Michael Field joined The Raymond Corporation, a manufacturer of material handling equipment, in 2004, shortly after the company was acquired by Toyota, and in 2015 he was named CEO.
MH&L sat down with him at the recent MODEX 2016 show in Atlanta to talk about his first year as CEO, and to learn more about his philosophy of running a company whose products are instrumental in making the supply chain of other companies move rapidly and efficiently.
MH&L: After the Toyota acquisition, did Toyota come forward and say, "We'd like you to adopt the Toyota Production System (TPS) and institute a basic lean culture at Raymond?"
Field: There was no mandate from Toyota to adopt what they do because Raymond for a very long time has been a very well-run, profitable company. Also, Raymond had always been lean and focused on continuous improvement and always getting better.
I came to Raymond in January 2004, shortly after the acquisition, and there were changes as people retired, the organization changed and evolved as all do, but always the key piece behind it was a customer-first focus. If you keep your eye on the customer, you can do a lot of things well because then you're focused on meeting the end goals of what it is you're selling, and what you're providing to your customers.
When we're talking about customers we're talking about the end customer—we're always trying to figure out how to help them be more productive moving materials through their warehouse and through the distribution channel so that everybody wins.
MH&L: In terms of how you run the operation, what specifically are your employees focused on?
Field: It comes back to being very customer-centric, striving for innovation, striving for quality, and providing service like nobody else. If you do all of those well, everything else just sort of fits together because you've got your real focus on the important things that add value to your customer's business.
MH&L: So how do you do that?
Field: You work really hard. You have to do a lot of listening to your customers. Sometimes you have to ask a lot of questions about what they want versus what they need versus what you can really do to help them.
MH&L: How would you define your leadership style?
Field: I like leaders who are very hard on the problem and softer on the people to make sure that everybody is focused on the right thing, which is building an atmosphere of teamwork, breaking down the silos of an organization so that, again, we're focused on doing the right thing for the right reasons for our customer. Everybody is happy working that way. There's a sense of accomplishment when you're working together as a team to get something done.
If you're working at cross purposes and you're not working as a team, accomplishing something means someone on the team won and someone else lost.
It's always about creating as close to a win-win situation as you can have.
Sometimes it requires compromise, and we need to know when we're compromising. But at the same time we need to make sure that everybody is being stretched to a level that's a little higher.
MH&L: What contribution is there from the supply chain in what you do?
Field:Similar to the discussion we've had so far in how important the customer is, the supply chain is kind of that upstream customer. You're a customer of them but there needs to be a balance in that process. And it all has to flow through because our customers have customers, so the supply chain just keeps moving and it's sort of like what material handling is about. So we need to have the same external focus with our suppliers that we have internally to our organization and to our customers.
Michael Field, CEO
The Raymond Corp.
Related Activities: Member of the Toyota Material Handling North America (TMHNA) executive team; Chairman & Director of the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium Inc.; Board Member of the New York State Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council