June 10, 2024

Filtering Out Language Biases at AAF International

Pioneers of Clean Air

Founded over 100 years ago, AAF International (AAF), what initially began as a solution to remove dust from entrepreneur and engineer Bill Reed’s automotive shop, transformed into what is now known as modern air filtration used in nearly every indoor space across the globe. Driven by the purpose of cultivating clean air, AAF has built a business model that has pivoted many times throughout the century between war times, technological advances, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now labor challenges in manufacturing.

Flowing Through Changes

As labor shortages throughout the country continue to be a problem in every industry, AAF is finding ways to challenge these interruptions by addressing the roots of the problem at hand, particularly in their manufacturing sector. One of the largest problems being faced? Language barriers.

Chris Tamblyn is the Training Program Manager at AAF International, he is in charge of teaching leadership skills and conducting training to up-and-coming leaders within the company. He does this primarily through coursework where the “students” finish the course with a presentation for the leaders at their plant.

“They need to describe what they want to do with training at their level, and what they need to be successful doing that,” Chris said. “Two groups of participants brought up translation as a big problem at our plants. We have refugees and Hispanic populations that are quite large at a few of our plants. We started to explore solutions – one group suggested a device to be used to communicate.”

The Solution

Chris and his team set out on a search to find a device that covered all of their needs from safety and security to a dedicated device that does not involve phone usage. One of Chris’ team members mentioned they had used Pocketalk in a previous role and suggested the device would be a great fit at AAF.

“We demonstrated Pocketalk with our non-English speaking workers. Everybody agreed this could help and positively impact leadership skills and our day-to-day lives,” Chris mentioned as one of the driving forces behind bringing Pocketalk to AAF.

The other deciding factor? The importance of safety and security.

“Inability to communicate leads to safety concerns – You can’t build a team without communicating and building a relationship. The risk of misunderstanding turns into conflict, turnover, and retention. People quit jobs; people quit people.”

The Result

AAF International now has over 30 Pocketalk devices across their 8 manufacturing plants and headquarters locations where they are finding deeper connections and better understanding of one another.

“This came from the employees who needed it. It’s an initiative started by our ground workers,” Chris concluded. “This is next-level inclusion, it’s a practical step towards becoming more inclusive.”


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