THE MANUFACTURER’S NETWORK
Getting Your Manufacturing Culture Right with Dan Burgos.
Hey, it’s Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers Network podcast. I’m excited to introduce our guest today, Dan Burgos. Dan is the founder, president and CEO of Alphanova Consulting, a management consulting firm that helps manufacturers in various industries, including aerospace, injection molding, construction products, chemicals, fiberglass, furniture, electronics, consumer goods and more, among others. So, Dan, welcome to the show.
Hi, Lisa. Thank you for having me.
So Dan share with us a little bit about your journey and how you got into consulting, especially with manufacturing to begin with.
Yeah. So it all started with my father putting those entrepreneurial seeds in my mind as I was growing up and hard to believe, but as I was finishing high school, my aspirations were to become a prosecutor, a lawyer. And I guess at some point I knew I was coming to the U.S., of course, being an immigrant.
And so I you know, my aspirations to that path desisted when I learned that you had to get a new license for every state you moved to and so that just killed my aspirations to that. So I had to come up with the next best thing, which led me to industrial engineering. And it was all about solving problems and being inquisitive.
And so that’s how it all started. And that’s where I basically went to college. And throughout my journey, I knew I wanted to help people and from an entrepreneurial capacity. I just didn’t know how. And when I finished college, one of my first employers, we had consultants there. And when I interacted with them, I saw the, you know, the impact that they were having.
And I said, “wow, I think this might be it.” And so my career continued, and through the years, I met other consultants and really, you know, try to understand what they did and how they were able to impact. And it wasn’t until 2009 that I met someone and I finally said, yes, this I’m committing to, this is my career path.
And by that time I had already some experience in manufacturing and just remained committed, knowing that I wanted to see different industries within the manufacturing sector. And so I moved around in different companies from oil and gas, furniture. I worked for a medical device company, an aerospace company, and then finally I worked for a boutique consulting company to in my mind, I wanted to learn the ropes of the business.
And it was quite helpful, actually. And then eventually in 2016 is when I felt I was ready to take the leap and jump, you know, head first to the consulting journey and we’ve been in business since 2016, thankfully.
And so and what are some of the things that you focus on when you walk in there for the first time? What’s something that they want to focus on or the initial projects that you get started with?
You know, it depends on the company and the business. Some businesses have different needs. So there’s several areas that we help clients that primarily we help with execution in operations and operations management. So that’s our focus and that’s what really gets us in the door because it’s much more tangible for manufacturers. But once we’re in, we look at behaviors also from leaders, because if you, may have a well-oiled machine, but if the people that are managing, their leading, don’t have the right behaviors, you may still be having challenges to be successful.
So we look at that, and we also look at the culture that’s created by these leaders. And so we help basically in four areas. We help with the efficiency of the operation. We help with management of that operation. We also help with leadership the process for deploying or cascading the strategy. And finally, how do we turn around that culture?
How do we create an identity that people can get behind and also deter the people that are poor fits? Not necessarily because it’s good or bad, but it’s just when someone’s a poor fit to a company, it might not be the best place for them to be effective.
When you look at the fact and we’ve heard it so many times that people don’t leave the job, they leave their managers. So when you’re coming in from a consulting view, what are some of the things that you notice? And I want to put this in the perspective of somebody listening to this show today. What are some of the signs that they may look for that would tell them that, wow, there’s a problem with my management team that we need to start addressing.
Yeah. So some of the more, I guess, evident indicators could be employee turnover. I find that also many manufacturers do not have certain leadership processes that are so beneficial. I’ll mention just a handful. So for instance, many manufacturers do not complete culture surveys or engagement surveys, I should say, to know how employees feel about their management. Are they being included?
Do they feel connected? Do they feel engaged, included in decisions, or are the decisions held only by leaders and employees, or are basically there to provide labor or just physical, you know, labor. Another one is, for example, very few manufacturers have a talent management process, so they don’t take a proactive look at, you know, what high potential individuals do we have that we want to maintain engaged and considering the challenges with the labor market today, you’re best served by keeping those people engaged because those are your future leaders.
To the same token, how about the people that are in the middle? You know, they just need some support so they can rise to a higher level of performance. And then lastly, what are the people that basically on the third string of categories, which are they’re not performing, but they’re also not a good fit, character wise. So is there a way we can turn that around?
Or maybe are those people that are having a negative effect in our culture that we probably are best served? And when I say ours, I mean both parties, the business and the individual by moving to a different company, which would be a better fit for them, but very few manufacturers do that well, and so they end up with a lot of those people in that third category just creating damage within the business.
When there’s so many times that you’re thinking of your hourly employees, you know, as the ones that are doing the grunt work that you don’t even necessarily see their potential. So if you bring in some kind of talent management talent, you know, education, training and empowering employees to learn things that maybe they weren’t hired for. But that’s really how you get that spark.
And you may open up, you know, something in one of those employees that you had no idea that they were just going to rock in that area, but it’s just kind of taking a chance, taking a risk and believing in those hourly employees that sometimes managers don’t give the time of day to.
Let me share a recent story. One of our clients recently had a departure for an employee. They want to ask around how, you know, how much of a contributor were they? And they said, Oh, yeah, he has potential. We just don’t have an opening for him. And so what I find is that a lot of manufacturers, or a lot of leaders, I should say manufacturing leaders, feel that it has to be a promotion.
And because you’re smaller, there’s no place for them. And so I counter that with that’s not the only way you can engage someone. You can give them a special project. You can put them in charge of onboarding new people. You can find what makes them tick and keep them engaged, and maybe they can be an assistant and they can cover for other people.
They can be cross-trained. there are just so many, the list goes on, just so many opportunities to engage someone, to keep them interested, find something that fulfills their, their potential until the next opportunity comes along. And we miss out on a lot of that. And people just move to the next company like just this individual did because he was looking for a bigger challenge and that employer was not able to provide it.
Well, and that’s such a good point. You are absolutely right. It does not have to be, especially if you have a relatively flat organization. But it’s taking a look because back in the day when I was an executive recruiter, it was like if somebody was at a job for fewer than five years, you’d be like “job hopper”, and now you go on Indeed or Monster or any of these places.
And they are telling young people that if you want to progress in your career, you got to move to a different company. But about every 18 months or so is where they’re showing that, especially younger millennials, Gen Z, that’s where they want to change. So it’s not like it has to be the next promotion, but maybe it’s a different department, maybe it’s a different line,
Like you said, getting involved in onboarding, getting involved in training, just giving them something to let them know that you’re paying attention. So when other opportunities open up that they would be first in line for that. And they don’t have to grow their career by going somewhere else.
That’s exactly right, and we miss out on a lot of talent that’s within the business already. In this particular case, you know, the environment is very industrialized. And so they have some challenges in finding people that can get accustomed to that. When you have people that are already there, they’re loyal. They’re not going anywhere you want to exploit.
And tap into that talent as much as possible. So that’s what one observation I have.
Right. And it’s interesting, too, because you talk about making things more efficient and the labor shortage. So one of the things and I’ve had a couple of people on my podcast talking about automation, but automation not only from the fact of being more efficient where there’s a labor shortage, but also the fact that a lot of that automation is what’s going to woo people to your company.
Like, Wow, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I want to work for you versus going into a manufacturing plant and seeing equipment that’s, you know, twice as old as they are. They’re not going to have the interest. So there’s little things that you can also do that’s going to give you the efficiency, but also to, to attract new candidates to join you.
Have you seen that with your customers?
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, I think the culture that it’s such it seems to become or it has become a buzzword these days, but it’s just having an environment where you don’t feel, you know, that you don’t have that social impact. Where people I don’t know if you’ve experienced this. I know I have you get to a point where, you know, Monday comes along or, you know, the next day you have to go to your employer and you feel I don’t you don’t feel joy or pride or desire to even walk in the door and do your job.
And so I think that is something that is accessible to everyone. It’s not expensive. It just takes effort and it takes commitment and persistence, I will say, to create that environment for employees, because, you know, they spend the majority of their time at work. Won’t you want to have a pleasant experience of doing that? Doing that goes so far for people and yet we feel that we miss out a lot on creating that for employees.
Oh yeah. And it’s not to say, you know, that it’s going to be happy, happy, joy, joy all the time. We’re not going to be dancing down the street, you know, woo hoo, it’s time to go to work. But if we know that our boss cares about us, knows our name, knows something about us, maybe knows our kids names, knows our interests, knows what lights us up and our interest within the company and how we can grow.
You are right that all that is is conversation a little bit of time. Hardly any money, hardly any effort, but some effort that goes into that.
Yeah, 100% I’m with you.
So what are some of the the things that you have seen to help manufacturers become more efficient?
Well, I mean, there’s a lot. There’s basically we look for specific activities that are non value added. So think about it, if you have to do something twice, so make sure you do things right the first time. If there’s something that you’re repairing, reworking any of those things, you want to eliminate completely as much as you can, meaning that your processes are reliable enough that you can produce a quality product and generate complaints from your clientele.
The other one is movement throughout a factory. Product flow it’s one thing that you want to be watching for if your product flow requires the operation to have the product move back and forth throughout a factory, you’re going to incur a lot of extra cost in transportation, property damage, possibly obsolescence and not to mention safety and quality.
Right, right. So if somebody is because a lot of times we can’t even see what’s right in front of us. I mean, this is the way the shop has been operating for 40 years. This is the way that the process has always been. So in addition to bringing in that neutral third party that can point out some of these things.
What could a manufacturing professional do to at least start to become aware? Is there something you know, is there some kind of process that they can get start to see where some of that redundancy is?
Yeah, I think everything starts with education, right? Understand what really is value added and what’s non-value added. And all you have to do is go watch your operation once you’re clear what those things are and it’s everywhere, just about. I always say I’ve never walked into a manufacturing business that doesn’t have any of this waste. We call it waste because it’s a waste of time for employees to be searching, to be walking, to be repairing things throughout a factory.
So the first step is go get educated, go understand what really is value added, what is getting in the way of that value add. And once you can started identifying that, then it gets easy in terms of, you know, how do we solve for this? It’s probably the easiest part. It’s more finding it and being able to come up with solutions, but that’s where it starts.
That would be my first tip for listeners.
Yeah, well and you’ve been doing this for a while, so what are some examples that you’ve had with some of your customers that have, you know, looked at some of these things and been able to improve their efficiency?
Yeah. So one example that comes to mind years ago, I worked with this manufacturer and you know, they were it’s a mattress manufacturer and their lead times, meaning their order to delivery time was about two weeks. And so China, what was starting to get into their market, Chinese manufacturers and their lead times were about a month. However, considering the lower labor costs that Chinese manufacturers had, they were getting more competitive because they were lower price and lead time was somewhat similar.
So theirs was affected as manufacturers. So we got in there and we were able to help them cut that lead time from two weeks to three days.
So imagine what that would do for the market, right? You can say, well, you can go with a cheaper version, but it’s going to you’re going to have to wait for a month. So you going to have to tie up a lot of working capital, carry all this inventory, and we can deliver to you in three days and then you can upsell it, of course.
And that was dramatic. And we were able to do that without having to reduce personnel. We just found ways to improve and reduce the time it took for the product to flow through the factory without affecting quality and without reducing personnel, just being more efficient. And that was that just did wonders for their business. They that the threat of the Chinese manufacturers just basically went away because their value proposition was so valuable to the clients that it was a no brainer decision at that point.
Wow. I mean, that’s significant. So two weeks to three days. So what do you think was the biggest timesaver in when they went through their process?
So there’s a concept we use, we call it batching in which basically you’re processing a group of I’m going to call it parts. You’re completing basically each step of the tasks, for all of them, one after the other, as opposed to following them with what we call one piece flow, where you’re completing all the steps for one, and then you move it along and then all the steps for the second one and move it along.
This is still this practice is still very commonplace in manufacturers, and it creates such a difference in terms of delivery times that it’s just so impactful. Just to give you an example, we have I’m working with a client and they have parts that they put in in a furnace to basically cook the product and they’ve been doing batching.
And so their furnaces. One of the employees pointed out, wow, we didn’t realize, you know, our furnaces are ovens have been cooking air from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon until we’re done with the whole batch. We’re in the process of switching to that. So they’ll have product starting to be loaded into the ovens, probably around nine, ten in the morning.
And so what happened subsequently is that the next operation is either waiting for work because until they complete the batch and then it’s either that or they’re completely overwhelmed with the whole batch showing up at once. And now they have to work with all of these at the same time.
Oh, interesting. So you’re saying that batching is inefficient and doing it all at once is efficient, so that goes totally against the norm of what most people think. Right?
Absolutely. It’s very counterintuitive. And I won’t say that there aren’t exceptions. There are. But in most cases, as a rule of thumb, you want to default to want be slow as opposed to batching. So think about it this way. I always tell clients this. If you were the owner of the company, what would you rather your employees tell you?
At the end of the week? Boss, we completed all of the parts up to 50% in terms of processing. Or would you rather say we shipped, let’s say 54% of the parts and we’re working on the other 50%? And the answer is the latter because you have revenue coming when you ship 50%, helping you process all of them to 80%.
Does not generate any revenue. And that a lot of times helps them click and understand that you don’t want to have to process all these parts or all this product as one. Meaning the first one you finish has to wait until the rest of the batch is completed before it can move on to the next operation.
On the other thing that it seems that it would, as you’d be able to catch any mistakes a lot faster because if one mattress comes off the line and there’s a problem with it, it’s better than when all the parts to make that mattress in that batch come off and they’re all bad. Now you have now you have more waiting time.
So yeah, that is a super interesting way of again looking at your business completely differently from what we’re used to.
And that’s another point I actually share with clients and I’ve actually had that happen with the mattress manufacturer. It was with a label they preprinted and they put them on. And when the following inspector looked at them he said, Guys, these are all wrong. So they had to go back and redo all the work because they were batching at that point.
So there’s a lot of benefits to making that transition. But as you said, right, when people have been accustomed to doing it once a certain way for a long time, it’s that transition. And that’s why I emphasized earlier that behaviors changing and accepting and being open to doing things a different way. It’s actually the key of being successful besides or above and beyond the concepts themselves.
Yeah, I’d say that in my programs all the time that you have to be willing to look at every single aspect of your business differently. And even when it comes to the batching versus the full product going through, you know, is there a place, a small place that you can start? You know, just find one area. You’re not going to completely transform the plant overnight.
But if there’s one area that you can at least put it to the test, you know that then you can start showing the having some success and then being willing to take it a little bit further and a little bit further.
So yeah, I think that that is that’s a knowledge bomb, kind of a drop the mic moment.
So when you work with your clients as we’re getting to the end of our time together what how do you work with your clients and if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Yeah. So the way we work with clients is, you know, a lot of the work we do is we want to teach them to apply this. So we say that we help manufacturers achieve but also sustain improvement in quality and margins because it’s one thing for us to show up, make the improvements and then go away. That typically is not a formula for success in our in our experience.
You want to help individuals change their behavior, which reminds me, I failed to mention earlier, but I wanted to share with your audience a resource that can help them identify if they have opportunities, and I’ll if you can include the link and and the episode. It’s basically a self-assessment where they answer ten questions and it’ll give them feedback as to where they find themselves.
And maybe they could have opportunities where they can focus and it tells you it gives you some feedback as to how much effort it will take. In terms of how do they get in touch, if they like to chat and learn more, they can visit us on our website alphanovaconsulting.com and it’s spelled P H alphanovaconsulting.com
And we’d be happy to share more if that would be beneficial.
Okay awesome. Well, Dan it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. Again, I know that you really gave a different perspective to our audience today, so thank you so much for being with us.
Absolutely. Lisa, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure for me as well.
I’m Lisa Ryan and this is the Manufacturers Network podcast. We’ll see you next time.