The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 11 months ago

What Manufacturers Can Learn from Children’s Stories w/ Megan Preston Meyer


Anyone in the industrial sector knows that we need to get the next generation excited about manufacturing. But what about the generation after that?

How about starting with a story?

That’s how Megan Preston Meyer, Writer/Publisher at Meyer Publishing, is doing it with her Supply Jane supply chain children’s stories.

In this episode, we discuss:

- Why you need more than data — you need stories

- How Supply Jane and FIFO are teaching the supply chain

- Why business doesn’t have to be boring (even in B2

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We react as humans. We react much better to a story than the spreadsheet, and so you need to you can't just leave it at the data. I'm a firm proponent of data being in the front seat if we're keeping with the driving metaphor. But Dad should navigate, the human should drive. 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 Gorilla. Seventy six the dragon food factory is falling behind. Uncle Manny makes the best dragon food in the business. Is Employees are working as hard as they can, but they can't make enough dragon food to keep their customers happy. Can Supply Jane and her sidekick Fifo, find and fix the bottleneck? This is the intro you'll find on Amazon for the book that today's guest has written to help teach children about the simple yet powerful concepts that make the world around us work, and, in this case, supply chain, logistics and inventory management principles. Hey, we've had plenty of conversations on this show about getting the next generation interested in manufacturing, but with the help of supply chain and Phifo, maybe this one's here to reach the generation after the next generation. Let me introduce today's guest, Megan and Preston. Myer is an author, speaker and communications consultant with more than ten years experience and supply chain and analytics rolls. After digging through data for more than a decade, Megan realized that numbers could never tell the whole story, so now she focuses on stories that the data does not tell. Megan is the creator of Adventures of supply chain and Pifo, a series of picture books that teach supply chain and operations management concepts to kids, and she is an avid collector of jargon. Megan, welcome to the show. Thanks, Joel. When we are cool. Well, you know you. You caught my attention before we first talked a few weeks ago when I saw your books and I thought wow, you, you're writing kids books around supply chain like this is I have to have this conversation with you, regardless of whether it's a podcast episode or not, and I think it'll be great for our listeners to kind of hear what you're doing there and why. So really cool and and a really great way to personally brand yourself to and in a way that sticks out. Thanks so, Megan. You've spent over ten years in supply chain and analytics. Can you start by telling our listeners a little bit more about your background...

...that got you to where you are today? Sure, so I did. My my MBA was an operations management and I sort of fell in love with the idea of standardization. First of all, standardization, doing the exact same thing over and over again as well as possible and then continuously improving. And after that I realized that sort of the best way to work on continuous improvement was by, like I say, digging into the data, starting to understand what the numbers are telling you, and then, throughout my career took on different roles, moving more towards the analytic side of things. I started out very sort of on the kind of cutting Grad supply chain optimization side and moved throughout my career towards much more just analytics and insights and started to get more onto the sort of psychology of how consumers think. And so that journey was really interesting to see the entire spectrum. And along the way I did realize that numbers are amazing, they are necessary, but they are not sufficient. So, no matter what you're doing in business, as long as there are humans involved, you need human judgment as well. You can't just rely on the data. Think a little deeper there. For me, not on that one. You. You stated in your bio that after sorting through data for more than a decade, you realize that numbers could never tell the whole story. I can you unpack that a little bit further? Tell us what you know, what your experiences have taught you on that front. Sure, we talk so much about being data driven and every single industry, every single business wants to be data driven, and and sure be. I mean data, like I said, is a we have to know what's going on in our operations. But no matter how sophisticated your analysis, no matter how data science you get no matter how objectively right you are. The result of your analysis have to be carried out. They have to be you're either recommending a course of action you're trying to get approval from a board. You have to somehow tell the story, and so that's the numbers aren't going to do that on their own. You have to flash them out. You have to create something a little bit more vivid. We react as humans. We react much better to a story than a spreadsheet, and so you need to you can't just leave it at the data. I'm a firm proponent of data being in the front seat if we're keeping on the driving metaphor. But Dad should navigate, the human should drive. Yeah, well, Sad, I think. I mean, this is a part of my world to as a marketing guy, and I've come up over the last I don't know, fifteen years roughly of my career with sort of come up with marketing analytics digitally, and I've said this a few times on the show, but I think it was two thousand and five when Google analytics came into existence, and it's also the year I entered the workforce and like and there's just an I think there's an overwhelm of... sometimes, where there's so much available to you that you almost don't know what to do with it all, and it's in unless you can pull out you be able to interpret that and pull out the things that actually matter and then be able to explain it to stakeholders that need to understand the impact of this data in a way that makes sense to them and helps them understand what to then do with it. It's kind of becomes so overwhelming that it's meaningless in some ways. Exactly and what you said is exactly right. There are so, so, so much data out there that the data isn't the that's not the problem. There's all kinds of answers. I think one problem that we run into is that we kind of assume that there's one right answer, and for most problems that's not the case. There are many good answers and the data is going to basically find us to whichever one we want to find, and that's not I'm not trying to say that we manipulate like that's just the case. There's very little in business that is surely linear. Are Purely causing effect, and so really the value that's added is digging through the noise and to find the signal, like you're saying, and then bring that across the stakeholders. So let's shift gear. Your Meggat, I've spoken to a number of people on this show about how we can get the next generation interested in manufacturing and in the meantime it you almost have focused on how to get the generation after the next generation interested manufacturing by creating this series what is now a series of books, I guess, or at least a few of them. I'll let you talk about that, but you you've essentially created children's books that teach about the manufacturing supply chain. So I'm going to turn it over to you here. I break it down. Tell us what what inspired this. Talk about what the book and then now the books are. I'll hand it to you. Absolutely so the books are the adventures of Supply Jain and five Phoe. So there are two books, like you said. The first one is called PIPO saves the day and it teaches kids the concept of stock rotation and perishable and winfory management. So it's a play on Pi phone, of course, first and first out, and it couches the problem in a grocery store that sells dragon nights, and so the the poor grocery shopkeeper, keeps the Dragon Nights on the shelf a little bit too long and they start to hatch. And so then supply Jaine and her her dog PIPO have to come in and save the day. And the second book that I just released is called Supply Jain clears the way, and this one is focused on bottlenecks in manufacturing. So supply Jaine goes to her uncle's dragon food factoring and they realize that somewhere between the baking and the shipping department there's a slowdown. So they have to work their way backwards until they find where the bottleneck is and...

...then fix that. To the whole fact that you can run more efficiently. The purpose of the books is to from the purpose. Now I've sort of record that. The purpose, I guess, is to really bring these these hidden concepts, this hidden logic that sort of makes the world work, to light, bring us make it a lot more accessible to kids. This is not you know, when we talk about sten in education and in children's books these days, and often we are talking about rocket science quite literally. And this is not that. These are these are simple, everyday concepts. I mean first thing first out. You can see at the grocery store yourself. You know when you go you're picking up a gallon of milk. If you check the expiration date, you go a couple of gallons back to see a different expiration date. And to be clear, and not recommending anyone do this, because they are put in this order so that you take the first one out. You don't want to mess up anybody's inventory planning. So so please stick with the way that the milk is positioned. But it shows it makes these concepts accessible to kids and put some add some dragons in there so it's a little bit more entertaining than you're engaging. But I think it's something that it's it's common sense, but it's not obvious and I think that's a really good message for kids to start, you know, to start hearing, to start looking out personal these rules and means, these patterns to make the world work. I think it's really smart. It's just all these things around us. Why? Why do they work the way they do? Why are they set up the way they do? There's a there's logic behind most of it, and so to bring that into a setting that you know, is is part of the world of a child. I think is a really unique and interesting approach. So, Megan, I like the timing of our conversation here because just last week I bought, fresh off the press, a book called, I I think it's called I want to be a marketer when I grow up. was written by Dan Sanchez, who works at Sweet Fish Media, which is the company that produces this podcast, and I thought it was really cool because that's what I am. I'm a marketer. I've got a seven year old, the five year old the newborn at home and you know, in particular my seven year old and five year old like they don't have a clue what I do. They see me, you know, working from home some days like in front of a computer and talking to all these people that that they called my work friends. And but you know, it's different than if your dad is a firefighter or a police officer or, you know, something that they can wrap their heads around. And so I'm guessing maybe this was part of the angle you took when you when you said I mean I don't you come from supply chain, but but just kind of curious, like why supply chain and why do you why do you want to bring these concepts two kids in particular? That's the exactly, exactly the reason, like you said, is I think the books are a great way to bridge that. What does Mommy do at work all day conversation. And there are a couple...

...of points in what you just said. First of all, it is very easy for a kid to identify a police officer or a fireman or a doctor. They have uniforms, they have a stethoscope or a badge. But what does a supply chain professional where to work? You know, like a polo or button down, and they look like everybody else who does sort of a job at a desk. And you know, like, what does a marketer look like? Looks like you right now, and that's not going to be you know, that doesn't translate as well to a picture book. You know, you can't just caricter tourize a marketer, although it sounds like it sounds like you're calling has. Maybe it will check out that book for some competitive research here. And the other thing too, is that when you are a policeman or doctor or a fireman, your job description is, I don't want to say it's a narrow I mean you still have a lot of you do something different every single day, but when you say you're a marketer and someone else is there a marketer, you might never do the same task ever in your entire career. There's such a breath there, and I think was supply chain. It's similar. There's an entire and mean literally from manufacturing to last my logistics. There's all kinds of the positions in there, and so there's just purely statistically, more kids that are reading beds some more bedtime stories today are going to end up in supply chain careers. Then we'll end up as police officers, and so the earlier we can start getting them thinking about this the better. Yeah, I think it's great. Kind of suspected this was your reason, but I think it's just really smart taking these things that are hard for a little person's brain to wrap their heads around and make it more tangible and related to their world. So I applaud you for pulling it off. Thank you. And I mean, let's be honest, it's hard for big people's brains to have our own half the time. So for sure, yeah, I still I talked about being a market or to like. I mean I probably have the same conversation with my seven year old daughter, as I do with like my mom or Dad, about why I what I do for a living and what like my inner ins and outs of my day are. So, yeah, I think it's really great. So where you going next with the books? You've got two of them. You got to keep them going or I'm gonna I'm going to keep them going. I know that I'm going to have at least a third book and I haven't decided on the topic yet. I was thinking either something with intermodal transportation, just because I think the illustrations would be great to see piggyback and Fishy back and burning back and all these different transport mechanisms. I also might try and tackle the bull with effect. That's that's one that I would love to try and bring. I know that it's and done in the beer game. Almost anyone who's been to business school in the last ten years probably has played the beer game, which is a great illustration of the bulb of effect, and so I'm wondering...

...if I can make that a little bit more age appropriate for elementary school kids. So, Megan, I know that you are a believer in using stories, as you've sort of demonstrated here to in, you know, a variety of places. But one of the things you mentioned to me is that stories can be really powerful and breaking down silos inside of Bee Tob organizations. So wondering if you could talk about what you mean by that and also if you could provide any examples for context. One thing about silos and organizations is they get, well, they get a bad education for a reason, because they are productivity. But they occur for a reason to I mean the reason that we have organizations and we're not just all one man shows is because each department has they have a courset of knowledge that only they possessed. They are the experts. You know, operations knows exactly how the lines run, sales knows exactly how to approach the customer in the best way, marking knows exactly how to position of product. We can't all know everything, and so these barriers, these barriers exist for a reason, but stories can help us to sort of break or like go between these barriers. So they provide a, you know, some some phores so that knowledge can flow in and out, and what they do really is provide a structure. So every single department has tons of details, tons of expertise and they need to be able to get just the right level of detail to, you know, to the organization as a whole. So stories and those at you can have to be a complete narrative. Just a metaphor will do that. That would provided the structure that everyone can come in and hang their details onto so that there's a someblence of a whole. An example here is, again dragons. I like dragons, but I just I heard a talk recently. It was in an it organization, but I think it could apply to all sorts of organizations where operations, especially sort of in the it world, where you're you're working on applications that keep the lights on. Basically you're keeping the business running. If you're an environment like that, you don't want change. You are, you were, trying to maintain consistency and standardization. You don't want anything to come in and disrupt that. If you are in more on kind of the creative side, if you're on the innovation side, you're looking for new technologies to come in make the organization run better. You Love Change, you're embracing it and you're constantly looking for something new. And so the metaphor that ties all these worlds together is ancient maps before you, before we had explored every single square inch of the world, there would be areas that no shiphead sale to yet, and so on the map they would just they would draw a little dragon and say... be dragons, and that served as a warning, or at least an indication that, you know, we don't know what's there. So kind of if you're if you're sailing through this area, kind of beyond beyond watch. And so this metaphor here of dragons, dragons indicating change. It works for the people who want consistency. They can say, you know, this dragon is a warning, like I'm not going into this quadrant of the map here, you know, like f fords off on its form. But then sales or innovation or whoever wants change, they can commen say no, you know, like dragons are like they breathe fire, dragons are really cool. They sometimes have boards of treasure, like let's go explore and so this, even if there isn't agreement yet, it gives a common language to start addressing a problem, to start looking at it from, you know, like kind of detached from all of the emotional charge, language and detachment, all of the like, the very specific technical details about like this program will break down or you know, like this client will be upset, and allows you to sort of abstract up these details to have a conversation. That's cool. I like that and I like the dragon theme to some of my kids favorite books are dragons love Tacos, and if you know those ones, know what, I'm going to have to check them out, because dragons an Tacos are both excellent. Agree, agree across the board. They're so Megan, you're communications consultant. I know at this point. How do you use stories or I'm just kind of curious what you do to bring this line of thinking into the way you're advising companies that you work with? The stories, like I said, stories provide a structure and they provide a kind of an organization and a lot of a lot of what we do, especially in be to be organizations, is it's either super, super of stracted or it's very, very, very technical, or it's not generally accessible. I mean, if you are, if you're trying to, if you're if you've got an APP or something like a consumer APP, you can usually you've got a one sentence summary that says, you know, like this connects you two restaurants in your area that deliver. You know, everyone can understand that. If you're doing something much more complicated or much more niche, you often need a metaphor or story to kind of give somebody a little bit kind of an easy entering into starting to understand what your business does, how you can help and you know, what sort of problems you can solve. And so I think that is that's really the main area that stories and metaphors can come to service when we're talking be to be marketing. Yeah, makes sense, I get. Is there anything that you would like to add to this conversation that I did not ask you about,...

...or parting words of advice or manufacturing leaders who are listening right now? Business doesn't have to be boring. I think that's my main my main goal in life is, especially in B tob we sort of think, you know, we need to there's there's this gravitoss that we need to maintain, and I'm obviously there is. I mean, you don't need to go out and start marketing with means or sprinkling emojis and all of your pitch decks or whatever, but you also mean you need to be able to show some personality, even in be, to be, especially in you to be, you're still marketing human to human me. There is even if it's not directed consumer, you're still talking to a person. You need to make that human connection. You need to be authentic and I think the more that we can embrace that, the business doesn't have to be boring. Mentality and look for ways to make complex topics simple, look for ways to make dry topics more fun and engaging, the the more fun we're all going to have at our jobs in the more successful willing to be. Love it. Well, Megan, can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you or where they can find these awesome kids books that you are in the processes of still creating? And, yeah, just learn more about what you're doing? Yeah, the books. You can find them at www dot sup, Jane Ja and ECOM and you can also find the books on Amazon if you're in the US. You can find me either on linkedin under Maigan Preston Meer, or on twitter or Instagram at M Preston Meer. Awesome. Well, MAG and I really appreciate you doing this day. This was really interesting conversation. I think what you're doing is super cool and I hope that we can help spread the word about about these books so we can start reaching the next next generation, or the generation after the next generation is as we said earlier. All right, thanks so much, Joe. You Bet, and as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never missed 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 B Tob Manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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