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Manufacturing Excellence

Landscape Forms Celebrates Two Major Industry Recognitions

In a year that was “unprecedented” in many ways, the Landscape Forms manufacturing teams can close out 2020 by celebrating the unique position of receiving not one, but two industry-leading recognitions—2020 Michigan Manufacturer of the Year and a top-three ranking in Fortune Magazine’s Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production.

“It’s wonderful news and a source of pride, for sure,” says Landscape Forms Manufacturing Manager, Blaise Beltowski. “We tend to be a culture of hard work and humility, so when our company is recognized externally by organizations such as these, it’s an important reminder to take a moment to congratulate one another and celebrate our accomplishments together.”

According to CEO Marjorie Simmons, there are many aspects to the company’s manufacturing culture that make it unique, but a commitment to craft, continuous improvement and versatility are primary drivers. “Every one of our manufacturing team members are leaders in their own right, developers with a strong connection to a number of different projects who know they’re creating art.”

From electronics assembly, to powdercoating and welding, every manufacturing role at Landscape Forms is supported by robust internal training programs. This commitment to professional development serves not only to expand capabilities and drive innovation internally, but also to bolster the local talent pool, create new opportunities and contribute to the prosperity of the community as a whole. “We believe in the protégé effect,” explains Simmons. “By pushing ourselves to be teachers, we in turn are constantly learning—it drives our growth and simultaneously strengthens our manufacturing community.”

When looking into the career stories of individuals at Landscape Forms, the theme of organic internal growth comes up time and time again. “It’s not just limited to manufacturing. Throughout all facets of our organization—marketing, finance, I.T., engineering, sales—we have people who started out somewhere in the company other than where they are today who have followed their passions, leveraged the resources Landscape Forms provides, and have grown into bigger roles with more responsibility,” describes Manufacturing Manager, Adam Dintaman.

The company’s approach to professional development in manufacturing seeks to balance a depth of specialized knowledge with a breadth of competency and capabilities. “We’ve always excelled in design and are confident in our identity as a design-forward company. But over the past few years, we’ve spent a lot of time developing our identity on the manufacturing side,” says Vice President of Operations, Tim Woolley. “We realized it’s our flexibility in manufacturing that sets us apart. The way we employ extensive cross-training to develop a nimble workforce with a diverse skillset forms the basis of this very unique identity.”

That flexibility was tested – and proved to be a valuable asset for its community – when the first wave of COVID-19 struck. As the virus pushed local hospitals beyond capacity and manufacturing was shut down in the State of Michigan, Landscape Forms quickly assembled a volunteer team to aid in the construction of emergency relief beds for pop up hospitals.

Following the shutdown, as manufacturing in the state began to reopen, Landscape Forms’ Pandemic Response Team developed its “Return to Work: Safe Work Playbook” to establish new strategies and guidelines for safe working environments. When shared with local manufacturers, the playbook’s positive impact was immediately evident, with one partner stating “I wouldn’t have been able to reopen without it.”

A celebration of community and the heritage of Michigan manufacturing is also central to Landscape Forms’ manufacturing culture. To Jim Marshall, the company’s Vice President of Culture, the recent recognitions are important not only for Landscape Forms’ own reputation, but also a nod to the region’s historical roots. “These awards are absolutely a feather in our cap and an important step in broadening our recognition,” he says. “But they're also an important celebration of the design-centric culture here in Kalamazoo, a continuation of the profound history of creativity and craftsmanship in the furniture and auto industries in Southwest Michigan.”

“Being named 2020 Michigan Manufacturer of the Year and ranking top three in Fortune Magazine’s Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production are significant milestones for us because they recognize more than just excellence in our field,” says the Landscape Forms CEO Simmons. “They also celebrate the responsibility we have as a company to enact positive change in all the communities to which we belong—our community of fellow team members, our community of fellow manufacturers, and our community of fellow Michiganders.”