Process Improvements & Workforce Development in Rural America
OUTdrive Episode 34 with Paul Dick
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Paul Dick, Operations Leader of Industrial Technologies & Services (ITS) Americas at Ingersoll Rand. Paul is passionate about meeting the needs of the marketplace by partnering with businesses, communities and colleagues to achieve sustainable success.
Read more for their thoughts on investing in workforce development, improving processes for maximum efficiency and the value of strategic partnerships. They also discuss the importance of thinking and acting like an owner, digital connections and the core values that attract businesses and individuals to rural America.
Efficiency Through Continuous Process Improvement
ITS Americas at Ingersoll Rand merged with Gardner Denver Sedalia, where Paul began his career. Over time, he took on a variety of leadership roles before transitioning to his current position. One of the key components of the company’s success has been continuous improvements to current processes.
Paul began with Gardner Denver Sedalia first as a college intern and then as a manufacturing engineer, working on projects with a foundation built on process improvement. He focused on taking a current process and making it better, something he still does. Knowing how operations work from the ground up enables Paul to be an effective leader and understand what goes on behind the scenes.
“I wouldn’t ask anybody that works with me to do anything I’m not willing to do myself, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been successful,” he says. “If I’m going to lead a team, I really need to understand how the process works and what the opportunities are to improve that process.”
Understanding how a company works from the ground up, regardless of the specific area, helps you to be an effective leader. In addition to understanding, you must be willing to evaluate current processes, identify areas for improvement and implement changes to achieve sustainable success.
Workforce Development in Rural America
Leading strong and effective operations efforts requires you to have an effective and efficient team working to get the job done. For Paul and his team, workforce development is an area of significant investment, partnering with the community to provide opportunities for employees at all levels.
“We’ve had a big effort with a lot of folks, including Jessica Craig of Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County, with conversations to reach out to high schools and colleges to better educate students about the opportunities in manufacturing,” says Paul about Gardner Denver Sedalia. “We’ve met with high school counselors and toured them through the plant to talk about the opportunities right here in our own community.”
Although some may think manufacturing jobs are only working on an assembly line or running a machine tool, there are many career opportunities throughout manufacturing companies. “I think an internship or cooperative program is really critical towards presenting opportunities. We’re very big on a cooperative or an internship program with students to give them an opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with somebody,” says Paul. “In many cases, we go on to hire these folks and they progress very well through their careers here.”
Partnerships with local high schools and colleges provide the opportunity to hire employees from local areas, something that Paul believes is very important. “Our strategy is always to find somebody that has a local tie here in the local community or in the state of Missouri,” he says. “As they want to advance their career, there’s a really high likelihood that they want to stick with your company.”
Paul’s investment in the local community can be seen through his involvement with the State Fair Community College (SFCC) Foundation. SFCC recently broke ground on the Olen Howard Workforce Innovation Center, which will expand the college’s technical training programs and have a direct, positive impact on manufacturers throughout the Midwest. To learn more about the Workforce Innovation Center, tune in to episode 13 of OUTdrive to hear from Dr. Joanna Anderson, President of SFCC.
Think & Act Like an Owner
Thinking and acting like an owner has many benefits, not only for Paul, but throughout his entire company. “Ownership is big, not only for myself, but also for Ingersoll Rand. It’s actually one of our core values. We think and act like owners,” says Paul. “Every single one of our employees is an owner of stock in Ingersoll Rand. We think that there is huge value there when we all think and act like owners. If we can get all 17,000 of our employees globally to keep pushing towards thinking with that same mindset, we’re going to be unstoppable.”
Paul sums it up simply saying, “Opportunities present themselves when you focus on doing a good job at the task given to you.” As the conversation continues, Paul shares additional insight into thinking and acting like an owner, including building the right team, efficient and effective communication, building strong relationships and serving as a partner to customers, rather than a vendor.
Integrity in Rural America
A big component of integrity is a commitment to doing the right thing, even if it’s the smallest thing. Cliff uses the example of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes picking up a piece of trash on the side of the field. Although he is a professional sports star worth millions, Mahomes is committed to doing the right thing. The integrity he shows is what Paul and other manufacturers appreciate about the rural American workforce and why they choose rural America to grow their companies.
“When I think of rural America, I think of neighbors and a hard work ethic; somebody that’s going to show up every single day and put in their best,” says Paul. “The secret to our success as a business is the strong work ethic in rural America, with people that put in a hard day’s work and put out a quality product. It’s a fantastic business to be connected to so many rural communities across the Americas.”
Digital connections enable Ingersoll Rand to reach customers through a variety of channels. They also allow Paul to meet with other teams within the company to share best practices, something that has proven vital to success during the COVID pandemic.
“Through the whole pandemic, our primary focus has been the safety of our employees. For 10 months now, I have had a call every single day with all of our manufacturing operations in North America, and we go through our COVID scorecard,” says Paul. “We kick it off with a safety moment, then let every single factory talk about how they’re doing. It’s a fantastic opportunity to share best practices and I’m thankful that we were able to create this process as a result of the pandemic.” Although it is not an ideal circumstance, the pandemic allowed Paul to identify an area of opportunity and capitalize on it to improve current processes.
The Importance of Referrals
Knowing and trusting the people that you do business with is critical to success. There aren’t many methods of communication more trusted than a recommendation or referral from a trusted partner or friend. “I’ve found that the best way to connect with Ingersoll Rand or myself is through a colleague, a personal connection or a reference,” says Paul. “When you hire someone, the best indication of whether the employee is going to be really good for your company is a reference, and it’s no different than if someone is trying to sell me a product.”
Be a Partner, not a Vendor
At the end of the day, successful businesses thrive because they understand that the customer comes first. Paul and his team put the customer first by serving them as a partner, rather than a vendor. This allows them to be a one-stop shop for customers, meeting their needs with a variety of products and services.
“We like to be a customer’s one-stop shop for all mission-critical flow products. We like to get in front of them and say, ‘Here are the products we have. They’re high quality and have innovative features, and we want to partner with you as a future consumer of products.’ If we can do that, we can give them a really good return on investment.”
By focusing on what you can do for customers rather than what they can do for you, you will be able to better meet their needs and build lasting relationships that serve both parties. When you support this philosophy with a strong workforce, efficient processes and a commitment to excellence, you will be positioned to meet the needs of your marketplace.
Get additional insight from Paul and Cliff in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!