Manufacturing’s melting pot focuses on people

Manufacturing is a land of opportunity and its greatest asset is an engaged workforce. The best companies have a culture of respect for people.

By Billy Ray Taylor, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company February 7, 2017

I love manufacturing. It’s the foundation of America and breeds the freedom of creativity and change.

Historically, manufacturing played a vital role in our country’s economic development. Manufacturing remains the core of economic success because it produces consumer value. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, every dollar spent in manufacturing generates $1.48 in economic activity, more than any other major economic sector.

Manufacturing not only drives our nation’s economic health and national security, it is a vehicle that drives innovation. Manufacturing accounts for two-thirds of all private spending on research and development. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, one out of three engineers work in manufacturing. Manufacturing, coupled with innovation, transforms the unimaginable into the reality, converts concepts to viable products and improves the company’s value proposition-all while simultaneously improving our quality of life.

My entire 20-plus year career with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has been in operations. I have a deep-rooted passion for manufacturing and have been fortunate to work for a great company. As a disciple of operational excellence, my passion centers on people first. Manufacturing is a melting pot that links people, tools, innovation and processes to deliver constant value to the consumer.

Manufacturing is as American as apple pie; it is a way of life in the United States of America. Manufacturing is a land of opportunity. In its truest sense, manufacturing’s greatest asset is an engaged workforce. The best companies have a culture of respect for people. One of my favorite sayings is, "make people visible, and people will make value." In my role as a leader in North American manufacturing, I have the rich opportunity to learn from and embrace diverse talents, solutions and cultures.

I believe respect for people is what drives a sustainable culture where leaders and teams engage and empower each other and build a culture that prioritizes the quality of the solution over the source of the idea. The best ideas and solutions come from everywhere and everybody. Effective manufacturing cultures accept and embrace diverse ideas. They include everyone in the process.

Driving manufacturing excellence requires both diversity and inclusion. Henry Ford is a great example. He was a progressive and forward-thinker who leveraged diversity and inclusion. Ford hired African-Americans, women and disabled people long before most other business owners did. He was committed transparently to the principle of hiring and retaining the best employees and to cultivating the best ideas and solutions. By doing so, he maintained a commitment to creating "the best possible goods at the lowest possible price."

As director of Goodyear’s largest and most complex manufacturing facilities, I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand the value of people-driven processes. I believe success happens at the source, through people and process ownership at all levels. And this success results in growth—within the people and the business. In turn, this drives sustainable, tangible results.

Finally, I love manufacturing because it is incredibly gratifying. Manufacturing allows me to impact change through others, and to leverage people, tools, innovation and processes to deliver consistent value to the consumer and our economy.

Billy Ray Taylor is director of commercial and off-highway manufacturing in North American for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio. Taylor also is a member of the Plant Engineering Editorial Advisory Board.