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E246 | From Navy to Industry 4.0: Marty Groover’s Journey to Innovation

Are you struggling to achieve successful digital transformation despite continuous training and collaboration? Find out how to unlock agile decision-making with the military-inspired command by negation technique and improve employee engagement with immersive training programs – all while boosting manufacturing efficiency through SAP systems.

Marty Groover offers a unique perspective on the future of manufacturing. Drawing from his experience as a retired Navy officer and working in the manufacturing sector at Caterpillar, he has developed a deep understanding of the importance of technology integration and employee training. Now a partner and CTO at C5MI, Marty is dedicated to helping companies adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, creating smarter systems and more efficient processes. If you are a manufacturing leader, you will undoubtedly benefit from his insights, experience, and passion for innovation.

In this episode, Marty explains how you can boost manufacturing efficiency by harnessing the power of SAP systems, and how to drive digital transformation in your workplace. Marty is an advocate for creating a culture of learning, so he discusses how you can cultivate effective leadership and change management in your manufacturing operations, and unleash agile decision-making with the military-inspired command by negation technique.

A fantastic conversation with Marty. Download and listen to learn more.

On today’s podcast: 

  • Transforming the manufacturing operations through strategic SAP
  • Bringing military systems to manufacturing
  • Using real-time tracking to improve efficiency
  • Creating a thriving learning culture by encouraging knowledge-sharing and regular upskilling
  • Overcoming the problem of working in silos in business

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Speed of Advance

Unlocking the Power of Digital Transformation 

Marty Groover is a partner in the Industry 4.0 practice of C5MI, a firm that optimises operational execution through the creation of live supply chains. Marty leads functional and technical teams to solve manufacturing challenges by merging people, processes, and technology. With more than two decades as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy, Marty is a recognised thought leader in the SAP partner base and is known for his extensive insight into production planning, lean manufacturing, and ERP systems. 

Marty’s journey towards digital transformation began with his experience in the Navy, where he learned the power of automation and real-time data with the Aegis weapons system. When he retired and started working in manufacturing at Caterpillar, he realised the immense potential of applying these principles to the industry. Eager to make a difference, Marty became a partner and CTO of C5MI, a company specialising in technology for Industry 4.0. One of Marty’s most significant achievements was the implementation of a real-time location tracking system at Caterpillar. This system improved productivity, reduced lead times, and increased customer satisfaction. As a true believer in the power of digital transformation, Marty advocates for employee training and engagement, helping them embrace new technology and work in harmony with automated systems. 

“When I retired, I started seeing the synergy that I had from working with these automated systems. Now I’m working in manufacturing, I’m like, Why didn’t I have these tools?”

Implementing automated systems from the military

In 2004, Marty was in the Persian Gulf on the John F. Kennedy. They had this system called a Common Operational Picture. He could see his aircraft live over Iraq, and connect with Marines on the ground, he says. Back then, they were able to do that. When he went to work at Caterpillar, he couldn’t even find out what was happening during the shift he was in. 

“I was a manufacturing engineer, so responsible for making large bulldozers, and if I knew about it during the shift, I might be able to fix it. I find out at the end of the shift, I already missed my build, or we had these big quality events that we needed to fix. So this is where I started translating. We need a Common operational picture of manufacturing. We need that live view of what’s happening as it’s happening so we can solve those problems.”

At Caterpillar, they got to build a real-time location tracking system at the end of one of their large assembly lines that built 100 excavators a day. They added real-time location tracking on these systems to make them smart.

“Not only would you see the excavator would just start blinking when it was getting close to the time that it had to hit its committed ship bait but somebody could pull up and see what work was left and when it should get through it. I mean, it was brilliant because now it was intuitive for the operators, but it also told them, hey, go work on this one. This is the most important one. Instead of them making a decision and maybe not knowing how important it was to get this one and where to find it, better yet, they basically took a Google map and update it through the final checkout process.”

Improving the process with live-tracking

Marty and his team also implemented live tracking of their material handling equipment at their wine site. They had a captive line, and once the material got there, it was moving in sequence. And you’ve had to get the parts just in time to line the parts’ kits. On a single day, they could have fifty hot parts on a line. Their system allowed them to see when the next machine was coming. It’s amazing how much safer it is, how much better it runs and the better quality you get because the parts are always there, adds Marty.

Thanks to the new system, they could shift their committed ship date, which was their number one metric.

“A big deal with our customers and our dealers is the date that we promise to deliver. Just like any of us as consumers on Amazon, when they say, they [product] is supposed to come there that day. It means a lot to you to get it on that day, especially the dealers making customer requirements. So we went from probably 60% on-time metadata ship date hitting those dates to 98%.”

At Caterpillar, they reduced the wait and ship times because they could now see where they were in the process. In the past, they might have had a product sitting for up to ten days in their field. And now they could reduce the number of days down to five. So it really reduced the cost and the holding cost for those products. 

The fourth industrial revolution

Marty believes we’re heading towards a fourth industrial revolution thanks to the Internet of Things, cloud computing and all the capacity that we now have with machine learning and analytics. In the late 80s, the PC revolution that came along with IBM and Apple started what Marty calls the ‘Silicon Age’. We got huge productivity gains from that, he argues. Now, it’s really about measuring the physical world to match it up with the transactional world. We got about as much incremental value out of PC. The data that we get now is connecting it with the Internet of Things, measuring devices, and seeing that physical world matching up.

“For instance, I’ll just say your inventories and then a supply chain. You knew where everything was, and how long it took you to get it. It was automatically measured. All that data using IoT and machine learning. Now the systems can automatically adjust lead times without a human ever getting in the way. And that’s really what you want so that you’re always just in time and you know how long it takes to get everything.”

A great example of that is Amazon. They measure every step of the process by time stamps with their systems. That’s how they can say, when you hit the buy button, your product will get to you in x number of days because they’ve already measured every step of the process. 

“There are all sorts of things like that that are going to be automated. And Amazon is accelerating it because of the speed of retail. Retail is really leading the way for manufacturing supply chain, the way they’re going to have to go in the future to be able to survive.”

Implementing and understanding SAP 

SAP is one of the world’s leading producers of software for the management of business processes, developing solutions that facilitate effective data processing and information flow across organisations.

When he was in the Navy, Marty learned how to use it and automated much of the reporting. He figured out how to use the business warehouse and automated reporting to fill out PowerPoints for all the stats, and for the people that had to run the budgets. Once he discovered the power of the system, he realised he could get these reports simply by pushing a button. 

“I said this was a great system if you use it right, just like anything else, and if you understand it, because, at the end of the day, it’s an accountant system. But when you use it right, it’s unbelievable. And then when I got to Caterpillar, I deployed another at a factory. Best deployment at Caterpillar. And then I complained about the way they deployed it. Whereas if you’re more intentional, which I did in my factory, it was amazing. It turned around the whole factory. We were able to fix our quality, budgets, and everything with it.”

So, why do people hate SAP so much? What are they doing wrong? For Marty, what’s often missed is that the people that know the process, don’t know SAP and vice versa. It’s like they just cross and miss each other until they implement, says Marty. 

Then there’s what he calls the Valley of Despair. So how do you overcome that? First, you train the people how to use SAP, and you make the leaders understand that this is just as much on them as it is on the people on a shop floor. 

“What Marty always tells people is that the CFO doesn’t really care what the spreadsheet says. They care about what you punched out today, and how you absorb the material because it’s a cost accounting system. But when you do understand it, you can really win with it because you can make things so much better. 

“And so the way I did it is I taught the people how to use it. I made them the people that actually did the process every day because they’re the smartest people. So, understand how to use SAP and why it’s important.” 

Why working in silos is bad for business

In the military, everybody has to be informed of what’s going on, how they’re going to do it and what their role is. You can’t have silos there, says Marty. You’re either a supported group or supporting a group. What Marty found when you jumped into the manufacturing world is that a lot of the time, there are different groups each with their own program. 

“Maybe it’s the material group, and they say don’t tell me how to do my process. I’ll deliver what I need to deliver to you. But what they don’t understand is that maybe your process is sub-optimising this process. And guess what? You don’t make something in Silos. It all has to work together if you’re going to make money.”

In the military, they understand that to project power and achieve their mission, they have to work together. But, in a civility world, this sometimes isn’t the case.

“And people are in their own silos doing things. I’ve seen it so many times where we put this new process in. Thank you for not telling me about it. It just broke a whole bunch of other processes. And when you do it in an ERP system that’s when a true nightmare. That’s when you’re stopping production. And then you find out this change was made, and nobody tested it or they didn’t understand the other processes that relied on it.”

The importance of creating a learning culture

One of the things that Marty confesses he took for granted in the military was that they were constantly being trained. Somebody is always training them. Leaders’ job was to train people below them and make sure that they have knowledge. But, in the commercial world, many companies have gotten rid of the training and started focusing on computer-based training with the mindset of saving money. But really, asks Marty, how good is that training? And if you’re not a learning organisation, you’ll be constantly unprepared for what comes next. 

“You’ve got to keep yourself upskilled, especially in the next industrial revolution. You’re going to fall by the wayside because there are so many things that you got to know and you got to continue to upskill the team.”

If you’re leading an organisation, you need to build the pillars of knowledge. He calls them expert users or key users. But, how do you get that one expert person in that particular area? Then they’ve got to be able to cascade it because there’s no formal training that’s going to do all the training.

“There’s formal training and systems training. Like, I understand the system I’m using, I understand how the buttons work, not necessarily how the transaction works in it, just how to manoeuvre around, sort of like with Apple. Once we get into iOS, we understand how to manoeuvre around. We still don’t know how to do everything in it, but then it’s the formal training, doing the process over and over the OJT and making sure that people learn it.”

Book recommendations 

Relentless by Tim Grover

Winning by Tim Grover

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

You Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

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