The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 8 months ago

Why the Employee Bathroom Is the Key to Leadership w/ Mark Whitten

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

If you’ve ever been curious how well management takes care of its employees at any given organization, there is one really simple way to find out: 

Check out the employee bathroom. 

That may seem funny, but… think about it — if management can’t take care of the bathrooms, how well can they really be taking care of its employees?

That simple test is wisdom today’s guest, Mark Whitten , President & CEO at Spartanburg Steel Products , has learned over years of successful leadership in which he has lived by a maxim that seems to have fallen by the wayside: Lead by example. 

In this episode, we discuss:

-Why leaders should work alongside their employees (and keep the bathrooms clean)

-How to achieve 2.0 transformation as a leader

-How leaders in manufacturing should respond to Gen Z’s entrance into the workforce

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

You can't transform a company by sitting in an office and barking out orders and expecting that the workforce will just comply. It doesn't happen that way. If I'm not out there shoulder to shoulder with employees, leading by example and showing them and teaching them and helping them, then it ultimately doesn't transform. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize 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. Any business leader can talk a big game. We're retooling our business to meet the demands of a new era. We're investing in our people and building a culture of excellence. We're committed to innovation, Blah Blah Blah, all of this, frankly, is just lip service, that is, until you can prove it, and my guest today is leading an organization that's doing exactly that. From putting their leaders in the trenches next to those on the front line, to letting the words they hear from their customers and their prospects physically impact the evolution of their facilities, to putting AI and smart factory initiatives in motion, this particular organization is actually walking the walk and, as its leader will tell you, the rewards have been plentiful on a number of fronts. So, on that note, let me introduce him. Mark witten started his career as a shop floor employee at freightliner heavy trucks. He then had the opportunity to work with cameo automotive, the joint venture between General Motors and Suzuki, for a few years before joining magna international in two thousand. Over the next fifteen years, mark worked in a number of different roles across multiple magnet divisions and in different countries, including Canada, Mexico and the US. In late two thousand and fifteen, mark took an opportunity to run a small seating supplier in Cleveland before joining Martin Rhea International in two thousand and sixteen. There he ran their largest facility in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and became director of OPS before joining Spartanburg steel products in early two thousand and twenty. Mark, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Joe. Appreciate it. Awesome. Will Mark, I know you took the reins just a few years ago at Spartanburg Steel, the company that's been around since one thousand nine hundred and sixty two, and I also know you've made a lot of really positive headway already, consistently surpassing a lot of the goals you set out to achieve. So wondering if you could start things out by telling us a little bit about what what were some of those goals, the associated key metrics and how has SSP performed? Great you know, I...

...appreciate a great question. Thanks for having me again. Yeah, so Spartan Burg is being s a rounds this ninety sixty two. The family that currently owns it's we're privately held as owned it since one thousand nine hundred and eighty two. Great Ownership, Great Company, Great Leadership Team here. And so when I joined I had a mandate to, you know, to improve the results, to improve the culture, to really drive the top line in bottom line, and so we went about with the leadership team here back in early two thousand and twenty, we started to deploy a strategy and we really for me, it was really important that we defined, you know, where we want to go. We refer to as our vision statement, or true north. You know what we want to achieve. That's the goals, and then how we're going to do that, and that was SSP to point, or the strategy we deployed in order to achieve the goals and make sure that we stayed true to the to the do the Vision Statement, which is to become a world class company. We do want be very specific. It's a you don't be a world class manufacturing company. We want to be world class and everything we do. So we're really focused on, and I use these examples, like if we hire someone, we want to do it in a world class way, we want to on board people in a world class way, we want to train people in a world class way, we want to have world class results. So we know today we're certainly not a world class company, but we have a vision to be there. And what I've always found in my career and whenever I've dealt with successful people, they always have a vision or five year plan, you know, where they want to be how they want to get there, and so I think it was really important for us to project ourselves into the future and they we want to be world class, and so therefore our behavior has to be focused on being world class and ask ourselves, you know, in every case, are we doing things that are, you know, truly a world class company would do them or not? So that that was one thing to your question. We then had to determine what is it we're trying to achieve here, and really we're doing that in buckets of a year. So we said, okay, we got three things that we have to focus on in two thousand and twenty one, and that is revenue, top line grow. So we set a goal to grow our revenue from what was a hundred and six million to two hundred million by the end of our fiscal year of twenty one, which ends October. Thirty One, two thousand and twenty one, or second goal, was to have a profitability target. So in two thousand and Nineteen and two thousand and twenty we were not profitable. In Two thousand and twenty one, we said we have to be profitable and we set a target. So we said we got to be we have to have a net profit number of x and we have to have that by the October thirty one, two thousand and twenty one. And then the last goal, and they're all really interconnected, but the last goal was quality improvement, our customer performance in terms of quality results. So we said we must improve our quality performance from X to y by October thirty one. So we had a specific number of customer complaints that we had to drive it down to. So so that's really that the goals that we set. And then below that is really the how. How we going to do all this? And that's all SSP too awesome. Can you dive into SSP two point on a little bit more, like some people, more about what that means? Yeah, of course, I love talking about you know, when I joined here it was important for me to be respectful of that, the current leadership, the ownership, the employees, and I certainly know in...

...a walk in here and say I know better and we're going to do this and what it what you guys have done is not good enough. That's not true. I mean this, this company's being a BMW supplier for many years at great successes in the past and I wanted to honor that. So we really we said, you know what, SSP one Oh is a foundation. It's what got us to where we are today. We've been successful for many years. We've done a lot of things in the community here. We've had employees that have bought houses and their children work here, and so so this has been a good company for the community and it's employees. At the same time, of course, we have to change. The world's changing, and really that was the two piece. So we honor the past, but reflect and look forward to today and next you know, and next years are really about developing a world class company, being two and and that two really is broken into many buckets, you know, first and foremost as leadership, and I talk about having the right people on the right seats of the bus. It's about culture, it's about employee engagement's about manufacturing operating systems and quality systems and all of those things are truly important and we had to we had to make sure we had all of those things as a foundation in order to drive to Oh to ultimately achieve our goals. So a lot of effort around and again leading by example. Many, many things. I mean it's I use these this example of more specifically, you know, one of the things that really is important in any transformation of any organization is that leadership must lead the transformation. Cultural changes. You know, culture is just in my opinion, is just the result of people's behavior, and that behavior ultimately is driven by management's behavior. If management is leading by example, is on the shop floor shoulder to shoulder with employees, helping, removing road blocks, pushing the teams but removing, you know, helping them to ultimately be successful, that's when you truly see transformation take hold. You can't transform a company by sitting in an office and barking out orders and expecting that the workforce will just comply. It doesn't happen that way. If I'm not out there shoulder to shoulder with employees, leading by example and showing them and teaching them and helping them, then it ultimately doesn't transform. And that's my experience and I realized that. So it's super important in the two point Oh world and in an a vision of a world class company is that we go out leaders, to the executive leadership team, and we get out there and we clean, we organize, we help with the daily meetings that I attend every eight am meeting every day in three different areas of two plants, because it's important, because it's super important that the employees understand we get to drive our business. We got to be consistent. I'm going to lead by example. I've shared this before as well. I mean in a parking lot behind me, you know, management went out and painted the curbs. We did that because it had to be done, but I wanted the people to understand that it doesn't matter what it is. will go paint curbs, will clean up, you know, dirt in the plant, will sweet floors, will do whatever we need to do to be successful and I feel very strongly that if leaders lead in that fashion,...

...then the people will follow because they have they have a person that they can get behind and they believe in that and that's that's truly important. So that's really a lot of what two points about leading by example, really pushing the organization but helping, removing road blocks and doing the right things for our people. How do people respond to that curious inside of Spartanburg when they see leadership kind of in the trenches and working hard to understand what goes on there, what people are experiencing in their their daily job on the front lines. You know that the initial reactions they they laugh at us, you know, they see us out there sweating and, you know, picking up garbage and there's a lot of there's a lot of joking around it, but we're consistent doing it. We do it twice a week, we're always out there doing it. So, you know, it goes from being kind of a funny thing to a serious thing and I've had many, many employees stop me or come over ere. Here's an interesting thing on out they're struggling picking up something have an employee walk over from, you know another well, sty've grabbed the end of it and help me move it. They started appreciate a long time ago, but these they start appreciating that weren't just out there trying to help. You know, we're doing whatever we have to do. So it really became and I've had many of them stop me out there and say I really appreciate what you're doing here. You know, I really nobody's ever done this before. We've never seen management out here cleaning the plan. We've never seen management do this and and again. That's it. Goes back to your introduction and Joe, I mean I started on the shop floor and I got to experience terrible leadership. I've seen great leaders and horrible leaders and I they both taught me some great things what not to do and what to do. And you know, the worst thing in being a leader is trying to lead by thou shalt, you know, do what I say, not what I do. You cannot, you will. People are smart, you know, and they're not going to follow people like that. They'll only find my opinion. They'll follow people who lead but do with what they say they're going to do every single time. And I've always stressed that to my management team. You know, if you say it and you got to do it, you can't back away from that because the minute you the minute you do, you lose all credibility. It's that other thing. You could do a thousand great things and one thing wrong, and only thing people ever remember is that one thing wrong. You did so so you got to be perfect and what you do. So anyway, a lot to your question. A lot of great feedback from employees. They get a kick out of here's an interesting point where a unionized company. United Steel workers have been unionized for many, many years before I got here. You know, and there's specific language in a contract that states that. You know there's there's bargaining committee work. So management can't perform or salary employees cannot perform bargaining committee work. Yet the president of the Union and I met with her very early on in my career and I said, listen, I need your support. I know what the contract says and I know how to interpret the fact that management can't go out there and do what would be considered bargaining committee work, but I need you to get behind me here and help me, because I'm not I'm not taking people's work away. I'm trying to help them and I really don't want to. I don't want to get in a situation where we are you know, we get into a debate about whether managements doing bargaining commny work. We're not trying to we're trying to lead by example. She understood that and supported me through that. And...

I've never had an employee ever come to me and say, you know, you're doing work that belongs to a burning it. Never said that. They've always supported the action because they understand all we're trying to do is make us better. Mark You told me really interesting story a couple weeks back about a major automotive manufacture that SSP quoted years back and lost the bid, and then you mentioned that you went back and you spoke with their decisionmaker about the reasons SSP wasn't selected. Whether you use the name of the company or not doesn't matter so much to me, is as much as you telling that story to our audience and sort of what proceeded to play out since then. When I first joined here in March of two thousand and twenty, right right around that time, maybe a couple weeks into to the role, we received feedback that we did not win a very, very large package from a truck it's actually a heavy truck manufacturer. We were working on that probably six months before I got here. The team was working on all the quotes and felt very strongly when I arrived, they felt, the team here felt strong that we would win the business and when a couple. Three weeks into that, when I arrived, we receive feedback that we didn't actually win. The business is a forty million dollar packager and this was significant amount of work. So I, you know, being the new guy, I I said, listen, I'm going to reach out to the senior buyer and I'm just going to ask questions. I'm knew I, you know, no dog in his fight at this point. So I did. I called her. She took my call and I really appreciate it that and we had about a half hour conversation and I said, listen, I'm new here, I just want to understand, if you can share it with me, you know, your logic around not sourcing Spartanberg, because what I was led to believe is that we would. We in fact, were they're leading. We were leading this bid and we were expecting to win it. She said we she had a she had a little bit of an internal debate with her company. She had kind of a group of buyers that were pro or supporting SSP and she had a group that were not, and she said, you know, I made a decision to come to Spartanburg with both groups and do a fullblown audit of your company, that quality performance, delivery performance, the shop floor. You know all the management systems, she said. You know, the audit didn't go very well at all. We came there, she said, frankly speaking, the the the shop didn't look very good. Quality performance was not where it needed to be. We didn't see that the proper quality management system in place. Your delivery performance wasn't very great. Very good story, and I got it, by the way, because my first week in here, as I walk the floor, I thought to myself, man, I wouldn't source work here either. You know, I wasn't to the standard that I would expect. So I wasn't surprised by her comments. It made sense to me and I understood it. She sent me the audit. I got the chance to go through the entire audit and everything in there is valid and it's true and at the end of the day, you know, they made a decision based on that and that's fine. Fast forward to it was about two months ago. She reached out and said that she was they were in the neighborhood bull of all, visiting another supplier and they wanted to stop buying and meet with us. So they came over and I had never met her in person. I met her in person, we had a little chat and I said, listen, I'd like to walk you through Startan Bird Steel produccesses be two point no strategy, and kind of bring you up to speed from when we spoke a year and...

...a half ago to today what we've been doing. So she was great to was, you know, happy to do that. I presented exactly what I want you and I are speaking about kind of, you know, vision, statement, goals and sspt oh. But I went into great detail with her what the strategy was and why and wired to playing and, you know, in the boardroom, you know, she was that sounds great and, you know, looks really good, etc. So I said let's go to the shop floor and go for a walk now, and we walked out and we got to the shop floor. We walked about ten feet in and she stopped and said this looks like a bring, like an entirely different shop. I don't remember it being like this, and I said, well, that's good news, because it I certainly hope it isn't like you remember. So we walked around, we spent some time and I, you know, basically pointed out the different management systems we put on, the visual management systems we put on the floor and we're using a system called funnel cloud to use PLC real time data so we can see our performance. Ohee and downtime and delighting. We put all brand new led lighting in the plant. We've polished concrete floors, we've striped walkways, we've, you know, visual management everywhere and her feedback was, you know, humbly. To me, I get goosebumps because, I mean again, I'm so proud of the team here, but she was very excited and said, you know, this is she said, I would have never expected to see this. I'm shocked, and followed by the statement that I'm sure that there's some work we can do together. And you know, and from there they've sent us a bunch of RFQ's. So it's super powerful. I understand why they didn't sources to work. It makes complete sense. The audit makes complete sense. We've worked very hard to fix our systems and implement, but also to change the environment of our shop. You know, I always consider myself a supplier but a customer whenever I go anywhere and I'm always looking and watching and trying to understand culture and try to understand how a company runs. And I can tell you when you when you go to any shop floor, you can pretty soon, pretty early, and you can tell how the company runs or how the performance or the results are if it's dark and dingy and unsafe and smoky and all these kinds of things. I'm pretty sure that I had hazard a guess that there's some quality issues and make the safety issues and different things like that. And I mean, I know it's not a perfect science, but I've found in the past it typic the work. So back to this lady and her visit. It was it was great for her to come back. We think we can grow our business with them again. We learned a great lesson from that and we've improved since that time and I think that that I'm glad you gave that feedback in a glaciers avery open and got a chance to visit us again. Yeah, that's a really cool story and mark. There a couple things I sort of take away from this example. You know, one, talk to your customers and listen, like proactively go to them, and not only the ones where you lose. I think it's great that you went back. You talked to somewhere. You lost the bid, but you know your existing customers to do the voice of customer work. Find out what from there, in their words, like what things are we can we be doing better, like understand their buying process, understand what matters the most to them, because I think a lot of companies just sort of make assumptions and all of a sudden something changes and their relationship with the partner of vender and they're like, well, what happened?...

I didn't see this coming, and I think a lot of those things can be sort of cleaned from just having open conversations and asking customers what they want. But I love that you went back and talked to this particular woman. We've lost a very large bid, because I think the other thing that happens here is it shows that you, as a new leader in the organization, are interested in making changes, you're interested in figuring out what matters to the customers and by making yourself vulnerable in that sense, all of a sudden the opportunities back right like had you not reached out to her and had that conversation, you know you could probably assume she probably wouldn't have called you when she happened to be in the area to come back. So I think it's pretty cool. Good lesson there. You're absolutely right, great points to make. Well, I could go off on this one forever, but you need to be humble as a leader. You know, in any organization the only way to learn is to listen, to ask questions, to be humble. You know, we often think too much, we know too much, we already know, we already understand. I don't think you know. I would say that's a challenge. That statement. I've spent a great deal of my energy here focusing on learning from the customers we currently have and what's their optics, you know, the long term partners and customers, and I realized a lot of what their expectations are and we've been working on shorting the soup. But to your point, I've always found customers are willing to help if you're willing to listen. If you're arrogant and you know you don't want to listen and you don't respond to the customer, but then they'll treat you that way. But if you're humble and you listen and ask for help and they'll they'll be fully willing to help you. You know, BMW is here. I can speak about them. I mean BMW Spartanburg plant ten is a huge plant here. It's a big important company in terms of this community and it's a customer of ours and I can tell you they're tough customer, very tough. They your expectations are very high, but they're also willing to help. You know, when we ask for help, when we say this, when we got problem, we don't understand, do this, they send people over here and they help us to understand what their expectations are. They spend the energy on their supply base to teach you. They're high. Again, they're tough, but they're willing to help if you're willing to listen. And we've put a lot of energy into being humble and listening because we know we've got a lot of things we got to fix here and so we can learn from great companies like BMW and Vovol and others that can help us at teach us. So great point you raise. Cool mark committed an interesting comments to me in a previous conversation that I wanted to bring back here. You said one of the first things you'll do when you you're evaluating a potential vendor or partner for Spartanburg is, you'll go into the bathroom at their facility and you'll immediately learn something about the culture just by how it looks in there. I thought that was really smart. Tell me more about that. Yeah, I go into the employee bathrooms. I don't go into the manager bathrooms, right because there's a difference sometimes. It's been my experience going to been in many, many plants in many countries and and one thing rains consistent that I've found. You can, you know, to use a loose term, you can put lipstick on a pig, so to speak. You can make something look good for five minutes or make a clean up your shop for a customer visit. But really what I look for is there a consistency in that right and oftentimes the employee bathroom or the employee change rooms tell a story on its own. If...

...you walk into where the employees go to the bathroom and it's stall doors are ripped off and there's graffiti on the walls and it's filthy dirty, I will make the assumption that that organization doesn't take care of their employees too well, that there's some underlying cultural issues there. I'm pretty sure that that would be true. The opposite is quite true as well. You Walk in employee bathrooms and they're clean, organized, you know, respectful, right, respectful of the workforce. That says something to me too. Says well, that there's some you know that they care right. You know, people often say, you know, the most important asset in any company is people, but then you go to the bathrooms and the bathrooms are the graffiti everywhere and the stall doors are ripped off and eat working conditions are poor and lightnings poor and it's unsafe. I mean it's that always that you can say anything, you can say in a boardroom. You can make a presentation sound great, but the real rubber hits the road when you walk out into see the real conditions. And that's why I look at bathrooms because, again, it's one of those things. I just feel like if you care about your employees, then you'll do the right thing for them. Dig metium. Respect is a cornerstone of leadership and thinking in respect this facilities for employees. I mean you couple hundred employees that come to work every single day. You want to have a nice, clean facilities for them to use. I mean, that's that to me says a lot and I think it's super important and I don't discount it. I mean, and again, having visited facilities and seeing very poor conditions and the culture was exactly that. If the bathrooms were in terrible condition, and I've seen it, stall doors ripped off and graffiti, there's a lot of problems underlying and that organization and it and and, by the way, it all starts with leadership. It's a great microcosm of sort of what the organization actually practices. I think I like the example is that. Yeah, thank you, and I had one thing, Joe. You know, I'll go one step further and say I use the employe bathrooms. By the way. So my office here in the Front Room, front office, we have a management bathroom, but I go use employee bathrooms and I do that because, a, I want to make sure that they are the way they need to be and be. I'm not better than anybody else. It always blows my mind that, you know, leaders and companies presidency, you'll have a parking at the best parking spot. I am never understand that. Why do I need to be fifteen feet closer to the door so I can get in faster or get out faster. I don't need to have a parking spot and I don't need to use an executive bathroom. I mean I can use employ bathos because again, if the employe bathroom is beneath me, it's not good enough for me, then it's not good enough for the people, and so I always would think that way, right. I mean, it doesn't matter. We I go and need an employee cafeteria, I use the micro race there. I mean, again, all of those things are little things, but they all mean something and it most in particular, it means, you know, we put the workforce up here and we say it's that, that, it's that reversed or chart. I'm at the bottom and the employees are at the top. Right, that's what's where they are because again, they are the most important asset of the company and we management need to make them successful. That's our job. So all of that kind of combined is really around my beliefs and leadership. Yeah, that's serve and leadership at play. Right.

Yeah, that's exactly right. What's stay on this topic of people here for a minute. I I've heard you say that engaging people's hearts and minds is a central piece of SSP's strategy. What's this phrase mean to you? It's a lot of things. It's again, it's kind of tying back together what I've said so far. You you I believe that in order for people to give what I call discretionary effort, so that hundred and ten percent is the extra ten or the extra twenty percent coming to work every single day, you know, being positive and contributing when they're here, if they don't believe in the leadership that in the organization. You know, you and I are the same. If we work for someone we don't believe in, that doesn't lead by example, that treats US poorly, you know, typically you're not going to give that extra ten percent. You're going to you're going to do your job, but you're not going to go over and above your job. And what I'm trying to do every day is inspire people to really give discretionary effort because you know, to to go from good to great. You Know Collins Book and it's there's a lot of it in there, to go from good to great. that the different perence between good and great companies. A lot of things, but but the people are the foundation of going from good to great. And if you have, you know, workforce of four hundred of people and for injured, engaged people driving hard everyday, coming to work every day, especially today, Joe, you know, with covid and with the situation in A. I mean I hear it from leaders all the time in the community here about the turnover rate is tremendous, people don't want to come to work, etc. Yeah, we have to go over and above to keep our people plugged in and that's that's really the the point of gaining people's hearts and minds. I want people to want to come to work, and I always say this to the peoples at list. I'm not a fool. I understand if you want the lottery to more, you won't be here, and I get all that, but we have to work. So if we have to work, then at least we can enjoy it while we're here and we can want to come to work versus getting up every morning and here having your stomach gate because you know you got to go back to that place. I don't want that for the people and so really the effort is to, you know, the gain their hearts and minds, to keep them focused and make it fun, as fun as it can be, make it engaging, and it's a lot of other things like giving them opportunities to grow in the company, to earn more money, to do all that stuff right, that they have a voice and it or listen to, and that's really what it means. It's super important and I ultimately believe that in any transformation, in any world class company, people are engaged and that's, you know, that's kind of the the price of entry. If you want to be there, you've got to have an engaged workforce. And again, I've seen it before. I've seen disengage workforces and they can. They can disengage workforce can affect the results of a company very quickly because if the people are only eight in the gate, they command, they give you the minimum, the minimum effort and are gone. They don't work overtime, they don't work the week. You know, if you're in a situation where you need that and they don't want to do that, to put yourselves in trouble real quick. So that's that's really what it means. There's a lot to it, but it's it's really all about what the gaining people some your engagement. How does this focus on engaging people's hearts and minds change, if at all, as you look at Gen's ears, or at least the younger generations entering the manufacturing workforce?...

Good question and I do like there is a difference. I've been on a panel before where there's some debate about people are people and we should treat everybody say, and I'll agree with that, while at the same time I think we have to be smart enough as leaders and organizations to understand that there's expectations of our different generations change and not as a true fact, I have a twenty two year old and eighteen year old and I can tell you that their expectations of work are far different than what mine were, of what my father's were, and so I think it's wise of us to understand that. You know, they want more, they want different they want to be able to communicate in different ways. That are so it is important and we are. We're on the cusp of that right now. You know, we're really developing our sustainability strategy and that's something that you know, that is all encompassing, as we you know, when I first heard of sustainability. Go back a couple of years and you know, I just assumed at the time will that's, you know, Waste Management, energy consumption, renewable energy, but it is far more than that. I mean it's diversity, inclusion, it's ethics and legal compliance, it's codes of conduct, that's your suppliers codes of conduct. It just goes on and on. Incorporate social responsibility. These are the things that I believe are super important for the JEN's ears, you know, and those young people, because it matters to them, and so having that if for the right reasons. We need to do it for the right for all, for all employees. But I believe those things really also are the people of the you know, the newer generations definitely associate with that more so than my generation, your generation, that our parents, for example. So I think it's super important and also creative ways of attracting the younger people, because what we're finding is the young folks coming out of college they're not interested in manufacturing, they're not interested in skill traits, and that's that's a problem that number of organizations are realizing. As we look forward, we you know, for example, here we we've got a long tenured workforce, which is Great. At the same time we've got tool makers and maintenance technicians that are in their late the s early s and over the next five years I will lose sixty percent of the traits. So we are really focusing on developing some partnerships with the schools in the local areas, the technical schools, so we can start to, you know, engage those people, bringing them in so they can do coops, different things like that. That's really important, so we can get them interested in, plugged in, because that that's coming at us and really we're trying to drive that you interests of manufacturing, etcetera. I GIVE BMW a plug. I mean they've done an innovation, they they've done a bunch of different things and they're really plugged in with the schools and technical because they see the same thing. I mean they need the same thing we do, the trades, the manufacturing professioncy engineers, the manufacturing and used industrial engineers. So there's there's really something coming at us that we got to work on and that's that's a big thing. So know, back to your point, I mean I think there's a lot of things. As organizations we have to be aware of and we got to approach things differently with the...

Gen's ears and the younger people, because their expectations are far different than our current workforce, etc. Yeah, a lot of truths in there. You know, I just talked to so many manufacturing leaders between this podcasts and people I interview like you, mark, between my clients, who are, you know, all manufacturing people. And you know, it's what everybody's talking about is how are we going to get you know, the the older generation leaving, especially in the skilled trades, and younger people having a perception of manufacturing is dark, dirty, dangerous working environments. How are we going to change that? First of all, because that needs to change if where it is true, and then, secondly, how are we going to engage them, engage the youth, help them understand that this is there's growth opportunities here, there's interesting technology here, there's so much really cool stuff going on in manufacturing. So any ways to engage with the community and the schools and a shed a positive light on manufacturing is kind of really what I'm after when I, you know, kind of doing my job here's a host of this podcast. So I like hearing you talk about what ssps doing on that front. You know, on the cusp of that, I would say we're just getting going down that path. We we recognize the need and we're starting and we're learning. You know, we're partnering with with the South Carolina Chamber and the school technical schools. BMW's helping. There's a lot to be learned out there. I'll go back to this innovation. They you know, I attended at BMW. I mean they had a lot that. They had clemson there, they had some other schools there. They had cobots, these collaborative robots. I mean they had AI, so artificial intelligence for training. I mean it's a really, really neat stuff that absolutely the Gen's ears would be plugged into. So I think that that need for that of really bringing manufacturing to it. To you to your point. It's not something that coming out of school that you know, the people today, the young the young people today, see as interesting or innovative, but it can be and in fact there's a lot of things there. But we just got to be able to promote that and share that and as companies, we got to start engaging with those things because that's what's going to bring the next generation workforce to us. So I think it's you know, it's a great point and I'm sure you could. You could have a podcast with with the conversation about this for a long time. It's a it's a real, real issue coming at us. For sure, it is absolutely will mark. Is there anything else that I didn't ask you about that you'd like to share with other manufacturing leaders out there before we wrap it up? You know, I just summarize that, not regardless of and I have a lot of respect for a lot of the manufacturers around here. I learn a lot from many of them and having worked for MAGNA and Martinry, I've learned a lot of things from great companies and I appreciate all that. At the end of the day, leaders have to lead and leading by example is not rocket science. It's hard, it's hard to do, but it is to my opinion, it's the game changer. It's the difference between getting the results and not necessarily getting the results. You got to be leading by example every day and everything we do and an ultimately got a strategy and I you know, I give a lot of credit to this leadership team. We've got a great team of people here. I really humbled by them and...

...you know they've engaged a two Oh. They're excited by it. It's interesting. I would add one thing. Joe And all of the customer and I've had quite a few customer visits here and to customers. What I continuously talked about as to and it's interesting how quickly the customers grabbed to immediately they they start talking about that. You know, they really talk like we talked about it. You know, we very quickly explain one point Oh, we talked about two point, and then the conversation from them to us as well. You know, you guys got to do this in two point Oh, and make sure that you capture this. And so it's really interesting. They've really gravitated to it. It's IT'S A it's a clean demarcation point where we say we're going from here to here and and I found it very exciting that employees really they get a kick out of it. So or and customers get a kick out of it and they're engaged to it and they asked about it. BMW comes here all the Times a where we have a two guys. What's happening? You know what's the strategy? So I'm really really proud about that. So I just again summarize that. You know, with with all due respect, lead, lead by example, ample and have a strategy and execute your strategy, but always make sure that you do what you say you're going to do. Is is a foundation. Well, congrats on what you've been able to accomplish so far. Mark. Sounds like you guys are going in a really great direction. I appreciate that. Thank you. We are and we'll keep going. Never, never, it's a journey, not a destination. It is indeed. Mark. Can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you and also whether where they can learn more about Spartanberg steel products? Yeah, so we just thank you. We just launched our new websites at Spartanburg steel productscom. New website, brand new. So we're still evolving, but you can take a look at there. I'm on Linkedin and my email addresses and witten' at ssprodcom, and I'm always willing to share and help with someone needs it. Perfect will mark, thanks again for doing this today. Thanks to appreciate your time. 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 miss 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 BTB manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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