The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 6 months ago

Leading by Listening w/ Joe Molesky


Don't think. Just make parts.

Ever had a manager tell you that when you offered a suggestion for process improvement?

Leaders' words carry weight and affect people. They can affect how you think about your employer and even change your career forever.

In today's episode, Joe Molesky, vice president of operations at MultiSource Manufacturing LLC, discusses why people feel the way they do about your company and the simple keys to changing it.

Here's what Joe and I talked about:

  1. Why canned lean tools don't work
  2. Listening to your customers and to your team
  3. What people-first leadership really means

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

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Your Business, our business business ofeverybody, listening anywhere from ten to three or four hundred folks that arehelping solv problems for customers that have super powers or strengthsthat are very different than what you expect so encouraging your leadershipteam and putting a structure and systems in place to identify those andput people in position to leverage those, while serving your customer. Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here, you'll discover new insihts frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and youill learn from btob sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan, your Houst and acofounder of the Industrial Marketing Agency GERILLU. Seventy six. We talk alot on this show about shiny manufacturing technology and digitalmarketing and sales strategy. But sometimes the keys to success in ourbusinesses are simple, fundamental things like listening. Listening to ouremployees. Listening to our teammates listening to our customers. Today, I'mtalking with someone who has taken this concept to heart, so let me take amoment to introduce our guest. Joe Melusky has enjoyed a career workinginside midsize manufacturers from listening to the family stories on theiron range in Minnesota to following his dad around a printing company inSeattle. Washington Joe has always wanted to know more about not only howwe make things, but why people feel the way they do about the company that theywork for Joe spent time in varied roles throughout his career continues:Improvement Director, Hees this development manager, productionsupervisor and VP of operations now leading operations at Multisource,manufacturing LLC Joe brings an intense focus, organizational change, rapidperformance improvement all within t a system that insures that each teammember both knows and applies their natural strengths to their job each andevery day. Joe Welcome to the show hey. Thank you for having me well Joe, whenyou and I talked a few weeks back to prep. For this conversation, a littlebit, you told me your uncle's story from his days as a mill Wright onMinnesota's iron range, and I just sat there thinking well. This isthis is pretty cool and SA. It's really interesting how it inspired you in yourown career and journey. So I thouht for you to share that story with ourlisteners if you're willing, because I think it's a great lead into theconversation we're about to have yeah I'd love to share that story. As it'sone of my favorites Tbat, I've told many times, and the story really goeslike you said my uncle was working for one of the largest deal producers orion, or producers on Minnesota's iron range in the S and early, and he wasworking at a mill right and his role was to produce parts that would be usedin the maintenance of equipment, big beltlines and such around the property,and when he came in one day, he pulled a work order that he had to do and helooked at it and went approached his manager and said: Hey. I've got an ideaon a change for this part that would likely increase the longevity andreduce the amount of downtime on a beltline moving between different areasof the facility and his manager looked at him and said Bill. I pay you to makeparts not to think, and I would appreciate it if you go back and dothat, and so that was pretty impassful to hear. But what I took away from thatin my career over time was. I never wanted to be in that position right.Every employees got strength, and I talked to you about my uncle a littlebit more, which highlight this even...

...further. My uncle was able to buildanything for with his hand, metal. Would you name it very creative,individual counstant thinker and in one sentence it changed his career inperpetuity until he retired an his own words. He said after that day I neveroffered another another example or another idea to the organization,because it was clear that they weren't valued, and so what I as like, I toldyou I took away from that. I never was very young at the time of twenty threeworking, my first job as a CI specialist oad of Granit Company, andthat really hit me pretty hard and made me change the way I think about leadingand it impacted all the way to now. Yeah. It's just Yo. U Hear thesestories and you think what a waste when you think of all the resources andbrainpower and experience and different skill sets that people inside yourorganization have a, and then you see these topdown leadership approacheswhere it's kind of nope. This is how we do it and that's it right. It carrieson even like we talked before it carries onto this day. Even when youstep into a new organization, it may not be as dramatic as the conversationmy uncle may have had, but as leaders you have to be very cautious about thewords that you use when you use them, because they carry a lot of weightright and this individual that was speaking to my uncle was a forman asupervisor. The guy also was a mill Wright at one point in time and that'sthe approach that he took. So there are still a lot of people in our world inmanufacturing in the small demidsize manufacturers, where those approachesare still more common than we than we like to believe. So, as we step intothose roles into those organizations, we still have to work with thoseemployees and convince them that that's not the approach that we're going totake yeah absolutely well Joe. I'm going to quote you from a recentarticle. You wrote where you said: If you focus on implementing canned leantools and you do with so many others have done, you're likely to bedisappointed, it's critically important that you understand what your customersvalue, understand, how you create value and relentlessly improve the processesthat support those value drivers. Can you inpact that one for us a little bityeah I'm going to take that in a couple different ways right, like I, I think about any lean transformationor organizational transformation that need to take place and there's aninfinite number of places to start those journeys. It's still common.Today, even though we've been preaching for fifteen years that tool basedapproach to implementing lien or anything else just doesn't work.Unfortunately, that still happens right. We have companies that want to dabbleor try Lene and send a few folks out to you know, workshop they'll come backwith ideas around five es. An visual management well start putting thosethings into place and things will look really good right. Thecleanliness, the organization, all those things, look great, thechallenges that often take months and months and then, as we review, results,we're not seeing improved customer experience, we're not seeing improvedfinancial experience within the per financial performance within thebusiness, and so support will begin to way, no matter how nice, your shoplooks spending time for what can feel like window dressing starts to losetheme really quickly and typically, what happens? Is those companies justhad their first fall start right, which is not uncommon and that's where theyoften started a tool based approach, disconnected from customer value andcompany performance. So, like you mention focusing on your customerunderstanding what they value through collaboration with your cu, yourcommercial team or sales team and te customers, it important to focus on keycustomers. You can't focus on all of them to drive the transformation inyour business. You need to understand your most valuable customers and whatit is they're looking for and the best part about that is when you realign oryou start your te, your transformation...

...where your biggest and most importantcustomers confeal it. The rest of your customers typically benefit from thatas well. Even though you didn't spend the time focusing on them, they get anatural improvement from what you're doing to your business and in order toget there identifying where you drive value, there's a you know some of us inthe past that work together going to term the key moment of truth and thatcan exist in a manufacturing process or a service delivery process for amanufacturing company that might support the products that you produceright and what those really entail is what are the things that need to happenin a cycle, a sale, delivery for your customer to essentially recommend you to acolleague or a friend right, and so, if you unpack the business, it might besomething like confirm. You have my order confirm my lead time. Let me knowwhen my product is hit. Your manufacturing floor say in the contractmanufacturing space confirm it's going to be on time. When did it shift firsttime? Qualiti? If you can answer six, yes to all six of those that customerslikely to be satisfied now then comes to work. Looking at your currentprocesses, aligning them with what your customers are really looking for andstarting to close those gaps, but the cool part with that is, if you take thetime to identify the key moment, look at your turrent performance to thosekey moments of truth throughout the process and then get laser focus whereyou're failing your customer, and you see that number start to move whetherit's o td first past field, whatever it might be, your customeris going toexperience that, and you can start to get a lot of momentum, both internallyand externally. Out of that type of an approach yeah. I really like a lot ofthings that you just touched on here I mean the first one is the idea offocusing and it's something I talk about in my world: A marketing andsales guy? Is? U, when you try to be everything to everybody or makeeveryone happy you wind up just spreading yourself, then andaccomplishing very little, and so I see that on the Business Development Front,I like to hear you talk about it on the operation side to because I think a lotof companies waste a lot of their time trying to serve so many different typesof customers who don't resemble each other and they wind up realizing that tthey're, throwing resources at companies that aren't even profitable,that theyre, sometimes even paying for the privilege to do business withfrankly when it comes down to it because of the the man hours, the cost,the man hours exceeds what they're even being paid, and so you really need toand then then there's a snowball effect. I think that happens when you start tofocus on your being great for your best customers, because you know they theybecome loyal to you. They become referral partners for you to othercompanies who resemble them and all of a sudden before you know it you'reworking with the right types of businesses who are actually profitableand you're developing deeper exper tea serving them. So a lot of good stuffthere yeah it's like you, said on t the business development I sometimes itmakes even more sense to focus right and then, when you get within theoperation side, it can get a little bit blurry, because we've often alreadymade a lot of commitments and things up front. So then, how do you set up youroperation to be able to take that up and be able to work in that world? So, for instance, in small manufactureswhere let's a variability or customizability drives value for thecustomer, building to stock may not be the best plan. So how do you create aproduction system? That's accepting rapid change over high velocity manydifferent products, and rather than trying to figure out the inventorystrategy to hold it right. So that's where it flows in if your customershave a lot of variability and change their mind quite often, and they valuethat tyou're going to want to look at your production system to align withthe value your customers are looking for. Yeah, that's a good build Joe, anthe same article. You talked about how...

...your time at landscape structures gaveyou the opportunity earlier in your career, to put customer listening intopractice and I'd love for you to talk about that experience a little bit thanawesome transition, because that's where I was just starting to touch onlandscape structure, really cool company. They made playgroundscommercial playground. So if you've got a kid and you go to a park or a nieceor nephew hi's, a good chance, youre playing on one of their and probablytwenty years ago, set back a second. The owners there that founded thecompany, really changed the landscape of how playgrounds were designed aswell from having separate swings and Peter totters to bringin theplaygrounds. We know today Al Together as one that was the concept of Steepeking who founded planscape structures and with that, as they started, puttingout more and more different types of structures. They encouraged theircustomers to configure request new things and they were constantlyreaching out throu their distributor network, saying what dor you guys wantnow. What do you want now? What do you want now and over time as thevariability grew landscape, they were listening to their customer, saying youwant more, we want more. We want different and landscape structures tothis day is known as he, the leader in new products and innovation within thatindustry that treated a problem right. They had a manufacturing system thatwas a build, the stock finish good system. So, as you can imagine youbuild two hundred well in the INDISTRY, they call overhead ladders, we callthose monkey bars, you might build a hundred green ones and then fifty blueones, and then twenty yellow one that's cool if you have three or four colorsyou're dealing with, but when you have thirty that becomes verydifficult to be able to build inventory and afford the working capital tosatisfy the variation your customers asking for. So when you looked at theway, landscape structures started their journey. It was not with bibets andthose other things. It was the only way we're going to be able to reduce leadtime from thirty two days in manufacturing. To literally sixteenhours is by reducing setup, batch sizes and Changeovers, that's it and theyattack that relentlessly. For a few years before I even got there and theresult that came from that in both customer satisfaction, it freed up theproduct development team to do even more because they could trust themanufacturing system could spit it out and satisfy the customer, no matterwhat the color shape, no matter. What and so taking an understanding from thecustomer, the most important to thing to them was configurability and optionand then working that all the way through their lean journey where theystarted what they focused on. It's still going there today, I haven't,haven't been employed there in ten years, but I talked to the folks inthere they're still working that way so and the last piece I'll share with thatis in terms of a vision statement that got us all behind. It is something assimple as was pursuing one sales order flow. We want to produce one salesorder and then switch to the next one and then switch to the next one, so itcan continue to flow through our system, and so it was really easy as a newleader in the business. When thinking about what are we going to change orhow ere we going to change it, because if it brought us closer to onesales order flow, we knew we were moving in the right direction. So thatwas very helpful as well. T's, a really good example H. I love that story for,for a few reasons, you know something that I've talked alot about a lot about recently had a posted o one of our first conversationson clubhouse about for Anybodyon clubhouse about this topic. Butcustomer interviews, or you know, customer listening in general and Ithink it's an overlooked step in in the marketing in sales process for a lot ofcompanies, but also that you know something that impacts as you've talkedabout impacts rnd in operations when... have a process for on an ongoing basis toactually hear from the mouths of your customers and your prospects really,but especially the people who are buying from you and then the righttypes F of buyers. When you hear what they want, you learn so many things,and especially when you have that conversation outside the context of asales conversation, a d when they know you're there to to listen and hear whatit is they're trying to achieve what problems they're trying to solve whatthings they actually want. I think we operate under assumptions a lot of thetime and if we took the time to listen to our customers so much you can learnyeah. There is and there's so many examples from landscape and how theydid that- and I was not involved in that at that point in my career, butthere were that was a distribution network that sold that product sothere' be select. You know the key distributors that they that had the youknow, probably the best intelligent some of the better businesses, maybeprovided more revenue to the business. They got a they got listene to quite abit, and that was organized it was information, was captured in a way fromthose customers that it was actionable similar in my time, attendant companyhaving customers from the commercial side or industrial side or distributionside. Having two or three days set aside with business development,product development and others in a formal way to talk about what are thosethings that you're looking for down the road one year two year, three yearsthat can drive value for you. What do we need to be working on in the mostgeneral sense, and those if facilitated correctly right, can give you a quite ahead up on the operation side if you're paying attention as to what might becoming down, t the pipe for you and what you might have to address, maybenot even next year next month, but as a senior leader in the business two tothree years down the road right, our customers expectation shifting, arethey the same? Are they tweaking it's important for the opboke to get a seaat that table, or at least an update to understand what we're hearing from ourcustomers in an unfiltered way and a direct sea at those tables is the bestway to do it yeah. I agree with that, and I think what's important to is. Youis, as you conduct more and more of these conversations with customers,you'll start to identify trends or patterns, and you you said it earlierwith with your landscape structures. Example where you what the customer waslooking for. I think you said two things remember you said one of themwas configurability right like that was the underlying thing that mattered. Itwasn't that they wanted the choice between you know we, like red overheadladders, right it's it's that you know in general, configurability was was oneof the key things right. They wanted their playground to be the unique totheir community. We translated that into our world into configurabilityright and what they really wanted. Is I don't want my playground to look likethe next town over right. I don't want that one so ave to translate for sure.Well, let's shift gears a moment. I want to swing back around to kind ofwhere we started where we were talking about your uncle's story, but and howthat inspired you, but I know that another area of passion, for you is theidea of a people. First, leadership approach, which you know to me, feelslike it stums from the exact opposite of what your uncle experienced.Unfortunately, but what have you learned in your career and from yourexperiences that you can share with our audience about building around thestrengths of your people to support continuous improvement, rather ratherthan forcing people into roles that don't fit their streks yeah? I thinkI'll get one quick, quick snippit of where I learned about the importance ofleading with strength and understanding people first and when I was at coldspring as a TI specialist for a couple of years. There was a very quietengineer that pulled me aside. After probably mythirteenth or fourteen Kis, an event...

...that I led and was able to get a lot of good results.But then I noticed results were backsliding each time I go back intothe facility, and he pulled me aside and said: HEU might want to change theway you approach leading the people on the project and the team that you leavebehind. I said what do you mean? He said you get amazing results, but youdo it well, you run over the top of people and you're not concerned abouttheir own understanding or what they bring to the table. Your ensuring youget the results and that's it that will never work. That was really hard tohear because ID seen myself as a driven consident person and what I was toldreally quickly is people are seeing you, as you know, steamrolling over the topof them an the story I told earlier, and so that hit me pretty hard at aearly spot in my career. So I started looking very differently atunderstanding ahead of time back, even then, who's going to be on Mike Tisenteam right, they're, not people I even have met before I want to know moreabout them. So I'd start talking to supervisors and others. What do theylike to do when there's projects at work, which one do they picked up soeven early on? I was dialing into trying to figure out people before Imet them and fast forward to today pleading at multisource. I have fivedifferent manufacturing facilities with different leaders in each one, and herewe actually help assess their strength and identify things like. Are you apioneer or are you a promoter? Are you a creator? What are the things you liketo do, and so what I found is understanding what those strengths are,understanding how that fits into the bigger team without focusing directlyon the results expected, which we still do, but really ensuring you'e got theright person in the right spot and it's appropriate foryour company. I'll, giveyou an example. I have a plant manager in one of my locations, that is, he wasa CI director for ten years. He did training speaking, you name it. So whenwe have a big new program to kick off at multisource or if it's a programthat requires a large amount of training or collaboration such aslaunching a three thinking to frontmine supervisors Johns, my guy, because hecan do it, he can talk in front of everybody and he support all side plan.Now, if there's something that requires a ton of detail, work the strength onmy team, there fall under a different, individual and so he'll take that typeof work on and so ensuring that you have the right person with the rightstrength in the right seat in the right mix on the team. As well, which addsanother layer, you can typically achieve results, uncommon within yourindustry, I'll just say in terms of improvement in a short amount of time,what happens Joe when you, when you run into a situation where you've goteither the right person in the wrong seat, or you realize I've got the wrongperson. I think that usually comes up when I'll hear from a manager. Quiteoften, everybody is resistant to change. Thisentire team is resistant to change, and so quite often I'll put back at themand say: Is it really the team? That's resisting Changeris that you resistantto leading chains differently right? Is it tem or is tat you, and let's talkabout that, and so that's usually the first tip that we might have somebodyin the wrong spot is the success or lack of success of theteam is based on the teams, unwillingness to do something different,that the managers asking them to do something not aligned, and usually itdoesn't start with the twelve to fifteen folks, I'm usually a sthartsomewhere else. Well, Joe, is there anything we didn't touch on here thatyou'd like to add to the conversation today? No, I think we talked about thisstrength and you know the strength of strength, faced approach to leadership,and I don't think that can go underdiscussto understand what are those super...

...powers your team possesses becausethey're different quite often going all the way back to the beginning of ourdiscussion, my uncle's super powers, weren't making parts for a miningcompany. He had super powers in creativity. He was a creator. He couldbuild anything at any time. Your Business, our business business ofeverybody, listening anywhere from ten to three or four hundred folks that arehelping solve problems for customers that have super powers or strength thatare very different than what you expect so encouraging your leadership team andputting a structure and systems in place to identify those and put peoplein position to leverage those while serving your customer again. I don'tthink that can go understated, so I kind of wanted to take a chance to goback at that a little bit, that's a great way to wrap it up. I think that'sthere's a one liner that will highlight from this episode really good way toclose it out all right. Thank you, Joe. This is a really good conversation. Iappreciate you doing this today, all right. Well, thank you for the time,can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you and where theycan learn more about multisource yeah. You can get in touch with me in a fewdifferent ways. You'll find me on Linken Joe Melesky, there's not many ofme around, so I'm pretty easy to find there. It's also Jame Molesky at multisource mfgcom, and you can find out more about multisores on Linkon as wellor on our website, which is multisource, mfgcom, perfect, well Joe, once again, thanksfor doing this today and as for the rest of your, I hope to catch you onthe next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools, specificallyfor BTO b manufacturers at gorilla. Seventy sixcom flashan worn. Thank youso much for listening until next time.

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