The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

The Brightest Generation: New Leadership in Manufacturing w/ Paul Brauss


The younger workforce in manufacturing is looking for more out of leadership. In particular, millennials want to know why the organization is doing what it's doing. And they want a voice in their company's continuous improvement.

How can we embrace the energy, curiosity, and brain power that younger members of the workforce are bringing with them?

In today's episode, I talk about the generational transition in leadership with Paul Brauss, CEO Blue Line Technology and author of Dare to Improve Your Legacy.

Here's what Paul and I discussed:

  1. What the new generation of workers means for manufacturing executives
  2. How to move from top-down leadership to a team-centered approach
  3. Why a production plant is one of the single best marketing tools a company has

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I really was concerned about hearing conversations about millennials and the expectations that they have, and I am out there receut in that saying. This is the brightest workforce, rightest generation, we've ever seen and it's our obligation to tap that that capability in to tap that resource to become better manufacturers moving forward. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerrilla. Seventy six so I've noticed a trend in recent conversations I've had with leaders of manufacturing organizations. What they're telling me is that the younger workforce in manufacturing is looking for more from their leadership than previous generations have millennials in particular are more interested in the why of what the organization is doing instead of just the what, and they want a voice in the continuous improvement of the company, as my guest today will tell you, instead of Dogg in on the millennials, which seems to be the common practice for many of us, we need to be embracing the energy, the curiosity in the brain power that these younger members of the workforce are bringing with them. So, on that note, let me introduce our guest. Paul Browse is a season of manufacturing leader that is championed company transformations built on lean manufacturing techniques. Throughout his career, Paul Has Aligned Company's customer centric focuses around business process improvement, key driving metrics and gaining involvement at every level of the organization. Paul holds a Bachelor of science in industrial management and an MBA from Washington University in St Louis, which also happens to be my Alma Mater. Paul is the former CEO of Mark Andy and has served on industry leadership panels, published articles and is a past board member of the tag and Label Manufacturers Institute, as well as a current board member of aim employers association. Paul recently published his book dare to Improve Your Legacy and it highlights a label and packaging printers journey with continuous improvement as a methodology for educating the next generation of leaders to assume the business. As a consultant and executive coach, Paul continues to help organizations with their organizational development focus on continuous improvement, implementation and business succession. Paul, welcome to the show. Thanks, Joe. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the program. Awesome. Will congrats on the book being released and I'd love for you to start by talking a little bit about the book. Dare to improve your legacy is what it's called, and they think it's hot off the press right. It is just released on Amazon in October of two thousand and twenty, so starting to get some nice hits on it. Appreciate that the journey of the book was really the beginning of it was a case study that I was writing because I work with a lot of leadership teams and they're always curious of how to get started on a journey of continuous improvement. They think it's it's really a scary ominous beginning and what I was trying to convey in the book is it's easier than you think and you're already doing some good things in your company, but let's put it together in a way that makes sense so that you can continue this process and and pull every bit...

...of the organization together. Well, that article led into the book and I had a friend of mine really encouraging me. I was helping his family in the business and he really encouraged me to go ahead and finish the book as a story that a lot of the converters in the printing industry could relate to. That's great, and so my understanding is that the book is is written almost as a story with characters right it's it is as opposed to a traditional business book. With that which I think is interesting. I'd love to hear a little bit more about sort of what when inspired you to write it that way. Well, I've met a lot of leadership teams and I met a lot of family businesses and a lot of their problems are the same, no matter if they're in a Fabrication Company and Assembly Company, machine shops that all come across the same sort of problems and so I hold together an amalgamation. I made up a family that a lot of people, when they read a story, think that I could be talking about their family business, I can be talking about their management team, and so I pulled this group of different experiences together and I created a family that's going through not only the need to improve the business but also the generational transition, so as we move from one generation to the to the next. The Fun thing about it is that the kids that are listed in the book are all named after my grandkids. So it gave me a little inspiration to do that and bring their personalities, in the personalities of my own kids into the characters as well. I think that's a really interesting decision to write it that way and you know, it stands out because it's it's different. You know, there's there's so many business books out there that I meant lots of good ones, lots and that's not so good ones, but it's just simply changing the format. Have you have you ever read the servant by James C Hunter as a servant leadership sort of parable, similar sort of thing there. I'm sure some of our listeners are from Eiliar with that one. On the topic of Servant Leadership. It was written in a similar way where, you know, it told a the story is essentially to illustrate the point and it really resonated for that reason. So I like that you you took that approach. I got a copy of your book right on my desk, but I just got it the other day and so I need to dive into it still, but great. Well So, Paul in, you've also written a you know, bunch of great, great content out there online, and there's an article that I know you recently wrote that we were touched on some observations about the changing workforce and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that. I'm I'm going to quote you here. You wrote the workforce of today is looking for more engagement, understanding and visualization that will lead to their ideas becoming implemented and provide a sense of community in the organization. Can you unpack that one a little bit for us and tell us what that means for manufacturing executives? Yeah, I think I can. I grew up in a manufacturing environment and a lot of the work that I did was on the production floor and the old school, the only way of thinking was we have a way, we're gonna we're going to do these processes, we're going to build this product. Just follow the way and do it. Don't ask questions, you just go get it done. There was a lot of talk about getting it done faster. We need more product out the door, but there was never a way for me, as a as a worker on the production floor, to communicate back up the chain, so speak, on things that I knew could be done to improve an operation of the organization. And so when you so we grew up that way, so that that was my generation of word and we and we accepted it. Today's generation, and I know this from participating in Naimes, the Bloye Association and speaking with these people that are on the floor today, they want to know why they're this. There's this curiosity they have, the workers have today, that is so compelling and and if we can feed that curiosity and engage them in participating to help us do our jobs, I'm finding that we've got much...

...happier workforce as a result of that. And a happier workforce means less turnover and means of better ideas coming from the floor, quicker improvements being made, and so and so I really was concerned about hearing conversations about millennials and the expectations that they have, and I am out there and refuting that, saying this is the brightest workforce, the brightest generation, we've ever seen and it's our obligation to tap that that capability in the tap that resource to become better manufacturers moving forward. Yeah, I really like your perspective on that. I think it's we're all I don't know, technically I could be considered a millennial. I'm thirty eight, I think like in some classifications, but I don't feel I don't feel like one, but I don't feel like one certainly, and most of my team is, and I think it's my business partner John and I, and when we're having our gripe sessions about all sorts of things, we tend to dog on millennials. Right, but there's so I think you're so right that there's so much curiosity and the why. Right. You said it like the why, as opposed to you're telling me what to do. It's they want to understand why, they want to contribute to the bigger picture and that's such a huge thing, that that we can all harness. It's just there's this energy there that, you know, I didn't get to experience the prior generation really, but it's something that I need to remind myself not to overlook sometimes. Well, and it's leaders the biggest challenge we have as we want to tell them what to do. We want to tell people what to do. It's in our nature, it's how we grew up, and what I'm encouraging in the book and in the articles that I've written is sometimes you got to take a step back as a leader. You got to take a step back. What they put the overview of where you want your company to go and let them go try things. I was fortunate in my career that I had I had work for bosses that allowed me to do something, even even when I made a mistake, they allowed me to do it and because of that, I think I learned faster and I was I became a better contributor to the company, and I think that's what we need to do. That that has to be part of what we do as leaders, is to create this vision, a path to get to that vision and then get out of the way and let these new employees, the new generations and it's not just millennials anymore. Now we've got generation Z coming on board and we've got to prepare the millennials to become our new leaders. That's where it's going now. You're right. So what are what are the ways that manufacturing leaders can, you know, start to foster this involvement from their teams and start to move from less of a top down leadership approach where the president is driving every decision to one where he or she is instead supporting the activities of the team. Well, I think the first step that I do with a lot of the companies as I go in and I do a macro business map, a process map, of how the business works from the time they engage a customer through the handoff of an order to the manufacturing arena. We call that the pre order process. And then I map from the time they get that in order has received all the way through fulfillment of that are and actually could include collection of that order. So by process mapping it it's interesting to pull a network of people in after they've seen this rough draft on a wall and here their perspective of how they do a particular process step. And in several of these companies. What you find out is as operators start talking, they go, well, I don't, I don't do it that way, I do it a different way. And you find out out that in the in the scheme of things, everybody's got their own twist of something and because there's been no focus on business processes, the process quality is really bad. And so that's the first step, is find out what the process really is...

...and find out what you want it to be so that you can get the desired results. And in my training from the Times group years ago we called that what's the process entitled to do? If we took out all of the barriers, if we took out all of the road blocks to a process, how fast could it be done? How good could it have been done? And that's the process entitlement, and that's what we're really looking for. Yes, so many problems within a business. I think for my experience I run a marketing company. Co Lead to marketing company, but it's a lot of the same things. It's you know, I can step back and my business partner John can step back when people understand the way something needs to play out and they were a part of it, of developing that process as well. So, but I so many of the problems that we see stem directly from confusion around processes and accountabilities. Well, and then, and then the next thing to do if so many times as leaders, we're talking about the results of our organization. So we're talking about earnings and we're talking about performance, but we're talking about it at a level that the typical production worker can't relate to. They don't it. It doesn't grass then in any way. So so as a supervisor leader and I walk out and say wow, our profits were down and things are looking bad, and employee can't do anything with that information. So what we have to do is go find what the real drivers in the business work. So switch up our focus on metrics to focus on drivers and not the results. And so a driver could be something as simple as how many quotes did we get process today? I don't know if they're good quotes or not. How many did we get process? What's our process capability, because every sales organization wants to turn the quote over very, very quickly, so our drivers will. How many did we get done and what stopped us from getting them done? So what was the quality problem we were having with processing? More quotes and that becomes if we move to those driver metrics. The conversations changed drassically. In the article I referenced earlier, Paul, that you had authored, you mentioned something that caught my attention as a marketing guy. You said a production plant is one of the single best marketing tools a company has that demonstrates its capability. Can you tell us what you mean by that? Yeah, you know in my experiences with Mark Andy, alvy systems some of the other companies that I work with, the sales team is really focused on getting the order off the street. So they got to get they got to do whatever it takes to excite that customer. If you have a facility that demonstrates is claim orderly and productive it and it demonstrates that it looks that way, and that's we refer to that as the visual factory and all these are a lot of lean principles that we that we pull together all the way through the company. But if your shot presents well and your salespeople can bring customers out onto your shop floor, your sales person has confidence in the company because they see how it goes and that company are that a confidence really transformed so that the future customer that you have is all of a sudden gaining confidence in your organization as well, and so I think all of those sorts of things become selling features and selling points of why your company could be better than the competition. It's a really good point. I've been inside of a number of manufacturing facilities over the years, given that our client bases midsize manufacturers of all different shapes and sizes, and there is really something to be said for use. Some facilities I'm inside of our kind of a mess. They're dirty, there's you know, there's scraps on the floor, it's dark and Dingying there. Others are well lit, there well ventilated, there's everything's clean, and you know, the impression that that creates is can be really strong. You know, here's a little little IDA for those listening.

We have one client of ours that is an equipment manufacturer. They they're actually going to start, given this this covid air we're living in, where it's tough to you know, tough to be on the move and flying around the country and going into facilities, they're actually going to start doing is zoom based demo requests where they're going to have a camera set up right inside their manufacturing facility where you can kind of see the background and highlight what it looks like in there, and they're going to be standing next to their product and and talking about it and you can actually do a zoom based to call with them in addition to having some recorded videos, and I think it's going to it's going to work wonders for him because you're kind of replicating some of some of those things that can be a little tougher to do in person. But it all comes down to the sort of the same point, like if you can it is yeah, it's tougher out there. The sales guys have a very, very tough job and so whatever organization can do to to help that sales process out is really important. And what was fun for me is when the salesman would be excited about the plane they've walk out there many of them commenting to me, if I can get my customer onto our shop floor, I know I can close the or and then and then the people on the shop floor are very curious and they're like did we did we get the order? Did we win? Because then they have this sense of I'm helping, I'm helping the company win. I participated in doing this and and it makes for just a lot, a lot of fun to work in an organization like that. Yeah, you bring up a really good point there, because you know you're not you're not keeping the shop floor clean and for marketing purposes you're keeping a clean to run a tight operation, but that will impact marketing. And then when, when, when your team knows that your marketing is going to be dependent on that, it kind of motivates people and so it's kind of the cyclical thing. I feel like that. Yeah, it's part of this whole engagement thing that we that we keep doing. The more you you feel it, the more it feels itself and the conversations on the shop floor changes drastically and when they're talking about quality and they're talking about efficiency and they're talking about how to do things better and as leaders were letting them do it. We're helping them do it because we're saying, how can we help? It just gets this momentum going. That's stageous. Yeah, I love that, Paul. Leaders inside of companies, both inside and outside of manufacturing, have a tendency to be big idea people or, if you're an EOS fan. You know visionaries. There's there's a lot of visionaries out there have a, you know, a lot of ideas, often up in the clouds, and I'm guilty of it myself. I fit the profile of the visionary perfectly. But you've referred to this problem that you've called starts control issues, where leadership tends to start a lot of new projects without a true understanding of what it'll take to actually execute and complete all of them. So how can manufacturing executives harness their own energy and excitement and really focus on starting the projects that matter the most instead? Yeah, I think. I think the first thing that they have to do is understand the impact of starts control. It's a basic, simple equation. You've got an ideas generating in an organization all the time and and whether you're doing an it upgrade or whether you're doing an efficiency movement or quality movement or any of any of those sorts of things, what you find is they they tend to lead to a list of projects, a list of things to do and as a leader, often I find that the leaders are out with yeah, let's go, they give the approval, let's go, let's go upgrade that software. Let's go change this production method, let's go buy some new equipment and implement it, on and on and on. In an organization I was working at in southern Missouri, we pulled everybody aside and said let's just talk about the improvement initiatives we have going on. How...

...many are there? And we kind of forty seven active improvement initiatives. Okay, and this is by a plant of a hundred eighty people, something like that. And we then asked, well, how many we were we getting completed? And what we found is we were completing many at all. So out of the forty seven, because we were working on them with a small group of people, call it resource constrained activity, we couldn't get any, think, accomplish. So we couldn't make any of the improvements last because we were completed. So in this example, what we did is we shut down about forty of those projects and said we're not going to not do them, we're going to backlog, we're just we're just going to move them over here. I don't want any resources to work on these and let's take the resource and pull it up and go after these seven projects and let's get these seven done and as we get one done, then we'll start a new one, and so we had to find whatever that balance was in the company. Some companies going only do three at the time, you know. But because of that we were getting those projects implemented quicker, more successfully and in reality, because we were doing that, some of the projects that were on the backlog list we didn't need them anymore because we had fixed something else that was more important that we could get to now. So it was about pooling resources, stop starting so many projects and let's focus on completing some projects backlog and if they're good projects, they'll still be there and you can pull them over when you've when you've completed a few. Well, let's take that resource that we have. Sometimes we do it as Kais on teams, sometimes we do it as a cross functional team in a particular area of a company, but let's keep it to a minimum of how many we start so that we can go finish. I think that's so great. I mean you what you basically just described as there were forty seven projects and because there were forty seven projects, they were getting a few of them done, and then you go, let's strip it down to seven projects now you get seven done so and all the wasted time on things that were never completed goes away. So you get all that time back and, like you said, they stay there. You know, it reminds me of our company started implementing eos in late last year and it's sorted the same idea as you, having your priorities for the year, your goals for the year, and breaking him down into quarterly rocks and saying these are the things where you get done and we are going to get them done. You know, but and then find the resources man it up, find the resources that you can do it, find the people that are smart in your organization that perhaps know about the process and can contribute it, pull those people from every area in the company, but concentrate them and concentrate them in what we call quick hit project improvement in issues. That's great, Paul. Is there anything you'd like to touch on that I didn't ask you about today? Yeah, the the biggest thing that I run into with the leadership teams is this hesitation to get started on a continuous improvement process. And we're coming out of this covid nightmare that we've had to live through. I see a lot of robust activity ahead of us, especially in manufacturing. There's a there's an emphasis to really focus on US manufacturing and US made again. That I love. I love. I love that focus and the encouragement that I want to have for leaders is figure out your plan, but you got to get started. Continuous improvement is not something you do extra as you go to work in the morning. It's how you're going to do the work. And so if you can get that into your mind about change in the way you want to go after your improvement initiatives in the company and change in the way you want to focus, and that's on processes, driving metrics and quick hit...

...guys on projects. If you want to change your mind to do that, let's jump in and let's go do it. Stop bringing the hand, stop slowing down, don't hesitate. You got to get going. You got to take that first step, and so a lot of leaders are quite hesitant of that, and I'm saying now is the time not to be hesitant, it's the time to drive, and so I've encouraged that. Just start right. You got to start. Yep, fantastic, Paul, this is a really good conversation. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and taking the time out of your data talk to our audience. Well, I appreciate the opportunity to do it really does mean one great well, can you tell our listeners where they can get in touch with you and where they can learn more about your consulting services, in case it may make sense for them? Sure, it's browse consulting. You can look up our website forrowse consultingcom and we're readily available there. I'm on Linkedin if you want to just link into me and ask a few questions. Happy to have a conversation. My email address is t brow set browse consultingcom. Pretty so great. Give me a know. Well, we'll get you started and the book is now available on Amazon. I appreciate you. I'm going to have for me a little bit, I think. I think once some people read that. I know leaders that have read it already called me and said I think I want to do this, I think I can do this and I'm encouraged by that. Well, that's great. So that's Paul Browse brouse consulting. It's BRA USS and Paul's book. Has He mentioned is dare to improve your legacy. So go check that out on Amazon and, based on everything I've heard from you today, palm, I'm excited to dive into it myself. So great, great, awesome. Well, thanks once again, Paul, and as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for be tob manufacturers at gorilla seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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