Gary Harrell has done everything in manufacturing from welding to fabricating to regional sales management, which serves him well in his role as the Area Business Manager for Southwest Missouri and Metropolitan Springfield. Here are a few of his thoughts on manufacturing in Missouri, workforce and expectations for the new year.
Q: What’s the most important thing about Missouri Enterprise and its clients?
A: It’s all about bottom line profitability for our clients and a strong return on their investment with us. We do so many things that Missouri manufacturers need, so it’s a pleasure to go out in the field and talk with them. The larger companies seem to be especially focused on process improvement and reducing lead times. For the smaller companies, it’s a little bit more across the board, and an important part of my job is to help them think a bit differently and focus on the things that are most important to their growth and profitability.
Q: Any thoughts on workforce?
A: Who in manufacturing hasn’t thought about it? The skills gap is a very real problem, and it’s going to be one for a while. There’s no quick fix. It’s really about changing the negative image folks have about manufacturing jobs. They don’t understand that there are really good careers to be had, and that people with technical skills and computer knowledge have a huge opportunity in manufacturing. It needs to start with the schools. Fortunately, Missouri has some pretty strong STEM programs in place, and that can only help.
Q: What’s most satisfying thing about your work?
A: That’s easy. It’s when the little light goes on and the client understands what they need to do to grow and increase profits…and how a focus on continuous improvement will help them achieve results now and in the long term. Then our team and I get to help them implement the changes they need. We’re with them every step of the way; we don’t just tell them what to do and move on.
Q: What should manufacturers focus on in 2018?
A: The economy is doing great and it looks like manufacturing should reap a lot of rewards. I’m betting that a lot of manufacturers could experience some great growth in a short period of time, so they should focus on Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement to make sure they can keep up and stay ahead.