The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 5 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 spacewhere you can 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 make those forthe world and so inside of manufacturing. If we can do this, if wecan restore glory and dignity inside the hearts and minds of all of theadults here that are listening, that can pour into that next generation ofleader, then all the ships rise with that welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving mid size manufacturers forward here, you'll discover new insides frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from B to b 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 host and a Co founderof the Industrial Marketing Agency guerilla. Seventy six people areprofitability, which one is it going to be with your manufacturing organization,because you can't have it all right or maybe you can in fact, maybe those twothings can go hand in hand. Maybe each can actually make the other stronger.Today, I'm talking with two business leaders from an organization, that'sbuilt a profitable business and an incredibly engaged in loyal work forceside by side, and these two are about to share their experiences from whatthey describe as a journey to restore glory and dignity to manufacturing. Solet me take a moment to introduce them. John Cramer currently serves as thechairman and C E O of Cambridge Air Solutions, headquartered just outsideof Saint Louis, in Chesterfield Missouri Cambridge is a secondgeneration family owned manufacturing business founded by the Cramer familywith a rich fifty five year, history John Strives to build a people, centricculture, Cambridge, where growth of the people, an organizational health, drive,healthy, sustainable business growth and where every employee goes homebetter than they arrived. John has been opened about his faith in God with theCambridge Team and considers himself blessed beyond measure. Cambridge corevalues include demonstrating unconditional love for each, even whensetting high expectations for growth. Ultimately, John Has a vision torestore glory and dignity to manufacturing in the US and beyond,Mark Bran joined the Cambridge of family in April, two thousand and eightas the V P of operations mark is also served as executive V, P of sales andmarketing, and in two thousand and seventeen was promoted to presidentthrough mark's leadership. Cambridge has been able to set strategy thatworks on the internal and external growth of the organization.Organizational Health is everything and marks Gulls for the organization are todouble sales in five years, through healthy and sustainable growth, byholding employees to the highest of expectations and to love themunconditionally. John and mark welcome to the show thanks. You O it's great,to be look here. Well guys, it's always great. When I get to highlight anotherSt Louis Area Company, on the show, I've been able to do that handful oftimes in this first year of this podcast and always makes me feel proudof the city. So same s is a freaking awesome town. It's awesome! It is. It'sbeen good to me. I didn't grow up here. I grew up in Milwaukee and I wound updown here for college and I was tell people I ve. I met my wife right aftercollege and learned years later that St Louis Girls don't leave St Louis. SoI've built my life here as an adult and e lived here, more than half my lifenow and and Yeah I love it. It's really to easy might be better at sales thanyou. I think that is fair to say. Yes, yes, great well, well guys we probablycould have zeroed in on a number of different topics for this conversationtoday, but when the three of US chatted...

...a few weeks ago to flesh something outfor this episode, one thing that we talked about kind of stood out to me-and that was this idea. You talked about related to restoring glory anddignity to manufacturing, so we're going to dive deep on this topic todayin particular how the concept comes to life through people and culture insideof a manufacturing organization. But I'm hoping you guys could kick thingsoff by just telling our listeners at a very high level. What exactly does thatmean when you say restoring glory and dignity to Manufacturing Joe? This goodquestion, let me start out with that. I I growing up, I grew up in themanufacturing, did a little bit of manufacturing and being in sales. I gotto travel and see all over manufacturing first hand, and I fell inlove with the people and and building a product building some and, as Icontinue to travel and journey and seek world class. I ended up going to Japanactually been there three times and a being passed about mean and operas. LExcellence did a deep die and what I was trained and saw in schools and books isall about lean and a people is about efficiencies and profitability, andsomebody else is a smarter person room. They get a degree and they tell peoplewhat to do and you come to work one day and and your next day and your wholework stations change, and I didn't see that as really helping people threatand so in Japan. What I really saw and learned was there's a an toyed learningstudying them to it: a production system where's a deep respect forpeople, okay for the environment, the people, but that's what that wasmissing. That was an I hum, and so how can we teach people? What mean is andteach waste you know, and so for me it's we want to teach people. What arethe wastes? What are they responsible for? What is their Spaniol? Because I'malways thought you know: you're the manager, a supervisor, the presidentyou're going to be the first person. We got some people that do and how to doit, and that is kind of heavy and then wears you out and what I saw is when weteach people and give them time and space to make improvements to createmore value for them. They go home being better mothers, fathers, brothers,sisters, sons and daughters. They have the ideas they can impact it so there'sa whole span of control that they have, and that to me is a big part of thiswhere they can thrive and when people thraves family drag community strivesin city strife. I love the idea behind all of that. It's a great mission andand just way of operating. Can you put that in context for our listeners alittle bit in relation to what Cambridge actually does yeah? I cantake this one joe. So Cambridge, as you heard, was a family own business. Weactually help leaders in manufacturing distribution create healthy workingenvironments for the people. You know, I think, there's whenever I walked into me factoring it wasn't my background. The scree manufacturing was mybackground and John was so passionate about it and he wanted everyone to beon one team. You know when you think about glory and dignity tomanufacturing. He wanted everyone to feel like their job matter and what wasinteresting is a lot of places. We go the comfort in the facilities it'seither too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer, when you go into theoffices and it's exactly the perfect temperature all the way through andthrough, and it's just one example of the barriers and the blocks thebuilding blocks between those in the plant compared to those in the office,and so you think about glory and dignity. One example of that is how dowe make it comfortable for everybody to work? How do we do that, and so ourequipment is designed specifically for that and that's one way we can help themanufacturing sector do that I mean the other, is culturally and being able tohelp them see a different way to treat employees where you get the best out ofevery single person. How do you get the...

...problem solving mind? The genius out ofevery level of the organization people in the front line have the best problem,solving capability of their processes that they own, and so how do you dothat on an on going basis, and so that's another example of how you dothat. So we do that on both sides, helping manufacturers inspire andencourage them on the cultural side and also helping them solve the comfortproblems in their plants and get them on a better pass forward which hasimpact on on their productivity and and on their dignity. Well, on that topicof culture, you guys have talked to me about the idea of building a culturethat celebrates people. So can you go a little deeper on that? What's that meanto you? Why is that so important? So thirteen years ago, John Invited me andto the organization he sat down with me, and he told me his vision of he wantedto build a growth base, business that celebrated people. He wanted all thebeautiful values of his family to be held on to while we built a growth base,buis together and some of the tangible ways that looks like today. So we setaside 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. One is afifteen minute. We call it a morning meeting and everybody in the wholeorganization is there. It's a different person leads by volunteer every singleday, and so anybody in the organization can lead that meeting and we look atthe company metrics, but we also celebrate what people are grateful forand how 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 ownprocesses, and we've got a thirty minute section of that forty minutetime, where their only goal is to improve their job. We set it aside. Wecall it leaning, clean time and so their job during that time is to makeimprovements to their work processes, and so they spend that time,collaborating with each other and figuring out how to make the processesfaster or simpler or easier to do or safer or better for the client, and sothey keep on working on those every single day. And then we let them sharethose improvements in a unique way in those morning meetings the next daythey take a quick selfe video of that and they share those videos with us thenext day. So we get to see the improvements that were made the daybefore by all the employments throughout the organization. So that'sa tangible way that we celebrate the people inside of Cambridge and thenumber of people that grow during that morning meeting in the leaning cleantime, it's just so fun to watch them grow and learn and celebrate whatthey're improving that's really cool. It's some sounds like something veryunique to me. I En't really heard this from other other manufacturing leaders.Is it? How do how well do people respond really well to this inside theorganization yeah they do and it comes from I'll. Actually, let John Share howit came in, but his investment in myself and all of us to be able to beexposed outside of the organizations to best practices and we all just stealfrom other manufacturers, and we borrow their best practices and so John Tellhim how that came about or what that was from. No, I was really fun, but Ihave a friend Paul Acres, who wrote the book to Second Lean and he's one ofthose really brilliant people that synthesize down the supplicioproduction to ite production systems and talk about what are they wastes andreally they are overproduction transportation, inventory defects,other processing motion and the worst of the waces unused employee genius andhere's where we like to camp out you're doing the work you know where is whereare? Where is your struggle? Where is your string or we say, fix what bugsyou, and so we exposed some of our tame to that more of our team that and cameback really excited and then also during the Anand clean. We have teamsthat clean the bathrooms, and so it's very common that you'll see I'm acommore f brother seen your leaders clean the bathrooms with other peoplehaving time you get to know people you get, you know they don't get to talk toall the time we get to work with him and where you cleaning here. What'syour story what's happening? What do... do this weekend at? What's yourhobby or whatever, so it's just a different way to live life and get toknow people as your humanizing work that I just love, because these arereal people just like me, and and they got all the same problems. I do youknow: Kids, aging parents, you know, marriage, all sorts of stuff and yetwe're able to live it together and just different ways to celebrate it and alsoyeah. So I guess it was about six years ago, Joe that John sent three leadersout to actually see to second lane in action that that book that he mentionedfrom Paul Lakers, and so they got to see it in action and they had a morningmeeting and a dedicated time of improvement. So they came back excitedabout the potential for that and we looked at it as a executive team andsaid: Hey go for it. If you want to try this inside of operations, let's figureit out, and so that started. I guess in two thousand and fifteen and we've hada morning meeting every single day since that time and we've documented byby video over seven thousand improvements made throughout thecompany all across areas. It's just unbelievable to see the improvementsand those all add to the ability to deliver profitable value to the client,and so our clients get better delivery, better quality that are cost and ourteams are just lit on fire on have on having fun improvement. Things growingright in front of our eyes, for you guys is it's really cool to hear, hearthat and my next question here I I had prepared I'm going to phrase it alittle bit differently, just based on what you've told me here, but you knowso many companies are about profitability at all costs and wouldprobably listen to some of the things that that you're saying and say. Well,you know we need to run a profitable company like we. That needs to comefirst, and I think what I'm gathering from you guys is that's almost aproduct of this way of operating, rather than you know I was. I was gonnasee. How do you find balance between these things, but it seems like theykind of go hand in hand. So I'll, let you guys kind of you know address thathow you'd like to, but really it's you know, how do you find a balance and howdoes profitability fit in with this people? First Culture in a that show weall celebrate winning together. I grew up with red gracious parents,grandparents and you know giving learning, and so I always love itdefinding winning together. So we do have a quarterly incentive. You know wemake a popet and everybody gets a part of that every quarter because we wantCilbianian together and it builds on that and then, when we went throughCalvin it was really really hard time, but we we go to to care after ourpeople to make sure that they're doing well and thriving, and and yet we heldeverybody together and we poled through it when they saw a lot of their peers,their friends, their companies had other different responses, and so itjust makes you happy to see people able to thrive and grow, particularly whenyou have critical infrastructure that you're trying to build an, but to givehim a reason. Why? And so it's big part of that is celebrating in the people,Yeah Joe. I think it's so interesting. You know this question comes up a lotabout you know, is it about profits or is it about people? And I actuallythink it's what I would call a false choice. You know the idea that mostpeople believe that you have to live in an either or world where you choosebetween two things, and so I think manufacturing leaders, one of theattractive pieces for me for manufacturing, is that we lead adiverse group of people. Every manufacturer has folks from the frontline all the way up and in every type of field engineers, sales, marketingmanufacturing service and all of those have a lot of diverse ideas about whatis important in life. And so what we want to do is to be able to lead aunified 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 carefor people. That's what is critical and it's we talked about it all. The timewhen we went into ovid there were...

...people yelling that we had to keeppeople safe, and you heard those yells loudly out in the market place. Therewere people yelling that we had to keep business open and they were loud aboutit and we decided to do both. We said we have to keep people safe and we haveto keep the business running. There's not an either or here there's not achoice between two things: How and then, then we then we asked the geniusesinside of Cambridge to figure out how we were going to do both, and so thatwas you when you've got a culture that says it's not an either or game, we'regoing to figure this out together, we have to be able to do both care wellfor our people and be profitable. We have to do both. How do we do that?Well, we got to keep everybody safe and we've got to take care of our clients.How are we going to do both, and so they just went to work and just knockedit out of the park this last year, it's pretty cool. Well, I was going toask you about kind of Ovid- and you know the last fifteen months or so wererecording this in late May of two thousand and twenty one seems likewe're starting to crawl. Out of this thing, I guess that's still to be seen,but you know it's it's looking brighter. So how have you guys managed to me kindof give me an example there? But what have you done to not only stay afloat but to continue tomove the business forward and other things you've learned that you're goingto carry into the future even beyond this pandemic? I think real, quickfirst of all is keeping our daily with those our morning meeting. We wentvirtual right away and that kept a sense of normality here and we, then westarted inviting other visitors or customers in with us to go to join usand see, but I think that's really really important as we navigate,because everybody has you know home situation, school situations and all-and so I think that was one of the most important things- is trying to keep andworking and keeping the daily rhythms that morning meeting and specific andthen having an incredible coved team that collaborates other companies toshare best ideas of practices. Yeah, I think the inspiring part you know youwatch what human resilience can can bring. I mean what challenge whateverthrown in front of a group can do for growth and so I'll share some of theinternal stuff, but but but before I do that, I just want to share themanufacturing community has such has been such an amazing collective group this last year. So anexample of that there's, twenty two manufacturers in St Louis Who are partof the Association for Manufacturing Excellence Consortium in St Louis, andwe started moving what what in times of crisis the couple things you do. Youincreased frequency of communication and meetings instead of decrease sothat you can communicate because changes were happening rapidly acrossall of our companies. All twenty two of us were like holy. How what is going tohappen right, and so we started collaborating and helping each otherwith rapid changes for safety protocols and for systems that are going oninside and for you know, the legal world is all changing drastically theamount of decisions we had to make in those first three months coming intoOvid. I mean, I think, we're making massive decisions every week, and so weparted with all the manufacturers in St Louis and said we're going to gettogether, weekly and share what decisions were making so that we canhear him from the people directly from the presidents directly from the HRleaders directly from the operational leaders to say what are you doing rightnow and then we would adjust our plan because they were making decisions inone area really well, but we were making another area really well. It wasso complex that we needed everybody up and running, and so that collaboration,I believe in manufacturing, is better than in any other industry. I've everseen- and I'm just excited about the Saint Louis region for doing that sowell over this time and we couldn't have made it through without theminternally, we had to do the same thing: increased frequency of communication.So if we were meeting weeklies, we moved those to by weekly. If we weremeeting daily, we kept him daily because we had to be able to talk allthe time because things were changing... rapidly. We said three O three highlevel goals: one was the safety plus continued operations. The second onewas around cash conservation. We wanted to make sure that we did. We had asmuch leeway as possible without having to make any payroll adjustments and wewere successful. Thank you. Thank you to all the powers that be for beingable to not have to make any payroll changes, so we remade it without alayoffs or Furlos, and the third was to grow and innovate through this, and sothe growth and innovate through that had to come out of after you dealt withthe safety issues and the client you had to be able to grow above and beyondthat, and so our teams have learned so much. He mentioned one of them, so westarted bringing manufactures in to help share best practices about how todeal with this 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 overeighteen hundred, manufacturing leaders come and see the daily rhythms andwe've gone to see theirs. They've come to curs, but eighteen hundred peoplehave come to CR morning meeting in this last eight months, and that is aninnovative approach to you could call it marketing if you wanted to it's away to share that we're in this with you and for you and by the way, ifyou'd like to make your plant comfortable, we would love to do thatas well and so being able to do that. Letting them come in. Have a positiveexperience in us to pour in and some of them raise their hand and say hey. Canyou help us with our heat? Could you help us with our indoor hair qualityissues in our plants? Could you help us with our cooling, and we say, of coursewe 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 we couldcelebrate them and grow through them. Oh Man, that absolutely is marketingwhether you want to call it that or not, but it's the best form of marketingwhere you are actually doing good and helping people they're benefiting fromit. They're learning from you and in naturally, some business relationshipswill come from it as well. I think it's just fantastic, I'm a huge fan ofcontent, marketing and or or Eriland gorilla marketing is, as we called ityears ago, and inspired our company's name. But but you know, the thing Ialways say is create value, just create focus on creating value for the peopleyou're trying to reach and if you're doing that, like consistently goodthings are going to come from it, and I think what you just described is a veryunique niched way of doing that. That I don't know if I've really seensomething quite like that before. But I think it's super smart well, it seemslike you're doing it as well, and so you know the idea that you're openlysharing best practices across the platform of podcast Ng is one of yourgive backs, and it's how you can pour into the industry and help lift up andencourage, and so it comes from a deep part of generosity that John had deepinside of him and we get to all celebrated in and pay forward, andthere are manufactures around the world that we can name by name that have doneit for us and we just want to keep on putting paying that forward. Love it. Ijust love the approach. I think it's really great was there anything that wedid not touch on today that you guys wish we had. I want to just kind ofopen it up to you E. I know that we would love, of course, for yourlisteners to come and visit if they would like to. They can go to toursthat Cambridge Arco and come see us any time and if they've got things thatthey're open to and willing to share with us we'd love to send our teamsthere to learn from them. I believe that you know back to the glory anddignity piece I had to be convinced by John After I got here. Actually thatmanufacturing was this beautiful worthy cause. I knew that business, I lovedbusiness and I loved people, but I didn't really have a love or passionfor manufacturing. I do now. I think about the you know what what I viewwith, as is when I grew up. People were talking about manufacturing as it wasthe past, not the present or the future, and that it was below me and the peoplewho were telling me- and I think about... painful that is to hear right now Imean I can feel it it deep inside a bones, because it hurts me deeply tohear that our kids are hearing that message from people, and I want them tohave the opposite message. That manufacturing is this beautiful spacewhere you can 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 make those forthe world and so inside of manufacturing. If we can do this, if wecan restore glory and dignity inside the hearts and minds of all of theadults here that are listening, that can pour into that next generation ofleader, then all the ships rise with that, if you do it for manufacturing,all business rises from that. But if you think manufacturing is to below youand you think, cutting grass is to below you and you think business is toobelow you and you think whatever it is. The next thing that gets demoted inyour mind- and all you want to do- is sit around and do nothing. It's notgoing to work out. Well, so E. I want the US. I want the world to know thepower of manufacturing. I have bought into John's vision and I'm with themand would love to help anybody who wants to be in that space. Get moreconnected and keep on pushing forward if they would like to start a consortiaif they'd like to be something in their community would love to help them Ihave mark. I love that I cannot say better how you summarize that and I'mgrateful for that. One of the things too is his to journey. You know,manufacturing landing is, is not a destination. We didn't start out. Well,all right. We did we had. We have all those problems that our first meetingmorning meetings were brutal. You know somebody had to tag team whose days tobe the encourager while trying to figure it out, but we figured that inanother couple shade with us and we grew and we learned, and so we inviteother people to join us, not because we're there, because you're here tohear their stories the people in the plant, for you want to hear John orMarcy, you know we could talk all about it, but it's them. They are the storiesand is still a journey, and so the more people that join this journey, the moreimpact we're going to have, and it also we grow and learn from it and andthat's what's so anyways that is enriching a itself. That was great guys.I love, I love the way you wrap that up there, it's really powerful and reallystrong messages and well Joe. I just love what you're doing, highlightingand celebrating folks around, and it's great to see your organization doingthat, and you know at one more comment. You know you help people tell storiesabout what's already successful inside and I think the power of that we in theMidwest in St Louis Specifically, we have a lot of people doing incrediblethings and if we could get them telling those stories more more effectively tobe able to help, encourage and inspire others to take the pair, I think itcould really, you know, could change the community to change the world, andso thank you for for what you do as well and helping people do that alsojoos interesting menu in the manufacturing turn ort. I think theaverage is about sixty percent right now turn over. That's a differentconversation of the what or lie, but the realities, that's what it is, andwe just bumped up to ten percent and we're trying to figure it figure it out.So there's there's something there that I'm proud about with our employees andbecause they are doing well, 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 into Manuao, rich and rewarding,and I'm grateful for you well. Thank you. I appreciate that how it's thebest way for our listeners get in touch with you and to learn more aboutCambridge as air solutions, so for general inquiries, Cambridge erom anytime anywhere, obviously connect with... on all the social feeds and linkedin and face book and any of those places. But if you'd like to come andsee what we're about it's an hour and a half of your life or less and we'd loveto have you as guests, and that is a tour Cambridge Com, they can go out andactually look at that. So it's fantastic! WELL GUYS! Once again, thankyou for doing this today. It was a pleasure having you on the show, andyou know for what you do. As for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on thenext 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 B to B manufacturers at gorilla, seventy sicot flash a war. Thank you somuch for listening until next time. I.

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