Manufacturing Supply Chain Woes
Dave Crysler, Mike Schlagehaufer, Simon Geale and Ian Sandusky
Welcome to Manufacturing Woes. This is a show I host the second Tuesday of each month to bring people together in our industry to talk about what really happens in the world of manufacturing, and it ain’t all pretty. Our show aims to bring experts together to share their manufacturing nightmares, train wrecks, and meltdowns and also reveal the wisdom gained from their mistakes and how they have learned to refine their skills and add more value to their companies. I’m Sarah Scudder, CMO at SourceDay and today’s show host. I am joined by Mike, Simon, David, and Ian. They have extensive manufacturing experience, and I’ve asked them to share their nightmare stories today. And I’ve seen a preview, and I have to say they are pretty darn good. I’m excited to also announce our show sponsor Rapid Ratings. I’ve been friends with Eric and their team for many years, so I’ve asked Eric to join us and briefly introduce himself and talk about how their company adds value to manufacturers.
Awesome, thanks Sarah, thanks everyone for attending today, and I’m Eric Evans, and Rapid Ratings is innovating in the financial risk assessment space, where we produce predictive analytics using public and private company financials to help mitigate supply chain risk. We recently launched the FHR exchange where we connect buyers and sellers, private companies to share their financial health score. So enjoy today’s panel, happy to be a sponsor. Thanks, Sarah.
And Eric, where are you joining us from? It looks like it’s decent weather.
It is decent weather. I am in Connecticut with my jungle behind me. It’s just taking off, this lovely birds of paradise that I just keep watering and it grows and grows. So all good, I wish I was somewhere warmer though.
So, Mike, you’re up next. Would like to have you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and then share a fun or random personal fact.
Well, thanks for having me on, Sarah. Glad to be here. So I got my start in manufacturing after high school. I really didn’t know what to do, and it was right at that time—you know, you spend all this time in school, and you know, still living at home, and I’m like, yeah, you got to do something, and you got to get that freedom, you know, gotta make money because it’s so easy, right? And you need it for everything, so I applied actually for an apprenticeship, and because you get paid on the first day, right? So on then, and mine from Germany, on the tradition over there, so, you know, it gives you a good foundation. I had no idea what industry segment. So I did some tests, right, and they said, “Well, you like to make something.” So then I just I decided that, well, manufacturing sounds great. So I was able to through interview processing and all of this stuff. Back then, you know, you had this handwritten letters, and they had to be 75 degrees, did the letters leaning to the right and in cursive and all of this, and I finally got an interview, and I got the job offer for the third largest automotive supply supplier in the world. And through that, I really learned to all the things that manufacturing actually makes. You know, we take everything for granted, and I do a couple presentations at different trade shows, and one of the things I always tell people is, you know, you touch every minute something that’s manufactured. People don’t believe in us. Did you touch your toothbrush this morning? Yeah, well, that doesn’t grow on a tree and fall down. It’s manufactured. So I really became fell in love. That was my first great love, truly, was manufactured, making stuff, making things. And I can’t even go today anywhere with my wife or the grandkids or not point at the shelf and say, “Well, I know how this is made. Oh, I used to make that when I, when I know exactly how this got here.” And um, that was amazing. It was actually so amazing that when we drove to the hospital, I said to my wife, “You need to drive because I’m gonna sleep.” So my wife ended up driving. She was not ready to sleep yet to see the grandkids. So it’s probably a fun fact, and today every one of them grandkids probably, uh, knows all my exciting manufacturing stories because when they’re little, I didn’t read them from books; I told them my stories.
Thanks, Mike. So, Ian, you’re up next. I’d like to have you share your background and give us a random personal fact about yourself.
Sure, so my name is Ian Sandusky. I operate Lakewood Machine and Tool here in Newmarket, Ontario. I also am a content partner with Practical Machinists, so I get to go out all across the world and check out some of the biggest manufacturers out there, get to go inside shops, meet a lot of really interesting people, and hopefully get to help share their stories. So that’s kind of what I do on a daily basis. I got into manufacturing because my dad started this company in 1988. I never wanted anything to do with manufacturing, to be honest. I uh, I worked here over summers for years when I was growing up. You know, work over the Christmas break, work on the Friday, get off, but I never really wanted to do it. So I went to university and tried to get into some other stuff, worked in marketing, sales for a bit, and then I came back to work a summer, and my old man had a situation pop up where he needed somebody to work, and so I just kind of stayed, and now 12 years later, I’m still here. So, you know, it, it was something I resisted for a long time, but you end up I don’t know, with Stockholm Syndrome, but you end up liking it after a long time, and I love making things. I love dealing with people that make things. Um, you know, I, I’m very, very pleased with where I ended up. And a fun fact about me, I am, if you have seen me in a trade shows, I am covered in tattoos, and I have tattooed myself many times. I think when we talked about this previously, I think I said five times. I think that’s probably short to the order of two to three times when I started thinking about it. So, you know, that’s a little fun fact, I suppose.
Thanks, Ian. So, Ian, my question for you is, tell me about your prototyping job that had major scaling issues.
Oh, this is such a fun one. So, at Lakewood Machine and Tool, we used to be predominantly a tool and die shop, and then as the years went on, we moved away from that and moved into, for whatever reason, predominantly manufacturing for furniture and high-end office furniture. And one of our customers had a very active prototype program. So they got in touch with us about developing these parts, and you know, a lot of the times, we don’t know specifically what these parts do. So we got the drawing, said looked at them and said, yeah, they’re a little complex, but we can do them for sure. So we looked at the drawings and, you know, okay, I’m going to wire cut this part. It was about I scaled it out, so I had the DWG file, and it was all in yellow, and yellow kind of hurts your eyes when you’re looking at it. So, with in Autocad, with one little flick of my mouse, I converted everything to white, went and made the parts. They were about this big, took us, you know, a good while to make them. Had to wire cut them because they had some complex rods and stuff. But, you know, what, they looked really good. So I shipped them off to the customer. You know, they have a client meeting where this is going to be some big thing for a customer, and they call me and they say, “Ian, we have a problem.” And I’m like, okay, what’s going on? Well, those parts you shipped us are about three inches long. Yeah, yeah, of course they are. The, you know, that’s what the drawing said. No, go look again. And what I didn’t realize at the time is, in this version of Autocad, when you change the color, any scaling that is applied to that drawing goes away. So those measurements I pulled that gave me three inches were supposed to be 30 inches. So I had to scramble on a, I think it was a Friday, to the Monday to now go instead of being able to wire cut this complex profile, we had to set up a fourth axis, we had to rotary mill this thing. It was just a nightmare. So from then on, I swore not only if I change something, I’m always going to have a hard copy of that drawing to make sure that I’m making the correct part. It ended up working out, nobody got hurt, no harm, no foul, but that was probably one of the worst weekends I’ve ever had, and I’d be very happy to never do it again.
Good lesson for your team.
Yes, and myself. It was me. I can’t even blame anybody else.
And thanks for being with us today.
Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
The man in blue is up next. I should have worn blue or green today, but I’m in bright orange.
David, would love to have you share your story about how you got into manufacturing and share a personal or random fact about yourself.
Sure, thanks, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be here with everybody. And yeah, I got my start, kind of similar to Ian, I would say. I probably didn’t fight it nearly as much, but I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so my parents actually owned two different print manufacturing companies as I was growing up, which is why I say, you know, my growth has been stunted. I was destined to be a six-foot two, you know, basketball player, and instead, I’m, you know, five-foot-eight, and played hockey and some other things throughout my early days. So it was all those chemicals that you know that running around the pressroom when I was a little kid that stunted my growth. So that was really my start and growing up in an entrepreneurial family and kind of seeing how hard my parents worked in their business. I was kind of aspired to go and and you know, maybe into a bit of a different direction. I always aspired to work for a really big company and and you know, be able to travel and have a lot of responsibility and all of those types of things, and that’s what I ended up you know finding myself doing for nearly 20 years. I worked for a large publicly traded company that grew through acquisition and moved several times to to operate and be responsible for individual facilities. I got a lot of opportunity to help out mentoring other leadership teams and helping those facilities implement our corporate culture, corporate ERP system, so that was really the kind of the time for me that I started to understand what systems and you know kind of the planning, people, process, technology, what what combining those kind of key areas, what they can do in terms of allowing you to not just grow your business but take kind of you know, take that operational excellence and be able to deliver a consistency and in that situation we were delivering you know value to shareholders but it’s really no different than you know what my parents were trying to do when they own their business. And for me now that’s that’s you know in an operations consulting business and that’s really what it’s all about for me is working with those small business owners and finding these opportunities to create systems to connect the planning, people, process, and technology to ultimately be able to help people grow their business so that’s kind of the full circle moment for me and as you mentioned early on yes, my fun fact is you can pretty much any day find me wearing blue, but I did today special just for you as a little highlight, and hopefully you can pick that up in the background, a little sore, stay green to you know, bring in a little bit of a different color, but I just, so you know you probably can’t see it, but I am wearing blue today, so you can see all of our speaker tags are in blue, in honor of YouTube, thank you. I’m actually working remote this week, so I’m not in our typical media room with all of our green, so thank you for the addition.
So, David, my question for you is, what was the largest single quality defect that made it through a facility you were responsible for, and what did you learn from this experience?
Yeah, this happened relatively early on in my leadership and kind of operational management role, and it’s a, it’s a lesson, it was an experience and a lesson that I really have taken throughout my career, and I will still use this example today.
And so when the topic came up about, you know, tales of manufacturing woes, this was for sure, for me, at the top of my list, and I was responsible for a facility that produced barcoded and numbered documents. And this particular, uh, particular job was for a medical company. We were producing chain of custody documents, so if you can imagine somebody that goes into a take a drug test, you know, for whatever reason, they—this is the form that accompanies that. It has you know, all of the numbers are supposed to match between the physical paperwork the labels that go on the specimen and get tracked kind of from cradle to grave, so to speak, throughout that testing process. And the company, the— the end user that we were doing this project for, they typically ordered in about 1.2 million-piece batches, so we would typically take those and run those in batches of three just to break it up and make sure that there aren’t any quality issues. And in this particular instance, what had happened was we duplicated. So, for two of those runs, we basically duplicated the number series. So, if you can imagine, we had, you know, 400,000 pieces that we produced incorrectly with a duplicated number series.
And if you know anything about chain of custody, understand how what just such a critical error that is. It made it all the way out to the to the client. It was at a fulfillment center. So, you know, just from the on the surface level of what we had to do in terms of quarantining that product and then starting to go through that that analytical process, but the big lesson that I took away from that particular error, and it really has served me so well and, you know, throughout the rest of my career, is at the time, I was reporting to a guy, and, you know, as a young manager, that’s okay, well, we found this area, you know, what did you do to correct the, right? Well, I pulled everybody together. We had all the meetings. We retrained. We did all the stuff you’re supposed to do. And he goes, you know, it’s one of those moments you just never forget. He goes, well, how do you know? That you corrected the problem. I said, well, what, you know, what do you mean, how do I, I just told you how I knew. You know, I went back through my whole list of things that we did. And he’s like, no, how do you know? And like, at this point, right, like I’m like, what do you, I just, I’m not following you. And he asked me like three more times. This, like, went on for what seemed to be an hour. And finally, it clicked. It clicked for me.
The one thing that we had never done in the kind of corrective action process, we never tested. We never rigorously tested. So, we never actually introduced another error where that error found its way into our process. We took for granted that by talking to everybody and retraining everybody and re-documenting the process, we—you know, we, right, I took for granted that that was enough to satisfy what the particular situation was. And so, I kind of—I tell the story. I use that lesson time and time again because it’s, how do you know, and you have to test it. It has to be a rigorous test and you have to try to introduce, you know, errors into your processes, into your systems, to know that for sure what you have in place is going to not only identify, but but actually help you prevent that same or a different error from happening again.
Thank you for that, David.
Simon, next question for you. Tell me about the nightmare negotiation you had with an SW supplier, and for the audience, I’d like for you to explain what that means as well. What does SW supplier mean?
Yeah, so I was working for a semiconductors firm, and at the time, I was buying R&D and also IT, and so SW software. And there was a particular lot of things you can do in software, lots of applications. You know, today, we’re absolutely flooded with all sorts of applications that will change your life and change the world. But you know, complex systems generally depend on pieces of software. We used to have these things called middleware back in the day, and this particular piece of middleware I recall, they changed their pricing model, and the pricing model had just completely flipped on its head. I didn’t really understand it, to be honest with you. I was just sort of bluffing my way along in the early stages of my career, if I’m being completely honest. But from what I could work out, it was going to increase our price something like four or five times because they’d gone from a user model to a core model, and the way that we were running this thing on our servers at the time meant that we were significantly exposed. So what do you do? Well, you think, well, I’m the big man, right? I’m working for this big, huge mega-company. I’ll call this fella, and I’ll tell them how it is, and they’ll walk away with their tail between their legs, and feel grateful that they’ve still got the business, you know? That’s how it works, isn’t it, when you when you work for a big corporate?
So anyway, this chap, this chap turns up. He was a French chap. He was an English chap. We were in Amsterdam, so it’s completely international background there, and we get into the meeting, and he says to me, “What’s the problem?” So I explained the problem, and he said, well, that’s that’s not a problem. We’ve just sort of changed our license from all that, that’s how it is. And so I spent the next sort of 20, 30 minutes doing various variations of explaining how on this whiteboard how the pricing change is affecting us and why this is bad and why we’re not happy, and he just looks at me and says, “Well, it’s not really a problem, you know. This is, this is, this is how it is. This is this is what we’re changing.” I said, no, I don’t think anything. You understand this. And so I’ll go off on on the other whiteboard now and I’ll do some this is how it is and this is this is where the price is going and this is this is what it means to us, and he said, well, what do you want? And I thought right, got him. I’ve got him. So I tell him what we want, and I basically say, well, you know, I want to whatever it is, you know, 10% discount or something stupid like that, because I don’t really understand. I’m a price price monkey. I’m walking in to do this deal, and I’ll never forget this. He gets up out of his, he puts his hands on the table. He leans across the table, right, completely like this, like right into my face like this, sorry for anyone watching that I just did that, by the way, I appreciate that’s not pleasant, and he said two words to me, and the first one began with an F, and the second one ended in “off,” and I sat there, and I’m like, 26 years old. I just went, well, they don’t, they don’t teach you that in the negotiation trainings, and I didn’t really know what to do, and so probably for one of the few times in my life, I stood up to the bully, and I said, right, that’s it. We’re finishing the meeting, and I walked him down, walked him out of the building, and off he went. And I felt really righteous, and then as I was going back up in the lift, I started to panic and think, oh my god, what have I done? This is a critical piece of software, but what I did do is I went back to my boss, and I talked to him about it, and he basically, over the course of the next lesson, taught me a lesson in negotiation strategy. We rang round about five or six of the sites around Europe, we explained the problem, we collaboratively came up with an idea to go local rather than global, and we basically put in place two-year deals as sites managed our or mitigated our cost increases, and then figured out if there was a plan to move away, and what I learned there, and it was a really valuable lesson to me about the importance of being aligned with your customers, because you know, there’s a big thing that we always talk about in procurement, which is, we want to deliver more value. Value is generally in the eyes of the customer, and I think that’s one of the primary mistakes that procurement makes is we, we project what we want, we think the outcome ought to be, but in that scenario, you know, I failed, basically, because I wasn’t, I wasn’t connected to my customers. I didn’t, haven’t done my research. I hadn’t, sort of, planned out the scenarios, as a 26-year-old kid, where it gave me a little kick up the proverbial, so I could go and become a more effective operator.
Thank you for sharing that, Simon.
Mike, next question is for you. Tell me about a time when you thought your heart was going to stop.
Well, I think we had that already, didn’t we? Talk about this when my machines crashed, and then when the IT disaster happened.
Yes, you just make it stop again, right? You will just, testing if it still runs.
I didn’t want the audience to be bores, so so another nightmare story that you’d like to share with us, something that just completely blew up.
Well, I kind of have to piggyback on what they’ve said on Simon, and a way around this, you know, manufacturing, that it’s not just a one thing. You know, you rely on other people and you rely on people, I think they’ve said that. How do you know that you fixed it? You rely on other people to do their job and to do their job right, on to potentially, you know, you have a contract with them, fulfill those contractual obligations. Like, you know, I have 50 widgets at your door that I need to make my 50 widgets or whatever that is, so you rely on them. People, one of the things is that I run into really stress me out is that those people do not follow or stand to what they say they’re gonna do. But instead of saying on a Wednesday when they experience the issue to pick up the phone and reach out and say, “Dude, listen, I told you on Friday I got those 50 widgets to you, but you have a little problem here. What can we do? Give me a heads up. Work with me. Give me the alternative of outsourcing or resourcing or whatever options I have, but don’t call me on Friday morning or my receiving person calls me on Friday morning and says, ‘Guess what? We didn’t get the widgets.’ Now I gotta change, you know. So that really is a frustrating part, and I think over the years we have implemented some great ERP systems, and I know you have an ERP show, but even those systems only do what people, man. You really ultimately rely on people. And I think one of the things that I learned is, you know, put people over systems. You know, put, yes, my system works. You know, calculator, if you type in one plus one, it will give you the right number. But if the person types in one plus two, it’s not going to be the number that you were looking for. So, my story is basically put the people back into the processes. Put the people above that, and make sure that there’s accountability. And I think we walk away, we’re thinking we have, or we got, quality control on the end, and we got this in place, and we got this, and we got inventory management system. But the point I’m trying to make is your inventory management system is only as good as you put your safety stocks in. As good as you track your, your booms, as far as you breaking your bill of materials down. Did I set my safety stock right? Did I put flags? And then I go back to that example that they have a problem on Wednesday, and I find out, well, I was relying on them to be the guy that I want to be. That I am picking up the phone, get the people, so now I go back in my system and I work with the people and what can we do? And a lot of times now when you do this, you have to have your ERP systems connected, so I have real-time data that I see. Let’s say Dave is the guy that made my systems, that I can actually see. Hey, he has to make ten of them a day to fulfill his obligation, and I know a lot of people think that this big brother is watching and checking, but I think ultimately it’s holding people accountable. Systems will only do the mechanics of it, I think, but then at the same time, I’m going back and hold myself accountable. Do I usually utilize those systems to the capabilities that they are? For example, I go back to an ERP system. I can schedule in that, right? But did I put in that ERP system that I have preventative and predictive maintenance on this equipment tomorrow, because the system looks at and says, “Oh, I got 10 hours of capacity.” Well, I didn’t schedule it right. The system says, “Yeah, you can run this work.” So I think to answer your question, going back, is what frustrates me, that I rely on people that don’t hold themselves to the standard that I hold myself to or that I get held to by my bosses, because I I tell you one thing is working for the toughest guy is the best job I ever had, because he challenged me every they liked the question that they said. He says, “How do you know you fixed it, right?” Because Dave said he had it fixed and probably fixed it, but let’s go introduce this something else to see. Did it? Did you on Dave mention it? He grew with this. He took this as a lifelong lesson. So I think holding people accountable on being nice about it, you know, explaining them and mentoring them through this reflection, same thing as Simon said with his boss saying, you know, here’s the hour lesson that you’re gonna get by having this supplier walking out, right? I don’t think it happened to Dave and Simon again, and I hope that knowing those guys the way I know Dave, they took that lesson and taught other people. So I think that frustration in me has now turned to my consultant role. Dude, I burnt my hand. Listen to me, please.
Listen to me because I can save you financial pain. I can save you emotional stress. I can save you a lot of time. So, I hope that answers your question back to what you had originally, Sarah, yeah, and it ties back to a theme that I think comes up in almost every conversation is hiring well, the importance of creating a culture and company that the best talent wants to come and work for.
So, Ian, question for you around pricing. I feel like every time I go to the store or buy something, prices are going up.
Yeah, this is something that is, I mean, I’m sure if I go on and tell everybody about all the issues with price increases right now, you’re all gonna roll your eyes because it’s not confined, not only to my shop, it’s not confined to my industry. It is everywhere right now.
And one of the biggest things we’ve been dealing with and continue to deal with is supply-side price increases. As a job shop, we do not—we don’t have any of our own products, so we don’t manufacture anything for ourselves that we retail everything we do is, you know, basically contract manufacturing.
Yeah, one of the things that I’ve definitely tried to advocate in some of the videos that I’ve been making with Practical Machinist is to approach your customers now. If you have recurring parts and you know, maybe negotiate with them, hey listen, if you can give me a guaranteed blanket purchase order for six months’ worth of work, let’s buy the material now. You know, let’s figure out a deal to get the material here so I can lock you in on pricing, because at the end of the day, either they’re going to keep paying more if it’s a recurring part. Let’s try to figure out something that works for everybody so we can all kind of, you know, have our projections a little more ironed out for us. That’s worked well. You know, we’re also not buying two million dollars worth of material at a time. So, you know, for some of these bigger manufacturers, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough.
So, Dave, with the green halo, how did you hire, onboard, and train an entire workforce after having to relocate where only four out of 91 people agreed to go?
Yeah, well, as you can imagine, Sarah, it was an extreme challenge that I was faced with in that particular situation. And, you know, the answer comes down to what most people would think, right? You know, the how do you eat an elephant situation, one bite at a time. But the real kind of lesson to be learned in having what I say survived a situation like that was really from what everybody has talked about, kind of, you know, the people side of things.
You know, that particular situation really taught me a lot about developing processes and bringing along people, not just from a culture standpoint, but really from that process and systemization standpoint. And then again, how do we layer in the technology side?
So, for me, that particular situation kind of brought all of those core four elements into existence in a real-life scenario, because we were dealing with a situation where we basically recreated an entire business, an entire workforce, where we had existing business. Imagine, you know, every day you’re still getting X number of orders, and you know, you still have to meet that customer demand.
But you are tasked with having a group of people that, while enthusiastic and want to do a good job, they just don’t have the knowledge. So how do we take, you know, years, right? I mean, anybody on this panel, anybody that knows an organization of that size, you’re talking about hundreds of years of experience.
And how do you distill all of those big milestones down to a point that’s approachable, not only from a, okay, continuing education perspective, so we can get people up to speed and kind of piece this in, but also satisfy that customer demand part?
And you know, some of the ways that we were successful doing it in the long run was kind of taking a look at, you know, somebody in the comments brought up this book called “The Goal.” And I’m sure everybody has probably read this book, but it’s, it’s, you know, the theory of constraints, right?
And so, this is a great kind of question and situation because in that book, it talks about, you know, okay, we found one bottleneck. We have, you know, put some process in place, we’ve put some technology in place, what have you, to mitigate that bottleneck.
And then okay, boom, the next bottleneck now shows its ugly face, right? And so, that was the real-world experience that we had, not only getting the people in the door, but then getting them through a training program and developing really the two kind of key points, developing processes and then developing the technology kind of simultaneously.
To be able to give the people more tools to support the decision-making that they had to do because they didn’t have the experience. And anybody that’s, you know, involved in manufacturing, that’s how that works, right?
Like, everybody relies on that experience component, and when you no longer have that, you are forced into a situation to have very clearly defined processes and very clearly defined technology that helps the people, you know, perform those tasks and responsibilities at a level that is superior to just relying on somebody’s experience.
So, it’s kind of the continuous improvement mindset, but, you know, kind of ramped up from the standpoint of, hey, we don’t have the time because we have customer demand to meet. And so, it was really, uh, you know, a difficult situation for quite a period of time.
But I am happy to say that, you know, we were successful in not only onboarding the amount of people that we needed to onboard but to ultimately get to the point that we had clearly defined processes and technology that we were developing to help the people, you know, perform those processes.
So, in the long run, we were successful with doing the relocation and kind of achieving what we needed to achieve on that end. But it was a great lesson in taking a look and breaking down where those bottlenecks pop up.
And again, getting back to the lessons I’ve learned, the planning, people, process, and technology, right? It was great to have a plan going in and we needed to have that, but as things were happening, we then very quickly had to shift into, okay, well, you know what are we learning from the review, revised, repeat part of the continuous improvement process? Because there was no perfect plan that was going to be executed to make all of that happen. It was a lot of process development and technology development kind of on the fly based on okay, well, we have, you know, this group in customer service, they’ve never been exposed to these products.
So, I have to ask the question I’ve been waiting to ask our entire show. Tell me about the story when you went to the wrong country for a meeting.
Yeah, well, I’m beginning to realize I should have come with some much more serious examples because I’m kind of looking like the mascot here, sort of, uh, basically championing my own incompetence. But I mean, we’ve all been to the wrong meeting room or something like that for a meeting. I remember once when I was living in the Netherlands, I was going for a job interview with ING, the big, the big bank.
And I came out of the what’s called the World Trade Center station in Amsterdam and turned the wrong way because it’s identical and, you know, I’ve all 20 minutes the wrong way and then had to run back and turned up at an interview 25 minutes later sweaty because I’m not a particularly fast runner.
But I kind of topped it all one day when I was managing, I was managing UK and a portfolio in the Netherlands for, for the company I was working for at the time. So, I generally spent a couple of days in the UK, and, you know, flows in the Netherlands worked out quite well for me. Um, I got to see a lot of my friends and sometimes my family.
And this one particular day, I was looking forward to a meeting and I got a phone call from reception. They said your visitor’s here. So, I went down to reception and I thought there’s no visitor here. So, I went up to reception and they said no, no, you haven’t got a visitor. So, I thought, well, who’s that? So, I phoned back and I realized that I’d actually arranged the meeting in the wrong country and I’d flown to the Netherlands that morning specifically to go to the meeting.
And they were actually in South London in our offices there. And, um, the lesson I learned was that there is no lesson to that story. It’s just a manifestation of incompetence and one that’s purely here to make you chuckle and think thank god I’m not that person.
So, Mike, we’ve talked a lot about some crazy things that have happened but I think a theme that I’ve experienced in my manufacturing careers crisis has always seemed to happen, no matter how much you can prepare and plan. Stuff goes wrong and there’s a crisis situation more than we’d like to probably think about or remember. So, can you share a time where you had a crisis and you learned something really valuable from it that you think our audience would find beneficial?
Well, I can probably think of a million, but let’s kind of, you know, looking at the time a little bit, keep it short. I think Dave mentioned and that you heard it in Simon’s comment on an ins, you know, you have those expectations, right? And when something goes wrong, don’t focus on you know, hey, I told you this is how you do it, this is what needs to be done.
You know, focus on on the solution and I learned this from one of my mentors when he put me in charge of the daily operations in my first time. I was managing people that are older than me and had more experience.
And pretty soon I had to write on my whiteboard to play me of the day is me. I’m the manager. Explain me. Quit looking for the guy to blame. Go out there and work on the solution. Get the people involved because my best resource, and trust me, I have spent seven or eight figures of machining centers on processes and robotics.
Ultimately, I have to rely on my people and my staff. And when I say my, I don’t want to be possessive, but the people around me to really fix it, you know, pick their brains, get them in. And I go back to something I said earlier. I’m a lean guy. I’m a continuous improvement manager guy at the same time.
I think Edward Deming said it is, you know, data on the statistical process control processes. It’s agree on the data we’re using to evaluate something and then we look, we talked the same language on using that information.
I think I use that to take my team or be part of my team actually, you know, lead from within the team, help them to find the solution. Because, you know, I like to think I’m the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve been proven wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
And that goes back to something I think Dave mentioned also is that culture. I think maybe you mentioned the culture of the company, you know, we are all in this together. Yes, I have the two stars on mine and the boss holds me a little bit more accountable and I get a bigger chance.
But ultimately, I can’t achieve what we need to achieve without my without the people around me.
They made me what, what the company is, what the department is, what the culture is, what the customer sees. Right, I can go and promise the customer everything, but I rely on my, my, the people behind me to get that out, and I think we forget this sometimes with the technology.
And I go back to some of the basic things that we all, you know, somebody wrote this book, ‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,’ right? So, treat people the way you want to be treated because in manufacturing, I think sometimes people forget that because we have cycle times on a machine, but you still have an operator there. And when you do your gemba walk on this operator, flag something, don’t just shake your head and don’t go back, because three days later, he won’t give you that idea anymore to make something better. I don’t know if that answers the question you had, Sarah.
Yeah, thank you, Mike. So, Dave, I’m going to have you close out with our final question today. We’ve got about four minutes left and I want to make sure we stick to our hour. My question for you is how did you deal with significant employee turnover immediately following an acquisition?
Yeah, thanks again, kind of going back a little bit to what I had said previously, in terms of, you know, a similar yet different situation. Much like having to replace an entire workforce when you go in from an acquisition standpoint, you never quite know what you’re going to be getting into from a people and or process and systemization side of things. And so, you know, the particular instance, you know, that came to mind with this, we had an acquisition facility and I actually had relocated to be responsible for this particular facility.
And it was, it was a family-run business, it was second generation, second or third generation family-run business, so it’s been around for quite a long time, and, you know, a very experienced team. So, you know, all things on the surface were really well, and as we got in there, it was interesting because a lot of the kind of, on the shop floor feedback that we were getting from the team was, you know, hey, there’s not a lot of accountability here, you know, people kind of get to do whatever they want, and that’s, you know, how the previous ownership kind of ran it, everybody was a family, which is good and bad, right? There are some favorites, there were some things that, you know, maybe weren’t the best in terms of culture and kind of driving operational efficiency forward and all those things.
And it was interesting because as we started to implement some of those things and implement more of our corporate culture and implement some of the technology and the tools that we had, you know, we started to see some pretty significant turnover relatively quickly because of that. And it was interesting because the people that were left, it was, you know, well, boy, what’s, you know, kind of what’s the pulse on the floor, right? What’s going on, why, why are we so, you know, this is what everybody asked for.
And it gets back to what we’ve all talked about kind of, you know, at different points in this, it is that culture component. It is about understanding and how to connect the things that are happening on the tech side but to really what’s happening out on the shop floor and throughout the organization. I don’t want to leave out what happens in front of house, so to speak, but it really gets down to understanding how can you take advantage of that collective brain power that the team possesses, not just from an experience standpoint but understanding that culture component.
And, you know, while an acquisition may be different than something else, a lot of people right now are dealing with a similar situation in terms of the great resignation. So, I thought it was a good example to kind of just talk through and and be mindful of the changes that you are making, why you’re making them, and ultimately that it is for the greater good, because even though in the short term you may come through a bit of a challenge, in the long term, if you’re doing things from the greater good perspective and you are making sure you include that collective brain power component, you will navigate through those difficult situations. So, and I’ll wrap there.
All right, so I want to thank our panelists Dave, Ian, Mike, and Simon for sharing their crazy wild stories. I recommend reaching out and connecting with all of them on LinkedIn. They’re doing really cool innovative things in our space. And our next show is April 12th at 1 eastern. Hope you can join us again.