Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director

Perspectives on Business Management with Metal Forming Company Execs

March 30, 2023

Beginning in January 2021, MetalForming magazine has conducted several Q&A sessions with executives at metal stamping and fabricating companies, providing an inside look at their management philosophies, and sharing their daily challenges and how they face them. Here we present highlights from two such interviews; to be interviewed for this column, email editorial director Brad Kuvin.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face as a company leader?

Mary FitzgeraldMary Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Acme Wire Products, Mystic, CT: Our biggest challenge is making sure that the company remains current and relevant considering economic challenges. We need to stay ahead of the curve, and today that mostly means maintaining profitability in light of rising material and labor costs. It’s more than ensuring that we have enough material in stock and trying to accurately project our material needs for the next three to six months. It also means that when we take an order or send out a quote, we’re charging a price that reflects and accounts for rising material prices. So, we’ve minimized how long our quotes remain valid. It might require us to requote every few weeks but allows us to provide accurate pricing.
On the labor front, we see the same challenges as other metal formers, but I think that we’re taking a different approach than most. We’re reaching into other corners of the workforce, looking for people who may not have worked previously in manufacturing and recruiting them by promoting the great opportunities that we can offer. We talk about manufacturing the career paths possible in manufacturing, about our commitment to ongoing training and education and to promoting from within.

Steve PeplinSteve Peplin, CEO of Talan Products, Cleveland, OH: Of course, like most companies we focus a lot of attention on attracting and retaining employees. And one thing we do well, that a lot of metal forming companies don’t, is attract a lot of media attention, which serves as a great marketing tool to not only attract new customers but to also attract talent. I always tell people, “We’re winning awards not to feed my ego, but to gain visibility.”

Bette Midler said once, “They can’t love you if they can’t see you.” That’s what marketing is, and winning awards and gaining media attention have been invaluable for us in attracting employees to Talan Products.

Q: What are two things that you believe your company is doing well? What's one thing that you wish you could change?

Fitzgerald: I believe that we excel at listening and responding to the needs of our customers and providing honest and timely feedback. We really keep our ear to the ground and facilitate frequent and open communication to help our customers save money. This might mean combining orders or working together to develop longer-term commitments or blanket orders so that we can secure more material ahead of time and control pricing. In short, we look out for their interests as well as our own.

I sure wish that I could change the perception of manufacturing amongst young people. Before the pandemic, we were successful in bringing students in to see our modern, clean environment, and talk to them about the career-path possibilities. Then, when they tour, we have our team members on the shop floor talk about their career journeys. We also tried a different route that I don’t think most other metal formers take—we invited adults in continuous-education classes at local technical schools to visit, so that they might consider a career change and pivot toward manufacturing.

Peplin: We grade very well on several industry benchmarks, key to managing the significant growth we’ve experienced. We invest three times the industry norm on workforce development, including expansive adoption of the PMA METALFORM EDU virtual learning platform. And, our sales/employee ratio is very high, three times what the average metal former achieves. Keeping direct labor costs low allows us to compete, even with low-cost countries.

One key contributor to our growth continues to be identifying and targeting potential customers in disruptive industries with good growth potential. For example, about 12 years ago we targeted the LED lighting industry, which grew from nothing to a $100-billion industry in 7 yr., and more recently we targeted the solar-power industry, which went from a niche market to become a huge opportunity. We’ve grown in both markets. Now we’re targeting the electric-vehicle market in the same way.

Industry-Related Terms: Forming
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management


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