July 12, 2023 - Why has Draper been able to survive and thrive through challenging economic times and over a span of generations? Draper President Chris Broome says it's because the company has always been proactive seeking for new ways to grow the business.
"We've never been satisfied with the products or the markets that we've been in, and we've always looked for ways to capture more business," said Broome. "That's been particularly important to us here recently. Even with … supply chain challenges and inflation, etc., we were really focused on looking for new markets that we could grow our business in."
Broome made his comments on a podcast hosted by TBM Consulting. Draper has been working with TBM to develop and sustain a more robust lean manufacturing program. Draper has used lean manufacturing principles since the early 2000s. And while the program has had successes, it was difficult to sustain and not having the desired impact on profitability.
"Refocusing on our lean efforts has definitely paid dividends for us. We had a lot of competing priorities and didn't have a good way of deciding which ones were more important," said Broome, who added that clarity for the management team is not the only positive benefit. "Employees feel like their opinions, their input is valued and that's something that can be a struggle. They're really the ones that know where those improvements can come from. But drawing that out of them can be difficult … and by having daily meetings, it provides a process for our employees to do that."
Broome pointed out that with the uncertain economic times there is pressure to look for more efficiencies and be more productive.
"Most of our competitors have moved their manufacturing to Mexico to look for ways to save labor costs, and that's not something we want to do," said Broome. "But we know we have to compete with that, and that means we have to continue to make improvements. I think the management system [TBM helped develop] will help keep us focused on that."
"Knowing that Draper has been in this industry since 1902, which is a very long time, going through many challenges and economic eras," asked podcast host TBM Vice President David Pate, "what advice would you give other business leaders?"
"I think one of the big things is to stay the course, have confidence in your plan and what you're doing," said Broome. "Often times the best thing to do is to continue the efforts that you have and make sure you're dedicating the proper amount of time to it. Identify what's important to your business and focus on it."