Perspectives on Business Management with Metal Forming Company Execs

September 26, 2022

Beginning in January 2021, MetalForming magazine has been conducting monthly 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; visit to see more.

Want to be interviewed for this column? Email editorial director Brad Kuvin.

Q: What are two things that you believe your company is doing well?

Aaron WiegelAaron Wiegel, president of Wiegel (formerly Wiegel Tool Works):

Having a successful company does not come easy. As leaders, we face a lot of challenges, both planned and unexpected. However, a few key factors contribute to our growth and success.

First and foremost, our staff has the qualifications, motivation and required training to ensure success. We empower them to make the necessary decisions to move forward and allow us to work on the business rather than in it. However, with that empowerment comes responsibility, along with goals and metrics.

We will double our sales in the next 2 yr., and triple in 4 yr. I can’t manage that growth without having a team in place that I can lean on. An important lesson I’ve learned: I can’t work in the business anymore; I have to work on it. For that to happen I must empower and trust the team. So, I am completely hands-off when it comes to our managers running their departments. It took me a long time to step away like this—I’ve been here 21 years.

In addition, a successful company cannot manage what it cannot measure. Having several metrics across the board, and to which we assign ownership, drives innovation and growth. Team leaders work together to develop the metrics and share them with staff. For example, we look at quoting and carefully rate our customers and prospects to prioritize the time we spend on quoting. We judge our engineering team based on time spent on programs vs. the time that we quoted. And, we judge production based on OEE. Then we work with a detailed dashboard—without this, leaders would be driving success blindly.

Jeff SotokJeff Sotok, executive vice president of global operations, Trans-Matic

As a senior leadership team, we conduct a high-level SWOT analysis every year as part of our strategic-planning process. We challenge ourselves regarding our perceived strengths and how they match the values of our customers.

We’ve also been able to increase our deep-draw metal forming capability at all three of our facilities, enabling us to remain competitive and win new work. We’ve worked hard to operate our three facilities as one global organization rather than as three independent silos.

Something we continue to work on is our ability to anticipate better and be more proactive. We have a saying: “At Trans-Matic, we make it happen.” In a crisis, we can rise to the occasion as a company and do some amazing things, but at the end of the day, crisis management brings added costs. We want to get better at preventing crises from happening in the first place.

This year, we evolved our strategic-planning process into more of an executive-team exercise, incorporating leadership from all three facilities. Then we’ve made sure that we better communicate the action items throughout the company, so that everyone on the leadership team can give the same answer to anyone else in the company when asked about the company’s goals and vision for the future—what we’re doing, and why.

Q: How do you encourage and motivate your management team?

Wiegel: Encouraging and motivating the management team starts with being as honest and transparent as possible, setting the stage of where the company is and where we want to go. Each member of the management team represents one link in a strong chain.

With expectations set, managers must then oversee their own teams, which includes selecting their team members.  In doing so, they take total ownership of their job scope and have a clear directive of what is expected and outlined by their goals and metrics. They’re essentially running a business within the business.

I read a lot of about Elon Musk and admire his innovation. From him I’ve learned that while you can have smart people in your company, if they lack the motivation and drive, they won’t do well.  

Sotok: Motivation comes with improved communication, clear alignment of priorities and goals, and the offering of support and recognition. Motivation comes from being engaged and knowing that what you do as an employee adds value and contributes to the results of the business. This applies to everyone, not just the mid-management leadership team. 

Finally, we must recognize and celebrate our wins. We’ve been working to establish more-frequent opportunities for recognition tied to hitting regular, monthly goals, some at the team level and some at the plant level, but always where we need to improve—quality, delivery, safety, etc. We’re also working to do much more with individual recognition tied to actions such as process improvements at the presses and successful project completion. In many cases, our mid-management leaders establish these goals and participate in the recognition, which can be highly motivating for them.

Industry-Related Terms: Forming
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management


Must be logged in to post a comment.
There are no comments posted.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Start receiving newsletters.