Many of us don’t understand the significant role that small manufacturing businesses play in our overall economy. Dr. Susan O. Schall is the consulting leader at her company SOS Consulting, LLC, which prides itself in helping smaller manufacturers grow to become healthy organizations that are successful, and bring economic development to the community.
Manufacturing and distribution are two of the most essential industries for our economy. For every job created in manufacturing, about six others will also be created throughout the community. For every dollar spent in manufacturing, about $1.30 is then added to the economy.
When it comes to smaller to medium-sized manufacturing businesses, most of them throughout the US are family-owned, and don’t have the same tools or resources as larger companies do when it comes to running their business in the most efficient and healthy way possible. Dr. Susan Schall is an engineer and executive who is the founder and operations leader of SOS Consulting LLC.
Dr. Schall prides herself in her company focus on supporting the improvement and development of smaller, family-run, manufacturers, as she believes they are being overlooked. She wants to be able to say she had a transforming effect on small manufacturing, but based on her nearly forty years in the industry, many would say she was already successful in accomplishing exactly that.
“Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect in our economy when it comes to things like job creation, wages, and overall economic growth within a community. This is why it’s so important to me to help every manufacturer, no matter how small, become as efficient and healthy as possible.”
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Schall about the importance of manufacturing in general, and the specific ways in which she helps smaller manufacturers develop into organized and efficient businesses to benefit their communities.
“Everybody’s different, and every business is different. My background is in manufacturing, but my tool set has broad applicability, so when clients reach out to us at SOS Consulting, even if they are involved in a business I’m unfamiliar with, it’s easy for me to apply all the skills, tools, and techniques I’ve gained over the decades to anyone who wants to improve their work place and bottom-line. I learned a long time ago that I have to change my language depending on the client. When I’m working with non-manufacturing clients, I have to shift the way I discuss certain topics so that it’s relevant to the specific work they’re doing.
I want people to understand the important role that manufacturing plays in our economy and communities. These businesses need to be healthy organizations to be successful, so I assist them in areas of leadership, team building, and organizational health so the community members working within these industries are also successful.”
Dr. Schall has an extensive background in math, science, and engineering, which eventually led her to working within many manufacturing companies, and witnessing first hand how healthy organizations impact employees and the community.
Dr. Schall’s father was an instrumental figure in her career as he taught her to love math. He also encouraged women to choose a career in the sciences. In addition, Dr. Schall was influenced by her grandfather, who was a carpenter and helped her love solving problems and putting things together. She pays it forward by helping mentor young women and smaller businesses. She enjoys mentoring others to have the tools and mindset to always make a difference.
Her father encouraged her to explore the possibilities within engineering. There are over 30 engineering disciplines, and when she read about industrial engineering a light bulb went off.
“I’ve worked in manufacturing for mainly large companies as an employee, but as a consultant for smaller organizations. I consider myself fortunate because I worked for two large companies in the 80’s and 90s at the forefront of the quality evolution as it progressed throughout US manufacturing.
In general I’m a numbers person, a data geek if you will, which obviously serves me well when it comes to engineering. I’ve always thought that being able to marry the world of statistics/numbers with people is one of the best ways for an organization to be successful. Over the years, I came to believe that there was something missing, a lack of leadership overall.
So I dedicated myself to learning more about what it means to be a leader for a healthy organization. I’ve dedicated myself to getting educated on different models and techniques so that I could help others develop their own skills, and thus create a cycle of successful leaders.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my career that I think is beneficial to anyone in business is that there are two solutions to every problem: the correct solution, as in the one that’s been proven by textbooks and technology to work so they’re thought to be optimal solutions, and then there’s the right solution, which is the solution you can implement and sustain with and through people.”
“Long -term business success is, and always has been, all about people – people make the business possible, create the products and serve the customer on a daily basis.”
At SOS Consulting, LLC, my primary offering is a program I call C.O.M.P.E.T.E, which is a multi-phase process of building leadership teams using the four disciplines of organizational health, and implementing and executing improvement projects that focus on the clients prioritized needs.”
According to Dr. Schall’s website, the C.O.M.P.E.T.E program provides manufacturing leaders with the clarity needed to focus on a few top priorities with new mindsets and appropriate improvement methodologies to transform their organization into a healthy workplace where people and profits flourish today, and tomorrow. The five main points of the program, that also give it its name, are as follows:
- Call to Action: Face the Hard Facts. A strategic assessment of the organization’s health on 6 dimensions
- Obtain Clarity: Who Are We and What Able, Willing and Committed to Do. The leadership team establishes clarity on the organization’s identity and top priorities for achieving long-term health and productivity.
- Make Improvement Plans: Champion the path forward. Identify action plans and responsibilities for executing priorities to attain productivity and health goals.
- Execute Plans and Tally Results: DO It! Implement projects, track progress, recognize and share success.
- Embed Improvement into Daily Work: Make it a way of life. Embed improvements into daily work practices in such a way that they are sustained through changes in personnel over time.
“I think something that distinguishes SOS Consulting from others is our ability to take different tools and concepts and integrate them to address our client’s most pressing issues. I’m very adept at reading the situation, determining the right solution and the best way to facilitate its execution while respecting the people and community. I truly want to help each of my clients flourish.”
Beyond all the work she does currently with her clients, Dr. Schall is preparing to launch a Master Class in leadership which is meant to benefit business and manufacturing leaders, and teach them how to lead healthy organizations
“In January I’m gearing up to launch a Leadership Master Class that will be completely virtual so anyone can join me from wherever they are. I’ve already worked out of my home for more than two decades, so to personally witness the evolution of technology and how much easier it’s become for me to help clients improve their businesses, no matter where they’re located, has been amazing.
The Master Class is going to be nine weeks long with an hour-and-a-half session with me every week. The class is broken up into three content blocks focusing on the first discipline of organizational health, which is building a cohesive leadership team. Each three-week period will include one session of content delivery, one week of group coaching so participants can learn from each other, not just me, and one week of one-on-one coaching. The first block focuses on the work of leaders, the second on getting the right team together and the third block on getting results with that team.
The Master Class will be available at the end of January, and I’m so excited to be able to provide my expertise’s to leaders as they seek to transform their organizations into workplaces that work for all. I’d love for this to be the first of many virtual classes. I structured the class so that it would be finished by the end of the first quarter of 2022, that way everyone can build their own confidence in leadership, teamwork, and overall success throughout 2022.
I designed this program as well so that it flows into my C.O.M.P.E.T.E program, so clients who feel like they want to continue to learn and execute the new skills they are gaining are able to do so with my continued coaching.”
“When companies decide to outsource their manufacturing, jobs, and distribution overseas, they’re stripping their community of economic growth. It’s important to support local businesses and manufacturers who work hard to grow their brand, and thus directly support their local community.”
Dr. Schall then discussed how she had to learn to translate everything she initially learned working for larger manufacturers to help benefit the smaller ones that didn’t have the same access.
“If you think about it, many communities of different sizes were started because their location was strategic for some sort of producer of some lucrative product so that companies could develop and distribute said products, and thus continue to develop a full-functioning economy and community.
I remember working with the leadership team of a small manufacturer in the food and beverage industry in a small community a few years ago.We discussed the different leadership levels that existed within the company and about half-way through our conversation, based on their body language alone, I could tell there was a major lack of communication, operational discipline, and overall collaboration between the levels of power that existed within this specific company.
It was honestly a shocking experience to witness how little existed in this specific company in regard to leadership/work team culture, but then again before this point I was mainly working with larger manufacturers who had the resources to focus on leadership and workplace culture. I knew then that when it came to the smaller businesses, I needed to provide a broader set of offerings which include leadership and collaboration and not just engineering improvement.”
Dr. Schall now has over 30 years of experience in industries ranging from chemical manufacturing to higher education, resulting in over $250 million in savings and new business revenue. She’s a servant leader who shares her knowledge and experiences so others can learn from them; she has applied strategic improvement concepts and tools to a wide variety of situations in her non-profit volunteer work and has authored several papers on the implementation of process improvement.
Dr. Schall concluded our interview with the main message she carries with her every day when she’s consulting and assisting small business grow and develop:
“I want to see manufacturing become more respected. So many don’t realize how impactful that manufacturing is to every other sector of our economy and the dynamic career opportunities it offers. It’s important to support local businesses and manufacturers who work hard to grow their brand, their teams, and thus directly support their local community.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.