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Introducing Manufacturing the Future, a New Podcast from Epicor

A new podcast for manufacturing leaders, hosted by Epicor Vice President Kerrie Jordan.

April 18, 2023


We’re excited to announce our new podcast: Manufacturing the Future! This show is dedicated to helping manufacturing leaders future-proof their operations.

Each episode features interviews with innovative manufacturing executives, subject matter experts, and top thought leaders. On the show, they’ll share tips, best practices, and actionable insights to embrace technology, so that manufacturers can streamline operations, prepare for the future, and keep the world turning.

Host of Manufacturing the Future: Kerrie Jordan, VP of Product Management, Epicor

Kerrie Jordan is Vice President, Product Management, Data Platform, at Epicor Software. In her role, Kerrie leads the strategic direction of Epicor’s cloud-enabled solutions to ensure they continue to deliver high-value innovation, security, and performance for Epicor customers. Based in Richmond, Virginia, she brings over a decade of experience in ERP, supply chain, eCommerce, cloud computing, and product development solutions.

Episode 4: Reimagining Retail Manufacturing: Improving Supply Chains and Creating a More Sustainable World

"I started To the Market because I believe fundamentally that the retail manufacturing industry can and should be reimagined," states Jane Mosbacher Morris in our newest podcast episode. Morris is the Founder and CEO of To the Market, a turnkey solution for ethical manufacturing by democratizing access to the global supply chain. "But how I even discovered that that was an opportunity was a little bit of a winding road."

After spending time in the public sector in counterterrorism, Morris realized how impactful the private sector can be. She saw that if you could leverage market forces to drive change, an organization can have an impact on social and environmental opportunities. 

With that drive, Morris turned to retail manufacturing, an industry that was in need of reimagining, and created To the Market, which connects companies to a syndicated network of sustainable, story-rich suppliers, improving sustainability efforts and increasing ethical sourcing in their supply chain. To the Market recently ranked in the top 20% of the Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest growing private companies.

In This Episode…

Not only is To the Market looking at ways to improve supply chains and reimagine the retail manufacturing industry, they're also making the world a better place as well. Listen to our conversation with Jane Mosbacher Morris to learn more about the impact To the Market is having on companies around the globe.

Topics discussed:

  • How To the Market supports their growth by setting team expectations, articulating what they want to achieve, and putting systems in place to measure progress.
  • Why establishing structures to keep in touch with each other and make every employee involved is key for growth — and how To the Market does it across their remote teams, distributed around the world.
  • The importance of sustainable growth and ethical sourcing, and how To the Market helps organizations both big and small evaluating better ways to do business.
  • The challenges of working in an analog industry where there's little visibility into processes, and how digital tools are making the industry more transparent.
  • Success stories of organizations who have made changes in their sourcing to significantly impact their sustainability.
  • How To the Market uses data to inform their customers of their impact, and how more information can empower organizations to make better decisions.
  • Advice for business leaders who want to improve their existing sustainability operations, and why it starts by looking at your raw materials.

Connect with Jane and To the Market

Website | Instagram | TwitterJane’s LinkedIn

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Episode 3: Digitizing Manufacturing for Better Products and Future Growth

It's a common problem: someone's laptop or phone dies and they don't have a charger. Or they have a charger and need to find an outlet to plug it in to. Matt Buscher noticed this with colleagues and especially travelers needing access to outlets in an airport. He knew he could solve that problem with power station kiosks that could provide a charge. But those kiosks could do more, he realized, like rent laptops. Buscher saw a need in the market for this, especially at universities and public libraries, and LaptopsAnytime was born. Located in every continent except Antarctica, LaptopsAnytime has frequently appeared in Inc. 5000’s Most Successful Companies in America.

But how do you build and assemble products that are constantly changing? How do you successfully scale a company with such intricate manufacturing considerations, going from subbing out manufacturing and assembling to bringing it all in-house? Matt might have provided a much needed solution for those wanting access to rental laptops, but there were more problems to be solved, as he explains in this podcast episode.

Finding Solutions to Changing Manufacturing Needs

One of the biggest challenges for LaptopsAnytime was being able to produce products when every product made is different. "Most people build a product, and they build it once. We build this product every day, and we build it different every single day. So the part may change by 50 thou or 100 thou, the part may get a little bit longer because your laptop gets a little bit bigger, or the device we're checking out is square, not rectangle. So all of those factors come into play," Matt explains in the episode.

Those challenges could only be solved through digital tools, yet Matt found that some of the manufacturers they worked with still did everything on paper. But once they moved manufacturing and assembly in-house, the challenge for digitalization still continued. "I have to have a vision for digitizing. Right? And if you don't know the tools, then how are you supposed to have a vision on how to bring all these digital parts into play in these assemblies? And how do you use them properly? And what are the latest tools?"—just some of the questions Matt had to ask when learning and adopting new technology to improve his company.

Another challenge? Having the knowledge of how to build these products in order to make the best decisions for the business. Matt made it a priority to learn everything he could about the business, and "I taught myself to be a machinist, so that I could talk to [machinists] in their language. I could converse with them and come up with new ideas, make new suggestions, and learn those tools that everybody was starting to use."

In This Episode…

What digital solutions did LaptopsAnytime put in place to solve their manufacturing challenges and position themselves for growth? Listen to our conversation with Matt Buscher to learn more about the evolution of LaptopsAnytime's operations, how digital tools are making that evolution possible, and what attributes manufacturing leaders should possess to bring their operations and employees into the future.

Topics include:

  • The role of technology at LaptopsAnytime and the necessity of digital assembly tools, especially as manufacturing their various products changes each day.
  • The challenges of working with "old school" manufacturing shops that have experience but don't rely on digital, and younger employees who are digital natives but don't yet have the experience.
  • What training is involved to get new employees up-and-running, and how manufacturing leaders themselves should continue to be students of new technology and approaches.
  • The evolution of LaptopsAnytime's manufacturing process, from having everything built off-site to building in-house operations, including manufacturing and assembly — and how technology ties it all together.
  • Why manufacturing companies should challenge themselves to be a different company year after year through continual iteration and upgrades.
  • How working in the restaurant industry and walking station to station made Matt a better manufacturing leader.
  • Actionable advice to manufacturing leaders about hard work, doing your own research, and continuing to be a learner.

Connect with Matt and LaptopsAnytime

WebsiteMatt’s LinkedIn

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Episode 2: Scaling Your Manufacturing in a Capital-Intensive Industry

"I have to create opportunities for myself, right?" It was the thought Jordan Erskine had after years of working for other manufacturing companies, first for a cosmetics and skincare contract manufacturer, then for a large dental care manufacturer. But after 15 years in the industry and armed with an MBA, Jordan reached out to his co-founder Gavin Collier and proposed starting a business. With a space and some angel investments, they launched Dynamic Blending in 2015 as a small lab creating formulas for brands, with an outside manufacturer.

But Jordan, with his experience in manufacturing, knew he could do it better.

"Quickly we realized we need to do it all. We have to figure out a way to do it all because everybody's doing it wrong. Nobody's taking care of the small guys, or the startups, or people that could have good ideas," Jordan explains in our podcast episode. Today, Dynamic Blending offers not only formula creation and manufacturing, but branding, package design, marketing assistance, fulfillment, and more. They recently ranked seventeenth on Inc. 5000's list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies.

But how do you go from an idea to competing against some of the biggest companies in the world in a low-margin, capital-intensive industry? Jordan explains how in our latest podcast episode.

Finding Solutions to Operational Efficiency

From the start, there were a number of operational and cash flow challenges Dynamic Blending faced: entering one of the most capital-intensive industries, operating on low margins, waiting on materials, and "being the bank" for customers until payment is due. All of it necessitated not only the ability to manage operations, but to tightly manage cash flow, inventory, and forecasting as well — in addition to the documentation policies and training needed to abide by regulatory requirements.

"We use a couple of different technology pieces a lot on the custom software side to help process improvement, and also to digitize a stale workflow process from a documentation standpoint," Jordan explains in our episode. It was a matter of "working with [R&D's] software engineers and our IT groups to use APIs so that our MRP system and our inventory systems and everything like that can all sync together." They would need to find a solution to this to scale successfully.

How do you stay competitive and differentiate yourself in an industry where many cosmetics manufacturers have been around for years? For that, Jordan also cites using technology to not only improve the customer experience — for example, by "building out a full digital form that [customers] can fill out from their tablet, their phone, wherever…not a lot of our competitors are doing anything like that" — but also innovating on the manufacturing side, like installing robotics on the production line.

In This Episode…

Not only has Dynamic Blending adopted a number of technologies to improve operations, but they look at how they can enhance the customer experience as well — not just deliver a product. Listen to our conversation with Jordan Erskine to learn more about how Dynamic Blending embraces innovation to stay competitive as a newcomer in a legacy industry.

Topics include:

  • The growing pains Jordan experienced breaking into a capital-intensive industry, and what strategies Dynamic Blending puts in place to hedge low margins, materials wait time, and cash flow.
  • What technology they use to bolster their operations in order to digitize workflows, track samples, and abide by regulatory requirements.
  • How they differentiate themselves from their competitors by improving the customer experience through technology and their new Experience Center for clients.
  • How Dynamic Blending scaled their operations, from their first single-head filling machine to lines that run 60,000 units in eight hours.
  • What the future of Dynamic Blending looks like, including its focus on green chemistry, sustainable packaging, and widespread robotics adoption.
  • Advice to entrepreneurs who want to modernize their manufacturing operations, and how working with marketing and advertising teams may be the key to new customers.

Connect with Jordan and Dynamic Blending

WebsiteJordan’s LinkedIn

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Apple | Spotify | Search “Manufacturing the Future” wherever you listen to podcasts!

Episode 1: Escapod Founders on How They Became the Ninth Fastest-Growing Manufacturing Company

Lifelong campers, Chris and Jen Hudak wanted to fit outdoor adventure into their busy schedules. But they had a problem: they spent more time setting up camp than actually camping.

In 2016, they went into a family garage and built their own off-road teardrop trailer. The custom design not only helped them take back their adventure time—it gave them a product to take to market.

Today, their company Escapod has more than 70 employees and was recently named the ninth fastest-growing manufacturing company by Inc. But rapid growth brings a whole new set of problems.

Solving Problems with Technology

In Episode 1 of Manufacturing the Future, Chris and Jen discuss the challenge of building a foundation for their company while simultaneously scaling operations.

“It’s really hard to work on both. Growth ... doesn't allow you to stop and build strong foundations. The growth is wonderful, but it also causes complications,” Chris says.

To begin solving the problem, they leveraged technology platforms that could help them build out key elements of their operations—like tracking products, tracking working instructions, revision control—while reducing redundancies and mistakes across those platforms and constantly assessing new platforms to determine their value-add.

Investing in the Workforce

They also looked to workforce investments. For instance, by hiring a general manager, Chris had more time to focus on business decisions.

“As you really grow and you start to have income and you start to have real revenue, you can start to be able to afford higher level positions that can help you guide the business,” he says.

Jen adds that it’s the people that help make Escapod successful. “The partnership that Chris and I have with our two other partners is really special. We all bring unique skill sets and have really healthy conflict. What that leads to is that we're each able to poke holes in the other person’s concept and then improve upon that concept, and you see that ripple through our product,” she says.

Episode Highlights

Which tech solutions helped propel Escapod’s growth? Listen to our conversation with Chris and Jen to learn more about their journey to creating Escapod, their approach to operations, and their advice for people like them who had an idea that solved a problem, and now want to scale their business to sell to the world.

Topics include:

  • Actionable advice for small businesses looking to improve operations with tech solutions.
  • Investments that help small businesses scale operations.
  • Why knowledge fails without documentation.
  • How technology like a one-stop website helps evolve the customer experience.
  • The importance of partnering with others to build those services.
  • How Escapod measures success.
  • How they iterate if something isn’t measuring up.
  • Why their most critical operational investment is investing in good people.
  • Escapod’s employee training program.

Connect with Escapod

Website | Instagram | Chris’s InstagramJen’s Instagram | Jen’s LinkedIn

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Listen & Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | Search “Manufacturing the Future” wherever you listen to podcasts!