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Keeping Tabs on the Industry: A Q&A With “Manufacturing Happy Hour” Host Chris Luecke

Keeping Tabs on the Industry: A Q&A With “Manufacturing Happy Hour” Host Chris Luecke

The manufacturing podcast industry is a competitive space, yet Chris Luecke’s “Manufacturing Happy Hour” consistently dominates the rankings. People love Chris’ show for how it highlights up and coming manufacturing leaders and its approachable “happy hour” feel. Manufacturing Happy Hour gets real about the latest trends and technologies impacting modern manufacturers.

In the Shop had the honor of sitting down with Chris and handing over the mic to find out what’s really going on in today’s fast-changing manufacturing world.

Q. Thanks for joining us today, Chris. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start the Manufacturing Happy Hour podcast?
A. Great to be here! So I’ve spent over a decade working in manufacturing, and I feel there’s a real need to help manufacturers share their stories on a macro level. I started Manufacturing Happy Hour to help manufacturers tell their story to their ideal audience.

When talking about manufacturing technology, we tend to use a lot of buzzwords that may hold meaning at one time, but then lose their meaning as trends evolve. The podcast is a way to talk about trends in our industry as if we’re just having a beer with one another; a candid conversation where we use simple terms and get straight to the point.

I’m also constantly on a mission to show how cool manufacturing is, and when there are such innovative companies and people out there doing cool things, it’s important to highlight their work.

Q: In your many conversations with manufacturing leaders, what is one thing you find they all want to talk about?
A. If there’s one thing that every single one of my conversations has in common, it’s the human element of manufacturing. Whether we’re talking about cybersecurity, Industry 4.0, or enabling the next generation to take on critical manufacturing roles, it all comes down to people: If you’re going to have a robust cybersecurity posture, you need to have people out there that understand how to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, like having a patching strategy and simply understanding and documenting what assets are connected to your network so that you can reduce your risk of an incident.

You need people that have a measurable goal when it comes to Industry 4.0 or digital transformation, not just implementing technology for technology’s sake. It’s so important to have the right people in place to implement processes that are repeatable and that can drive the results you’re looking for. If you’re just throwing technology into a shop or a factory without the right people to help, you’re doomed to fail.

Q: On the flipside, what’s one thing that you’ve heard in a conversation recently that really surprised you?
A: Oftentimes my guests will phrase things in ways that make me think about a topic in a way I never had before. For example, I recently talked with your Co-Founder and CEO Jason Ray, and he brought up the skills gap. We know that it’s there (and has been for decades), but Jason talked about how it was actually a management gap; when you know there’s a problem and you’re not necessarily doing anything to solve it, that’s on leadership. It was a new way of thinking about it.

Another example was when I was speaking to Brian Evergreen, who works on artificial intelligence initiatives at Microsoft. I asked Brian, “How do you get new technology initiatives across the finish line? How do you avoid what we call ‘Pilot Purgatory?’”

Brian brought up the term “Pilot Purgatory steamroller.” That’s where you get the right people on the right cross-functional teams who are there when a project is about to get stuck to fight for a path forward. Whether it’s a new MES, quoting software, cybersecurity initiative, or otherwise, you need to get the right people working together to make sure things don’t get halted.

Q: Speaking of cybersecurity…What kinds of conversations have you been having around the “deadline push” for manufacturing defense contractors needing to become CMMC compliant?
A. A hacker doesn’t care whether it’s 2023 or 2024—they’re still out there looking for vulnerabilities. The last thing people should do in response to this CMMC “deadline push” is use it as an opportunity to push it off. I’d encourage everyone to start working on it now so they can have an even more robust cybersecurity posture in place when the final deadline is truly upon us. It takes a long time to identify what types of assets you have, put a patching strategy in place, and hold the audit. Preparing for your CMMC audit helps you make your shop more secure, so why not do it sooner rather than later?

Find out how shops are preparing for their CMMC audit.


Q: On another note about important trends, are you finding that the “Amazon effect” has spread to OEMs’ buying expectations?
A: People have seen the possibilities as a consumer of Amazon, and that’s what they want when they’re buying parts. I think the expectation has always been, “We need it yesterday,” but I think that need for speed is becoming even more prevalent because we have so many people retiring.

The people that are taking over in engineering and leadership roles are conditioned to convenience, transparency, and speed. Their natural inclination is, “I should be able to know what my price is, I should be able to know if it’s available, and I should be able to place an order very quickly without a bunch of back and forth.”

Q: Any final thoughts to leave with our readers?
A: I just want to call out how lucky I feel to run a manufacturing industry podcast. I learn so many lessons due to the variety of people I talk to, and I’m grateful to share those lessons back with the world.

In the media-centric world we live in, there’s a lot of doom and gloom. But in talking with manufacturers, there’s a sense of optimism. Every big initiative starts with a first step, and where there are challenges, manufacturers see solutions. I encourage every podcast listener out there—whether you’re in the manufacturing industry or not—to turn the ideas and stories you hear into actions that positively impact your work and the world around you.

To learn more about Chris Luecke, his work, and his podcast, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, or listen to all episodes of Manufacturing Happy Hour here.