Peak Performance Holds 6th Annual Manufacturing Symposium

Ryann Norman is the Product Development & Marketing Manager for Peak Performance. She has a proven track record for implementing training programs and managed relationships resulting in improved business efficiencies and processes.


Peak Performance Inc. held its 6th Annual Peak Performance Symposium on Friday, September 25, 2020. Due to COVID-19, this year's event was completely virtual. The annual event, held for manufacturers, by manufacturers, is a collaboration of manufacturing leaders coming together to share best practices with industry peers. This year’s event, appropriately themed, Transitioning Through Challenges in Trade, Technology & Talent, brought attendees from manufacturing and technology companies in the US and abroad, together, to hear how manufacturers are addressing difficult business challenges and learning to operate in the wake of a pandemic.

The symposium was opened by President and CEO of Peak Performance, Denise Rice, who gave a snapshot of current trends in the manufacturing industry, discussing the top business challenges that leaders are facing today, in which economic uncertainty topped the charts. Ms. Rice also gave a compelling overview of Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory technologies noting how the pandemic is increasing the rate of adoption of IIoT, robotics, cloud computing, and systems integration. Yet, according to a recent poll by the Tennessee Manufacturers Association, manufacturers are just in the Awareness: Building Knowledge phase of implementing Smart Factory technologies in their facilities, and Rice noted that a successful transition into the Factory of the Future relies not only on the technology but also on the level of acceptance and training of personnel at the facility.


Keynote Speakers, Dirk Bayliss, Plant Manager, and Andre Nelson, Operations Manager, of MANN+HUMMEL's Dayton, TN production facility, teamed up to deliver an inspiring keynote where they discussed servant leadership and empowerment and what that means to their company as well as why MANN+HUMMEL places a priority on investing in training, mentoring and coaching their leaders so that they are successful in their jobs. Bayliss discussed what servant leadership meant to him and how his attitude of serving others really shifted when he began doing things such as performing small acts of kindness to those around him, focusing on making mental notes of people's names and things about them when interacting with his department or anyone in his facility, and also really analyzing his attitude of servanthood by not only serving people better but inspiring them on a daily basis. Bayliss noted, "If your desire for personal gain outweighs your desire to serve others, you are truly lacking the heart of leadership. Servant leaders do not build empires, they build teams. And once you build teams, the success follows."


Andre Nelson followed by discussing why it is important to train and promote leaders so that they are able to be the servant leaders Bayliss had described. Nelson described his view on leadership as the art of motivating and influencing people to act towards achieving a common goal and backed this up with a story of how at the young age of 22 he was put into a situation where he led a group of people through war, noting that if he hadn't been able to influence them, they would not have been successful. Nelson commented, "Organizations are not limited by their opportunities but they are limited by their leaders. A certain position title doesn't make you a leader, the tools and the development learned over the years makes you a leader, and a true leader must always be a servant to the people. Always surround yourself with people that know more than you and that inspire you, and continually ask yourself the sometimes difficult question, 'are my people better off because of my leadership?'"


Nelson concluded the keynote by conveying to attendees the importance of why a company should spend great effort on developing leaders, citing another time in his life at 19 years old when he was promoted to Sergeant in the US Army and was therefore responsible for leading a much older group of people. Because he didn't have the proper leadership skills, he says he failed miserably. Nelson says that leadership development is designed to help current and potential leaders develop the essential skills to influence and motivate the workforce to achieve exceptional performance. He also noted that organizations must begin training, developing, and mentoring their potential leaders early in their careers before they begin developing bad habits. Nelson says, "Leaders must be trained in the same manner that athletes are trained to win big championships."


The keynote address was followed by the first round of breakout sessions, led by Milliken & Company who addressed how they are leveraging Mariner's IIoT and AI to improve asset reliability as related to their maintenance activities. Weidmuller also delivered a presentation on the techniques they use to migrate digitalization and automation in their facilities to achieve improvement in productivity.


The second round of breakout sessions yielded presentations from RDI Technologies, Phoenix Contact, and YouScience. RDI Technologies presented a case study involving their Motion Amplification® product, a motion analysis tool, in which customer AGL Loy Yang, used technology for root cause analysis to solve complex and long-standing issues on equipment and machinery. Phoenix Contact led a discussion on the future IIoT and cloud computing and how wireless technology brings enhancements to manufacturing operations. YouScience delivered a powerful lecture on how manufacturers are using aptitude testing with data-based measures to better identify local and internal talent that possess the ability to do the jobs managers need filled.


In addition to the Breakout Session Sponsors the event also had sponsorships from Chattanooga Safety Products, Mueller Water Products, and Zyter.


The crowd-pleasing panel discussion, Operating a Healthy Business During a Pandemic, provided insight into the short and long-term effects the public health crisis is having on business and industry. Fielding questions were, Dr. Chris Cunningham, UC Foundation Professor of Psychology, Graduate Program Director, Industrial-Organizational and Occupational Health Psychology, President, Society for Occupational Health Psychology, from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and Edwin Foulke, Partner, Fisher Phillips and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, nominated by President George W. Bush. Discussions included comments on company commitments to safe and healthy workplaces, protections employers can take during these times, and how jobs are changing due to technology innovations which are requiring new skill capabilities from the workforce.


During the panel discussion, Dr. Cunningham pointed out how this pandemic has made people realize how flexible and adaptive they are, without even realizing it, until now. He says that there seems to be a silver lining to the pandemic that has given people the chance to think about their priorities and ask themselves, how do they manage work as a component of their life, instead of how is their life managed by their work. However, Cunningham says, "Over the past 6 months there has been a real weakening connection between individuals and their workplace. Due to this, one thing that organizations are concerned about is the amount of potential job-hopping that will occur when manufacturers get fully back to business."


Mr. Foulke followed up speaking on some of the legal issues that the pandemic has brought on to individuals and organizations themselves. Foulke commented, "I am seeing more and more employees that have been working from home and are now being asked to come back to work and don't want to, whether it is because they are just comfortable working at home or legitimately do not feel safe coming back to work." Additionally, he says that a positive that has come out of the pandemic is that "it has moved safety into the forefront of organizations and up into the C-Suite where it has gained visibility in a place it has never been before. More people are concerned about safety, and that is a good thing."


Concluding the event, Denise Rice, President & CEO, Peak Performance stated, "The health of the manufacturing industry is an economic indicator for our state and country. Manufacturing provides well-paying careers and supports the communities in which they reside. We sincerely thank all of the speakers and attendees for taking the time to share amongst their peers and provide valuable insights into today's sessions. Together, we will ensure that the manufacturing community continues to thrive and prosper.”


For more information about the 2020 Peak Performance Symposium 2020 visit https://www.peakperformanceinc.com/events-pp-symposium-event-details.



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