Ironwood Plastics

Success with The Center

IRONWOOD PLASTICS: Targeting Cross-Functional Problem Solving

The goal was to help our employees respond better to customers and find the root cause of a problem so we can avoid repeat issues. The training provided by The Center-Northern Initiatives and Total Enterprise was very effective, providing us with sample templates for cause and effect, process maps, control and reaction plans.
-- Liz Justinak, Quality Systems Manager & Workforce Development Coordinator

Ironwood Plastics ( is committed to delivering the highest quality custom injection molded products that meet unique specifications, primarily for the automotive industry, as well as electronics and military sectors. Founded in 1979 by Gordon K. Stephens, Ironwood Plastics was purchased by CTB Inc., a division of Berkshire Hathaway, in 2010. Working from the company motto, “Inspired engineering, precision results,” Ironwood Plastics has built its reputation on performing the most complex projects, with an emphasis on insert molding and engineered materials. Ironwood Plastics employs 167 at their headquarters in Ironwood, MI, with a secondary plant located in Two Rivers, WI.


Leadership teams from each Ironwood Plastics plant meet on a regular basis to review key performance measures and discuss the status of all improvement activities. In these meetings, problem solving arose as a common area of weakness among different departments. Due to its importance in the improvement process, it was decided that problem solving mentoring would be necessary.


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Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-Northern Initiatives developed a cost-effective problem-solving training package that could apply to a cross-functional team including quality, tooling, manufacturing and project engineers. Ironwood Plastics then hosted onsite, multi-day training for 14 employees that met the needs of various departments within their organization. An outcome of the training was an apparent need to revamp the 8D Problem-Solving Form used to document the problem-solving process for both internal and external concerns. The form now includes tools such as Fishbone, 5-Why’s, Is Is-Not and Cause & Effect Matrix, which led to many operational improvements.

Liz Justinak, Quality Systems Manager & Workforce Development Coordinator involved in the training, said, “The groups met a few times to debrief and reiterate the different problem-solving techniques they learned. They now have more template resources to pull from and are able to implement things from the training class into our system. We’ve lessened the time from start to finish when working on problems. The response from our employees was very positive.”


  • Cost Savings from Quality Improvements and Training: $19,000
  • Improved Productivity: As a result of less rework, there was enough time to increase production of quality parts.
  • Time: Decrease in non–value added time.
  • Culture: Workers gained a better understanding of problem solving utilizing various industry tools.
  • Sustainability: Customer satisfaction improved as a result of methodical problem solving.