The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 6 months ago

Restoring Glory and Dignity to Manufacturing w/ John Kramer and Marc Braun


Would you rather focus on people or profitability in your business?

You can’t have it all.

But maybe you can…

Maybe people and profitability go hand in hand, and each makes the other stronger.

In this episode of The Manufacturing Executive, I talk with John Kramer, Chairman & CEO at Cambridge Air Solutions, 
and Marc Braun, President at Cambridge Air Solutions, about what it means to restore glory and dignity to manufacturing through both culture and business practices.

We also talked about:

  • How to build a culture that celebrates people.
  • How profitability fits in with a people-first culture
  • How to adapt to crises in a way that cares for people and drives business forward.

Subscribe to The Manufacturing Executive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Manufacturing is this beautiful space where youcan come and learn and grow and you can learn how to problem solve,you can learn how to make things that are of value and you can makethose for the world. And so inside of manufacturing, if we can dothis, if we can restore glory and dignity inside of the hearts and mindsof all of the adults here that are listening, that can pour into thatnext generation of leader, then all the ships rise with that. Welcome tothe manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are drivingmidsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who havecompelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from Btob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside yourbusiness. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the ManufacturingExecutive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of theIndustrial Marketing Agency guerrilla. Seventy six people are profitability. Which one is itgoing to be with your manufacturing organization? Because you can't have it all right. Or maybe you can. In fact, maybe those two things can go handin hand, maybe each can actually make the other stronger. Today I'mtalking with two business leaders from an organization that's built a profitable business and anincredibly engaged and loyal workforce side by side, and these two are about to sharetheir experiences from what they describe as a journey to restore glory and dignityto manufacturing. So let me take a moment to introduce them. John Kramercurrently serves as the chairman and CEO of Cambridge Air Solutions, headquartered just outsideof St Louis in Chesterfield, Missouri. Cambridge is a second generation family ownedmanufacturing business founded by the Kramer family, with a rich fifty five year history. John Strives to build a people centric culture at Cambridge where growth of thepeople and organizational health drive healthy, sustainable business growth and where every employee goeshome better than they arrived. John has been open about his faith in Godwith the Cambridge Team and considers himself blessed beyond measure. Cambridge Corps values includedemonstrating unconditional love for each even when setting high expectations for growth. Ultimately,John Has a vision to restore glory and dignity to manufacturing in the US andbeyond. Mark Braun joined the Cambridge at family in April two thousand and eightas the VP of operations. Mark has also served as Executive v fee ofsales and marketing and in two thousand and seventeen was promoted to president. Throughmarks leadership at Cambridge, has been able to set Strang to g that workson the internal and external growth of the organization. Organizational health is everything andMark's goals for the organization are to double sales and five years through healthy andsustainable growth by holding employees to the highest of expectations and to love them unconditionally. John and mark, welcome to the show. Thanks you. It's greatto be with here. Well, guys, it's always great when I get tohighlight another St Louis Area Company on the show. I've been able todo that handful of times and this first year of this podcast, and alwaysmakes me feel proud of the city. So say, Louis is a freakingawesome town. Awesome it is. It's been good to me. I didn'tgrow up here, I grew up in Milwaukee. I want up down herefor college and I always tell people I've I met my wife right after collegeand learned years later that St Louis Girls don't leave Saint Louis. So I'vebuilt my life here as an adult and I've lived here more than half mylife now. And and yeah, I love it. It's really the cities. You might be better at sales than you think. I think that isfair to say. So yes, yes, Great. Well, well, guys, we probably could have zeroed in on a number of different topics forthis conversation today, but when the three...

...of US chatted a few weeks agoto flush something out for this episode, one thing that we talked about kindof stood out to me, and that was this idea you talked about relatedto restoring glory and dignity to manufacturing. So we're going to dive deep onthis topic today and in particular how the concept comes to life through people andculture inside of a manufacturing organization. But I'm hoping you guys could kick thingsoff by just telling our listeners at a very high level, what exactly doesthat mean when you say restoring glory and dignity to manufacturing? Jo That's goodquestion. Let me start out with that. I is is growing up. Igrew up in the manufacturing did a little bit of manufacturing and being insales, I got to travel and see all over manufacturing firsthand and I fellin love with the people and and building a product, building some and asI continue to travel and journey and seek world class I ended up going toJapan, actually been there three times, and being Pashi about lean and operationalexcellence, did a deep die and what I was trained and saw and schoolsand books is all about lean and people. Is about efficiencies and profitability and somebodyelse is a smarter person room, they get a degree and they tellpeople what to do and you come to work one day and and your nextday and your whole workstation's change, and I didn't see that as really helpingpeople threaten. And so in Japan, what I really saw and learned wasthere's a in Toyota learning, studying them, toyter production system. There's a deeprespect people, okay for the environment, the people, but that's what thatwas missing as an Ahah. And so how can we teach people whatmean is and teach weights, you know, and so for me it's we wantto teach people what are the waste. What are they responsi before, whatis their span of control, because I'm always thought your you're the managers, provide, you the president, you're going to be the smarst person.We get to tell people do and how to do it, and that's kindof heavy and then wears you out. And what I saw is when weteach people and give them time and space to make improvements, to create morevalue for them, they go home being better mother's, Father's, brothers,sisters, sons and daughters. They have the ideas, they can impacted.So there's a whole span of control that they have and that, to me, is a big part of this where they can threaten when people thrives,family thrive, community thrives and cities thrive. I love the idea behind all ofthat. It's a great mission and and just way of operating. Canyou put that in contact for our listeners a little bit in relation to whatCambridge actually does? Yeah, I can take this one, Joe. SoCambridge, as you heard, was a family owned business. We actually helpleaders in manufacturing and distribution create healthy working environments for the people and you know, I think there's whenever I walked in to manufacturing. It wasn't my background. Discreet manufacturing was my background and John was so passionate about it and hewanted everyone to be on one team. You know, when you think aboutglory and dignity to manufacturing. He wanted everyone to feel like their job matter. And what was interesting is a lot of places we go the comfort inthe facilities it's either too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer, and then you go into the offices and it's exactly the perfect temperature allthe way through and through. And it's just one example of the barriers andthe blocks, the building blocks between those in the plant compared to those inthe office. And so you think about glory and dignity, one example ofthat is how do we make it comfortable for everybody to work? How dowe do that? And so our equipment is designed specifically for that and that'sone way we can help the manufacturing sector do that. I mean the otheris culturally and being able to help them see a different way to treat employeeswhere you get the best out of every...

...single person. How do you getthe problem solving mind, the genius out of every level of the organization?People on the front line have the best problem solving capability of their processes thatthey own. And so how do you do that? Are An ongoing basis, and so that's another example of how you do that. So we dothat on both sides, helping manufacturers inspired and encourage them on the cultural sideand also helping them solve the comfort problems in their plants and get them ona better path forward, which has impact on their productivity and and on theirdignity. Well, on that topic of culture, you guys have talked tome about the idea of building a culture that celebrates people. So can yougo a little deeper on that? What's that mean to you? Why isthat's important? So thirteen years ago John invited me in to the organization.He sat down with me and he told me as vision of he wanted tobuild a growth based business that celebrate people. He wanted all the beautiful values ofhis family to be held on to while we built a growth based businesstogether, and some of the tangible ways that looks like today. So weset aside forty five minutes of our production out of a ten hour shift tojust focus on the growth of our people. There's two sections to that. Oneis a fifteen minute we call it a morning meeting and everybody in thewhole organization is there. It's a different person leads by volunteer every single day, and so anybody in the organization can lead that meeting and they we lookat the company metrics, but we also celebrate what people are grateful for andhow their life is going. They can teach us something that they want toteach us. They can share improvements that they're working on in their own processesand we've got a thirty minute section of that forty minute time where their onlygoal is to improve their job. We set it aside. We call itleaning clean time, and so their job during that time is to make improvementsto the work processes, and so they spend that time collaborating with each otherand figuring out how to make their processes faster or simpler or easier to door safer or better for the client, and so they keep on working onthose every single day and then we let them share those improvements in a uniqueway in those morning meetings. The next day they take a quick selfie videoof that and they share those videos with us the next day. So weget to see the improvements that were made the day before by all the employmentsthroughout the organization. So that's a tangible way that we celebrate the people insideof Cambridge and the number of people that grow during that morning meeting and theleaning clean time. It's just so fun to watch them grow and learn andcelebrate what they're improving. That's really cool. It's something sounds like something very uniqueto me. I haven't really heard this from other other manufacturing leaders.Is it how to how well? Do People respond really well to this insidethe organization? Yeah, they do it. It comes from I'll actually let Johnshare how it came in. But if his investment in myself and allof us to be able to be exposed outside of the organizations to best practicesand we all just steal from other manufacturers. We borrow their best practices, andso John Tell them how that came about or what that was from,is really fun. But I have a friend, Paul Acres, who wrotethe book to Second Lean and he's was really brilliant. People that synthesize downthe suppliciat toy, re production, toy to production systems and talk about whatare the eight wastes and really they are overproduction, transportation, inventory defects,over processing, emotion and, the worst of the ways, unused employee genius. And here's where we like to camp out. You're doing the work,you know where it's where are, where's your struggle? Where's your string?Already say fix up bugs, and so we exposed some of our team tothat, more of our team to that, and came back excited. And thenalso Durn leaning clean. We have teams to clean the bathrooms and soit's very common that you'll see a mark from yourself. Are there seeing yourleaders clean the bathrooms of other people, having time. You get to knowpeople, you get you know you don't get to talk to all the time. We get to work with them and where you cleaning here? What's yourstory, what's happening? What you do this weekend? What's your hobby orwhatever? So it's just a different way... live life and get to knowpeople as your humanizing work. That I just love because he's a real peoplejust like me and and they got all the same problems I do. Youknow kids, aging parents, you know marriage, all sorts of stuff,and yet we're able to live it together and just different ways to celebrate itand also so I guess it was about six years ago, Joe that Johnsent three leaders out to actually see two second lean in action. That thatbook that he mentioned from Paul Acres, and so they got to see itin action and they had a morning meeting and a dedicated time of improvement.So they came back excited about the potential for that and we looked at itas a executive team and said Hey, you go for it, if youwant to try this inside of operations, let's figure it out. And sothat started, I guess, in two thousand and fifteen, and we've hada morning meeting every single day since that time and we've documented by by videoover sevenzero improvements made throughout the company all across areas. It's just unbelievable tosee the improvements and those all add to the ability to deliver profitable value tothe client and so our clients get better delivery, better quality. That ourcost and our teams are just lit on fire on half on having fun improvementthings growing right in front of our eyes. You guys. It's really cool tohear that. And my next question here I had prepared. I'm goingto phrase it a little bit differently, just based on what you've told mehere. But you know, so many companies are about profitability at all costsand would probably listen to some of the things that you're saying and say,well, you know, we're we needed to run a profitable company like wethat needs to come first, and I think what I'm gathering from you guysis that's almost a product of this way of operating rather than you know,I was gonna see how do you find balance between these things, but itseems like they kind of go hand in hand. So I'll let you guyskind of, you know, address that how you'd like to, but reallyit's, you know, how do you find a balance and how does profitabilityfit in with this? People first culture. In a nutshell, we also celebratewinning together. I grew up with gre gracious parents, grandparents and givinglearning, and so I always love it defining winning together. So we dohave a quarterly incentive. We make a profit and everybody gets a part ofthat every quarter because we want celebring winning together and it builds on that.And then when we went through covid it was really, really hard time,but we we go to care after our people to make sure that they're doingwell and thriving. And and yet we held everybody together and we powered throughit when they saw a lot of their peers, their friends, their companieshad other different responses, and so just makes you happy to see people ableto thrive and grow, particularly when you have critical infrastructure that you're trying tobuild it, but to give them a reason why. And so it's bigpart of that is celebrating and the people. Yeah, Joe, I think it'sso interesting. You know, this question comes up a lot about youknow, is it about profits or is it about people? And I actuallythink it's what I would call a false choice, you know, the ideathat most people believe that you have to live in an either or world whereyou choose between two things. And so I think manufacturing leaders. One ofthe attractive pieces for me for manufacturing is that we lead a diverse group ofpeople. Every manufacturer has folks from the front line all the way up andin every type of field, engineers, sales, marketing, manufacturing service,and all of those have a lot of diverse ideas about what is important inlife. And so what we want to do is to be able to leada unified group towards a common goal. And it's above it's above those twothings. It's actually the purpose. has to combine both profitability and care forpeople. That's what is critical and it's we talked about it all the time. When we went into covid there were...

...people yelling that we had to keeppeople safe, and you heard those yells loudly out in the marketplace. Therewere people yelling that we had to keep business open, and they were loudabout it. And we decided to do both. We said we have tokeep people safe and we have to keep the business running. There's not aneither or here. There's not a choice between two things. How and thenthen we then we asked the geniuses inside of Cambridge to figure out how wewere going to do both. And so that was you when you've got aculture that says it's not an either or game. We're going to figure thisout together. We have to be able to do both, care well forour people and be profitable. We have to do both. How do wedo that? Well, we got to keep everybody safe and we've got totake care of our clients. How are we going to do both? Andso they just went to work and just knocked it out of the park thislast year. It's pretty cool. Well, I was going to ask you aboutkind of Covid and you know, the last fifteen months or so,you we're recording this in late May of two thousand and twenty one. Seemslike we're starting to crawl out of this thing. I guess that's still tobe seen, but you know, it's it's looking brighter. So how haveyou guys managed to me? You've kind of given me an example there,but what have you done to to, you know, not only stay afloat, but to continue to move the business forward and other things you've learned thatyou're going to carry into the future, even beyond this pandemic? I thinkreal quick first of all is keeping our daily rhythms. Are Warning meeting.We went virtual right away and that kept a sense of normality here and wethen we started inviting other visitors, are customers, in with us, togo to join us and see. I think that's really, really important aswe navigate, because everybody has, you know, your home situations, schoolsituations and all, and so I think that was one of the most importantthings, is trying to keep and working and keeping the daily rhythms that morningmeeting and specific and then having an incredible covid team that collaborated other companies toshare best ideas of practices. Yeah, I think the inspiring part. Youknow, you watch what human resilience can can bring. I mean the whatchallenge, whenever thrown in front of a group, can do for growth.And so I'll share some of the internal stuff. But, but, but, before I do that, I just want to share the manufacturing community hassuch, has been such an amazing collective group this last year. So anexample of that, there's twenty two manufacturers in St Louis Who are part ofthe Association for Manufacturing Excellence Consortium in St Louis. And we started moving.What? What? What? In Times of crisis, the couple things youdo you increase frequency of communication and meetings instead of decrease so that you cancommunicate. Because changes were happening rapidly across all of our companies. All twentytwo of us were like, holy cow, what is going to happen? Right, and so we started collaborating and helping each other with rapid changes forsafety protocols and for systems that are going on inside and for you know,the legal world is all changing drastically. The amount of decisions we had tomake in those first three months coming into covid I mean I think we're makingmassive decisions every week, and so we partnered with all the manufacturers in StLouis and said we're going to get together weekly and share what decisions were makingso that we can hear them from the people, directly, from the presidents, directly from the h our leaders, directly from the operational leaders, tosay what are you doing right now, and then we would adjust our planbecause they were making decisions in one area really well, but we were makinganother area really well. It was so complex that we needed everybody up andrunning, and so that collaboration, I believe in manufacturing is better than inany other industry I've ever seen and I'm just excited about the St Louis Regionfor doing that so well over this time and we couldn't have made it throughwithout them. Internally, we had to do the same thing, increase frequencyof communication. So if we were meeting weeklies, we moved those two Biweekly, if we were meeting daily, we kept them daily because we hadto be able to talk all the time because things were changing so rapidly.We set three level, three high level...

...goals. One was the safety pluscontinued operations. The second one was around cash conservation. We wanted to makesure that we did we had as much leeway as possible without having to makeany payroll adjustments, and we were successful. Thank you. Thank you to allthe powers that be for being able to not have to make any payrollchanges. So we re made it without a layoffs or furloughs. And thethird was to grow and innovate through this. And so the growth and innovate throughthat had to come out of after you dealt with the safety issues andthe client you had to be able to grow above and beyond that, andso our teams have learned so much. He mentioned one of them. Sowe started bringing manufacturers in to help share best practices about how to deal withthis issue and they started learning a lot and so we said, well,let's invite more. So over the last eight months we've had just over eighteenhundred manufactory leaders come and see the daily rhythms and we've gone to see there's. They've come to see ours. One thous eighteen hundred people have come tosee our morning meeting in this last eight months and that is an innovative approachto you could call it marketing if you wanted to. It's a way toshare that we're in this with you and for you. And, by theway, if you'd like to make your plant comfortable, we would love todo that as well. And so being able to do that, letting themcome in have a positive experience and us to pour in and some of themraise their hand and say, Hey, can you help us with our heat? Could you help us with our indoor air quality issues in our plants?Could you help us with our cooling? And we say of course we can, we can do that. So that has been an innovative growth approach.When we couldn't travel to our clients, they could come see us and wecould celebrate them and grow through them. Man, that absolutely is marketing,whether you want to call it that or not, but it's the best formof marketing where you are actually doing good and helping people. They're band afitting from it, they're learning from you and in naturally some business relationships willcome from it as well. I think it's just fantastic. I'm a hugefan of content marketing and even or guerrilla marketing. Yeah, guerrilla marketing isas we called it years ago and inspired our company's name. But but youknow, I the thing I always say is create value, just create focuson creating value for the people you're trying to reach and if you're doing thatlike the consistently good things are going to come from it. And I thinkwhat you just described as a very unique, niched way of doing that that Idon't know I've really seen something quite like that before, but I thinkit's super smart. Well, it seems like you're doing it as well,and so you know, the idea that you're openly sharing best practice is acrossthe platform of podcasting is one of your givebacks and it's how you can pourinto the industry and help lift up and encourage, and so it comes froma deep heart of generosity that John had deep inside of him and we getsall celebrated in and pay forward and there are manufacturers around the world that wecan name by name that have done it for us and we just want tokeep on paying that forward. Love it. I just love the approach. Ithink it's really great. was there anything that we did not touch ontoday that you guys wish we had. I want to just kind of openit up to you here. I know that we would love, of course, for your listeners to come and visit if they would like to. Theycan go to tours that Cambridge arecom and come see US anytime and if they'vegot things that they're open to and willing to share with us, we'd lovethis and our teams there to learn from them. I believe that. Youknow, back to the glory and dignity piece, I had to be convincedby John After I got here actually that manufacturing was this beautiful, worthy causeI knew that business, I loved business and I loved people, but Ididn't really have a love or passion for manufacturing. I do now. Ithink about the you know what, I what I view it as is,when I grew up, people were talking about manufacturing as it was the past, not the present or the future, and that it was below me andthe people who were telling me. And I think about how painful that isto hear right now. I mean I...

...can feel it it deep inside bones, because it it hurts me deeply to hear that our kids are hearing thatmessage from people and I want them to have the opposite message, that manufacturingis this beautiful space where you can come and learn and grow and you canlearn how to problem solve, you can learn how to make things that areof value and you can make those for the world. And so inside ofmanufacturing, if we can do this, if we can restore glory and dignityinside of the hearts and minds of all of the adults here that are listening, that can pour into that next generation of leader, then all the shipsrise with that. If you do it for manufacturing, all business rises fromthat. But if you think manufacturing is to below you, and you thinkgutting grass is to below you, and you think business is to below youand you think whatever it is the next thing that gets demoted in your mindand all you want to do is sit around and do nothing, it's notgoing to work out well. So I want the US, I want theworld to know the power of manufacturing. I have bought into John's vision andI'm with him and would love to help anybody who wants to be in thatspace get more connected and keep on pushing forward. If they would like tostart a consortia. If they'd like to be something in their community, wouldlove to help them. I am mark. I love that. I cannot saybetter how you summarize that and I'm grateful for that. One of thethings to is the stood journey you manufacturing granting me is is not a destination. We didn't start out well, are right, we did. We had, we have all those problems that are first meeting money, meeting who,brutal, you know, somebody had to tag team. whose days to bethe encourager while trying to figure it out. But we figured out and another copyshared with us and we grew and we learn, and so we inviteother people to join us that because we're there, because you're here to heartheir stories, the people in the plant, for you want to hear John ormark speak. You know, we could talk all about it, butit's them, they are those stories and it's still a journey, and sothe more people that join this journey, the more impact we're going to have, and it also we grow and learn from it, and and that's what'sso anyways, that is enriching. You know itself. That was great,guys. I Love, love the way you wrap that up there. It'sreally powerful and really strong messages and well, Joe, I just love what you'redoing highlighting and celebrating folks around and it's great to see your organization doingthat. And you know at one more comment. You know you help peopletell stories about what's already successful inside and I think the power of that wein the Midwest, in St Louis Specifically, we have a lot of people doingincredible things and if we could get them telling those stories more effectively tobe able to help encourage and inspire others to take the path, I thinkit could really could change the community, change the world, and so thankyou for what you do as well and helping people do that also. Joe. It's interesting. Many in manufacturing turnover. I think the average is sixty percentright now. Turnover. That's a different conversation of the what are why, but the realities that's what it is and and we just bumped up toten percent and we're trying to figure it, figure it out. So there's there'ssomething there that I'm proud about with our employees and because they are doingwell, then we do well, I do well. I think it's fantastic. I completely agree with you. Well, guys, awesome conversation today. Reallyenjoyed this and I know if you're doing you know and bringing in amanufacturing so rich and rewarding and I'm grateful for you. Well, thank you, I appreciate that. How it's the best way for our listeners to getin touch with you and to learn more about Cambridge are are solutions. Sofor general inquiries, Cambridge arecom anytime,...

...anywhere. Obviously connect with us onall the social feeds on Linkedin and facebook and any of those places, butif you'd like to come and see what we're about, it's an hour anda half of your life or less and we'd love to have you as guests. And I that is at tours dot Cambridge arecom. They can go outand actually look at that. So it's fantastic. Well, guys, onceagain, thank you for doing this today. It was a pleasure having you onthe show. Thank you, Joe, for what you do. As forthe rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episodeof the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. Toensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favoritepodcast 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 toolsspecifically for B Tob Manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much forlistening. Until next time.

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