Georgia Manufacturing Alliance CEO Sets Tone of Annual Summit: "Significance of 'One’”

John Tabellione

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Prior to the introduction of two keynote speakers from renowned Georgia companies Coca Cola and Chick-fil-A, Jason Moss, Founder and CEO of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance (GMA), welcomed over 600 attendees to the third annual Georgia Manufacturing Summit. Moss set the theme for the conference recently held in Atlanta by invoking what he called “the significance of ‘one’,” be it one connection made; one idea shared; or one moment of clarity. 

The classic example of one repurposed idea he used was the modern assembly line made famous by Henry Ford. Its little-known origins are based upon the visit of a Ford employee who witnessed a so-called “disassembly line” at the Swift and Company’s slaughter house in Chicago where carcasses moved along a conveyor to be butchered. Seeing a butcher standing in place, removing the same piece efficiently over and over again, then applying that one idea and relaying it to the head of Ford’s production—that is the power of “one,” noted Moss.

The Georgia Manufacturing Summit is the capstone event produced by GMA, which hosts over 100 annual events, including plant tours, educational workshops, and networking sessions. “We strive to provide the premiere platform for manufacturing professionals to form strategic alliances and learn best business practices,” stated Moss. Speakers selected for the Georgia Manufacturing Summit focus on addressing key topics, insights, and top tips to make our local manufacturers and member companies more successful.”

“The challenge today is up to you. I want you to think about ways to implement different ideas you’re going to see today. It’s up to you to make take action. It’s up to you to make that decision. The challenge is I want you to have that one moment. What is your favorite part of the day? What is your ‘one?’”

Breakfast Keynote Speaker

Debra Shankle, Vice President, Supply Chain, for Coca Cola, North America, spoke of Coke’s mission “to refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create values, and make a difference.” She offered to share best people practices for attendees to borrow from her supply chain function, which procures items from 300 suppliers, and plans, stores, and ships for over 2,000 destinations. She presented a slide datelining the company’s commercials and promotions from the 1960s and 1970s to present day, which spoke to customer diversity, inclusiveness, and engagement, as well as having led to greater internal productivity. 

Leadership development programs at Coca Cola North America are considered to be an on-going journey and include courses in order “to be inclusive as our brand,” noted Shankle. Business resource groups include Asian, African-American, LGBT, Veterans, and Women, while Coke’s Supply Chain Engagement Initiatives offer employees opportunities for completing surveys, participating in town hall meetings and round tables, and attending team and community events. Shankle also spoke of “a new performance appraisal system that emphasizes mobilizing employees around work that matters most to execute our business strategy.” 

As a current Coca Cola North America print ad proclaims, said Shankle, “Our secret ingredient is our people.”

Lunch Keynote Speaker

On the topic of navigating trends in the supply chain, Rob Dugas, V.P., Chief Procurement Officer for Chick-fil-A, channeled the late Founder, Truett Cathy, and his success in staying ahead of the curve in the marketplace: anticipating customer needs and when to introduce his chicken meals as an alternative to hamburgers; where to locate stores; when to move in—and out of—shopping malls; as well as, how to create a unique company culture. Cathy’s values, principles and working relationships with vendors and customers continue today.

Chick-fil-A has great relationships and results with its Georgia suppliers noted Dugas. “We believe we can have results and relationships.” He added, “I’ll just tell you, if it comes down to the handshake or the contract, there’s no question the character of the handshake is always going to supersede the fine print in the footnotes of the contract.”

While admitting it sounds trite, Dugas emphasized that their focal point in navigating the supply chain is to “focus on the customer.” For example, the only reason that the poultry his stores serve have no antibiotics is because “our customers say it’s the right thing to do.”

Collaboration is key, as well, with suppliers and the company’s safety experts, and with parents, whether it’s with regard to kids’ meal premiums, or, to everyday straw deliveries.  

In order for the Chick-fil-A stores to continue to outsell the fast food industry on a per store basis by two to three times, the $9 billion chain works with 140 suppliers to provide 1,100 stock keeping units. Chick-fil-A is “actually a servant leadership company disguised as a fried chicken, fast food restaurant chain,” said Dugas, implying that they need to understand customer needs and to be able to change rapidly. 

“We need a different model for our supply chain. So, we’re at a point where in our business how do we think about supply chain. The challenge is—the challenge for all of us in this room is—to move from a producer logic to a consumer logic mindset.” That is, how much do suppliers really understand the needs of Chick-fil-A’s customers?

For example, since 65% of the company’s business is drive-through, Dugas has concern that experience may wane over time, which has already led to a Chick-fil-A smart phone app for on-line ordering. Eventually, home delivery may even be in the cards. “We need to think about different ways to get our product, our brand, into the hands of those who desire it. If that’s changing, we’re changing. Are you changing with us?”

Other challenging navigational points of supply management alluded to by Dugas include: how to find talent combined with the ability for critical thinking; how to leverage technology; and, how to leverage visibility with partners. Dugas stated he is seeking new partners that are forward-looking and truly aligned, and who think along with their customers. He closed by challenging the audience, “Are you sharing aspirations? Do you really know what counts for that customer?” 

Educational Breakout Sessions

For the first time in the three-year history of the Georgia Manufacturing Summit, an International Manufacturing breakout session—“Building Domestic Growth and a Competitive Edge Through Exports”—was included among the six educational panel discussions on the agenda.

Moderator, Joanne Sanders, President of EWISE Communications, kicked off the international training session by stating, “Overseas demand for U.S.-made products is driving America’s profits.” 

She added that American manufacturing output for exports has doubled over the past 30 years and it’s a great time for international commerce. Sanders credits digital marketing, which helps to build relationships, the availability of a global workforce, and local resources, such as those offered by the state. Having the world’s busiest airport and the fourth largest port in the country also enhance export opportunities for Georgian manufacturers. 

In fact, according to panelist Mary Waters, State Deputy Commissioner, International Trade, Georgia companies export products to 214 countries; however, small businesses in the state account for only 31% of the sales volume, implying good opportunities for growth. She noted other local resources for small companies wishing to expand international business include 68 consulates and trade offices, 200 international organizations, and 81,000 jobs provided by foreign countries located throughout Georgia. 

Other training session subjects at the Summit included: 

          - Manufacturing a Better Bottom Line

          - Trends to Track in Supply Chain 

          - 7 Secrets to Successful Selling 

          - Technology Advances for Today

          - Developing a Winning Workforce

“The People of Manufacturing” Awards Program 

As part of the 2017 Manufacturing Summit agenda, “The People of Manufacturing” Awards Program recognized the following individuals and companies for their achievements.

Individual Awards:

          Front Line Supervisor
          Susanne Lauda of AGCO 

          Plant Manager
          Carroll Griffin of ZF Industries 

Team Awards: 

          Team Operational Excellence 

          Production Team of Leggett & Platt, Monroe

          Team Safety 

          Safety Team of KaMin-Sandersville

“The People of Manufacturing Awards are designed to bring exposure and recognition to Georgia manufacturers and their employees. The Georgia Manufacturing Alliance is honoring the people of manufacturing in Georgia that exhibit excellence on a day-in, day-out basis. We are excited to announce these winners for 2017," said Moss.

About the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance:

The Georgia Manufacturing Summit is produced by The Georgia Manufacturing Alliance (GMA). GMA is a membership-based industry organization founded in 2008 to support Georgia’s manufacturing community. GMA provides monthly plant tours, educational sessions, tradeshows, and unique networking opportunities designed to help make profitable business connections for its members. The Georgia Manufacturing Directory, Georgia Manufacturing Summit, and Georgia Manufacturing Calendar are additional resources produced by GMA. To learn more about the organization, membership, and upcoming events, please call 770-338-0051 or visit their website


About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.