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Steinway & Sons

Steinway & Company is known worldwide for the quality of its instruments. Pianos are expensive to make in New York City, but Steinway continues to do it because moving its factory to Asia or some other less costly but remote location would mean losing the decades of expertise of its current employees.

Steinway & Sons produces 1,000 pianos annually at its Long Island City facility, and all of it is handcrafted. Machines cannot replace humans in making great pianos, it is said, because wood has variable properties that humans can better assess.

It takes a decade of planning to get someone into the role of tuner because that skill requires a lot of training. Likewise, making the belly of a piano requires years of woodworking skills. Some Steinway craftsmen have been with the company for 50 years. Because these long-time employees are some of the most highly skilled, the company has developed many policies and practices to help keep them around.

The benefits are robust, with health, dental, vision and life insurance. Additional benefits include allowing employees to purchase a piano for themselves or a family member at cost. The staff also enjoys concerts from prominent musicians in a series called Live from the Factory Floor.

Safety is a priority. Consultants have been hired to improve safety and as a result the factory floor is better organized and lean, with fewer items in the room and everything in place.

A near-accident program causes departments to document the discovery of potential hazards, such as a torn extension cord or a missing device, and these averted accidents are discussed in safety meetings. Departments that find the near misses can enter a raffle for pizza. Continuous improvement workshops also encourage employees to develop ideas for improving the workflow.

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