“My Daddy Makes Things”

It’s no secret that Wyoming Machine (WMI) is known for its family-friendly focus and employee development. The company’s many veteran employees of 25-35 years attest to that. But owners Traci and Lori Tapani also assist their employees’ families in many ways. Recently Traci made creation of a “Hello Kitty” lunch box for an employee’s daughter a WMI project.

Tom LeTourneau, WMI’s maintenance manager, and wife Laura (both are trained welders), are raising their two daughters (Olivia, three years old, and Maya, one) to be self-sufficient, curious and with a “can-do” attitude. In fact, while Laura has made Olivia her kitchen helper, Tom’s had Olivia “working” with him in his workshop since age five months! Now, at age three, Olivia has her own tool drawer with tools. As she says, “I love to help my dad a lot!” According to Tom, “Olivia brings me tools and helps tighten and loosen screws and bolts. Olivia knows ‘righty-tighty’ and ‘lefty-loosey.’” As she sees it, “My daddy makes things.”

Olivia also loves “Hello Kitty.” When she saw the “Kitty” lunch box in a store, Laura asked Olivia if she’d like mom to buy it. Olivia quickly announced, “No, mom. Daddy can make it. I know he can!

So Tom told co-workers about Olivia’s assignment. When Traci overheard this she told Tom that he HAD to make that “Kitty” box, and gave him free rein of the shop and employees. Traci and Lori have been long-time advocates for encouraging girls to explore manufacturing. Traci knew this was a great opportunity for Olivia to see what manufacturers do.

As Traci put it, “I think many people in manufacturing grew up in families where people make things. In our family, our Dad, founder of Wyoming Machine, made things as part of his job, but he also made things at home. I remember when Lori and I were kids, our Dad made a sheet metal sleigh to pull behind a snowmobile so that Lori and I could go snowmobiling with our parents. The sleigh even had an upholstered seat and a windshield!

“I think it’s important to give people, especially young people, the chance to make the connection that when we take action on our ideas, things happen. This idea is at the core of our culture at Wyoming Machine, and it’s what fuels our continuous improvement efforts.”

So Tom began the project. First, Ron Farr, engineer, found a program to design the box. Then more employees volunteered. John Bzdok cut the metal, Jeff Kleschult formed it and “Bones” (Joel) Johnson welded it. Tom did the finishing. As he said, “It was amazing. I did the least of anyone. They all volunteered their time, working over lunch hour or on break.” It’s not surprising to anyone at Wyoming Machine, however, because that’s how WMI employees, and Traci and Lori, are.

And, of course, Olivia loves her new lunch box –and that dad made it just for her. As she says, “I LOVE my mom and dad—ALL THE TIME.”

Tom and Olivia with the custom Hello Kitty lunchbox
Tom and Olivia with the custom Hello Kitty lunchbox

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