Winnebago VP Chris West believes manufacturing leaders must close the gaps that prevent their teams from being engaged and empowered.
Q: What is your role and focus at your company?
A: I am Vice President of Operations for Winnebago Industries. Winnebago Industries has multiple facilities in Iowa, Indiana, Oregon, Minnesota and Florida and is a leading U.S. manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products under the Winnebago, Grand Design and Chris-Craft brands. We build the highest quality motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheel products and boats, which are used primarily in leisure travel and outdoor recreation activities.
Q: What is the most pressing issue facing the manufacturing industry today?
A: Obviously, there are always issues to face. Our current priority is addressing the shrinking amount of talent and skills available for our operations. We see this as a key issue we must address now, and in the future, so we’re actively working on strategies and partnerships to address this in our local communities.
Q: What is the most important corporate initiative?
A: We are a growing business that has doubled in 24 months and there are many challenges an organization faces with that type of growth. In order to grow, our business has to be scalable and we are in the process of implementing a new ERP system which is being strategically configured to not only support who we are today, but also to position us for who we aspire to be in the future.
Q: What will be the most important leadership qualities to possess in the future?
A: It is difficult to pinpoint a single most important leadership quality anyone must have, but we know that people often leave bosses not companies. I believe it is most important for leaders to recognize this and be people leaders who positively influence the lives of their teams and communities. By understanding the gaps preventing your teams from being engaged and empowered, you can evolve as a leader to close those gaps and unleash untapped potential. We believe you win with talent, and we must attract and retain that talent to win in the long run.
Q: What will be the greatest opportunities for manufacturers over the next five years?
A: I believe the greatest opportunity is being able to develop, implement, and leverage Industry 4.0. These trends in manufacturing technology are moving fast and manufacturers who are not taking the time to understand them and strategize on how they can, and will, create value for their businesses will be left behind.
Q: What is your favorite activity outside of work or the last book you read?
A: I’m an avid runner. I enjoy the peacefulness and solitude of running. It clears my mind and allows me opportunities to focus on specific problems I may be dealing with.