Executives share leadership insights, more at Manufacturing Summit

ManufacturingSummit-StateFairPark-2015-10-07-HDickinson
The 2015 BizTimes Media Manufacturing Summit featured four panelists from Generac, Denali Ingredients, American Roller Company and General Plastics.

“Set aside time to work on the business,” said Neal Glaeser, president of New Berlin-based Denali Ingredients. “Don’t spend all your time in the business.”

This was one piece of leadership advice shared by Milwaukee-area manufacturing executives at BizTimes Media’s annual Manufacturing Summit on Wednesday. Held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park as part of the Wisconsin Manufacturing & Technology Show, the panel discussion was themed “Riding the Ups and Downs of ‘New Normal.’”

See highlights from the panel discussion in the video below, and check out the video gallery from the morning here.

 

Dan Cahalane, president of Union Grove-based American Roller Company, added that leaders should be self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and Bob Porsche, president of Glendale-based General Plastics Inc., said he is involved in all aspects of the business yet also knows when to delegate.

Aaron Jagdfeld, president and chief executive officer of Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems Inc., said he acquired valuable leadership advice from the founder of Generac, Robert Kern.

Kern, he said, possessed a commanding and controlling management style. He had passion and a true entrepreneurial spirit, and he was a risk-taker.

While he learned from Kern’s style, Jagdfeld said he also discovered it is important to collaborate and employ an open management style.

ManufacturingSummit-StateFairPark-2015-10-07-HDickinson
The 2015 BizTimes Media Manufacturing Summit featured four panelists from Generac, Denali Ingredients, American Roller Company and General Plastics.

Another topic addressed during the panel was potential future disruptions in the industry.

Porsche said he is concerned about EPA changes, and, on a similar note, Jagdfeld said government regulations are worrisome.

Cahalane said he predicts 3D printing will impact American Roller Company in the next 10 years, but he views it as an opportunity—not a threat.

As for preparing to meet future challenges, Jagdfeld said the key is diversification.

“You’re always wrong until you’re right,” he said. “But if you’re diversified as a business you can weather the storm so to speak.”

Jagdfeld said companies should know their risk factors and also have a scalable business model that allows the company to grow but also to retrench and rethink if necessary.

Finally, another topic examined by the panel was talent acquisition.

Cahalane said the average age of his company’s employees was 57 before the recession.

“In 10 years, that would be a big problem,” he said.

American Roller Company subsequently began hiring younger people and giving them the opportunity to flourish. Additionally, Cahalane recently hosted 15 students from area universities and ultimately hired three of them.

He learned younger employees, however, become frustrated at the company’s older ways of doing things, and they desire to communicate and receive updates on the company’s business strategies. Therefore, he said he makes a point to personally “keep tabs” on them to make sure they are content with their jobs.

Similarly, Glaeser said he has noticed Millennials need collaboration and look at their jobs as a part of their life—not just as a paycheck. He said he works with the potential up-and-comers and helps put them on tracks at the company where they can be successful.

As for General Plastics, Porsche said his company reaches out to colleges and in particular high schools to try to find students who may be interested in a career that does not require a four-year college degree.

Jagdfeld said finding good, qualified engineering candidates is a big challenge for Generac as many of those people do not want to pursue a career in manufacturing.

They want to instead get into what they perceive to be the “new economy,” and they think manufacturing belongs to the “old economy.”

“But manufacturing is different than it was 20 years ago,” Jagdfeld said. “It’s a vibrant industry and a great industry to have a career in.”

 

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