At a panel at the Manufacturing Matters! conference Tuesday in Milwaukee, winners of the state’s “Manufacturer of the Year” designation shared tips on issues like innovation, local materials sourcing, and talent management.
One of the leaders with a winning company — Gordon Lane, president and COO of Briess Malt & Ingredients in Chilton — told attendees it’s important to innovate based on a company’s core strengths.
Lane, who joined the company in 2002, says shortly after he came on, a two-day internal strategy session was held and one of the resulting initiatives was to refocus the company around grain-based products. Eventually, the company pared down its nearly 5,000 items to about 1,500 items, partially by having fewer variations, but largely by dropping product lines such as beans and legumes. “We wanted to focus and grow off of our core competency, and that is grain,” says Lane.
One other move, says Lane, was to start attracting food scientists and other malt and grain product experts, which eventually grew the number of people focused on product development and applications from virtually zero to seven people. These experts keep products innovative, according to Lane, while also helping customers with challenges such as extending the shelf life of craft beers.
The Manufacturer of the Year awards is co-sponsored by Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
–By Roberto Michel