Rinnai America Corp.’s Steve Walsh says manufacturing leaders must express a clear vision in order to attract and develop the talent that will be needed going forward.
Q: What is your role and focus at your company?
A: I am the Senior Director of Operations at Rinnai America Corporation, the leading tankless water heater company in North America. Rinnai has experienced tremendous growth over the past several years, investing heavily in innovation and infrastructure. We recently launched the first tankless water heater manufacturing facility in Griffin, Georgia, where we will continue to expand our operations over the next several years. I am currently focused on developing a supply chain strategy that supports the business growth and provides world class service and solutions to our customers.
Q: What is the most pressing issue facing the manufacturing industry today?
A: I believe the major challenges will include the rising cost of materials and availability of labor. Raw material cost is rising across multiple industries for a number of reasons – including the recent changes to import tariffs – all of which is placing pressure on manufacturers to look for ways to offset the cost increases. In addition, low unemployment rates will require manufacturers to have an organizational culture that attracts top talent.
Q: What is the most important corporate initiative you are involved in at the moment?
A: Rinnai just launched its first tankless water heater manufacturing facility in the United States this past April in Griffin, Georgia. Our focus has been on ensuring the successful startup of production. At the same time, we are launching a new line of next-generation water heaters into the market this May.
Q: What will be the most important leadership qualities to possess in the future?
A: The ability to create a culture with an engaged workforce and a vision that is transparent throughout the entire organization. Leaders must be able to attract top talent and not be afraid to invest in new technology and innovation.
Q: What will be the greatest opportunities for manufacturers over the next five years?
A:Invest in technology, innovation, and people. Technology advances will lead to more information and efficient manufacturing processes resulting in better quality and lower cost. Leveraging technology will enable manufacturers to produce products at a lower cost and therefore reinvest profits into innovative solutions. Finally, talented and skilled people will enable manufacturers to accomplish their objectives, so investing in both existing and new people will be critical to success.
Q: What is your favorite activity outside of work or the last book you read?
A: I value family above all else, so I spend a lot of time enjoying their company. The last book I read was Talent Magnet by Mark Miller.