Barbara Humpton with Corey Scales at the Siemens Grand Prairie, TX Focus Factory

"Making the move up: Adding value was my key to the jobs I wanted"

By Corey W. Scales, Focus Factory Manager

Editor’s note: This story is part of Siemens USA’s Where the Jobs Are series. In the banner image, above, Corey Scales leads Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton on a tour of the Siemens Smart Infrastructure manufacturing hub in Grand Prairie, Texas, the facility where he is a Focus Factory Manager.

When I joined Siemens nearly 25 years ago right here at the Grand Prairie factory in Texas, you didn’t always see people in jobs on the shop floor make their way into supervisory roles. The mindset back then was that it took a certain type of person to work on the floor and a certain type of person to work in the office. I started on the shop floor and worked there for 12 years. I worked in fabrication as a CNC-punch operator, then moved into a manufacturing-engineering tech role, and from there I became a supervisor, and then moved into the role I have now as a Focus Factory Manager. 

 

I did all that by putting myself in a position to get to the next position—that is, I figured out how to add value to every role I had so that I was ready to make a move if I saw something I wanted, or if a new position somehow found me. I got past that mindset of “If I get paid to work eight hours, I work eight hours”—that’s a trap. I started looking at what abilities were needed for the positions I wanted and figured out how to make management see me differently. Sure, my co-workers on the shop floor were laughing—not harsh, just joking—that a person like myself would have no shot at moving up, but I had the drive and determination, and I knew the method to get there. 

I figured out how to add value to every role I had so that I was ready to make a move if I saw something I wanted, or if a new position somehow found me. I started looking at what abilities were needed for the positions I wanted and figured out how to make management see me differently.

Company culture now is very different than in my early days. At Grand Prairie we have a very diverse culture—we’re even more diversified now than just five years ago. Being your true self on the job isn’t an issue. You’re able to express yourself and your ideas and be heard. Our management teams are consistently looking out for the career progress of their teams on the factory floor—we’re seeking out people who have skillsets and knowledge that can add value at different levels to move them up.

 

People with skill can always improve it, and the key to that is training, which has a tremendous impact across the entire operation. Our training programs have helped increase relationships between the employees and management. They have helped to improve accountability in a variety of roles. Training has also helped to increase our productivity and machine uptime availability.

 

At the Grand Prairie facility, a Siemens Smart Infrastructure manufacturing hub, we’re fabricating low-voltage switchgear, switchboards, and panelboards, and we offer employees training for a wide variety of skills and roles. We’ve recently completed training for Total Productive Maintenance and Project Management for a few of our hourly and salaried employees. These particular training courses hold a lot of weight, inside and out of Siemens. With the changes coming to manufacturing through digitalization, continuous training and upskilling is going to be necessary. But it’s that training that is going to help workers keep pace with change. 

 

For example, when employees hear the word “robotics,” many of them assume that a machine will replace them. Instead, we train them to be the next-level employee—we’re teaching our people to run robots, training them up to where they can program. Now they have a new skillset that they can use to increase value, because they write their own part-making programs for the machines.

 

We constantly have open positions at Grand Prairie, because finding the right people to fit the needed roles is always a challenge. The employees we want must have a certain way of thinking, a certain mindset: Are you capable of learning new technical skills? Can you create a thought process for handling certain machines? Grand Prairie is a unionized workplace, and seniority matters, but you don’t get promoted because you’re next in line. Just like I did back on the factory floor, you have to bring value to what you do, and you have to be willing to learn and demonstrate growth. 

 

I want all the people in my facility to grow. This whole place and everyone in it are my direct concern every day. I’m a coach to everyone. I know the challenges they face, because one of the things about this job that will always stick with me was that time back when I told my co-workers I was going to get off the production floor and into the office somehow. When they saw that transition taking place, they stopped laughing. Now I’m working with some of them trying to help them figure out their next path. You must never become complacent. 

Published: July 22, 2021