Perspectives on Business Management with Metal Forming Company Execs

January 20, 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’s the best management-related book, webinar or event you’ve recently enjoyed, and what were one or two of the key takeaways? 

Bob HoltelBob Holtel, president of Batesville Tool & Die: I just finished reading The Machine: A Radical Approach to the Design of the Sales Function, by Justin Roff-Marsh. I picked it up to learn ways to optimize our sales organization but find that many of the concepts apply to management in general. First, he emphasizes the theory of constraints, where you identify inefficiencies or bottlenecks and keep working to create more effective processes. While this applies to sales, it also applies to what we do in manufacturing, constantly looking for a better way to perform the same function but with increased output. 

The book also preaches that managers must understand the critical roles that operations play regarding customer retention and the growth of existing accounts.  Everyone in the company—sales as well as operations—must keep in mind that customers will look for a better supplier because of poor and unreliable on-time delivery; if they are unhappy with the price of the product; or if they don’t like the quality of the product or service you provide. The entire organization is in the customer-service business, and operations is key to solving customer-satisfaction issues.

Bill AdlerBill Adler, president and owner of Stripmatic Products Inc.Some time ago, I read The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt, which I still refer to today. It taught me how to apply the concepts surrounding the theory of constraints. We constantly focus on identifying production and process constraints to help optimize throughput, while including our front-line people to help develop creative solutions. A significant example of this dates back a few years when we looked at reducing changeover time on one of our laser-welding cells. We took each of the eight functional stations of the cell and, working systematically and starting at the station with the longest setup time, managed to reduce cell setup time from 10 hr. down to 20 min.

Another great book I reference often to friends and coworkers, and which was recommended to me by members of my PMA CEO networking group, is Arthur Herman’s Freedom’s Forge. It describes how General Motors’ executive Bill Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry Kaiser helped bring together leaders of several U.S. business to support the U.S. Army during World War II. I think our country could use this type of leadership right now, as the book illustrates how you can bring together diverse entities such as GM and Chrysler, Boeing and Lockheed, and GE and Frigidaire, to work toward a common cause for the better of the country.

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

Holtel: I find that building a winning culture is a constant challenge. I once heard, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Building a winning culture requires an environment that enables individuals to be successful and satisfied in their daily work. People need to know their role in the big picture, where they fit and how they can support the process. 

Manufacturing is rife with daily problems and challenges that easily can get in the way of success. A winning culture allows our employees, and teams, to effectively overcome these challenges—that’s what sets us apart.  

Adler: For the past couple of years, it’s been related to personnel management—not only keeping our existing people motivated and engaged in their work, but all of the time and effort spent trying to add to our core employee base. During Covid, we had to get creative to incentivize several healthy workers to show up for work, even when they knew they would be paid if they stayed home. We created a bonus pool of PPP money to incentivize attendance, and several of our operators earned $4000 bonus checks for good attendance over a 2.5-mo. period, as we continued to ship 100-percent on-time deliveries.  

In addition, to help grow our labor pool with new employees, we recently have hired a few Congolese refugees, one of whom does not speak English. We had a bilingual spouse spend a half-day providing some initial training, and since have used Google translate to help integrate them into our team.

Industry-Related Terms: Checks, Core, Die
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management


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