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Keynote Conversation with Orbitform's Phil Sponsler

This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Q: As last year’s John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award winner, what does that mean to you? What are your thoughts on the Award and the other award recipients from last year’s MFG Excellence Awards?

Sponsler: Winning the 2017 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award was an awesome experience to showcase all that Orbitform and our great team have been able to achieve. This award is a team award and recognizes the faith and support our owner Mike Shirkey has in us. I really feel that, with our employees, owner and customers in our corner, there isn’t anything we can’t conquer. On a personal basis it was a once in a lifetime experience to be given the award in front of my family and friends. The whole night was filled with great people and great companies getting recognized by their peers.

Q: Why should manufacturers take the time to celebrate their accomplishments and their role in growing the Michigan economy?

Sponsler: Taking the time out to recognize and celebrate manufacturing accomplishments and the folks that drive the growth of the Michigan economy is so well deserved. I know many manufacturers who think in higher terms than just making the bottom line. They are community leaders who understand the greater good. Manufacturing provides living wages for folks to secure their current wellbeing and future wellbeing.

Q: What are some challenges manufacturing leaders should start thinking about as we head into 2019?

Sponsler: Manufacturing leaders have been and continue to be challenged with finding the right human resources to capitalize on this great economy. Struggling in this arena crimps growth and even threatens the future existence of some companies. Mike Shirkey challenged us eight years ago to put strategies in place to offset this shortage. We created a dozen or so tactics off of the foundation strategy of making Orbitform a great place to work and highly appreciate our employees. Companies have to figure out their own success equation and top management needs to drive their processes to get the right people.

Cyber Security is a reality and there are successful tactics that can be put in place to thwart these attacks. We started preparing seven years ago with our internal resources and ASK out of Lansing to protect Orbitform. When we were hit with ransomware, our defenses kicked in and we only lost four hours of productivity and went back to work the next day. No ransom was paid.

The third major threat is revenue droughts. The 2009 revenue drought made us commit passionately toward revenue generation. We now have a revenue generating machine that is driven by a hyper aligned sales team that just can’t be stopped.

Q:The 2018 MFG Excellence Awards will be held in East Lansing on November 8. You’re a mid-sized manufacturer — why is this an event worth attending?

Sponsler: The MFG Excellence Awards event is a “Must Attend Event” for manufacturing leaders. The benefits are numerous with the first being that you will hear Manufacturing Leaders tell their stories and reveal their secret sauce strategies that drove the results. You also will have almost limitless opportunities to network and make highly valuable contacts. This is a first class event and taking a moment out of your grind to make things to celebrate is rewarding in itself.

This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Q: As last year’s John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award winner, what does that mean to you? What are your thoughts on the Award and the other award recipients from last year’s MFG Excellence Awards?

Sponsler: Winning the 2017 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award was an awesome experience to showcase all that Orbitform and our great team have been able to achieve. This award is a team award and recognizes the faith and support our owner Mike Shirkey has in us. I really feel that, with our employees, owner and customers in our corner, there isn’t anything we can’t conquer. On a personal basis it was a once in a lifetime experience to be given the award in front of my family and friends. The whole night was filled with great people and great companies getting recognized by their peers.

Q: Why should manufacturers take the time to celebrate their accomplishments and their role in growing the Michigan economy?

Sponsler: Taking the time out to recognize and celebrate manufacturing accomplishments and the folks that drive the growth of the Michigan economy is so well deserved. I know many manufacturers who think in higher terms than just making the bottom line. They are community leaders who understand the greater good. Manufacturing provides living wages for folks to secure their current wellbeing and future wellbeing.

Q: What are some challenges manufacturing leaders should start thinking about as we head into 2019?

Sponsler: Manufacturing leaders have been and continue to be challenged with finding the right human resources to capitalize on this great economy. Struggling in this arena crimps growth and even threatens the future existence of some companies. Mike Shirkey challenged us eight years ago to put strategies in place to offset this shortage. We created a dozen or so tactics off of the foundation strategy of making Orbitform a great place to work and highly appreciate our employees. Companies have to figure out their own success equation and top management needs to drive their processes to get the right people.

Cyber Security is a reality and there are successful tactics that can be put in place to thwart these attacks. We started preparing seven years ago with our internal resources and ASK out of Lansing to protect Orbitform. When we were hit with ransomware, our defenses kicked in and we only lost four hours of productivity and went back to work the next day. No ransom was paid.

The third major threat is revenue droughts. The 2009 revenue drought made us commit passionately toward revenue generation. We now have a revenue generating machine that is driven by a hyper aligned sales team that just can’t be stopped.

Q:The 2018 MFG Excellence Awards will be held in East Lansing on November 8. You’re a mid-sized manufacturer — why is this an event worth attending?

Sponsler: The MFG Excellence Awards event is a “Must Attend Event” for manufacturing leaders. The benefits are numerous with the first being that you will hear Manufacturing Leaders tell their stories and reveal their secret sauce strategies that drove the results. You also will have almost limitless opportunities to network and make highly valuable contacts. This is a first class event and taking a moment out of your grind to make things to celebrate is rewarding in itself.

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