Judy Harding is celebrating her 29th year with Ward Mfg. at its Blossburg, Pa., headquarters facility. In 1986, she left her job of 19 years in human resources and communications with a suburban Philadelphia steel processor and manufacturer, and moved northwest. Two years later, she joined the Ward team as a customer service representative.
“We had no computers in the sales department and all purchase orders were received either by postal service or fax,” she recalls. “We logged the orders on index cards. There was a keypunch operator in the IT department who entered all the orders. Orders were printed off in IT each day on a three-part form, which was taken down to shipping for the order pickers to pull the orders, working off the paper copies.”
In 1993, Harding transferred to the shipping department as traffic coordinator, planning truckloads, LTL and UPS shipments. A family emergency in 2005 forced her to leave Ward and move downstate for a year. After moving back, she was able to take a temporary position in the sales department for five years before again joining the CSR team full-time, where she remains today.
“Every day presents new challenges and I’m pleased to be one who sorts out issues, resolves them and ensures the customer is satisfied in the end,” Harding explains. “It’s my favorite part of the job. Being the senior CSR, I continue to mentor the newer employees with my knowledge of the product and processes as needed, and I’m happy to share with those still learning. We currently have nine CSRs, with only one having six years tenure, the rest being newer hires in the past year or two.”
This industry knowledge is especially beneficial to her colleagues since the manufacturer has undergone many changes in Harding’s almost three decades of employment at Ward.
“There have been many innovations in my time at Ward, as well as new product lines introduced, such as the corrugated stainless-steel tubing known as WARDFLEX® for gas piping and its associated fittings,” she notes. “That production began at the Blossburg plant but grew to a point where we had to expand and build a new plant at our Tioga, Pa., facility to accommodate the production and shipping of the line.”
Harding notes that the company went from 18 stocking warehouses to four distribution centers, with the possibility of a fifth in the future. This affects the entire order processing system as CSRs must determine the best location to ship product from in order to meet each customer’s needs. Ward doesn’t sell directly to contractors, but Harding has helped out contractors in a bind by shipping parts from the closest Ward location at no charge in order for an urgent repair to be completed.
“I am proud to say I work for Ward,” she says. “Anytime I see a piping configuration outside the plant while shopping or dining, I always try to get close enough to the fittings to see if the Ward logo is on the casting. When I began working here, there were four or five domestic manufacturers of pipe fittings; today Ward is one of two that remain. I guess you could say we have ‘stood the test of time.’”
Long-time employees’ industry knowledge and a genuine willingness to help allow Ward Mfg. to provide its customers with the proper resolutions to their project and jobsite challenges.