When you start your new career with L&M Radiator in Yankton, South Dakota, you’re guaranteed to shake Mike Swenson’s hand. As the facility’s safety training coordinator, Swenson greets every new hire on their first day and walks them through safety and introductory job training.
“It’s not just new employees — everyone at L&M Radiator participates in yearly safety training, so I can say my position with the company helps me get to know everyone at the plant,” Swenson said. “The best part of my job is I get to give back to the company and my community. Each time I train an employee it takes me back to how I felt when I started my career at L&M.”
Swenson joined the painting department at L&M Radiator in 2011.
“I walked in the door with no experience, I had to be trained from day one. I know what it’s like to start a new job and feel intimidated or be worried that you won’t succeed,” Swenson said. “That’s not how L&M operates, though. We get you in the door, and over time, we introduce you to your role and walk you through it. We practice with you, and assign you a mentor for the first six months, just to check in and make sure you’re doing well.”
Swenson added that he believes L&M’s training and mentorship program sets every person who walks in the door up for a successful career.
“If you are a driven person, there is opportunity here. It’s a team and everyone wants you to get to that next level,” Swenson said.
He knows this from personal experience. Swenson spent six years in the paint department and has held roles in manufacturing, production, and administration.
“I took charge of where I wanted my career to go by also getting involved in extracurricular organizations that L&M offers,” Swenson said.
Swenson is a member of the 5S program, a methodology that promotes a clean, organized and quality work environment for the physical and mental health of employees. He also joined the L&M’s ISO auditing team. He credits both opportunities with providing a solid foundation for the work he does today.
In his role with L&M, Swenson conducts safety checks throughout the facility, reviews corrective action reports and addresses customer concerns on products to ensure inspections are complete and any changes to a design are properly documented and submitted to the departments.
“L&M has supported my interest in furthering my education and becoming accredited so I could do my job better,” Swenson said. “I’ve taken courses to learn about ISO auditing, which is a way of auditing an organization’s compliance to specific sets of standards. I can even say that those courses have given me a better understanding of how L&M assess the effectiveness of the organization’s quality management system and our performance as a company.”
The L&M Family Shares Knowledge from Minnesota to South Dakota
Swenson is curious to learn a little bit of everything at L&M. He also has explored IT work, learned computer programming skills, and is familiar with how to connect and update hardware.
“When I wanted to learn more about IT — and I knew very little computer stuff at the time — L&M’s IT team encouraged me to get started and pointed me to resources I could use,” Swenson said. “I still talk to them from time to time, but I know they’re always going to be there for me if I have a question; at L&M there’s always someone you can turn to if you’re struggling to understand something and want to learn more. We welcome that kind of collaboration.”
A good attitude is rewarded with opportunity
“Being the first person after Human Resources that a new employee has contact with, I love to see their eyes get wide when they realize the scope of their work,” Swenson said. “It’s incredible to see these huge radiators being built for mining equipment that’s used in all terrain all over the world. You’re a part of something big.”
Swenson takes pride in watching first-day employees grow in their career and take on new leadership roles at the Yankton facility.
“I remember Sabrina Sage’s first day. She started on the assembly floor and now she’s a production assistant in our offices,” Swenson said. “It’s fun to see that evolution as people find their strengths and shape their careers. L&M offers opportunity for advancement, and I always encourage people to apply for that next level – the worst they can say is ‘no’ and even then, people remember your attitude and see that you’re ready for more.”
“Safety First” is Built into L&M Culture
“People love working here because they are part of a team and they feel safe in the company environment and in the workspaces,” Swenson said. “Safety culture in many companies is viewed as negative because someone got injured and that’s terrible or people feel uncomfortable bringing up a concern about their working environment to management for fear of repercussions.”
L&M employees have a safety-first mindset in the workplace because their safety concerns are validated by management and their well-being is a company priority, Swenson said.
“Safety is an individual responsibility. It’s choosing to do work according to the rules and regulations we have on the floor so that I keep myself safe, and respect and protect those around me, too,” Swenson said.
This year L&M boasts a company-wide safety record based on Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR).
“Our numbers were well below the national industry average according to OSHA for any recordable injuries,” Swenson said. “L&M listens to its employees. We want to know concerns about the working environment. In my time with the company, I’ve seen action taken right away — whatever it takes to get those concerns fixed so you can do your job well and safely.”
A Family-Owned Business, Run by Yankton Families
Swenson is married to Laura, his spouse of 26 years. They have three children and one grandchild, a boy, named Maddox.
“I love spending time with my family, so much so that if I walk about 30 feet from my chair, I can wave to my middle son,” Swenson said with a laugh.
His 21-year-old old son Dalton works second shift in the paint department, and his oldest, Andrew, 26, plans to join a shift on the production floor part time.
“Working with both of my boys — of course, I’ll be extra critical of everything they do,” Swenson said. “I’m sure they really enjoy safety training with their dad.”
“How many people can say they go to work and get to train and watch their sons build their own careers and success stories,” Swenson added. “So, when I say L&M is my family – I really mean it.”
Join the Team
Join the L&M family. If you’re looking to join a people-first culture and exceptionally safe working environment, there is a place for you with L&M Radiator. Click here to explore careers with the team.