The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

How to Fix a Factory: Influencing the Direction of Your Company w/ Rob Tracy


Something's not going well, and it's your job to fix it. Where do you start? 

You can't rely on your charm and good looks to make a change happen. Instead, you have to work through proven processes that alleviate distress at companies. 

On this episode of The Manufacturing Executive Show, Rob Tracy, consultant and author of How to Fix a Factory, talked about specific processes that can solve problems at distressed organizations.


Here's what we discussed with Rob:

  • Why Rob wrote How to Fix a Factory and who he wrote it for
  • How value-add reporting can give distinct insight into P&L
  • The 10 core systems that must be operating with reasonable proficiency for the factory as a whole to have good outcomes
  • Rob's new idea called The Business Forward Framework

Additional Resource Mentioned in the Episode:

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

But what I found is wet.After spending time and a lot of companies, I'd always find myself working in somesort of distressed organization. Something wasn't going well in my job was hewill fix it and if that for the long time I thought that was just, you know, my art and charm and good looks that was making thathappen. And and what I realize is I actually do have a process.Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences thatare driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturingleaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'lllearn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episodeof the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a cofounderof the Industrial Marketing Agency guerilla seventy six. Today I have a unique guest inthe sense that he can be called both a manufacturing executive and an author. Let me take a moment to introduce Rob Tracy, rob is the presidentand founder of Rob Tracy Consulting. With more than thirty years of leadership experiencein the Manufacturing Industry, ROB has become an expert in navigating the sector's distinctchallenges. After publishing his first book in two thousand and Nineteen, how tofix a factory, rob now uses his unique perspective to reveal issues, resetdictations and restore working order and manufacturing companies across the nation. Rob understands thatevery company's situation is different and he doesn't believe in just mechanically applying the latesttools and hoping for good results. He works to realign companies with their corevalues, touching each level of the business to truly provide a holistic analysis ofwhat's going wrong. People focused in practical rob sees through the clutter of everydayobstacles to find the root of the problem his boots on the ground approach andshows that issues are not only identified but solved for good. Before founding hisconsultancy, rob held leadership rolls with prominent companies such as Anderson Windows, pentair, Intech, plastics and Clifton Larson Allen. In addition to being highlyexperienced with Lean and EOS practices. Rob Holds a bachelor of science in industrialand operations engineering from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of the MinnesotaExecutive Program at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of management. A Lifelong Learnerand observer, ROB shares his latest insights about business strategy and life on hiswebsite blog. So on that note, Rob, welcome to the show.Thanks for much jokes. Looking for to our conversation will rob, you andI first connected back in January of this year, or so I think.You stumbled across my company. Girl is somebody six online one way or anotherand, realizing we had overlapping audiences, we start up a conversation from there. That's right. So you have been a longtime manufacturing guy, as Iknow. An introduction. I know that your potentially shifting gears in your career, maybe broadening your horizons a little bit, but regardless, I'd love it tohear from you about sort of how you got to where you are today, and they also where you see yourself... to day. I'll try tokeep out the bio brief. Like I said, I'm I I'm an engineer, a group in mention Michigan. been around manufactur on my life. MyDad was part of the foundry industry at General Motors. First job out ofschool was that General Motors and they found it was just way too big andI started moving to some different places, each time going to progressively smaller organizationsand settled as the CEO at INTAC plastics, after going to swoop some do someof those other companies that you mentioned and found that I just have apassion for an of that fifty, sixty, seventy million dollar company, hundred,a few hundred people, because you can move fast, can get thingsdone, you can make an imprint and make a dent. For the lastfive years I've been doing consulting work and will for the last twenty years.Well past my operations as my fastball, I've been more at that senior levelfor the last twenty years. The last five years as a consultant I've reallybeen focused on helping the sea sweet people get a handle on their business ona wide range kind of general management stuff, not just operations. Awesome and Ilearned from talking to you months back that you would kind of just publishedyour first book how to fix the factory, which was really interesting and, asyou know, we talked more in decided you be a really great guestsfor the show. I I read the book over the last few weeks andI found it super interesting and you know in particular, I mean there's somany nuggets in their specific to the manufacturing industry, but so many just greatbusiness principles that even I can relate to. I'm a marketing guy, so thebook's not written for me, though I had takeaways. But tell me, tell me a little bit about you know, who the book was actuallywas truly written for who your audience was and and at a high level,really what it's all about. You know, I'll start by saying the writing abook is always been on my bucket list. I would have called myselfan author, but I guess I am now. It was a it wasa challenge, but it was a lot of fun. was good growth experience. The book is targeted at senior leaders and small, the midsize manufacturers,I mean that's the sweet spot. And by senior leaders, CEOS, ceosvpof OPS, CFOS, those kind of people that can really influence the overalldirection of the company. A plant manager would get something out of it.I think other people, all the way to a production supervisor would would getsome value, but the target was at senior level. What what I wastrying to do with the book? First, I've met my goal is to makeit practical, Short, like one plane right across the country and youkind of got it. Non jargony. I tried, I don't there's nolean words in there and you know, none of that stuff. I justwant to have common, everyday English. But what I found is we want. After spending time and a lot of companies, I'd always find myself workingin some sort of distressed organization. Something wasn't going well in my job washe affix it and if that, for the long time I thought that wasjust my art and charm and good looks that was making that happen. Andand what I realized is I actually do have a process I go through,and so writing the book was waited for me to get it out of myhead onto a piece of paper. But...

...what is that process? How doI go about that? Because even though the challenges are different, the pathto take it is often very similar. So that was a goal. Thatwas what I was training to accomplish and sure that that insight. So thebook is called how to fix a factory. What are some examples of situations ina factory or a manufacturing facility that constitute fixing? Yeah, as youcan imagine, it runs a wide gamma, but I'll give you three examples.Just could these have been more common lately? One would be a situationwhere they're not taking very good care of customers and not shipping on time andlead times are extending and they don't know why. They've tried stuff, they'rerunning over, they're doing all kinds of things. Are Trying and fix it. It's not getting any better and so I'll go in and I'll help kindof start peeling back that onion. And I've seen situations. One one company, the problem was that they weren't tracking their production through put very well andproduction to drop by about five percent, which doesn't sound like much, butover the course of weeks it starts to add up and the next thing youknow they're in a hole and they got to the go out of it anotherplace. The customer service was placed in orders on the factory that were farin excess of the capacity the factory. They didn't have any sales in ourrations plan to keep the two link together. That's been happening more even and evenas the as the pandemic as head and you think would have all kindsof capacity, they're still struggling with with that issue. So that want oneissue. Another one would be just misinterpretational financials. The standard cost systems thathave been in place for eons in manufacturing can give very, very misleading informationthat lead to bad business decisions and just managing profitability and understanding the role ofproduct costing but also understanding capacity and through put and how to really drive financialperformance. Standard Cost Accounty doesn't help very well with that. So it's weuse something tore. I use something called value add reporting direct PNL's. Sohelping them get a little different insight into what the PL can look like andhow to drive it so that that's happens a lot. Then the third oneis is talent. I mean we all know what talents a struggle. Unfortunately, a lot of the clients I work with Hann't really taken a strategic lookat their talent and I think it on talent. The fight for talents isgoing to get the rays up to the onst the same levels of fight forcustomers and in these deaths, kind of strategic, strategic view. And somany clients are just going to kind of agencies and they've got this revolving doorof people and had which creates all kinds of issues. So just helping themkind of get reground it on and raise their talent plan at a p morestrategic level something like is a real common issue. Yeah, I hear thethe talent problem so often from these we are client base is very similar toyours. He's kind of midsize manufacturing companies and you'd think that you know evenwith well, you hear so much about automation and and that the negative thingsthat the common the general public thinks about...

...automation and right placing human beings andand taking jobs away. In the reality is a lot of manufacturing organizations can'tfind people who want to do the job. They don't want to do dirty work. Then want to work third shift, they don't want it, you know, do things that put them at safety risks, of course, andright that talent recruitment part of it and retention as well, is just so, so important but so challenging. Yea You know there's still a lot offactory that don't look like a cleanerom. You see the little bit the onesthat look really pretty, and you know on the epoxy floors there's a lotof them that's still is fairly industrial, and this really hard to get peoplethat want to do that work well. Substantial chunk of your book covers atopic that you describe as the core ten systems, and I'm going to reada little passage from from here. You had written all factories had to havea set of course systems that must be operating with reasonable proficiency for the factoryas a whole to have good outcomes. When a factory becomes distressed, it'susually due to weakness and one or more of these course systems. Now Iknow from reading the book we could probably do an hourlong podcast on each ofthese core ten, but I'm wondering if you could give us kind of abirds I look at what these ten systems are, maybe as a synopsis ofeach, will understand sort of what's important from your perspectives, and so let'sI'll just give a little bit of context. I would call these core ten relatedoperations, that there's others there's financial systems and H R, there's there'sother systems that marketing sales. This doesn't cover those. So the these areoperationally oriented, so I just buzz through them. The talent system, wetalk a little bit about that. That's raising talent up to a strategic level, talent brand and really how are you going to attract, recruit higher,retain great culture of those kind of things. The second one is a core tenas a clean, safe factory. We can use the buzz words offive us. I didn't do that. It is said, idea said asa matter of being respectful to our people. We need to have a factory that'sclean, well organized and, say, firm to come to. And ifyou don't have the discipline to do that, then you probably don't havethe discipline to do a lot of the other stuff that needs to be doneto run the place. The third one is a management system, and that'sreally the management structure. That's having the right ratio of from the plant managerto how many superintendence, to how many supervisors, to how many leads,and because one of the biggest issues I see is they'll have a supervisor coveringfifty people and then then wonder why they can't follow through on stuff and docontinue improvement or aren't running the place well, it's because he's spent an all dayadministering, because you don't set to another a structure. So that's beenthe next one. The fourth one is an equal equivalent reliability system, andthat's just making sure that the people on the floor have equipment that works andgets the job done and produces a quality product. So maintaining it well,keeping to the up to date. The buzz words would betpm and all thosethings, but it's just about do we have equipment that's reliable and working,and if it's not, then we can have a problem. Fifth one isthe quality system. Quality System is just making sure that we've got the toolsand the prophssism place to ensure that we...

...are passing good quality on to ourcustomers and internally, that we've got good product going from one operation to theto the next and that it's not eroady in our capacity, in our throughputting all those things. But that happened when you don't have good control ofyour quality. The sixth one is supply and the so the supply system ismanaging who do you choose to buy from? What quantities? How do you flowit in? How to make sure you got good quality? And ifyou don't have a good quality, a good supply base that's healthy and takingcare of you, then you're going to struggle inside your operation. The nextone is in the inventory system. Inventory is just, you know, thelean we always want to talk about one piece flow. I've never seen it. Every factors got the inventory and so the inventory system and making sure thatit's under control. You know where it's at, you can find it,it's being rotated properly so that when it does time time come to put itto product of use on the the line or and it works all, youcan go get it in and and and it's not you're not losing stuff.Eight, one of the sales and operations planning talked a little bit about thatproblem earlier. Sales and operations plannings of creating that linkage between the sales groupin the operations and he probably the financials as well, and making sure yougot that ongoing. You know, two or three, one forward look tocreate alignment and we don't have customer service putting out more on the factory thanthey can produce. At the same time, operations has to understand what they needto do to take care of the customer and where they should be addingcapacity taking capacity off of table. The next one is a data and measurementthat's just so if having the right measures up and down the up and downthe chain, from at the cell level, what's important to them? What dothey need to measure, all the way up to the to the seniorleadership team, and which should they be be watching? What I see attimes is they're missing a key measure and performances slipped in on that, butbecause they're not watching it, it's just you get this erosion at that endsup having a big impact over time. Those example I gave about. Theyweren't watching their through, but five percent, you know, run away and theyended up suffering. And the last one is the operating system. Theoperating system is that hard one to describe because it's the kind of the overallframework for how do you run the business? What is your meeting pulse? Yeah, whether that's your weekly staff meeting or your quality system meetings, howto set your priorities every ninety days, and that's really where I'm focusing alot of lately on on my things. Yeah, that's Great, good,good synopsis of each and I love having a framework like this because I'm sureis our listeners are hearing you talk about these. There's probably a lot ofheads nodding. These are all issues that any manufacturing leader deals with, butto be able to have a structure to follow and say kind of put themin buckets and have a process for addressing each I see the value in thatbecause it's the same in my business in the way, you know, weapproach you know, implementing a marketing sales program for example. Right what whatI see is we know, going you look at him, to a companythat's struggling or facility that struggling. They may be fine on nine of themand it's just with one of those ten...

...that's undermining everything. So you getI think you said it earlier, you have to be reasonably proficient in allof them, because any anyone, can turn into a week spot. Yeah, and it provides a great system to, I imagine, for you know,kind of auditing somebody up front and saying where strong, where you week, or can we move the needle the most and poor our energy, becauseyou can't attack everything at once, right resources get thinned out. So absolutely, yeah. Well, you know, number ten on that list I wantto talk a little bit more about and have you really unpack that, andthat's the operating system, because I know that one of your big initiatives rightnow personally, is developing a formalized operating system that a company can kind ofhold in their hands and take in deploy inside their business. So tell usa little bit about what you're doing on that front, what you're reslid thingas as an operating system goes, and what also inspired you to develop thatsystem? Absolutely, you know, I wish I'd used a different term thanoperating system because it sounds like Ms Das back in the s. You know, the operating system is that that framework for how you run the business.And so if you're listeners are familiar with Eos, the entrepreneur operating system,that's an operating system vernharnish has got scaling up. That's an operating system I'mcreating my own. I got very familiar with the US both as an implementer, where I went to all the training, but also work in a company thathad was using it for three years. So I've got that boots on theground view and there are a lot of things I like about it andthe thing I'm creating, which I'm calling the business forward framework, it haselements of that, but we're going to come at it a little differently becauseI don't think eous is a good fit for all companies. You got tohave a certain personality profile that for to be an ideal client for them.So I've got six buckets, so I'm going to put mine in. Yougot to have a right strategy, got a right culture, right people,a ninety they focus. Is Critical that every ninety days your resetting priorities anddetermining what you're going to focus on, a work on having the right dataand metrics. And then I've something I call habits, and they can bethe meeting habits, but even though one of my favorites is just to haveof just say it, so we set the tone that says when we're whenwe're together and we're talking about it, that's just you and I one onone or in a meeting. If it's in your head, we're going tosay it. We're not going to walk out with things being unsaid and thengo talk behind people's backs and we say things to each other, not abouteach other. That's what I have it. So what I want to do tofill a different niche with this framework is come at the implementation different insteadof having just one size fits all that you know. This is how yougo about implementing it is help come in, figure out where they're at, wherethat we're at, the good starting point is, and then create acustom roadmap form and then be with them to implement. And I'm only goingto work in industry that I've got experience and I'm not going to be anagnostic generalist. Yeah, makes sense that. You know, the implementation of aframework like this is just so key and I know you know I'm familiarwith EOS and which is, for those of you listening or maybe aren't familiar, Geno Wickman was the author of traction,...

...which I've read three times and we'veborrowed elements of it for our business. We've never sort of fully embraced thefull system, although we're thinking about it at my company, guerrilla,right now. But you know, he describes the sort of implementation side ofthings as traction. And as you put this framework in place, how youknow at the end of it. Now you've got actually hit the ground runningand you have to have people, have to be bought in and you haveto follow through on doing it. So I don't know if you want tospeak to that, Cuz I know you're obviously in Eos. You've been thereand been an implementar and know that system really well. So maybe speak speaka little bit to that idea of gaining traction or, in your case,the Implementation Element. The let me think about the best way to talk aboutthat. There's there's a lot of things in Eos we're around how to getthat traction. Some of my favorite things is, well, I talked aboutthe ninety day pulse. That's that is there's a ninety eight paulse on,an annual pauls sudden. That strategy, so you know you're off for strokein the same direction, is critical. But then breaking things down into ninetydays where you say, what are the top priorities and we'll do these facilitatedsessions where will come up with all the possible ideas that we could do inthe next ninety days, list them out and it might have a hundred onthe list and will narrow down to five and say and then we scope them. I'm a big Fan of right in one page project charters that talk aboutwhat's in scope, what's out of scope, what are the milestones and and thenyou integrate those into the weekly meeting where every week you're checking in sayingare we on target? We off target? So you don't lose sight of andthey don't go sit on a show. So those are just some of thetools and techniques about how to had drive performance forward. Yeah, Ithink there's even research out there. I remember reading in traction that, youknow, the human mind is like built in a way that it can handleabout ninety day milestones and not much more than that. So when you havethese big, these massive goals that you're trying to accomplish for the year orbeyond, you kind of shut down and line up getting nothing done. Unlessyou can break it down into smaller chunks. Right, that could be maybe aten and in ninety day segments. Absolutely, even if some if it'sa huge project, I do in an earp implementation that might take two years, you can still say what are we going to do in the next ninetydays? And then you might be the next night days are going to dosoftware selection and the next night is around to get our data's cleaned up inthe next day is ring. But you can at least when you when youhave something that's a year or two out, it can seem like you've got anawful long time to implement and if things go on the back burner,you don't really work on them. Ninety days is that time frame. ErsLong enough you can get something done, but short enough that you've got someemergency like you gotta get moving, because times I'm burning. Yep. Andthen I think those weekly touch points become so important because it creates accountability.Right, if you you wait a month, if you'll need sort of touch basewith with your team as you are implementing these ninety day, you know, milestones. Well then everybody wait still, day twenty nine, says I meand I got to get all this stuff done and you hack your waythrough it. And Yeah, versus weekly,... create consistency and accountability for eachother. Right. Yeah, yeah, I mean we want to avoid thatcollege student syndrome where you keep pushing it off and then cram at theend. It do doesn't work very well and makes sense. Well, robanything else you wanted to touch on in terms of your operating system, Ithink this was you know, I'm curious where is it available out there forpeople to look at you as it's still sort of in the works. I'mkind of curious if people want to look at your operating system or how theythink. I would say I'm about ninety percent done. Yeah, I don'thave it out and published any where. It's not up on my website yet. So probably the best thing to do is is reach out to me throughLinkedin. Be Happy of talk at talk anybody through it, kind of talkingand I can hope compare and c trash with with the US. I'm stillan US fan. Yeah, I it took help show where they where theywould be different so they can make direct break in decision. But yeah,that's going to reach out for to Linkedin or go to my website in mycontact information that is on there. It's just simply the Rob Tracy dottnet sopretty pretty simple to find. Beautiful. Well, rob thanks a ton fordoing this today. This is a super valuable conversation. I learned a ton. I'm sure our listeners are saying the same and really, really like whatyou're doing, so appreciate you joining. Okay, appreciate that. I lovemanufacturing. I'm that guy. Can Glad I had a little chance to getto talk to you and your audience. Great well, thanks, Robin.To the rest of you, we hope to see you next time. Onthe manufacturing executive you've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast to ensure that younever 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 findan ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for BTB manufacturersat Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until nexttime.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (84)