and services that prevent costly and time consuming outages and breakdowns. Even better, we’re the proud owners of a reputation for being able to solve some of our customer’s most complex challenges, challenges other providers couldn’t solve.

Thermal management and cooling systems can be one of the most overlooked yet often one of the most important components of the industries we serve. Our engineers consider the specific pain points our customers are experiencing with their current climate control solutions and how to eliminate those issues. That’s where the crazy comes in. We’re designing solutions to protect the critical equipment that supports millions of essential systems around the world, such as data centers, utilities, battery storage solutions and more. When our customer’s equipment goes down, the ripple effect of their own pain is felt around the world. That kind of impact leaves little room for mediocrity or good enough. No, when you operate on a mantra that your team is crazy enough to solve the most complex challenges faced by the industries you serve, good enough is not the goal.

Dantherm prides itself on being an engineering focused company.

Cue the engineering jokes, but think of the last time your cellular or wireless service went down. Think of the effect it could have if a system managing a power grid or navigating critical railroad shipments fails. We focus on designing for our customer’s needs and pain points, rather than designing what we think the market may need, no matter how big or daunting the problem may seem. We’ll take on the problem and we won’t stop until we find a solution. Sound crazy? That’s exactly what we’re going for.

Meet Tasha Sutherland

Meet Tasha Sutherland

As a testing technician on the PrecisionAir assembly line, Tasha says one of her favorite things about her job at Dantherm is “It feels like family. …we all work together!” As a single mother of 2, Tasha knows the importance of family. “…my kids are my life!” she says.

This is the culture that we strive for at Dantherm Cooling. A family atmosphere, where there are not managers, vendors, bosses, customers, and workers, but instead people. Real people, just like Tasha.

When you partner with Dantherm Cooling you get more than just a thermal solution. You become part of our family!

Fun facts about Tasha:
Favorite drink: Red Bull
Favorite candy bar: Snickers
She enjoys camping and traveling and spending time with her family.

WHEN DANTHERM WORKS EVERYTHING WORKS

WHEN DANTHERM WORKS EVERYTHING WORKS

In our daily lives we have become increasingly dependent on technology. In fact, in the past few months, many of us might even argue that without the digital technology that we depend upon for connection and delivery of work and services, our economy would be crippled beyond recognition and far beyond the recession we’re facing now. Yet, despite the daily, hourly and often constant demands we place on the digital technology at all of our fingertips, few of us are aware of the critical infrastructure behind it keeping it running.

No matter who your cellular and home internet providers are, chances are you have an opinion about their service and it boils down to one thing: reliability. Cell phones are such an indispensable part of our lives that for many of us, it’s the last thing we look at and the first thing we pick up when we go to bed and wake in the mornings. The information, connection, and ability to work when away from our office or company location have not only become a welcome convenience, at this point it’s expected. Most people aren’t thrilled to admit it, but many of us are keenly aware we couldn’t survive much time, especially not hours or days, without our cell phones. Home internet service is no longer a luxury but an essential utility service for most Americans. When the pandemic forced the closure of schools, the education of our children depended upon families’ ability to access reliable home internet. School districts deployed hot-spot internet buses around communities to ensure every student had access to the digital instruction and assignments being created around the country.

Now, more than ever, Dantherm’s solutions that keep millions of technology users around the world connected have become a critical part of daily life. When we’re working, you never know it. When Dantherm thermal management and cooling solutions are keeping the world’s largest cellular and internet providers’ equipment safe and running as it should, working parents are able to connect to video conferences and their children are able to complete their school assignments. When Dantherm solutions alert technology companies of a service or maintenance need before it becomes an outage, family movie night continues without a hitch. When our engineers create a solution that keeps the technology and wireless grid up and running without fear of an entire network going down because it cannot handle the increased demand of more homes accessing digital services than ever before, lives around the world improve. Lives improve because families connect with their grandparents in a safe manner. Lives improve because companies whose offices had to close for public health reasons can continue connecting their teams and providing their services that keep the local and global economies running.

It’s possible Dantherm’s solutions are touching almost every aspect of our daily lives. However, if we’re doing our jobs well, you’ll never know we exist. When our solutions solve problems our customers thought couldn’t be solved, millions of families go to work, go to school, and connect with their loved ones. For us, that’s time well spent.

The Dantherm Arena. From Post-It Notes to Hockey Pucks.

The Dantherm Arena. From Post-It Notes to Hockey Pucks.

Production Manager Kevin Lanford began his career at Dantherm Cooling in 2018. In addition to overseeing normal daily production activities, he was charged with using his Lean Manufacturing training to redirect the company’s culture. Dantherm Cooling was ripe for adopting Lean methods, but beginning a Lean journey is never an easy task, and the situation at Dantherm was no different.

Despite success within this system—after all, Dantherm Cooling has been around since 1996—there were also broken lines of communication and inefficiencies throughout the company. It was Kevin’s duty to make the necessary repairs and teach his new colleagues that there was an easier way to work.

He quickly recognized that Dantherm Cooling had a production floor full of dedicated, hard-working, and experienced employees who would love the opportunity to be involved in the decisions that affect their work. For Kevin, it was time to remove the walls, tear down the silos, and begin working together toward a common goal, which at that time was simply to keep Dantherm Cooling alive.

Kevin knew a way to bring everyone together and build a team—the Dantherm Cooling Team. As he tells it, “I was itching to use a new technique I had been introduced to, and this was that opportunity. Now or never, it was time for Personal Kanban!”

Personal Kanban is a technique created by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, the authors of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work/Navigating Life, which won the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence Research Award. Kevin was introduced to this technique in 2016, at the Lean Enterprise Institute’s annual conference. During a 90-minute breakout session with Jim Benson himself, Kevin’s eyes were opened.

“Jim’s take on visualizing work, limiting WIP, and the overall psychology of work fascinated me. I began using this technique in my daily work, I trained others on this technique at a previous employer, and I was even influenced enough to use it at home with my family, which was a real game-changer (even though my wife initially protested: ‘Don’t try that Lean stuff on me!’).”

Kevin set about adapting this technique into a manufacturing tool at Dantherm Cooling, and began figuring out how to get Dantherm’s brain-trust to adopt this new tool into daily work. His first action was to move the location of the company’s daily production meeting to the “Gemba”: the production floor. “I wanted everyone to see the leadership team working,” says Kevin, “No longer would there be an ‘us and them’; only a ‘we’.”

Suddenly, production associates were listening in on the conversation, and they began offering suggestions. On several occasions, they even corrected inaccurate information, which was an awesome change in attitude. Once Kevin got the production associates involved as active participants, he came up with an idea to get everyone else reading from the same sheet of music: “We must make our work visual!”

It started with little pieces of paper on a wall. “We began filling out Post-It Notes with basic information,” Kevin recalls, “The projects we were building, the quantity of products, the due dates, customer information, stuff like that.”

Over time, the system began to evolve. As Kevin remembers: “From Post-It Notes, we transitioned to handwritten notecards on magnets on a 6-foot white board. Then the white board grew to two white boards. The handwritten notes were eventually replaced by printed notecards with an incredible amount of important information used by all departments. Visibility on pending projects increased from one week to two weeks. Not only could we see what we’re doing right now and the rest of this week, we could see what we’re doing next week, as well.”

For Kevin, the best part is that all these positive changes originated out of employee feedback. “We are now operating in a Kaizen culture,” says Kevin, “Ideas and daily execution of work is becoming bottom-up rather than top-down.”

Today, Dantherm Cooling’s production floor—and the company as a whole—runs like a first-class operation. But Kevin knew more was needed. “Our systems and tools are ‘first-class,’ but that’s not the vision; ‘world-class’ is the vision.”

Kevin knew that Dantherm needed a media that conveyed the vision in an unmistakable manner, one that is employee-centric. But he also understood that you can’t be employee-centric without being in the center of the employees. His ultimate vision for this Manufacturing Planning Kanban tool was to display it in a communications hub, accessible by all departments and all employees. He just had to convince his leadership.

“Greg Kaye, President of Dantherm Cooling, has always been an open-minded recipient of ideas,” says Kevin, “This was just par for the course.”

Kevin mapped out his communications hub idea, and the pair discussed how the Kanban board had become a major part of the everyday life of the company. Greg’s creative juices began to flow and his marketing experience kicked into gear.

“As we discussed what building a communications hub would look like for Dantherm Cooling,” recalls Greg, “I became excited about the prospect, but I wanted a theme that spoke to the heart of Dantherm. Our communications hub needed to be about more than just what we do and how we do it; I wanted it to be about who we are. I ended up working out a theme that utilized some synergy that already existed within the company.”

For example, the engineering team at Dantherm Cooling has a mantra: “You can’t leave until you make ice.” So, the company created “Do not disturb” signs for employees who need dedicated time to focus on vital tasks—aptly named “Ice Time.”They decided on a hockey rink design for the placards to show who was working on which function. As Greg recalls, “Going with that theme, I pitched the Hockey Arena idea and the concepts we could cover to Rick Schmidt, our CTO. Rick went into Solid Works and drafted the first mockup of the arena. Together, we laid out how the team would be displayed with our philosophy of leadership from the ground up. We figured out how we could use the design to not only recognize team members for their role, but also express gratitude for their dedication to the team. We worked out how we could show appreciation to our customers and vendors as well. It’s all about the people who work here and the people they serve. That connects to our heart. We wanted to live that out on the production floor.”

The arena design now incorporates all of Kevin’s great ideas rooted in Lean Manufacturing methods, which he has greatly expanded to include critical KPIs and Quality. The concept has moved throughout the production facility to include Dantherm’s new water test station (dubbed “The Icebox”) and a NEMA4 test station (now called “The Icehouse.”)

A mezzanine overlooking the floor now includes a skybox deck that provides a great view of all the action in the warehouse and production lines. The lab space is now called “The Cooler” and the breakroom is affectionately referred to as “The Bench”—a place for the staff to relax. The production team even got “sweaters” (hockey jerseys), and the company awarded plaques with photos to all the of the teammates who are on the trophy and have worked at Dantherm Cooling for three or more years.

As Greg Kaye sums it up, “The Dantherm Arena is a celebration of our team, our customers, our suppliers, our quality, our accountability, and our innovation. It is designed with servant leadership in mind, which exists throughout our organization. Dantherm Cooling is truly cooling from a different perspective.”