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Perspectives on Business Management with Metal Forming Company Execs

June 12, 2024

Since January 2021, MetalForming magazine has conducted several Q&A sessions with executives at metal stamping and fabricating companies, providing an inside look at their management philosophies, and sharing their daily challenges and strategies for facing them. Here we present highlights from two such interviews; to be interviewed for this column, email editorial director Brad Kuvin,

Q: What are two things that you believe your company is doing well?

Jim Burt, president, Ernst Metal Technologies, LLC, Moraine, OH

jim burt in the shop“We have invested a great deal of time, energy and resources into finding ways to better support our employees and the surrounding communities. As an organization, Ernst is very focused on continuous improvement and implementing best practices. A recent example is the development of a press-operator training and incentive initiative, which ties merit increases to training progress. The program uses inhouse materials in combination with PMA’s METALFORM EDU platform.  

“A stamping operator needs years of experience to become truly proficient. This seems to be a great vulnerability of our organization, as company performance hinges on our operators’ knowledge, motivation, engagement and passion. Recognizing this vulnerability led to the creation of the training program, which features a 16-tier compensation plan and pay increases tied to each defined skill level.  

“This new plan is the carrot of positive motivation to get operators cross-trained and up-trained, and has been instrumental in increasing engagement with our most important hourly team. It has yielded impressive results.”

Chris Zuzick, vice president, Waukesha Metal Products, Sussex, WI:

Chris Zuzick“We do an outstanding job of executing on strategic-growth initiatives. We have a process for proactively addressing lessons learned and improving our value to customers by increasing our investment in automation and in other critical processes. We have been an EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) company for several years. That system outlines six key business components: vision, people, data, issues, process and traction. Following the EOS philosophy, we look closely at our vision and goals—2, 3 and 4 yr. out—identify our challenges and gaps, and work to ensure that our team members are in the right spots and have opportunities for advancement.

“To improve our value proposition to customers, recently we’ve been partnering with rapid-prototyping companies to provide 3D-printed part models to our customers. And, we added a program manager that has expertise in this area. We’re also emphasizing our supplier-quality-management capabilities and are holding suppliers accountable.”

Q: How do you encourage and motivate your management team?  

Burt: “I give them the freedom to do what they were hired to do, freedom to speak their mind knowing that they are safe to do so, and I speak to them regularly to understand their issues and to support them. Ernst has some very talented leaders and exceptional problem-solvers—I encourage them to take risks and try new things.”

Zuzick: “As a leader I aim to provide vision, eliminate roadblocks and provide a path for success for each member of the team. I believe strongly in the EOS management approach, and specific to team members, I analyze their ability to, as EOS preaches, “get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it (GWC).”

Editor’s note: To further explain the GWC doctrine: 

  • Get it—An employee truly understands his role, knows what is expected, comprehends the culture and is in line with your company’s vision and core values. 
  • Want it—An employee who wants to work with you, is interested, has the desire and is motivated by your core values to do the job to the best of his ability. 
  • Capacity to do it—The employee must have the knowledge, experience or education to perform the job, must be willing to put in the time, and must have the required physical, emotional and mental capabilities.
Industry-Related Terms: Core, Ties
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Waukesha Metal Products

Technologies: Management


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