The 2011 Assembly Plant of the Year honors veterans with state-of-the-art technology. It recently installed a large digital photo frame in its atrium.

Most assembly plants that I’ve had the honor to visit over the years proudly display a large American flag in a prominent location. Some factories also devote a special bulletin board to photos of men and women who are currently serving in the military.

But, I recently saw something at our 2011 Assembly Plant of the Year that raises the bar even higher. The Philips Respironics plant in New Kensington, PA, has found a unique way to honor current and past veterans with state-of-the-art technology. It recently installed a large digital photo frame and a “memorial tree” in its atrium.

“The display was an ‘exchange team’ project and the idea was submitted by one of our associates,” says Nicole Schumacher, a manufacturing engineer who was involved in the project. The exchange team is an employee-driven group that works on projects that are nonmanufacturing-related to improve the workplace.

“The objective [of] our project was ‘to honor and recognize veterans who either work at Respironics or are family members of associates,’” explains Schumacher. “We started by putting out sign-up sheets to gauge interest so we could determine the right solution. We had about 70 names submitted on the sheets.

“We originally thought we would go with a physical display case and display the photos in photo mats,” adds Schumacher. “Our original quotes came back very high to build a display big enough to hold more than 70 photos. We also considered the challenges of future growth, varying picture size and people not wanting to leave originals.”

One team member brought up the idea of a digital display. “Originally, we hesitated due to the fear of losing that personal touch,” Schumacher recalls. “We held a meeting to go through the pros and cons. After also talking to some of our employees who are veterans, we decided to move forward with the digital display. Due to the unlimited capacity, we would never have to turn someone away.”

The Philips Respironics team chose a 42-inch digital picture frame with a cherry wood frame. The plant’s receptionist serves as its “owner.”

“We have more than 60 pictures uploaded,” Schumacher points out. “Since we put the display up in September, we have had 12 more submissions and they keep coming. We plan to add a slide to the end of the picture loop to tell associates how to submit photos in the future.”