This article appeared in the August 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Manufacturers won’t get anywhere without having faith in themselves. When it’s just you and your team competing for customers, suppliers, funding, properties, research & development and talent, if you lack confidence and the will to succeed, nobody else is going to help you get there. The willingness to invest time, money and resources in people, equipment, location upgrades and everything else is a quality common across the spectrum of industry success stories.
“You need to listen to your gut and you can’t fear making the big decisions or the hard decisions,” explains John Barnett, president & CEO of Reed City Group. “Leadership can be a lonely place, but everyone from the management team to the facility floor is relying on you to believe in them and believe in the company vision.”
Reed City Group, a national powerhouse of mechanical and hydraulic engineering located in the community of the same name, was founded as a tool & die shop in 1959. Through good decision making and well-thought strategies, the company grew organically and expanded to add production molding and additive manufacturing along the way.
“For a long time, we were farmers rather than hunters — we didn’t go out looking for new customers, we focused on relationship-building with our current customers and deepening our existing skills to become experts in a few key areas,” said Barnett. “That worked for a while, but now it’s helped to get us where we are today. We can be hunters now. We have the confidence to go out and sell ourselves — we have the reputation now, we have the expanded product lines, we have strategies for expansion, and we’re looking into the core investments to keep moving forward.”
The investments made by Barnett and the Reed City team include developing a mindset common across the company’s culture, locating the right talent in the right way, and never settling — always improving.
Culture: For Barnett, you’re either a “why we can’t” or a “how we can” type of person and Reed City has made the effort to instill a “how we can” mentality throughout their workforce. Focusing on integrity, honesty and the strong work ethic of the community — the company’s main source for talent — Barnett and the leadership team strive for every person to be invested in the company’s strategic vision.
- Talent: Believing in the development of homegrown talent, Reed City works with local schools to provide mentorship to students and community groups to promote career awareness. Resources like the Going PRO Talent Fund has helped them to replace an aging workforce with skilled workers capable of managing the company’s new technology.
- Continuous Improvement: Recognizing that competing in an increasingly global world means never settling, Barnett and his team work to control the controllables and make decisions in a data-driven way. From understanding costs, optimizing processes, cutting down on scrap, reducing lead time and automating where possible, every decision becomes a push toward a better future for the company.
“Our team is driven for greatness; we’ve all walked this path together and there’s a trust and transparency that I think makes us unique,” Barnett says. “They are problem solvers and incredibly capable. Our customers see the depth and breadth of our capabilities — and our willingness to invest in this company and in each other — and I think that’s why they continue to come back.”