The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year 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

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Your Business, our business business, of everybody listening, anywhere from ten to three or four hundred folks that are helping solve problems for customers that have superpowers or strengths that are very different than what you expect. So encouraging your leadership team and putting a structure and systems in place to identify those and and put people in positions to leverage those while serving your customer. 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 Guilla seventy six. We talk a lot on this show about shiny manufacturing technology and digital marketing and sales strategy, but sometimes the keys to success in our businesses are simple, fundamental things like listening, listening to our employees, listening to our teammates, listening to our customers. Today I'm talking with someone who has taken this concept to heart. So let me take a moment to introduce our guest. Joe Molluski has enjoyed a career working inside midsize manufacturers. From listening to the family stories on the iron range and Minnesota to following his dad around a printing company in Seattle Washington, Joe has always wanted to know more about not only how we make things, but why people feel the way they do about the company that they work for. Joe Spend time and varied roles throughout his career, continuous improvement director, Thesis Development Manager, production supervisor and VP of operations, now leading operations at multisource manufacturing LLC. Joe Brings an intense focus to organizational change rapid performance improvement, all within a system that ensures that each team member both knows and applies their natural strengths to their job each and every day. Joe, welcome to the show. Hey, thank you for having me. Well, Joe, when you and I talked a few weeks back to prep for this conversation, a little bit. You told me your uncle's story from his days as a millwright on Minnesota's iron range and I just set that thinking about this is this is pretty cool and it's really interesting how it inspired you in your own career and journey. So I'd love for you to share that story with our listeners, if you're willing, because I think it's a great lead into the conversation we're about to have. Yeah, I love to share that story as it's one of my favorites that I've told many times, and the story really goes like you said, my uncle was working for one of the largest deal producers or iron ore producers on Minnesota's iron range in the S and early s and he was working as a millwright and his role was to produce parts that would be used in the maintenance of equipment, big belt lines and such around the property. And when he came in one day, he pulled a work order that he had to do and he looked at it and went approached his manager and said, Hey, I've got an idea on a change for this part that would likely increase the longevity and reduce the amount of downtime on a belt line moving between different areas of the facility and his manager looked at him and said, Bill, I pay you to make parts, not to think, and I would appreciate it if you go back and do that. And so that was pretty impactful to hear. But what I took away from that in my career over time was I never wanted to be in that position. Right, every employee got strength. And I talked to you about my uncle a little bit more, which highlights this even further. My uncle is able to build anything, for with his...

...hands, metal, would you name it? Very creative, individual, accounstant thinker, and in one sentence it changed his career in perpetuity until he retired. And his own words he said after that day I never offered 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 told you, I took away from that I never very young at the time of twenty three, working my first job as a sei specialist at a granted company, and that really hit me pretty hard and made me change the way I think about leading and as impacted all the way to now. Yeah, it's just you hear these stories and you think what a waste when you think of all the resources and brain power and experience and different skill sets that people inside your organization have and then you see these top down leadership approaches where it's kind of Nope, this is how we do it and that's it. Right. It carries on even, like we talked before, it carries on to this day even when you step into a new organization. It may not be as dramatic as the conversation my uncle may have had, but as leaders you have to be very cautious about the words that you use when you use them, because they carry a lot of weight, right, and this individual that was speaking to my uncle was a form and a supervisor. The guy also was a mill right at one point in time, and that's the approach that he took. So there are still a lot of people in our world and manufacturing, in the small the midsize manufacturers, where those approaches are still more common than we then we like to believe. So as we step into those rolls, into those organizations, we still have to work with those employees and convince them that that's not the approach that we're going to take. Yeah, absolutely well, Joe, I'm going to quote you from a recent article you wrote where you said if you focus on implementing canned lean tools and you do with so many others have done, you're likely to be disappointed. It's critically important that you understand what your customers value, understand how you create value and relentlessly improve the processes that support those value drivers. Can you unpack that one for us a little bit? Yeah, I'm going to take that and in a couple different ways. Right, like I think about any lean transformation or organizational transformation that needs to take place and there's an infinite number of places to start those journeys. It's still common today, even though we've been preaching for fifteen years, that tool based approach to implementing lean or anything else just doesn't work. Unfortunately, that still happens. Right we have companies that want to dabble or try lean and they'll send a few folks out to, you know, a workshop. They'll come back with ideas around San visual management. They'll start putting those things into place and things will look really good. Right. Cleanliness, the organization, all those things look great. The challenges that often take months and months and then, as we review results, we're not seeing improved customer experience, we're not seeing improve financial experience within the financial performance within the business, and so support will begin to wait. No matter how nice your shop looks, spending time for what can feel like window dressing starts to lose of steam really quickly, and typically what happens is those companies just had their first fall start right, which is not uncommon, and that's where they often started, a tool based approach disconnected from customer value and company performance. So, like you mentioned, focusing on on your customer, understanding what they value through collaboration with your curt your commercial team or sales team and key customers. It's important to focus on key customers. You can't focus on all of them. To drive the transformation in your business, you need to understand your most valuable customers and what it is they're looking for, and the best part about that is when you realign or you start your tread your transformation, where your biggest and most...

...important customers can feel it. The rest of your customers typically benefit from that as well, even though you didn't spend the time focusing on them, they get a natural improvement from what you're doing to your business and in order to get there, identifying where you drive value. There's a some of us in the past that work together coined to term the key moments of truths, and that can exist in a manufacturing process or a service delivery process for a manufacturing company, that might support the products that you produce right. And what those really entail is what are the things that need to happen in a cycle a sale delivery for your customer to you essentially recommend you to a colleague or a friend, right. And so if you unpack a business it might be something like confirm you have my order, confirm my lead time. Let me know when my product is hit your manufacturing floor, say in the contract manufacturing space. Confirm it's going to be on time. When did it shift first time quality? If you can answer six yes to all six of those, that customers likely to be satisfied. Now then comes the work looking at your current processes, aligning them with what your customers are really looking for and starting to close those gaps. But the cool part with that is if you take the time to identify the key moment, look at your current performance to those key moments of truth throughout the process and then get laiser focus where you're failing your customer and you see that number start to move. Whether it's Otd first, toast yield, whatever it might be, your customers going to experience that and you can start to get a lot of momentum, both internally and externally, out of that type of an approach. Yeah, I really like a lot of things that you just touched on here. I mean the first one is the idea of focusing, and it's something I talk about in my world as a marketing and sales guy. Is when you when you try to be everything to everybody or make everyone happy, you wind up to spread yourself then and accomplishing very little. And as I see that in on the Business Development Front, I like to hear you talk about it on the operation side too, because I think a lot of companies waste a lot of their time trying to serve so many different types of customers who don't resemble each other, and they wind up realizing that they're throwing resources at companies that aren't even profitable, that they're sometimes even paying for the privilege to do business with. Frankly, when it when it comes down to it, because of the the man hours, the cost of the man hours exceeds what they're even being paid, and so you really need to and then then there's a snowball effect. I think that happens when you start to focus on your being great for your best customers, because you know they they become loyal to you, they become referral partners for you to other companies who resemble them and all of a sudden, before you know it, you're working with the right types of businesses who are actually profitable and you're developing deeper expertise serving them. So a lot of good stuff there. Yeah, it's like you said, on the the business development side sometimes it makes even more sense to focus right and then when you get within the operation side it can get a little bit blurry because we've often already made a lot of commitments and things up front. So then how do you set up your operation to be able to take that up and be able to work in that world? So, for instance and small manufactures where, let's say, variability or customizability drives value for the customer, building to stock may not be the best plan. So how do you create a production system that's accepting rapid change over high velocity? Many different products and rather than trying to figure out the inventory strategy to hold it right. So that's where it flows in. If your customers have a lot of variability and change their mind quite often and they value that, you're going to want to look at your production system to align with the value your customers are looking for. Yeah, that's a good build. Joe. In the same article you talked about how your time at...

...landscape structures gave you the opportunity earlier in your career to put customer listening into practice, and I'd love for you to talk about that experience a little bit. It's an awesome transition because that's where I was just starting to touch on landscape structures and really cool company. They made playgrounds, commercial playgrounds. If you've got a kid and you go to a park or an Easter nephew as a good chance you're playing on one of their and probably twenty years ago set back a second. The owners there that founded the company really change the landscape of how playgrounds were designed as well, from having separate swings and teeter totters to bringing the playgrounds we know today all together as one. That was the concept of Steve King, who founded landscape structures and with that, as they started putting out more and more different types of structures, they encouraged their customers to configure and request new things and they were constantly reaching out through their distributor network saying what do you guys want now? What do you want now? What do you want now? And over time, as the variability grew landscape they were listening to their customers saying we want more, we want more, we want different. And landscape structures to this day is known as the the leader in new products and innovation within that industry. That created a problem, right they had a manufacturing system that was a build the stocks finished good system. So, as you can imagine, you build two hundred what in the industry they call overhead ladders. We call those monkey bars. You might build a hundred green ones and then fifty blue ones and then twenty yellow one. That's cool if you have three or four colors you're dealing with, but when you have thirty that becomes very difficult to be able to build the inventory and afford the working capital to satisfy the variation your customers asking for. So when you looked at the way landscape structures started their journey. It was not with fives in those other things. It was the only way we're going to be able to reduce lead time from thirty two days and manufacturing to literally sixteen hours is by reducing set up, batch sizes and changeovers. That's it and they attack that relentlessly for a few years before I even got there. And the result that came from that in both customer satisfaction. It freed up the product development team to do even more because they could trust the manufacturing system could spit it out and satisfy the customer, no matter what the color, shape, no matter what. And so taking an understanding from the customer, the most important to thing to them was configurability and option and then working that all the way through their lean journey. Where they started, what they focused on. It's still going there today. I haven't I haven't been employed there in ten years, but I talked to the folks in there. They're still working that way. So and the last piece I'll share with that is in terms of vision statement that got us all behind. It is something as simple as we're pursuing on sales order flow. We want to produce on sales order and then switch to the next one and then switch to the next one so it can continue to flow through our system. And so it was really easy as a new leader in the business when thinking about what are we going to change or how were we going to change it, because of it brought us closer to one sales order flow. We knew we were moving in the right direction. So that was very helpful as well. It's a really good example and I love that story for for a few reasons. You know something that I've talked a lot about, a lot about recently had a hosted or one of our first conversations on clubhouse about for anybody on clubhouse about this topic, but customer interviews will or you know, customer listening in general, and I think it's an overlooked step in in the the marketing and sales process for a lot of companies. But also that, you know, something that impacts, as you've talked about, impacts rd in operations, when you have a process for an...

...ongoing basis to actually hear from the mouths of your customers and your prospects really, but especially the people who are buying from you and then the right types of buyers, when you hear what they want. You learn so many things and especially when you have that conversation outside the context of a sales conversation and when they know you're you're there too to listen and hear what it is they're trying to achieve, what problems they're trying to solve, what things they actually want. I think we operate under assumptions a lot of the time and if we took the time to listen to our customers, so much you can learn. Yeah, there is and there's so many examples from landscape and how they did that, and I was not involved in that at that point in my career, but there were that would the distribution network that sold that product. So there'd be select you know, the the key distributors that they that had that, you know, probably the best intelligence. Some of the better businesses maybe provided more revenue to the business. They got a they got listened to quite a bit and it was organized, it was information was captured in a way from those customers that it was actionable. Similar in my time attending company, having customers from the commercial side or industrial side or distribution side having two or three days set aside with business development, product development and others in a formal way to talk about what are those things that you're looking for down the road one year, two year, three years that can drive value for you? What do we need to be working on in the most general sense? And those, if facilitating correctly right can give you a quite a heads up on the operation side, if you're paying attention as to what might be coming down the pipe for you and what you might have to address, maybe not even next year, next month, but as a senior leader in the business, two to three years down the road. Right. Our customers expectation shifting? Are they the same? Are they tweaking? It's important for the opspokes to get a seat at that table, or at least an update, understand what we're hearing from our customers in an unfiltered way, and a direct seat at those tables is the best way to do it. Yeah, I agree with that and I think what's important to is you lose as you conduct more and more of these conversations with customers, you'll start to identify trends or patterns and you know you said it earlier with with your landscape structures, example, where what the customer was looking for. I think you said two things I remember you said one of them was configurability. Right, like that was the underlying thing that mattered. It wasn't that they wanted the choice between you know, we like read overhead ladders, right, it's it's it's that. You know, in general, configurability was was one of the key things. Right. They wanted their playground to be the unique to their community. We translated that into our world and a configurability right. And what they really wanted is, I don't want my playground to look like the next town over, right, I don't want that one. and to translate for sure. Well, let's shift gears a moment. I want to swing back around to kind of where we started, where we were talking about your uncle's story, but and how that inspired you. But I know that another area of passion for you is the idea of a people first leadership approach, which you know, to me feels like it stems from the exact opposite of what your uncle experienced, unfortunately. But what have you learned in your career and from your experiences that you can share with our audience about building around the strengths of your people to support continuous improvement rather rather than forcing people into roles that don't fit their strengths. Yeah, I think I'll get one quick, quick snippet of where I learned about the importance of leading with strength and understanding people first and when I was at cold spring as a SEAI specialist for a couple of years, there was a very quiet engineer that pulled me aside after probably my thirteen or fourteen...

Kis. Any 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 into the facility and he pulled me aside and said you might want to change the way you approach leading the people on the project and the team that you leave behind. I said what do you mean? He said you get amazing results, but you do it while you run over the top of people will and you're not concerned about their own understanding or what they bring to the table year ensuring you get the results and that's it. That will never work. That was really hard to hear because I'd seen myself as a driven, confident person and what I was told really quickly as people are seeing you as a steam rolling over the top of them. Hence the story I told earlier, and so that hit me pretty hard at a early spot in my career. So I started looking very differently at understanding ahead of time, back even then. Who's going to be on my ties in team right? They're not people I even have met before. I want to know more about them. So I'd start talking to supervisors and others. What do they like to do? When there's projects at work? which ones that they picked up? So even early on I was dialing into trying to figure out people before I met them. And that's forward to today. Leading multisource, I have five different manufacturing facilities with different leaders in each one, and here we actually help assess their strength and identify things like are you a pioneer? Are you a promoter? Are you a creator? What are the things you like to do? And so what I've found is understanding what those strengths are, understanding how that fits into the bigger team, without focusing directly on the results expected, which we still do, but really ensuring you've got the right person in the right spot and it's appropriate for your company. I'll give you an example. I have a plant manager in one of my locations. That is he was a SEI director for ten years he did training, speaking, you name it. So when we have a big new program to kick off at multisource or if it's a program that requires a large amount of training or collaboration, such as launching a three thinking to frontline supervisors, John's my guy because he can do it, he can talk in front of everybody and he support all five plans. Now, if there's something that requires a ton of detail work, the strengths on my team there fall under a different individual and so he'll take that type of work on. And so ensuring that you have the right person with the right strength in the right seat, in the right mix on the team as well, which adds another layer, you can typically achieve result uncommon within your industry. 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 got either the right person in the wrong seat or you realize I've got the wrong person. I think that usually comes up when I'll hear from a manager quite often everybody is resistant to change. This entire team is resistant to change, and so quite often I'll put back at them and say, is it really the team that's resisting changer is that you resistant to leading change differently. Right? Is it them or is it you? And let's talk about that. And so that's usually the first tip that we might have somebody in the wrong spot. Is the success or lack of success of the team is based on the team's on willingness to do something different that the managers asking them to do something's not aligned. And usually it doesn't start with the twelve to fifteen folks. Usually I start somewhere else. Well, Joe, is there anything we didn't touch on here that you'd like to add to the conversation today? No, I think we talked about the strength and you know, the strength of strength based approach to leadership, and I don't think that can go under discussed. To understand what are those superpowers your team possesses, because...

...they're different quite often, going all the way back to the beginning of our discussion, my uncle superpowers weren't making parts or a mining company. He had super powers in creativity. He was a creator. He could build anything at any time. Your Business, our business, business of everybody listening, anywhere from ten to three or four hundred folks that are helping solve problems for customers that have super powers or strengths that are very different than what you expect. So encouraging your leadership team and putting a structure and systems in place to identify those and and put people in positions to leverage those while serving your customer. Again, I don't think that can go understated. So I kind of wanted to take a chance to go back at that a little bit. That's a great way to wrap it up. I think that's there's a oneliner that will highlight from this episode. Really good way to close it out. All right, thank you, Joe. This was a really good conversation. I appreciate 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 they can learn more about multisource? Yeah, you can get in touch with me in a few different ways. You'll find me on Linkedin, Joe Moleski. There's not many of me around, so I'm pretty easy to find there. So so Jay Molesti at multisource mfgcom. And you can find out more about multisource on Linkedin as well or on our website, which is multisource mfgcom perfect will joe. Once again, thanks for doing this today, and that's 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 bedb manufacturers at gorilla seventy sixcom learn. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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