Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference highlights new techniques, technologies

This article was published in the April 2019 edition of NTEA News.

Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference, a new Work Truck Week event this year, highlighted solutions for improving manufacturing efficiency and business results. Held March 5 in conjunction with The Work Truck Show® 2019, the conference covered

  • Welding as a core competency
  • Using government programs to improve productivity
  • Building a culture of mentoring
  • Using a lean approach to foster an innovative environment
  • Developing a process to attract and train workers

2019 Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference.

Keynote address
This year’s event featured a keynote address by Stan Stanford, general manager of Parker Hannifin, and five general sessions.

Stanford drew on various life experiences to demonstrate how industry companies can effectively implement and utilize innovative processes.

“For businesses, innovation is all about profitable implementation,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve come up with the best thing since sliced bread — if you can’t sell it, it’s no good. It has to be value-added as seen through the eyes of the customer.”

He gave examples of successes and failures using companies like Amazon, Blockbuster, Apple and Kodak. He emphasized the need to have a future vision, eye on market trends and willingness to change — as successful businesses such as Apple and Amazon have demonstrated.

“You need to be innovative to survive long-term. What you’re doing today may not be what you’re doing in 10 years.” He added, “It’s easy to sit there and do nothing and wait for things to change. Be proactive, take action, problem-solve and seek to actively change your processes.”

Stan Stanford, general manager of Parker Hannifin, gave the keynote address at Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference.

Stanford also stressed the importance of workforce development efforts. With more and more people expected to retire in the next five to 10 years, training, retention and identifying qualified candidates continue to be priorities for many industry companies. Businesses may benefit from taking new, innovative approaches to such initiatives.

He highlighted key takeaways, including play offense instead of defense, make sure strategies are process-driven, view every product through the customer lens and ensure your company has the right culture in place to support innovation.

General sessions
Five general sessions followed the keynote address. Welding — More than a Piece of Equipment and a Welder outlined how a shift in company-wide thinking and focus on welding functions can drive organizational performance. Jason Scales, business manager education for Lincoln Electric; and Matt Schroeder, engineering manager at Stellar Industries Inc., shared insights into an all-in approach through training. Attendees also learned how a focus on welding functions and welder support can help an organization achieve higher levels of productivity and customer satisfaction.

During How Government, Local MEPs and National Labs are Helping the Shop Across the Street, attendees learned how Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) — part of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — can help establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity. Presenter Gregg Profozich, director advanced manufacturing technologies for California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, shared how MEP centers and NIST-supported labs deliver proven solutions to manufacturers and fabricators. He outlined available resources to help improve processes, work environment and workforce capabilities.

Increase Productivity, Quality and Profits with Existing Employees highlighted key elements that make a significant difference in improving work experience and bottom line. Key topics included deployment sequence; culture change through introduction of process, leadership focus and organization; value network mapping for high-mix (custom), low-volume operations; and building a culture of mentoring and knowledge transfer. Presenters included Jeff Messer, president/owner of Messer Truck Equipment; Ranae Stewart, associate director – statewide outreach and partnerships at Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and Shannan Vlieger, director of operational excellence for Douglas Dynamics.

During Using Lean as a Catalyst for Innovation, Wes Waldo, president of Lean Methods Group, explained why lean forms the building blocks that allow innovation to prosper. Lean is not the absence of change — it is the acceptance of its ever-present existence. He shared examples and reasoning behind why lean organizations can create new products and services faster and cheaper while providing more value to customers.

Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference closed with the general session Creating an Environment and Process to Attract and Train New Workers. Joe Caldrone, director of operations at Somerset Welding and Steel, and Shawn Kaufman, director of human resources at Riggs Industries, revealed marketing tactics, advertising approaches and other proven methods for finding and hiring talent.

See a full recap of Work Truck Week at