There is a saying that some of the best engineers of the Good Old USA came from the Mid West. It was something to do with the long winters and time to think. I spent a substantial part of my interesting journey through life in South Bend, Indiana which was the home of Studebaker. Worked for quite a few interesting companies in a very varied set of enriching assignments.
One such foray was with an Electronic Connector assembling shop. Their claim to fame was being able to assemble and supply at short notice connectors with a lot size as low as one. A major portion of these were hand assembled.
One of their engineers was a model railroad enthusiast and was well versed in Mechatronics. He invented and built an automated connector assembly machine in-house. It was an extraordinary machine and took the company to the next level.
I was hired to be part of the engineering team and built a couple of automatic connector gluing systems using a PC as a control system and doing digital I/O with the parallel port. Engineering was a fun effort with us playing designer & builder.
It is here I was introduced to an exercise in “Culture Change Management” with good old Mid Western Smarts.
The company hired an old-timer to run the operation and in the process change the culture and take it to the next level. Old man spent the first month of his time in the company with the operators in the shop floor. He was hands on, assembling and packing the connectors, learning, observing and making a strong connection with the Team.
Old man did not make any speeches or promises. He went through the system operation by operation and improved the process in an incremental and smooth way. Before anyone realized it the company received the required quality registration.
He was a friendly guy but very firm in handling the system. He did not talk LEAN or Six Sigma but kept a clean and efficient shop, shipped products on time with almost no returns.
He expanded the shop, increase business and ultimately built a brand new facility increasing the employment in the area.
It did help that he came from a similar operation, had full support of the owners in all his proposals and was willing to listen to experts in the field.
I am sure that there are many small companies in the USA doing this and more and keep the countries economic engine turning.