The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 month 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

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

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for The Manufacturing Executive in your favorite podcast player.

We react as humans. We reactmuch better to a story than the spreadsheet, and so you need to you can'tjust leave it at the data. I'm a firm proponent of data beingin the front seat if we're keeping with the driving metaphor. But Dad shouldnavigate, the human should drive. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, wherewe explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize manufacturers forward. Here you'lldiscover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about theirsuccesses and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts abouthow to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into theshow. 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. Seventysix the dragon food factory is falling behind. Uncle Manny makes the best dragon foodin 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 SupplyJane and her sidekick Fifo, find and fix the bottleneck? This is theintro you'll find on Amazon for the book that today's guest has written to helpteach 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 nextgeneration 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 meintroduce today's guest, Megan and Preston. Myer is an author, speaker andcommunications 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 couldnever tell the whole story, so now she focuses on stories that the datadoes 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 tokids, and she is an avid collector of jargon. Megan, welcome tothe show. Thanks, Joel. When we are cool. Well, youknow you. You caught my attention before we first talked a few weeks agowhen I saw your books and I thought wow, you, you're writing kidsbooks 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'llbe 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 toand in a way that sticks out. Thanks so, Megan. You've spentover ten years in supply chain and analytics. Can you start by telling our listenersa little bit more about your background...

...that got you to where you aretoday? Sure, so I did. My my MBA was an operations managementand I sort of fell in love with the idea of standardization. First ofall, standardization, doing the exact same thing over and over again as wellas possible and then continuously improving. And after that I realized that sort ofthe 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 theanalytic side of things. I started out very sort of on the kind ofcutting Grad supply chain optimization side and moved throughout my career towards much more justanalytics and insights and started to get more onto the sort of psychology of howconsumers 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 arenecessary, but they are not sufficient. So, no matter what you're doingin business, as long as there are humans involved, you need human judgmentas well. You can't just rely on the data. Think a little deeperthere. For me, not on that one. You. You stated inyour bio that after sorting through data for more than a decade, you realizethat numbers could never tell the whole story. I can you unpack that a littlebit further? Tell us what you know, what your experiences have taughtyou on that front. Sure, we talk so much about being data drivenand every single industry, every single business wants to be data driven, andand sure be. I mean data, like I said, is a wehave to know what's going on in our operations. But no matter how sophisticatedyour analysis, no matter how data science you get no matter how objectively rightyou are. The result of your analysis have to be carried out. Theyhave to be you're either recommending a course of action you're trying to get approvalfrom a board. You have to somehow tell the story, and so that'sthe numbers aren't going to do that on their own. You have to flashthem out. You have to create something a little bit more vivid. Wereact 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'ma firm proponent of data being in the front seat if we're keeping on thedriving metaphor. But Dad should navigate, the human should drive. Yeah,well, Sad, I think. I mean, this is a part ofmy world to as a marketing guy, and I've come up over the lastI don't know, fifteen years roughly of my career with sort of come upwith 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 intoexistence, and it's also the year I entered the workforce and like and there'sjust an I think there's an overwhelm of... sometimes, where there's so muchavailable 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 andpull out the things that actually matter and then be able to explain it tostakeholders that need to understand the impact of this data in a way that makessense to them and helps them understand what to then do with it. It'skind of becomes so overwhelming that it's meaningless in some ways. Exactly and whatyou said is exactly right. There are so, so, so much dataout there that the data isn't the that's not the problem. There's all kindsof answers. I think one problem that we run into is that we kindof assume that there's one right answer, and for most problems that's not thecase. There are many good answers and the data is going to basically findus to whichever one we want to find, and that's not I'm not trying tosay that we manipulate like that's just the case. There's very little inbusiness that is surely linear. Are Purely causing effect, and so really thevalue that's added is digging through the noise and to find the signal, likeyou'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 abouthow we can get the next generation interested in manufacturing and in the meantime ityou almost have focused on how to get the generation after the next generation interestedmanufacturing 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 itdown. Tell us what what inspired this. Talk about what the book and thennow the books are. I'll hand it to you. Absolutely so thebooks are the adventures of Supply Jain and five Phoe. So there are twobooks, like you said. The first one is called PIPO saves the dayand 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 shelfa little bit too long and they start to hatch. And so then supplyJaine 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 goesto her uncle's dragon food factoring and they realize that somewhere between the baking andthe shipping department there's a slowdown. So they have to work their way backwardsuntil they find where the bottleneck is and...

...then fix that. To the wholefact that you can run more efficiently. The purpose of the books is tofrom the purpose. Now I've sort of record that. The purpose, Iguess, is to really bring these these hidden concepts, this hidden logic thatsort of makes the world work, to light, bring us make it alot more accessible to kids. This is not you know, when we talkabout sten in education and in children's books these days, and often we aretalking about rocket science quite literally. And this is not that. These arethese are simple, everyday concepts. I mean first thing first out. Youcan see at the grocery store yourself. You know when you go you're pickingup a gallon of milk. If you check the expiration date, you goa couple of gallons back to see a different expiration date. And to beclear, and not recommending anyone do this, because they are put in this orderso that you take the first one out. You don't want to messup anybody's inventory planning. So so please stick with the way that the milkis positioned. But it shows it makes these concepts accessible to kids and putsome add some dragons in there so it's a little bit more entertaining than you'reengaging. But I think it's something that it's it's common sense, but it'snot 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 andmeans, 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 theway 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 asetting 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 wantto be a marketer when I grow up. was written by Dan Sanchez, who works at Sweet Fish Media, which is the company that produces thispodcast, 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 oldthe newborn at home and you know, in particular my seven year old andfive year old like they don't have a clue what I do. They seeme, you know, working from home some days like in front of acomputer 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 ora police officer or, you know, something that they can wrap their headsaround. And so I'm guessing maybe this was part of the angle you tookwhen 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 youwhy do you want to bring these concepts two kids in particular? That's theexactly, exactly the reason, like you said, is I think the booksare a great way to bridge that. What does Mommy do at work allday 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 apolice officer or a fireman or a doctor. They have uniforms, they have astethoscope or a badge. But what does a supply chain professional where towork? You know, like a polo or button down, and they looklike everybody else who does sort of a job at a desk. And youknow, like, what does a marketer look like? Looks like you rightnow, and that's not going to be you know, that doesn't translate aswell 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 itwill check out that book for some competitive research here. And the other thingtoo, 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 meanyou still have a lot of you do something different every single day, butwhen you say you're a marketer and someone else is there a marketer, youmight never do the same task ever in your entire career. There's such abreath there, and I think was supply chain. It's similar. There's anentire and mean literally from manufacturing to last my logistics. There's all kinds ofthe positions in there, and so there's just purely statistically, more kids thatare reading beds some more bedtime stories today are going to end up in supplychain careers. Then we'll end up as police officers, and so the earlierwe can start getting them thinking about this the better. Yeah, I thinkit's great. Kind of suspected this was your reason, but I think it'sjust really smart taking these things that are hard for a little person's brain towrap 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 ownhalf the time. So for sure, yeah, I still I talked aboutbeing a market or to like. I mean I probably have the same conversationwith my seven year old daughter, as I do with like my mom orDad, about why I what I do for a living and what like myinner ins and outs of my day are. So, yeah, I think it'sreally great. So where you going next with the books? You've gottwo of them. You got to keep them going or I'm gonna I'm goingto keep them going. I know that I'm going to have at least athird book and I haven't decided on the topic yet. I was thinking eithersomething with intermodal transportation, just because I think the illustrations would be great tosee 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 thatI would love to try and bring. I know that it's and done inthe beer game. Almost anyone who's been to business school in the last tenyears probably has played the beer game, which is a great illustration of thebulb of effect, and so I'm wondering...

...if I can make that a littlebit more age appropriate for elementary school kids. So, Megan, I know thatyou are a believer in using stories, as you've sort of demonstrated here toin, you know, a variety of places. But one of thethings you mentioned to me is that stories can be really powerful and breaking downsilos inside of Bee Tob organizations. So wondering if you could talk about whatyou 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 abad education for a reason, because they are productivity. But they occur fora reason to I mean the reason that we have organizations and we're not justall one man shows is because each department has they have a courset of knowledgethat only they possessed. They are the experts. You know, operations knowsexactly how the lines run, sales knows exactly how to approach the customer inthe best way, marking knows exactly how to position of product. We can'tall 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 thesebarriers. So they provide a, you know, some some phores so thatknowledge can flow in and out, and what they do really is provide astructure. So every single department has tons of details, tons of expertise andthey 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 atyou 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 detailsonto 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 toall 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 keepingthe business running. If you're an environment like that, you don't want change. You are, you were, trying to maintain consistency and standardization. Youdon't want anything to come in and disrupt that. If you are in moreon kind of the creative side, if you're on the innovation side, you'relooking for new technologies to come in make the organization run better. You LoveChange, you're embracing it and you're constantly looking for something new. And sothe metaphor that ties all these worlds together is ancient maps before you, beforewe had explored every single square inch of the world, there would be areasthat no shiphead sale to yet, and so on the map they would justthey would draw a little dragon and say... be dragons, and that servedas a warning, or at least an indication that, you know, wedon't know what's there. So kind of if you're if you're sailing through thisarea, kind of beyond beyond watch. And so this metaphor here of dragons, dragons indicating change. It works for the people who want consistency. Theycan say, you know, this dragon is a warning, like I'm notgoing into this quadrant of the map here, you know, like f fords offon 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, likelet's go explore and so this, even if there isn't agreement yet, itgives a common language to start addressing a problem, to start looking at itfrom, you know, like kind of detached from all of the emotional charge, language and detachment, all of the like, the very specific technical detailsabout like this program will break down or you know, like this client willbe upset, and allows you to sort of abstract up these details to havea conversation. That's cool. I like that and I like the dragon themeto some of my kids favorite books are dragons love Tacos, and if youknow 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. Howdo you use stories or I'm just kind of curious what you do tobring 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 providea 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 ofstracted 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'reif you've got an APP or something like a consumer APP, you can usuallyyou've got a one sentence summary that says, you know, like this connects youtwo restaurants in your area that deliver. You know, everyone can understand that. If you're doing something much more complicated or much more niche, youoften need a metaphor or story to kind of give somebody a little bit kindof an easy entering into starting to understand what your business does, how youcan help and you know, what sort of problems you can solve. Andso I think that is that's really the main area that stories and metaphors cancome 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 thisconversation that I did not ask you about,...

...or parting words of advice or manufacturingleaders 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 Btob we sort of think, you know, we need to there's there's this gravitossthat 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 emojisand all of your pitch decks or whatever, but you also mean you need tobe able to show some personality, even in be, to be,especially in you to be, you're still marketing human to human me. Thereis 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 Ithink 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 forways to make dry topics more fun and engaging, the the more fun we'reall going to have at our jobs in the more successful willing to be.Love it. Well, Megan, can you tell our audience how they canget in touch with you or where they can find these awesome kids books thatyou are in the processes of still creating? And, yeah, just learn moreabout what you're doing? Yeah, the books. You can find themat www dot sup, Jane Ja and ECOM and you can also find thebooks on Amazon if you're in the US. You can find me either on linkedinunder 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 andI hope that we can help spread the word about about these books so wecan start reaching the next next generation, or the generation after the next generationis as we said earlier. All right, thanks so much, Joe. YouBet, and as for the rest of you, I hope to catchyou on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never missed an episode, subscribe tothe show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more aboutindustrial 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 learnthank you so much for listening. Until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (85)