088. Idea – Hey Manufacturers – It’s OK to ask for help! Transcript

Ray : 00:00  

Kind of no matter what I’ve seen and experienced in the engineering community is there, there’s always somebody out there that’s willing to help. There’s th there’s a no strings attached approach to it. And I think I’m the business development side and manufacturing. 

We’re getting better at that. Getting better at, let me bring you some value. You know first.  

Chris: 00:22  

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features of benefits on products that come to market. 

Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top of minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.  

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today were going to be having an idea conversation and excited about this conversation. Cause we’re gonna be talking about, Hey manufacturers: it’s okay to ask for help and to help us walk through this topic. I brought in an expert, he’s the founder and CEO of Linara International, a consulting firm that helps manufacturers really just get their business better. And so without further ado, Ray Ziganto. Welcome, sir.  

Ray : 01:16  

I appreciate it. Thanks Chris. Great to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Chris: 01:19  

Absolutely. So excited to have you here and thank you so much for taking the time with our, with us here show and. You had me all amped up. I was excited to, to have this conversation. 

Ray : 01:30  

Well let’s get at it.  

Chris: 01:31  

Hey man. Absolutely. So maybe just get a started. So when you think through manufacturers, why do you think some of them missed opportunity to improve just by not asking for help? 

Ray : 01:44  

A lot of it’s human nature, a bunch of it is their own perspective. We get trapped in our own heads, it is what happens. And the first thing we reference is the way we used to do stuff. And when that doesn’t work anymore, you kind of double down on you know,”Hey, let’s let’s keep, let’s keep trying that.” 

Let’s you know, I think we just, we get stuck and and, and that stops a lot of folks.  

Chris: 02:10  

Right. Yeah. It’s it can be so hard sometimes to just get out, to get unstuck. So what do you think about getting stuck? It egos? What’s at play here,  

Ray : 02:20  

It can really be  a lot of things. 

Yeah. Ego can be part of it. I mean, in my world you know, I came up in the job shop type environment. So you had toolmakers and mold makers and dye makers, and that type of stuff. I remember old guy I worked with at the time says, when something’s broken, you need it fixed. And it ain’t getting fixed. 

He said, it’s one or two reasons the guy you asked or the lady asked either doesn’t know how, or they don’t want to do it. You know? So sometimes few things you gotta work past. It could be.  They don’t have the skill to be able to do it. And they’re not sure how to bring it up. 

Cause what kind of environment are they in? What do you mean? You don’t know how to do this? So, you know, culture can sometimes get in the way and sometimes ego does too. You know, that’s, that can be a piece of it. I don’t want to admit, I don’t know something, but that kind of puts you in a box. 

You don’t want to be in, if you don’t want to make, you don’t know something, then. Are you ever going to learn?  

Chris: 03:20  

Exactly. Exactly. And you addressed the one thing I was thinking about with our audience with engineers, a lot of people in the plants and I’m thinking if I’m one of those,” Hey, that’s what I do. I’m supposed to solve the problems. I’m supposed to figure it out.” So I’m wondering Is it somewhat scary for that engineer to reach out because, “Hey, an outsider, they couldn’t possibly help me with my situation.”  

Ray : 03:44  

You know, what’s cool today. And I totally agree with you ,but what’s different today than like 30 years ago is it’s, I guess that first step to get help isn’t as drastic as it used to be. 

If you think about it, you can go online. Somewhere you can YouTube damn near anything. You can you can find a forum or a chat room or something like that, or just search a topic and download some articles. If you’re worried about, “Oh, I’m supposed to be able to solve this.” 

Part of it is. Go get the information, used to be pulled the machinist handbook off the shelf. Now you can go online and get a heck of a lot more information to at least start that journey. It may not look like asking for help, but at least you started that process of getting yourself unstuck.  

Chris: 04:37  

Right, exactly. Exactly. And it really should just embrace that too. Cause we all get better. I’ve talked to so many engineers and people throughout the podcast, I’m sure you have too. And so many of the stories come back to, this person helped me figure out this, or I’ve I got to be a better engineer because I opened up and had these opportunities, “Hey, I studied electrical,” but next thing you know, I’m learning all about mechanical and to do that, I have to ask for help to figure that stuff out. 

Ray : 05:05  

And the best places to find that and engineers learn from other engineers. There’s a whole universe full of salespeople. God bless them. I’m a recovering one myself that are out there sharing really good content and information directed towards engineers. But a little bit of I guess, communication or perhaps a confidence disconnect. 

Sometimes who’s saying it matters, right. The same thing said by another engineer will be accepted by an engineer.  

Chris: 05:39  

I got you. A little credibility there.  

Ray : 05:42  

That’s that’s a big part of it. Yeah. That’s huge.  

Chris: 05:45 

 Right. Absolutely. And I guess in some of that credibility, somebody said one time, trust leads to credibility. 

So I guess if you have that trust as an engineer and you trust in your peers and people out there as the experts, so maybe how do you get set up as the expert in, where do you look for those areas of trust?  

Ray : 06:02  

Part of it no matter what, what I’ve seen and experienced in the engineering community is there’s always somebody out there that’s willing to help. 

There’s there’s a no strings attached approach to it. And I think on the business development side and manufacturing we’re getting better at that. Getting better at, let me bring you some value first. Let me give you some best practices. Let me give you a couple of pointers. 

Something like that. Here’s the, you got to give before you get is really the thing. And engineers have historically been pretty good at this sales and marketing people are kind of getting used to the idea that, “Hey, we better bring some value upfront and share some stuff,” and I think that helps build the trust. 

Chris: 06:50  

Absolutely. Absolutely. So, we talked about what happens when the engineers who may be scared to ask for help, maybe flip that around. How could getting, going, getting that resources and doing that that outside influence actually help your career and accelerate things.  

Ray : 07:07  

That’s the thing, because what’s going on in, in manufacturing today in industry, in the world in general. The rate of change is going on so fast and in such an unprecedented way there’s companies everywhere, big and small that are scrambling to keep up, to get back in sync there. So really putting yourself in the position where asking for help, or even if you need to change the word, I don’t want to ask for help. 

I want to acquire new knowledge so I can bring my business forward. The reality is the faster you are and the better you become at bringing in new knowledge, new expertise, new perspective, probably more so than anything else. And applying it to your department, your job, your company is going to advance faster, so it’s in terms of being able to, help with your career. Who’s listening right now that if they went to their boss and said, “Hey, I know how I could make us bigger, better, more profitable, or whatever,” is going to tell them, shut up and get back to work.   

Chris: 08:21  

Yeah, that doesn’t really happen. Does it? No. How about for the listener out there now that’s on the floor right now or in the plant. 

Any mistakes that you see people have made when they’re thinking they need to solve these problems internally and really not?  

Ray : 08:36  

Yeah. It can happen a lot. And usually what I see  is they’re the first problems that pop up or they’re the marbles tha ended up under their feet when they’re trying to solve these problems internally, usually revolve around the data or the information they’re using to solve the problem. 

It either number one doesn’t exist it’s anecdotal, gosh, darn it. That thing goes down at least 10 times a week. How do you know? There are, is anybody logging? Has that been logged anywhere? Do you know? What do you have that you’re the, it can go back to that it can really put a stake in the ground, say, yep, I believe this. So it’s the presence of the data. Is that the right data looking at? Is the data accurate? Do you have to go back to double check to see, did this really happen or did somebody never reset the timer or whatever, to be able to check things? 

Usually that’s where the first problem comes up. The other area can be sometimes what’s influencing say my department, the solution might be in the department before me. You know what I mean? And sometimes getting help or building that bridge depending on the company culture, in some organizations you might be able to go back and tell the material handler, it’s like, man, you’re starving my machine. The reason I have so many stoppages is because that bar stock’s not making it where it’s not queued up and ready for me when I’m ready to get the next. sometimes those things can be worked out internally. So cultures are a piece. Data’s the other part. 

Chris: 10:14  

From the data standpoint, I always, when you were saying, when you were walking through that, I was taking trust, but verify, let’s make sure our data is right. It is telling us the correct information. But the second piece from the culture, I was talking to an engineer recently and he mentioned two things and he’s a young engineer and he’s been in the industry for a couple of years. He’s like the biggest thing I’ve learned coming out of school is like I had to figure out how to coordinate with others, to get stuff done. He’s electrical background. He’s like, man, just figuring out the mechanical, the civil, the different things. But within the plant and then being flexible. So, I think you really touched on both of those.  

Ray : 10:56  

Yeah. One of the things I’m seeing in some of the better run plants that I’ve seen work with some aerospace and some other areas is they’re starting to structure the business more around the ability to problem solve. 

And one of the ways you do that is instead of the typical hierarchy that showed, the president, the vice-president, the directors, the operation stuff like that, they’ll structure around process. Okay, because process cuts all the way across the whole organization. Right. So while a particular process owner, which might be you know, order entry, scheduling, you know, whatever those things have to happen to be the owner of that process has access across the whole organization to make sure that process is followed with discipline and integrity and no matter where that process owner sits on the org chart, even the director or whatever, that’s over, that might  be higher on the org chart has to follow the lead of that process owner. So, which I thought was kind of interesting because it takes away some of that, that’s not my department. Well I got news for you, if you’re counting on that department to give you feedback for this process to work. Effectively you do work for that department?  

Chris: 12:16  

No kidding. That’s a that’s a wonderful way to structure. Are you seeing that being adopted more and more? 

Ray : 12:22  

It takes a certain level of maturity to be able to do that. I see a lot of interest in it and I see the first time I saw it, I’ve run factory 30 years. Right. The first time I saw it, I’m like, Son of a gun, it was like, this is pretty smart. It’s a pretty clever way to do it. And it’s not a panacea, for everywhere, but darn interesting model. 

And it does address a lot of things. Andy Grove. Former CEO chairman of Intel he’s got some interesting writings. And his thing about management was you have teams that are really empowered and a manager’s job isn’t to micromanage that team a managers impact is at the intersection. 

When the work from one team transitions over to that other team, make sure it’s smooth.  That’s where the managers live and work to be effective. And this idea of structuring a long process. Very much kind of mirrors that thinking.   

Chris: 13:14  

No kidding. So from that structure, what’s the biggest hurdle you think that would hold people back from actually embracing it? 

Ray : 13:19  

That it, a lot of it is culture because what has to happen is there’s a lot of surrendering of historical authority. You know what I mean? It’s like, I’m used to being the boss. Look here’s where I am on the org. What do you mean if the person down here that owns this process says no, to me, I have to reinforce them. 

So it’s like a lot of change management initiatives. If there really isn’t clear and visible support, right? At the very top of the organization saying, “Nope, we’re going to do this.” Meaning that if you’re going to empower that person on the line or in the, in operations to own that process all the way through the GM or the president or the owner of the company needs to be the one that if they see an issue coming up. 

They back up they break the ties. They, they backed up that, that new structure it’s being put in place. So people get confidence in it. Yeah, absolutely. That’s where it works. Those that are running it that way. That’s how it works. I’ve seen GMs in production meetings, get put back in the under heels because they were wrong. But the person that owned the process was comfortable enough to be able to stand their ground and everybody got it. They made their case with data.  

Chris: 14:31 

 Yeah, and they weren’t gunshy to actually speak truth.  

Ray : 14:34  

No, not at all. And that’s just part, and that’s empowering. It’s empowering to do that as well. 

Chris: 14:39  

That’s awesome. So, I know when we were prepping for the conversation, you mentioned some analogies that stood out, sometimes these manufacturers, they have a pinched nerve and they think it’s just a bad shoulder, so any examples where people were misdiagnosing problems that you’ve run across that you think maybe be valuable for our listeners? 

Ray : 14:58  

I see that a lot part of the don’t ask for help is one of the one step down from there is, “I’m going to ask for help, but I’m going to tell you what I need you to fix.” Right. And then you get in there and what do I find a problem with data? They’re looking at, they’re looking at old stuff, they’re looking at the wrong stuff. 

Especially now I see it all the time. Businesses go through a downturn and unfortunately start cutting and cutting. And they think they’re doing the right thing by cost for costs until they figure out that they got rid of somebody that had a ton of institutional knowledge. 

And now we don’t know how to schedule anymore. We quit doing some follow ups and tracking and data logging on our vendors, on our supply chain. We’re, nobody is following up with the customer on push ins or pull outs and stuff like that. Inventory’s ballooning. So, it’ll start with, go fix this until you find out that’s not your problem it’s here.  

Chris: 15:52  

Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.  So maybe for our listeners who aren’t familiar with your company Linara for for example, what types of services and from the consulting standpoint, do you find yourselves, working with and helping people solve.  

Ray : 16:08  

It really runs the gamut, which is awesome. 

That’s kinda why I’m here and doing this. I have a group of awesome people that I call in that are experts in particular areas. My super power. If anything is I come at it like I’ve, I’m responsible for the whole organization. So I take a very holistic approach to what’s going on and I’ve got an ability to be able to connect, the front end of the business the demand generation, the marketing, the sales, all of those types of things, all the way through the operations, right? Cause if they’re disconnected in any way and in the slightest way, you’re at best, you’re missing out on opportunities, at worst you’re losing ground and probably money. So help with everything from helping companies develop strategies and tactics around growth, which is a big topic these days  here, certainly operational excellence just kind of. 

Establishing the foundations or in many cases, reestablishing the foundations for, or consistency in an yeah. Cause it, it revolves around people, processes and tools. And if you can build some simple metrics and communication tools around that, and more importantly, some routines communication routines. 

You’re going to get more predictable results. Yeah. So those are the areas that I help out with. And I just love talking shop with manufacturing owners and talking factory. And usually that’s where it starts with a conversation. I’ve got to do the same thing, establish a level of credibility, and then see if there’s a fit if there is what are the possible steps, if not, who can I recommend them to. 

Chris: 17:43  

Gotcha. Gotcha. Now, a lot of our conversations, Ray we’ve talked about things from a digital transformation, industry 4.0, even when we get down to the smart level devices to IOT devices. Right. Just curious what you’re hearing out there from the manufacturers, do you support around some of those types of initiatives and the hurdles people are seeing from a digital transformation standpoint? 

Cause it’s all about, like you said, improving those processes, making the plants flow, utilizing the data to make better decisions in the moment. So just curious on your take there.  

Ray : 18:14  

I think some of it is I’m a huge fan. I’ve been at this awhile. And what is possible in terms of innovation and improvement for manufacturing today because of industry 4.0, industrial IOT and those things, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. 

The challenge that a lot of manufacturers are facing right now is, and I think I shared this with you, 25, 30 years ago, if you wanted a 15% improvement in your throughput, you put in equipment that was 15% or 20% faster than what you already had. Right. Everybody could wrap their head around that. 

If that was a new CNC machine that was faster and more accurate, maybe the only difference was instead of the controller being on this side, now it’s on this side. Right. But otherwise your shop floor and everybody could look at it and go, yeah, I get this.  

Industrial IOT and layering in an MES system and the decision-making required. That is that kind of gets to the heart of it, it interrupts or disrupts that person and process. I mentioned people, processes and tools, or you can get improvement just with the tools. Now, the improvements coming because of people and processes, that’s where it gets personal, and that’s where people get kind of wonky about, “Ooh, am I giving up control?” 

 Or for managers and supervisors now for this stuff to really work you need to be listening to the group leader who’s coming to you saying the data says this. My response is that, in spite of the way we used to do it is, so again it’s very much a change management exercise  that’s happening out there. So the manufacturers that get it are starting small and building on something. And that’s the smart way to do it, whether it’s basic machine monitoring, condition monitoring and build and grow from there. But if you don’t have the buy-in of top management and you don’t get the buy-in on the shop floor, no matter how much money you throw at it. It’s not going to work.  

Chris: 20:08  

Right, exactly. And we’ve heard that feedback. One of our recent conversations, and she mentioned the guests think big and act small, and think about what can scale, but also what you can accomplish right now to get to win some advocates overnight. I think that’s, I’m hearing you say the same thing. 

Ray : 20:26  

It’s absolutely the same thing. The very end of that, that I’ve heard is think big, act small, act now. Okay. Get going on something, but you’re absolutely right because you’re, the tech people come in and we’ll paint this vision because everybody wants to jump to the transformational side of the digital journey. 

We all want to get the transformation. Nobody wants to eat their vegetables up front or go jogging, do the  aerobics that are necessary to get there. That’s one of the challenges. The other thing too, is. It is only going to be as effective as the team you have, that’s implementing it and you may find them. 

And I’ve seen this in companies that are looking to implement new ERP systems and they’re all excited and they get it rolled out only to find out that some of the people that have been doing it manually have very limited dexterity  on computers. And it’s like, Oh man, we got to stop and go back and do some basic Microsoft training, with them just to get some familiarity. 

So you really have to be realistic where you are not, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying, know where you are. Snap a baseline. And every day, make 1% progress, just move the needle and bring those folks along with you. You’re helping.  

Chris: 21:36  

Yeah, no doubt. Back when we had a job shop and we, the first time we wrote out software on that job shop floor. There was a learning curve. So we had to really slow step that process. And at the end of a couple of years, you had all technicians, mechanics, machinists. They were all entering data on the software, but it didn’t happen overnight.  

Ray : 21:54  

Oh no, it doesn’t. And I, listen, I’ve been that guy, you learn the most from your mistakes. I’ve been that guy early on where it’s like, “This is awesome. And if we can get the whole plant to awesome, in three months, I know they’re telling me 18 months, ah, let’s Ram it through and then things will be great.” And you end up creating another disaster of your own doing that hurts. 

Chris: 22:16  

I guess you probably see that as is really hurting more than helping at that point. Cause he’s probably lost some credibility, lost some trust.  

Ray : 22:24  

Lost some good people. Yeah. It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. And you just got to own it and then move on because everybody thinks, I’ll find my way around this. And it’s like, okay, but there are signs and I’m not saying don’t try it. I’m trying not to be that old guy that says let me tell you the way. Some organizations can pull it off. It’s just, you got to recognize along the way. If you start to bump up against, some limiting factors, you gotta know when to step back and catch your breath. And sometimes in front of your team, admit that maybe you were going too quick and maybe somebody in that group was right.  

Chris: 22:56  

Yeah. How about industrial groups or anything like that you coordinate with or communicate with if people want to learn? We’re trying to connect people here with this in manufacturing, anything you recommend there.  

Ray : 23:06  

Wherever you are in the United States or in the world, there is a group of some sort, whether it’s an industry specific, a trade group, something like that, the MEPs that are out there, the state and federal funded groups that are out there to help are awesome. 

What I find more and more is the tech vendors and the people that are providing these tools such as your organization, you’re out there not just evangelizing for the technology but sharing information for your clients and your targets and for the industry in general. 

So, part of that, not asking for help, but part of exercisingyour curiosity is to get out there and either  find some other podcasts, get on LinkedIn, start following some groups, or find some people that are talking about things that you’re interested in. You don’t have to be the one that’s contributing all the time. 

It’s fine to sit in the background and just suck it in, cause I guarantee you’re going to learn something.  

Chris: 24:02  

Oh yeah. Just consume sometimes,  

Ray : 24:04  

Exactly. It’s there. Why wouldn’t you? 

Chris: 24:06  

No doubt.  

When we started to want to do the podcast, I was consuming a lot of content out there to figure out how to actually pull this off, so, if you want, right, you want to get good at something you want to get good at PLC programming or drive start or whatever that may be. There’s content out there that can help you, man.  

Ray : 24:21  

Exactly. And the thing is the cost of failure is like nothing. What’s the cost of it. Now you’ve got a fancy set up. You’ve got all the mixing board and the big monitors, but, so that’s okay. But me sitting here the cost to get online today is probably a couple of months. Somebody’s cable bill, and you’re out there and your voice is being heard.  

Chris: 24:43  

And by the way, a digital background does wonders. It really is. It hides a lot of stuff.  

Ray : 24:48  

I’m going to up my game, man. I gotta get something back there.  

Chris: 24:51  

Credits to our executive producer on this one, no credit here, Mr. Sheets pulls this off. 

Ray : 24:57  

My artistic ability quit when I was about 10.  

Chris: 25:02  

I hear you, but this has been so much help for our listeners out there. Ray. You’ve really brought a lot of information and we get to the heart show is the why. And we typically wrap up with the why. So, if you’re to speak to the manufacturer out there right now and tell them, why is it important to recognize the need and have that courage to ask for help to really improve manufacturing in the future? 

Ray : 25:22  

I want to get to the thing I talked about near the start of our conversation. And that was the rate of change that is happening around us right now. And there’s a concept out now. I read all kinds of weird stuff and don’t forget just reading things too, but right. One of the concepts out there it’s called adaptive capacity. 

And if any of the listeners want to go do some research in that area, that’s really something within an organization or an individual. How comfortable are you adapting to a new environment? How open are you to receiving new information, synthesizing it in a way that allows you to no longer either feel like, “Hey, I’m behind, but perhaps you’ve caught up,” or now that you get a feel for that trend is going, “I’m pulling ahead.” 

So really for me today, the why around asking for help is because it’s going to help build that internal adaptive capacity. Either for an individual or for an organization. It’s a muscle, it’s a, it’s something that we can through practice, gain skill and dexterity with in a world that is changing so fast  being able to not freak out when a new challenge comes in, but perhaps embrace it as. Cool. Another challenge just came over to transom, watch this.  It’s a hold my beer moment, so that, to me that’s what should be, and what I see successful manufacturers embracing is they want to know what’s new and how they can apply it. 

Chris: 26:52  

Absolutely good stuff. Ray. Thanks. Thank you so much. And for our listeners, we’ll put in our show notes all ways to get in touch with Ray, to connect with him, to hook up with his company and hopefully, maybe do some consulting and make those improvements.  

Ray : 27:06  

Just having a conversation is an awesome start. Love to connect with folks on LinkedIn and get acquainted. I love talking shop no matter what. So please reach out.  

Chris: 27:14  

And remember it’s okay to ask for help, right?  

Ray : 27:16  

Yeah, you better believe it,  

Chris: 27:18  

That’s right. Ray, you’ve been awesome. Thank you so much for everything today.  

Ray : 27:23  

Appreciate it, Chris. This was a blast. Thanks so much for having me.  

Chris: 27:25  

Yes, sir.