Managing Manufacturing Operations in the Time of COVID-19: Meet Haskel’s Plant Manager, Stacey Ramirez

Her career at Haskel started with an internship, but Stacey Ramirez has quickly made her mark in key roles. She took on roles in Quality and EH&S before becoming Production Supervisor, growing into Supply Chain Manager. We talked to Stacey to learn more about her experiences at Haskel and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both customer and employee operations.

Tell us a little more about your role at Haskel—how long you've been at the company and what types of projects you work on.

I've been with Haskel for 10 years and I'm currently the Supply Chain Manager. I'm also the interim site lead as our previous Operations Director has moved into a new role.

The leadership and site teams are collaborating on many projects. Currently, we’re utilizing a new tool called Impact Daily Management to challenge Environmental Health & Safety metrics by reducing ergonomic risk, improving safety and quality metrics, increasing employee engagement and growth, and reducing inventories to increase net working capital. These initiatives are achievable because our team members wear multiple hats, just as I'm doing by managing both the supply chain and the operations.

In all my roles at Haskel, I have been fortunate to have great mentors who have allowed me to learn and challenged me to take on new positions. I’ve also learned from my peers and kept an open mind to continue learning every day from others. Transitioning into operations seemed natural because I had been shadowing the previous Operations Director for a couple years, learning day-to-day activities, becoming involved in decision-making and other key areas. I enjoyed having mentors over the years and my experiences have been very positive.

So, when your team jokingly says that you run the entire Burbank plant, they really mean that right now. Can you describe what your days look like as you juggle both of these roles?

Everything is about making sure we're serving the customer first and that we're keeping all our employees safe, happy, and productive. We do this by:

  • Giving employees the tools needed to fulfill every customer order so we can meet and exceed customer expectations.
  • Encouraging continuous improvement projects and suggestions.
  • Encouraging our employees to think and act like owners; to be the most efficient team that we can be to maximize profitability.

From the operational side, my responsibilities apply more to delivering on customer orders and providing a great customer experience. For our employees, I make sure they are safe and healthy – especially during COVID-19 – and that they are happy in their work environment. It is my responsibility, and that of the leadership team, to promote a culture of growth at Haskel.

I also work closely with our suppliers, making sure we have good partnerships within the supply chain and that we are taking care of those external parties as well.

It sounds like you have a lot on your plate. How do you balance all of that? How do you ensure that customers are having the best experience, and that employees are also cared for?

From a broad perspective, it’s really about following and trusting the existing processes we have in place. We are ISO certified with an integrated management system, so the procedures and processes in place enable the key functions required to fulfill an order. This assumes that everyone has accountability and responsibility for their role in their process, both upstream and downstream.

From a day-to-day standpoint, it is making sure we meet the daily goals—our safety, quality, and on-time delivery metrics, which are a few of the KPIs that we discuss on a daily basis. Due to the pandemic, we've had to turn these daily walks into virtual meetings but we're reporting on the same KPIs and how they relate to each department. Across departments, we discuss safety, quality, on-time delivery, and any quick-response issues that need immediate attention. If we execute on the day-to-day goals, we ultimately set ourselves up for a successful path toward achieving our monthly, quarterly, and annual objectives. When things do not go as planned, knowing our goals helps us prioritize.

How do you ensure everyone stays aligned on goals when an issue comes up?

Obviously, not everything goes as planned, but when we do run into an obstacle we work together and collaborate as a team. Our team collaboration spans across all departments to ensure that we overcome obstacles together in a timely manner. We don’t put the pressure all on one person to get everything done, which I think is one of Haskel’s greatest strengths—collaboration and teamwork. We pride ourselves on a sense of urgency, so we all jump at the opportunity to fix the problem because at the end of the day, the goal is to take care of the customer. They are the priority, and just as our purpose and values state, it’s an honor to care for them.

Safety is a core value for us, too. If an employee has an environmental, health and safety concern, the team works together to resolve it.

How has COVID-19 impacted the way that you approach some of your tasks, both for customers and for employees?

From a customer standpoint, we began with a risk assessment within the supply chain. When suppliers were shut down or scaling back, we had to establish whether we had a secondary source approved to run these parts or assess which parts to machine in our own machine shop. We have been able to maintain 95% on-time delivery throughout the pandemic; that achievement is really due to the flexibility that we have in our supply chain, in developing other suppliers, and using our in-house machine shop to help us adjust.

There were some challenges, but our quick recovery made sure the customer was taken care of. It developed flexibility in decision-making and cost-effectiveness. It has changed the way we perform a risk assessment in our supply chain – strengthening it, finding gaps, and seeing how fast we react in a worst-case scenario.

What about for employee operations? How has COVID-19 changed that?

The day-to-day interactions have really changed. Our production team, which is essential, never stopped going into work through the pandemic. I am very grateful for every employee and their resilience through it all. The on-site employees were primarily impacted by the adjustments to their routine—temperature screenings, mandatory use of masks, all the highest PPE requirements, and social distancing. We mandated all of that early on. Quickly implementing and embracing those changes helped us keep employees safe while maintaining smooth operations.

Many of the meetings went virtual. We had to think of creative ways of interacting with one another, especially figuring out how to do employee appreciation days or all-hands meetings. We had to figure out a way to effectively communicate with employees. It’s been a challenge, but I would say we've adapted to newer, more creative ways using the technology we have.

For all-hands meetings, we set up TV monitors in the shop and employees sit, socially distant of course, out in the shop floor and others in the lunchroom areas. I’ve learned that through these interactions, we can remain connected. Remote employees can join as well.

Looking ahead to 2021, what are you teams focusing on next? What further changes are you anticipating?

I definitely see a continued move to a virtual setting. We'll have to get creative about how we convert that over from a temporary platform into a permanent one. This applies to how we interact with our customers and suppliers.

We will continue striving for growth for the business and employees. Continuous improvement projects will be critical next year, challenging us to reduce our costs internally and find more ways to be productive. Most importantly, as we go through the pandemic, staying healthy and safe continue to be the objective for 2021. We will continue to be vigilant about the processes we put in place to keep ourselves protected from COVID-19.

We also launched Q-Drive this year and currently have two units at beta sites. We’re hoping next year will be a big year for that product!

Finally, what's one of the best parts about the team that you work with?

I mentioned it over and over, but it's really the sense of collaboration, community, and teamwork. We work really well together, and I think it's because people care. We care a lot about what we do day in and day out. That makes it easy and fun to come into work every day.

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