Industry 4.0 is coming for the sheet metal industry
An interview with Doug Gudenburr, chief operating officer at DMI Companies.
Doug Gudenburr’s path to chief operating officer at DMI Companies (Ductmate) began in 1982 as a union employee on the HVAC accessories manufacturing and development team. .
“At the time, I knew very little about the company. However, shortly after joining, it became apparent to me that the core values and work ethic, along with the comradery that existed, was something I wanted to be a part of,” he says. From production manager, plant manager, operations manager and now COO (in 2017), Gudenburr draws from those same core values to keep DMI connected to its customer base.
“To this day, the impact those early years with the company had in influencing me and shaping my outlook for the company were invaluable,” he says.
A lot has changed in DMI’s 40-year history, but what remains is stronger than ever. “We continually strive to keep DMI a preferred place of employment while developing and maintaining key resources,” says Gudenburr. “Our customers are the best in the business and our focus is to be the business partner of choice for them.” Here is how.
As COO, what drives your main objectives?
My main objective is to build on all of the sweat equity that we put into the business over the years and enhance our manufacturing excellence further by integrating 21st-century manufacturing technologies. Exploring and embracing Industry 4.0. (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is a vast subject with many facets, most of which are built on utilizing a digital platform.
But how do you take an idea like Industry 4.0 from the clouds and turn it into something tangible that everyone in your company can embrace?
A journey of this nature requires more than ideals, software and digital capabilities. It necessitates a culture of continuous improvement, bottom-up and top-down, and a workforce with 21st-century manufacturing training and skill sets to embrace, facilitate and support the current and rapidly changing technologies. We recognized a number of years ago the challenges we would face with the retiring of baby boomers, as all manufacturers would face, and the lack of young people with the skill sets needed to lead and support our manufacturing efforts. Our attention was not only focused on the manufacturing side but as well the need to develop and fill future needs for crucial positions throughout the organization.
Internally, how did you manage this?
Several years ago now we brought on board a workforce development manager to facilitate and manage our development programs and establish best practices. Shortly after, our CEO (Ray Yeager) was invited to serve on the U.S. Manufacturing Council by the Department of Commerce under the Obama administration. I was fortunate to serve as Ray’s alternate, and as a result, we were involved in a national initiative to develop, strengthen and thrust the U.S. back to being the manufacturing leader of the world. Additionally, we have developed a Future Leaders Program designed to develop and mentor young promising employees and provide them with opportunities to fill key positions within the organization in the future. We are active members of two Manufacturing Innovation Institutes facilitated thru the Department of Commerce as well as being heavily involved with Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP), all in an effort to stay current with disruptive technology and build and develop the resources the organization will need for years to come.
How do you ensure the employee and customer experience at DMI continues to grow?
One is we utilize and continually update our strategic plan, which serves as the company’s playbook to achieve our long-term objectives. Another, though it may sound cliché, is our employees. They embrace our core values and ideals and are genuinely committed to the success of the company and our customers. There is an old adage, which we find to be very true, “you are only as good as the people you have working for you.” From a manufacturing perspective, all four of our factories across the country employ members of SMART of which we are proud to be a partner. As labor and management partners, we have been successful working together to dispel the stereotypes associated with this relationship. We both have challenges in today’s environment and if we are going to be successful, it is imperative that we work together as partners eliminating the “us and them” mentality. DMI’s zero waste to landfill manufacturing initiatives are quite the accomplishment.
But how do you get the contractor to carry that mission through to the job site? Has sustainability been good for business?
Sustainability is in our DNA. Our products are not only developed with labor savings in mind but with energy reduction and efficiency as a key driver for their development since the beginning of our inception with our flange system. It is our obligation as corporate citizens to operate our facilities with as little impact to the environment as possible. And, quite frankly, we choose to do so because it is the right thing to do! Of the four factories we operate, two are zero waste to landfill. The factory recognized with TRUE Silver zero waste to landfill certification is our largest, and we are very proud of our accomplishment and recognize it starts with our employees and their commitment to our company’s values.
What can contractors expect from DMI Companies in year 2020?
As we approach every new year, we will continue to refine our processes and focus on manufacturing and social excellence at all our facilities, developing and growing our key resources and technical capabilities. We will continue to provide our customers and the industry at-large with business and product solutions so they can feel confident in partnering with DMI.
When it comes to HVAC products, why do you think or hope a contractor chooses a DMI brand over others?
Forty-plus years of exemplary quality, service and commitment to the industry comes to mind as these are the attributes that the company was built on and by in large mean the most to our customers. We are typically on the leading edge within our industry, developing and introducing innovative and efficient products and solutions as well best in class business practices. Our customers can also take pride in knowing that DMI Companies is a mature and progressive organization that understands its economic, social and environmental responsibility.