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By Amy Susan, Missouri Enterprise Communications Manager

Rick Prugh is Missouri Enterprise’s Area Business Manager for Central and South-Central Missouri. He has been with the company for almost 30 years serving in a variety of roles, mostly in program management and project development. He now enjoys interacting with Missouri manufacturers to help them with solutions for the challenges they face in becoming more profitable.

Q: What are the most important things you’re seeing in manufacturing this year?

A: There are really three big things. First, there’s been an explosion of interest in leadership training for supervisors, and I think that’s related to the ongoing workforce issues manufacturers are facing. They see that it’s critical to retain workers in such a tight labor market, and training supervisors in the skillsets they need to promote an engaged workforce is an important part of that. Secondly, the economy is much better, and people seem to feel freer to move forward on things like continuous improvement, because they’re heavily in growth mode. So, efficiency is becoming even more important. Finally, I’m seeing a lot of what I call a “new generation” of owners, and that includes people who are moving into the top leadership roles at their companies as their elders retire. Also included are many new entrepreneurs who are working hard to establish and grow their young businesses. These folks are the next generation of leadership in manufacturing. They seem more open to innovation in management and production processes and are willing to look at things a bit differently than their predecessors. It’s exciting to work with them.

Q: What’s your pulse on how busy manufacturers are right now?

A: I’d say they are very busy. I think they’re feeling more economic freedom to move forward and are more relaxed about making big decisions. They’ve gone from that “survival mode” where they were just maintaining their position a couple years ago, to a real focus on how to get better and grow their operations.

Q: Any change in tone you’re feeling when you talk to people about Missouri Enterprise and all its capabilities?

A: The attitude of people considering using outside resources for help has really opened up. Like I said before, the economy is good, and companies are starting to be more aggressive, and on the other side we have a supervisory skills gap combined with a tight workforce. I think that together, these considerations have made people more open to having an outside expert help them get ahead. Manufacturers are motivated right now, and they’re looking for ways to do things better and grow profitably.

Q: Any advice for manufacturers right now?

A: There’s a saying I’ve been thinking about lately, “the enemy of great is good.” Because things are pretty good right now economically and in the business world in general, this is the time for manufacturers to gain some sense of urgency to go from good to great! They have the financial capability now to invest in resources that can dramatically help their bottom line. For their sake, I don’t want them to wait until finances are tight or things become desperate. I really enjoy my role in becoming a trusted advisor who can help manufacturers with solutions that will help them make more money and keep people employed.

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