Employee Highlight – Jim Defries

We are proud of our employees and the pride and care they take producing your orders and want to share their stories with you.

Each month we highlight one of our employees and the department they work in! You will get a look behind-the-scenes here at the lab, and get to know one of our own a little bit better.

Jim Defries – Warehouse and Purchasing

Jim Defries_blog

Our Warehouse and Purchasing department is the spinal cord for the lab. Supplies and materials are stocked so that production can create customer orders in a timely fashion. With thousands of products available, this small but mighty team has a lot to keep track of and they do a fantastic job!! We are excited about this month’s featured employee, Jim Defries, from the Warehouse and Purchasing Department. Those who work with Jim, know him to be an invaluable employee, always steady and ready to do whatever the job requires. After three decades with H&H, Jim retired in June. Everyone at H&H will certainly miss Jim…Jim has contributed so much to H&H over his 27 years as a team member. But we are happy that Jim now gets to spend time pursuing many of his other interests in life. Please enjoy this month’s Employee Highlight, featuring Jim Defries.

Jim is pictured with a lamp he made as an homage to the film industry, as he worked with film for over twenty years. He used a 70mm film reel that came off of one of the machines that used 70mm film at H&H Color Lab, plus a couple of reels that he picked up at garage sales. Image by Jeff Locklear.

1. What is your job title/position?

We take care of stocking the supplies in the warehouse, and making sure that the lab has what they need to print customer’s orders. We also work in the lumber/workshop area.

How long have you worked for H&H?

I have worked at the lab since 1991, so 27 years.

How many people are in your department?

Three including the manager. (When we were doing film, we had nine people).

What are some of the ways lean principles are applied in your department?

The whole department runs on lean systems. We only work on items as they come in. Our supplies are limited, so we have to keep track of what we use. Waste is avoided as much as possible. Since we cut down boards, we use measurements to use as much of the board as we can. We keep our area clean and vacuumed each day. We keep our equipment sharp and in working order.

We don’t keep a lot in stock, to stay in keeping with lean principles. We only order what we need. When we are cutting the materials for wraps and albums, we cut them and prepare them one at a time, on demand. For some of the more popular albums, we keep a small stack of material ready to go, so that we can keep up with orders. Each product is always custom-made, individually cut and individually prepared.

What did you do prior to working for H&H? How do those skills help you with what you do now?

I started working with film at the age of 16, working as a projectionist at a movie theater. After graduation I started working at photo labs. I worked for Bremson Photo for 6 years. After that, I worked for Associated Photo for 13 years. I worked with the Census Bureau for 18 months on microfilm. Then I came to work at H&H, working with new processes and using past work experiences to improve workflow.

What different roles have you had here?

I processed film 75% of the time. I worked in large prints, and I also spent two years as a water spider before doing warehouse work. A water spider goes from one department to another and moves the supplies from one place to the other. The lab doesn’t use water spiders any more. Each department has a small warehouse in their specific department with supplies that they need. That system works pretty well. Keeping track on a daily basis can be a challenge sometimes. We don’t always have everything on hand, so then we need to order it for them.

How has the company changed in the years since you first started working here?

It has expanded many numbers of times. Going away from film to the digital process in the last fifteen years is one of the biggest changes the lab has been through. When I first started working at H&H, digital was still new and not something people were very confident in. Steve Tuggle started doing a lot of work with digital, bringing the technology into the lab and now that is all we deal with.

What is it that you love about your job? Or how do you measure a job “well done” in a given day?

I love the fact that when I go in, I know what is needed to make the day productive. I like to know what’s going on. I liked film, because I knew exactly how much time it would take to develop a certain amount of film. I can tell what I can get done, and what will need to happen on a different day. In a nutshell, understanding what is needed, and what can be accomplished.

What do you like to do in your spare time, hobbies, interests etc.

I do some theater work, primarily community theater. I have been doing that for about sixteen years. I usually do one show during the summer when it’s not so busy here. I am doing one this summer, in Blue Springs. It is called Thirteen. It’s about middle school kids. I play a rabbi. The kids are complaining about being geeks. The rabbis talk to them about feeling out of place. I also did Willy Wonka in Independence. I was assistant director for that. I am looking forward to doing more of that in retirement.

Tell me a little bit about your personal life, family etc.

I have been married since 1981. My daughter and her husband and grandson live in the area, so we see them quite often. My daughter surprised me with a retirement party last weekend after church. I enjoy being with my grandson. He comes over once a week to have dinner with us. We like to take him up to the trains in north Kansas City and Union Station.

We like to travel. We have been to England eight or nine times. My grandmother lived there, moving here when she was eight. We like to do genealogy when we are over there. We have a family tree that dates back to the 1600’s.

Tell me about a favorite trip you have taken!

In February, my wife and I went with my daughter and her family to Disney World. We really enjoyed it. It is amazing how well laid out that whole business is. We stayed at the resort and took the bus in. It was quite an experience. My grandson’s favorite ride was the teacups.

What are some of your favorite movies?

I like a lot of older movies, classics. The Maltese Falcon.
Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s just a beautiful film. I like comedies too, like Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. We loved Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. We have a group of friends who have Oscar parties each year, and we try to see as many of the Oscar movies as we can before the party.

What is your favorite meal, to eat out?

I enjoy Mexican food. But it varies on what I am in the mood for – each restaurant serves different items that I like. We also enjoy LaBodega for special times with family. They have a great assortment of tapas to share.

What kind of music do you like?

I grew up on sixties and seventies rock and roll!

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