Last updated on October 3rd, 2022 at 11:22 am
In an ideal world, manufacturing companies would see growth throughout the business. Revenues would grow, profits would increase and the organization would continue to move in a positive direction.
The real world, of course, is often far from ideal and the past few years have been full of ups and downs for manufacturers. Trade and tariff disputes in 2018 and 2019 gave way to COVID-19 induced shutdowns. While some businesses made in-demand products or found ways to contribute in the early days of the pandemic, others saw their company’s existence threatened. As shutdowns ended, demand from many consumers snapped back with travel limited and disposable income available.
While strong demand is certainly a welcome phenomenon for manufacturers, many quickly found themselves facing new challenges as supply chains remained out of balance and it became difficult to get materials. Before long, businesses were passing along one price increase after another in a big to remain profitable. Add in a tight labor market and rising wages and the picture only gets more complicated. A host of other factors, like a war in Ukraine, have contributed to the inflationary environment pushing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and increase the risk of recession.
Much of what has shaped the economy in recent years has been outside the control of manufacturers, but business leaders still have plenty of levers to pull within their own company. At the BizTimes Media Next Generation Manufacturing Summit, a panel of executives from some of Wisconsin’s leading manufacturers will share lessons learned, best practices and other details from navigating, and growing, during the ups and downs of the past few years.
The panel discussion will feature Tom Danneker, president and chief executive officer of Menomonee Falls-based flexible packaging maker Glenroy, Benjamin Gover, chief operating officer of West Allis-based architectural millwork firm Glenn Rieder, Pat Koppa, president of Milwaukee-based vertical conveyor and lift maker PFlow Industries, JP Moran, president of Pleasant Prairie-based label and lid maker LMI Packaging Solutions, and Sachin Shirvaram, CEO of Manitowoc-based Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry.
Panel topics will focus on digging deeper on the challenges facing manufactures, including:
- Tight labor markets: Beyond signing bonuses and rising wages, panelists will address how they are trying to take new approaches to finding their current and future workforce. Shirvaram will discuss Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry’s new training center, which has helped cut new hire turnover from around 100% to 15% while helping the company attract a more diverse workforce. Moran will share insights on how LMI has tapped into work release programs from the Department of Corrections and a unique partnership with Carthage College to fill workforce needs, including the role of buy-in from long-tenured employees to maintain company culture.
- Managing business ups and downs: Growing revenue is certainly a welcome thing for any business, but it can come with challenges. Koppa and PFlow, for example, saw a dramatic increase in business from the e-commerce market in recent years, only to see a pullback in demand this year. He’ll address how the company tried to handle the increase in business without over investing or taking on too much risk. Koppa will also discuss how PFlow is navigating the downswing in business by looking to some of the other markets it serves.
- Navigating supply chain and pricing chaos: Nearly every manufacturer has faced some sort of supply chain disruption over the past few years and while the worst may have passed, the recent potential for a railroad strike showed just how easily the system can be disrupted. Panelists will discuss how they handled issues by getting more directly involved in sourcing and quoting to fostering and maintaining quality relationships with both suppliers and customers.
- Growing company culture: Every company has its own unique culture and executives have a unique ability to shape it through their actions. Danneker and Shrivaram, for example, are leading family-owned businesses as non-family CEOs, so both have worked to understand the values of the family owners while also driving the business forward. Moran is the third generation in his family to lead LMI, which comes with pro and cons to handle. Koppa is leading an employee-owned business while trying to manage through a difficult period. Each businesses’ experience offers lessons learned for other manufacturers.
Following the panel, there will be breakout sessions on leadership strategies for an effective safety program, improving a business with sustainability, and taking a closer look at manufacturing in southeastern Wisconsin.
The Next Generation Manufacturing Summit will take place from 2-6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Brookfield Conference Center. Presented by BizTimes Media, the program is sponsored by WMEP Manufacturing Solutions, BMO Harris Bank, Brown & Brown and supporting sponsor Vistage.