In his own words: Rich Steel, Lean Director, Miller Fabrication Solutions
What or who fueled your interest in manufacturing?
My dad was a CNC machinist and welder. After working in the restaurant business for a little while after high school, I found myself wanting to try something different and my dad encouraged me to try CNC machining.
What is your current role in manufacturing?
As the Lean Director at Miller Fabrication Solutions, I am the company’s lean manufacturing expert who helps the organization learn and understand the lean body of knowledge and also then go and apply it. I teach classes, run improvement projects, do one to one coaching and empower leaders and employees to change how we do our work. I also sit on the company’s strategic leadership team and help with buying new machine tools.
Describe your path to get to where you are today.
I started in 2004 as a CNC machine operator, and became a pretty good machinist who learned how to program the machines and try different tooling to reduce cycle times. During the recession then in 2009, I was asked to improve a lot of our programs. When the company began to grow again, I became a crew leader in the machine shop and then began working with a specific customer of ours and was managing their work. After that, I became a Production Manager at one of our facilities and from there moved into the Lean Director role.
What is your Superpower?
I can see how the work moves through the shop and knows what it takes to make all that happen. I then have the ability to form relationships and gain trust with my coworkers to help them improve the work that they are asked to do.
Why is your role important to others – like to customers or end users?
My role helps the company reduce costs and helps with delivering parts to our customers on-time with good quality.
What do you think the future holds for your career or others you inspire?
I look forward to having additional opportunities to learn and grow. That may be in a different role, learning more about how to apply lean thinking, or to working in our community to share what we do as a company.