Yarde Leveling is no Sleeper
Of a Task

By BOB STERNER
For American Metal Market

Imagine entering a grand lobby with streams of light
filtering down from a stained glass dome to reveal rich
appointments of antique furniture and fireplaces. Ringing
the lobby are rooms. Slip into one for a relaxing massage,
or for a refreshing catnap in another. Aromas of fine
foods emanate from one room, while the scent of freshly
roasting coffee beans wafts from another. You double
check your address book. Your appointment was to talk
about metals, but surely this must be the newest and most
posh spa in Phelam, N.H. No, the address book clearly
shows the site to be the newest facility of Yarde Metals
Inc.

Although the setting may be an eye-opener to anyone
accustomed to the hard glare and bustling sounds of a
typical service center, it’s just business as usual for those
familiar with Yarde. Treating everyone with equality,
respect, dignity and compassion has been a core tenet of
the company’s philosophy since it was founded 25 years
ago with $1,000 and a dream in the basement of Craig
Yarde’s Connecticut home.

Growth documents the value of Yarde’s approach. Today,
the $160 million business ships aluminum, stainless,
carbon steel, copper and brass from branches in
Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Connecticut, plus international shipping
and processing locations. Top communications, aerospace
and automotive industries are among its customers.
Revenue has boomed from the $30 million of 1994.
Meanwhile, it maintains a high job safety track record,
which translates to low worker compensation premiums.

“We hope the competition never comes over to this idea,”
Yarde, the 50-year-old president of the service center
chain, said. “The reason for our growth is that we
consider the most important stake holder in the company
to be the person who works for us. There’s been an
evolution, but we’ve always had equality factor into our
business.”

Yarde describes the company philosophy as “leveling” or
treating everyone with equal respect. Financial records are
shared monthly with all associates as part of the company’
s profit-sharing program. There are regular discussions on
good and bad news, as well as on ways to improve
company operations. However, the provision for napping
has drawn the most attention of the public, through
feature stories in Industry Week magazine, ABC News
and the Associated Press. Most recently, Yarde was
written up in local newspapers about its second annual
celebration of National Nap Day by pitching circus tents,
filling them with straw for bedding, then offering prizes
for the most creative sleepwear and roasting turkeys for a
picnic for their workers

“The perception is that all people do is nap,” Yarde said,
“but no one does this to the extent that people think. They
know that if they’re stressed out or fatigued, they can rest
without worrying about getting fired. Not all of our
facilities have nap rooms. In ones that don’t, they can nap
wherever they can find a place to stretch out. Those who
do nap, make up for it. They may work a little harder or a
little longer. Of course, they have to get their work done.
We don’t accept mediocre work here.”

The company began adding nap rooms to facilities years
ago when Yarde noticed some employees were taking
naps at their desks, in their cars or on outdoor lounge
chairs during warm, sunny days. So when the Bristol,
Conn., plant was being designed, a nap room was added
to building plans for the 330,000-square-foot operation.

Although naps and productivity sound diametrically
opposed, they’re actually quite interrelated. Someone
losing as little as one hour of sleep per night for a week,
can experience a productivity drop of 25 percent,
according to James Maas, a Cornell University professor
and an authority on sleep. And sleep deprivation is
epidemic. Before the invention of the electric light,
Americans slept an average of 10 hours a night, compared
with an average of only seven hours today, with about
one-third of

Americans sleeping only six hours nightly. Working in
shifts to keep industry operating 24 hours a day further
taxes the sleeping habits of many employees. Not only can
sleep deprivation lower productivity, it can lead to
clumsiness as well that can contribute to on-the-job
                   PHOTOS: COURTESY YARDE METALS INC.
Craig Yarde, top, president of Yarde Metals
Inc., has innovative approaches to
management that get employees working
together to boost productivity and quality.

accidents for machine operators, clerical errors
for office workers and cloud minds of business
planners.

Benefits must extend equally to all levels of
employees on all shifts. Yarde revised the plans
for the lunchroom in the new Phelam plant tostay
within that maxim. Original plans called for a
cafeteria-style dining facility offering hot foods.
However maintaining that level of quality and
service for all workers around the clock would
have proved costly and logistically difficult. “You
don’t want to offer freshly made hoagies to the
first shift if you can’t do it for the third,” he
explained. Instead, the new facility will feature a
selection of freshly made then frozen meals that
can be heated up in a bank of microwave ovens.
This way, nutritious warm meals can be available
at noon just as readily as they can be at midnight.

A more controversial leveling of services put
Yarde in the spotlight of ABC News recently, the
installation of unisex bathrooms at its Bristol,
Conn., plant. “It started off as a little bit of a
joke,” Yarde said. Part of the humor of the Ally
McBeal television series stems from the sharing
of a restroom in a small law office. “I said, ‘that’
d be neat to have Ally McBeal-style unisex
bathrooms to break down some of the barriers
between employees.’ Then we decided it really is
a good idea.”

Many business discussions begin or evolve as the
small talk between workers during encounters in
restrooms. Separate rooms limit these
conversations to being between members of the
same sex. By having rows of black and chrome
stalls, men and women have privacy when they
need it, but are equally likely to initiate
conversations while washing up to return to their
jobs. It’s an example of thinking outside of the
box that puts fresh ideas in the can.

Programs that enhance productivity and lower
accident rates all add up to more profits to share
each year. However, the best benefit is hard to
measure in dollars and cents. “There’s a
psychological effect from having everyone
cheerful and working together. When you’re
happy, you tell the world and you tell your
customers. People talk to everybody because
they’re so happy. You can’t measure the benefit
of that in sales.”