Lee Spring has been a stock and custom spring maker for 99 years. Their springs can be found in rocket ships, cellphones, robots, eyeglasses, and myriad other places. Springs are everywhere, they say, and Lee Spring has the ability to design machines just to meet their customer’s spring needs. They can make enormous springs and springs as fine as a human hair. Because much of this work requires long-honed skills, the staff is full of seasoned workers, 67 percent of whom are over age 50.
Randy Marsters, Lee’s Director of Global Marketing says, “It’s a bit of a craft to make springs. The workers here have almost tribal knowledge.”
The company strives to hang on to their longtime employees and promotes from within whenever possible to achieve that goal. They have to do this because their business is booming at a time when few young people see manufacturing as an avenue to long-term financial stability. But Lee Spring stays busy; the business enjoys having 20,000 customers at a time.
Specific Age Smart Policies and Practices
Opportunities for Advancement: All but one of Lee Spring’s seven executives were promoted from within the company, and several of them joined Lee decades ago in entry-level roles. The company president was formerly a machinist. The CFO started as a bookkeeper at age 18. Those who remain on the factory floor also get to rise through the ranks. The plant manager was first a grinder and then a coiler before he took a leadership role.
Education and Licensure Opportunities: Several of Lee Spring’s current executives took on their roles after completing MBAs paid for by the company. “We will pay education reimbursement for anything relevant to your job,” CEO Steve Kempf said.
Training and mentorship: Lee Spring works with city agencies to find machinists to work in their five locations across the country. To encourage younger people to consider working with them, Lee also has a robust internship program, inviting young people to learn about a range of possible careers, from engineering to marketing or accounting. The company president, Al Mangel, was formerly a machinist and mentors many of the interns.
Lee Spring is addressing the gap in manufacturing skills by partnering with a German coiling conference to offer a training program on Long Island.