A REPUTATION OF RELIABILITY
T&S Brass and Bronze Works is a company that embodies the core values of reliability and excellence. Headquartered in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, T&S is a renowned global leader in the design, manufacture, sales, and distribution of faucets, fittings, and specialty products and accessories. With a rich history spanning 75 years, the company has established itself as a trusted provider of highly reliable products and unmatched delivery performance. T&S has garnered a strong reputation as a preferred employer in South Carolina, attracting a workforce who seek to forge lasting careers within its ranks. Since becoming a member of the OpExChange in 2021, T&S hosted its inaugural plant visit on June 20, 2023, welcoming participants from twenty-nine peer companies in South Carolina. The visit showcased not only the company's commitment to quality processes but also the pervasive culture of reliability that permeates not only their operations but also their culture.
The session commenced with an introduction by Michael Williams, the Operations Manager for the site. As he addressed the attendees, he humbly shared his role as the relative newcomer in the organization, with a mere two years of experience, highlighting the remarkable longevity of his colleagues. In fact, T&S Brass and Bronze Works can boast five employees who have dedicated an impressive 45 years to the company. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that almost all the production supervisors at the facility have accumulated over two decades of tenure, showcasing their extensive knowledge and expertise within the organization.
Michael also explained that with all his previous experience in various manufacturing industries, “I’ve never truly enjoyed work until I came here … It’s a family … We have each other’s backs. We don’t do everything perfectly, but we do a lot of really good things, within [the plant] and outside in the community.”
THE SECRET SAUCE: BUILDING A STRONG WORK CULTURE
T&S Brass has earned a strong reputation for fostering a culture that prioritizes employee retention and engagement. With high expectations in mind, visitors eagerly sought to uncover the secret behind T&S Brass's remarkable ability to retain and nurture their workforce. Mary Alice Bowers, Vice President of Human Resources, addressed the group, dispelling the notion of a single secret to enhancing culture and creating an environment where people choose to stay. Reflecting on her 33 years of experience with T&S Brass, including the past 23 years in Human Resources, Mary Alice expressed her gratitude for inheriting a familial culture within the organization.
She acknowledged that her role in Human Resources would likely be less fulfilling elsewhere, emphasizing T&S Brass's genuine appreciation and value for its employees. Mary Alice proceeded to unveil the "Secret Sauce," a recipe comprising ingredients such as respect, flexibility, humanity, branding, and an encompassing employee experience.
=> RESPECT – Respect is fundamental in how they work at T&S. To cultivate a culture of respect in the workplace, T&S Brass implemented a unique approach. They incorporate a clause in every job description that explicitly highlights the importance of attitude. By including this provision, T&S Brass effectively establishes clear expectations for employees from their very first day. This deliberate inclusion serves as a guiding principle for fostering a respectful environment throughout the organization.
=> FLEXIBILITY – T&S Brass embraces a culture of flexibility by implementing a flexible attendance policy that enables employees to compensate for missed time within the same pay period. This empowers employees to attend significant life events such as ball games and graduations without compromising their work performance. During the discussion, Mary Alice highlighted the importance of supervisors actively listening to their employees, emphasizing that managing with flexibility necessitates attentive and empathetic engagement. This necessitates managers to “listen until their ears bleed.” She further recognized the growing need for employees to take time off to care for aging parents, acknowledging how the flexible attendance policy has greatly supported them in such situations. Mary Alice emphasized T&S Brass's commitment to assisting long-term employees who may face short-term challenges, stating that the organization will spare no effort in navigating such circumstances.
=> HUMANITY – T&S Brass places a strong emphasis on humanity by investing in training for their supervisors to enhance empathy and prioritize individual well-being alongside productivity and financial goals. In recognition of the diverse personal challenges employees may face, T&S Brass offers the convenience of an on-site health clinic staffed by a licensed nurse practitioner. In 2022 they added a professional counselor who is available three days a week. This valuable resource supports employees in various aspects of their lives, including marriage counseling, parenting concerns, grief counseling, and more. By providing accessible counseling services, T&S Brass demonstrates their commitment to the holistic well-being of their workforce.
=> BRANDING – T&S Brass has embraced the trademark "Reliability Built In," emphasizing to employees that reliability extends beyond their products—it is an integral part of the company's DNA. T&S Brass fosters an environment where employees can trust in the organization's commitment. They ensure employees receive consistent 40-hour workweeks and enjoy job security, with minimal overtime, typically only required of associates who volunteer. Mary Alice noted that this approach has significantly contributed to employee retention. Within the local community, T&S Brass has earned a reputation for providing stable employment, as individuals understand that securing a job with T&S means never experiencing layoffs. Remarkably, throughout Mary Alice's 33 years with the company, T&S Brass has never implemented layoffs, solidifying their commitment to their workforce's stability and well-being.
=> EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE – The employee experience at T&S Brass is carefully curated, starting from the initial interview, and continuing throughout an employee's entire journey, including retirement and beyond. The organization takes immense pride in fostering a sense of belonging and fulfillment among its workforce. Mary Alice added that the team there takes this very personally. “I feel wounded when we lose somebody, and they leave us to go somewhere else.”
One of the most notable aspects of T&S Brass's culture is its self-nurturing nature. Mary Alice highlighted how, over the years, employees have developed a deep sense of ownership and protectiveness towards the company's culture. Recognizing its uniqueness, employees actively uphold the values and standards that define their T&S family. If an individual enters the organization and behaves in a manner that contradicts these cherished principles, the existing employees take it upon themselves to bring it to the company's attention. This collective commitment to preserving the culture showcases the remarkable bond and dedication shared among T&S Brass's workforce.
QUALITY AND TESTING
T&S Brass maintains stringent quality standards by implementing thorough testing procedures. Every faucet manufactured by the company undergoes a series of five consecutive tests, meticulously evaluating its functionality, flow, and leakage. A notable aspect of their testing approach is the use of air instead of water for leak testing. This decision is based on the superior results achieved through air testing, attributed to its smaller molecular size. Leveraging highly sensitive equipment capable of detecting minute pressure losses, T&S Brass ensures the identification of even the most minuscule leaks in their products.
To enhance efficiency, T&S Brass integrated automation into the leak testing process for higher-volume cells. This innovative approach enables operators to load the faucet and initiate a fully automated sequence of all five tests. As a result, the need for manual intervention is minimized, reducing the labor time required for each faucet by approximately one minute. This implementation of automation streamlines operations, optimizing productivity and workflow within the testing phase.
T&S Brass operates a comprehensive laboratory where rigorous testing procedures are conducted. These tests encompass various areas, including accelerated life cycle testing and comparative analysis against competitor products. To assess the limits of product failure, the laboratory also conducts destructive testing, including high-pressure burst tests. In adherence to lead-free initiatives and to uphold product integrity, T&S Brass employs handheld X-ray Fluorescence machines for material analysis. These advanced machines aid in verifying compliance and ensuring the use of appropriate materials throughout the production process.
COMMITMENT TO SAFETY
When employees feel secure and protected within their work surroundings, it enhances their overall well-being. Recognizing that their physical and mental health holds utmost importance for the organization nurtures a positive work culture and enhances job satisfaction. T&S acknowledges this significance and places safety as their primary concern for their workforce. They actively uphold a safety committee and offer comprehensive training to ensure a safe working environment. The outcomes are evident through their continually improving safety track record. In May of this year, they commemorated achieving five million work hours without any incident resulting in lost time. Recently, they conducted specialized training for supervisors and managers, encompassing active shooter response and medical emergency preparedness. This training will be extended to all employees during the current year.
The Travelers Rest facility began a significant expansion project in 2018 that is nearing completion. An additional 53,000 square feet of distribution space was added to the existing building, nearly doubling their floor space. The additional space is being outfitted with very narrow aisle, high bay racking with wire-guided lift trucks. A sophisticated, spiral conveyor will facilitate a multi-level picking system which will improve warehouse efficiency and safety. Several state-of-the-art vertical lift modules are being deployed in the expansion area. These units are replacing vertical carousels, dramatically reducing utilized floor space while improving delivery speed.
There are also plans to incorporate autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to further improve internal logistics and transportation.
RELIABILITY BUILT IN
T&S Brass and Bronze Works exemplifies a company that understands the value of a strong work culture, employee engagement, and commitment to safety. Their focus on building a family-like atmosphere where respect, flexibility, humanity, branding, and employee experience are prioritized has contributed to their remarkable employee retention rates. By fostering a sense of well-being and continuously improving safety measures, T&S Brass ensures that their workforce feels secure and valued. Additionally, their dedication to quality and testing further reinforces their commitment to delivering reliable products. With ongoing plant expansion and innovative advancements, T&S Brass continues to invest in the future, creating an environment that attracts and retains top talent. Overall, T&S Brass and Bronze Works serves as a shining example of how a strong work culture and a steadfast commitment to safety can drive employee retention and propel a company's success.
ABOUT T&S BRASS AND BRONZE WORKS
T&S Brass and Bronze Works, Inc. has been a privately held, family-owned business since 1947. The Travelers Rest, South Carolina company has provided equipment solutions to the food service and plumbing industries serving the health care, education, restaurant, grocery, laboratory, and hospitality markets. The
T&S products are highly acclaimed throughout the industry for being well-built, long-lasting, and reliable. Rigorous testing and a focus on interchangeability have helped set T&S apart from the competition for more than 70 years.
Today, more than 350 employees manufacture products and serve customers from the company's main headquarters in South Carolina — with many more working behind the scenes at distribution facilities in California and China. In the last two decades, T&S has significantly increased its overseas presence, with representatives now selling products in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Canada, Japan, southeast Asia, and South America.
"We're ready to supply what our customers need, wherever they are."
The OpExChange, sponsored by the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is a peer-to-peer network of manufacturers and distributors in South Carolina known for generating success for members through benchmarking and best practice sharing. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If your company is interested in participating in this collaborative effort to improve both the competitiveness of your operation and South Carolina, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com). More information and upcoming plant visits are available on the OpExChange website www.OpExChange.com.
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