Technology and manufacturing
The C.A. Lawton Co. periodically publishes input from professionals both within the foundry industry as well as parties from outside the casting world. These Expert Opinions may be casting related, Continuous Improvement (CI / LEAN), Operational Excellence (Op Ex), or just working through the challenges of today’s business environment. The goal is to present you with differing viewpoints of how our guests are adapting, adopting, and improving. Today’s expert is Scott Schumacher. We welcome your input on any of these topics. Simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Thank you for reading!
Interview with: Scott Schumacher
*Scott Schumacher provides print equipment and services for The C.A. Lawton Co. He was not compensated for his contribution to this blog.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am from Madison, WI and moved to Appleton almost a decade ago for my job at The Gordon Flesch Company (GFC). Before that I was a small business owner and a carpenter in Madison.
I have a daughter who is five and a son who is three. I played hockey in high school, Junior A, and college at Stevens Point. My wife is from Door County, so we spend a lot of time there.
I started at GFC with zero experience in this industry and have grown to love it. It’s been nine years since then and I am currently a Team Leader here and one of the “original four” on the sales team that started this branch. It is a great company to work because of the culture and the availability of resources. I take pride in creating relationships with my customers that turn into long-term, successful partnerships.
How does technology help manufacturing companies?
To keep pace, most manufacturers need:
- Output management software
- Scan solutions
- Managed services
- Workflow or document management solutions
We implement and support these solutions but it’s so much more than that.
Manufacturing companies are always looking to be leaner and make processes more efficient. I enjoy helping them find ways to achieve these goals. We improve workflow through a wide range of digital solutions. Equipment and service programs can prevent downtime. Scanning solutions help get documents into the right systems and save time.
Finding the right technology isn’t always easy. An e-course on innovation reminded me that we can’t stop searching for the solution because we have one answer. The first answer might not be the right one. Manufacturers need to think creatively to find the result they want. It’s not just about solving problems, it’s about overcoming a fixed mindset to break through whatever unwritten rules, restrictions, or limiting beliefs exist. Some manufacturers get stuck and say things like, “That won’t work in our industry.” Or, “That’s the way we’ve always done things.” That inhibits growth.
What impresses me about a company like The C.A. Lawton Co. is your desire to keep improving and moving into the future. Though casting is an ancient art and Lawton has been in business for over 140 years, you’re not living in the past. We ask, “Why?” And “What if?” We reframe, replace, or throw out whatever ideas are getting in the way of achieving the results we want. This is when I really enjoy my work, when we’re finding the solutions manufacturers need to be competitive not just today – but for the long-term.
What do you foresee as advancements in your industry in the near future?
Technology changes at a rapid pace. Daily we address:
- Advancements in software capabilities
- Remote remediation
- Security around printers and networks
- Scan solutions that assist with a more digital workflow
- Connections for a more remote workforce
- Management and security of data
Some companies embrace it and see it as an advantage. Others are being forced to introduce more security and data protections because of the current digital landscape. I predict it will be the early adopters in manufacturing who see the most success.
How has your industry had to adapt to the new environment since Covid-19?
I can’t speak to the industry as a whole, but our team was extremely fast to act once stay-at-home orders were issued. Meeting in person has always been a staple for us but we ramped up our use of (Microsoft) Teams very quickly and became adept at conducting meetings and proposals remotely. I know The C.A. Lawton Co. has done the same.
We are always looking for ways to better support and assist our customers. When so many of them were suddenly working from home, we came up with a “home printer program” to help improve efficiency. We ship the printer to a person’s home along with a USB cable, toner, and paper. We remotely install the printer drivers and get them connected to their other devices using our Technical Support Center. There is no physical contact between us and them. They get business-class equipment at a low investment with higher security and increased productivity.
Out of Covid also came some exciting new technology for us. With our own increase in remote work, we took the opportunity to look for ways to make it easier and possibly more permanent. All our major branch locations have been equipped with virtual demo stations that we can access remotely. These high-tech rooms allow us to provide a demonstration experience to our customers while they are in their own office or home. This experience allows for collaboration and showcases the equipment.
How can people working from home today ensure their cybersecurity as they work online?
They need to have great IT people at their company who can install and manage these types of safeguards. If they don’t, then they need to partner with a managed services provider to mitigate the risks of having employees remotely connecting to their servers and software systems. It’s a challenging task to manage, but it is possible.
What’s one thing you wish your customers knew?
A lot of buyers are suspicious of salespeople. I wish they knew that we are different. We enjoy helping people make positive changes, and we take the time to do proper assessments and implement the appropriate solutions. Sometimes this can mean less sales, or a longer sales process, but in the end, it is what leads to trust and long-lasting relationships.
When you’re not at work, what’s your favorite way to relax, sans technology?
As much as I like technology and my job, it is important to take a break from it all. I enjoy time with my kids. They are just getting into sports now (hockey, golf, and t-ball so far). It’s amazing to see them learn and enjoy these activities. I like to golf and spend time at the cottage on Clark Lake in Door County.
Thank you for your insights, Scott!
Thank you to our readers for taking the time to get to know how technology can support modern manufacturing. Please be sure to follow us on your favorite social networks for more interviews and to learn how we are continuously improving.