hi everybody uh my name is Jimmy Carol
I’m the Vice President of Operations at
Tech BB marketing we’re here on the
manufacturing matters podcast I have the
pleasure of being joined by Kathy Renny
and Lauren vandemark of flex line
automation along with my colleague
Amanda uh Kathy and Lauren thank you so
much for taking the time today it’s
really nice to meet you and have you on
great to meet you it’s a pleasure yeah
thanks very much so so flex line
automation could you tell us a little a
little bit about uh first of all tell us
what your company and what you what you
both do there you want to take this one
oh no have you flex line automation
we’ve been around for this will be our
40th year um we started out mainly in
conveyors and we have been conveyor
system integrators for about 30 years
and then about 10 years ago or 10 years
out from that we realized that the
market was changing and that we were
going to have to change with it or we
were going to go by way of the dinosaur
so we started to integrate more Robotics
and other type of ancillary equipment
into our offering and um Lauren actually
has been with the company her entire
life yeah I’ve been answering phones
since I could toddle her her dad and I
founded flexline with his parents we
started it in our farm shop literally in
the bay in our Machine Shed right next
to the combine so we have very humble
beginnings and um we’re really rooted in
those kind of solid Midwest Western Farm
values and so Lauren is literally grown
up in the company it’s true I always
thought that babies would be delivered
via UPS um so that’s uh I so so thank
you for that I I do want to ask about
robotics obviously but one thing I
wanted to ask about is is Conveyor
Systems um automation systems today
continue to evolve and expand as
customer need customer needs grow and uh
things like the labor shortage kind of
speed up the need for automation for
some companies or the need to adopt
further automation or whatever so how
have Conveyor Systems how has conveyor
technology needed to expand or evolve
with these automation systems over time
well we actually have had a very
Innovative product line from day one
because our main conveyor product line
was a flexible tabletop conveyor system
and this allowed us to be able to do
overhead um to do a lot of um buffer
systems buffer systems vertical tight
horizontal bins things that would make
the best use of manufacturing space
because what manufacturers really have a
problem with is they need to get more
machines in right to to have more
productivity so if you can get parts to
those machines or away from those
machines and utilize space overhead that
was very Innovative in its time today
we’re seeing AI incorporated into
Conveyor Systems we’re seeing um still a
lot of new product development as far as
escapements and and all of the an
kind of automation things you have
anything that you can throw into that
yeah I mean conveyors a lot of people
seem to believe that conveyors just
aren’t cool anymore right like you know
even 15 years ago conveyors were looked
at as more than just something that you
get on Granger in order like a 10-ft
straight conveyor but really conveyors
still have a very important place in
Material Handling I mean yes robots are
really sexy everybody wants an r or an
agv it seems like but sometimes simple
is best right and a simple solution can
be a much more robust solution and can
really still have a very important place
in Material Handling you can’t beat a
hard knock and conveyor you know I mean
they’re hard to to have issues with you
know robot you have Sometimes some
issues with programming things like that
you put a conveyor in and it’s it’s
pretty much set it and forget it and it
just does what it needs to do for as
long as it needs to do it yeah I mean
it’s a critical part of so many systems
right it absolutely is and being able to
do we have some a really great space-
saving compact spirals so we can
actually Elevate product in a very very
tight footprint which is really
beneficial again space saving um and the
ability for a conar to work with a robot
is really important because you know a
lot of people think you have one or the
other and they actually work together I
mean all automation equipment is
designed to work
together and I think that’s one of the
benefits of working with an integrator
like us is we really understand how to
make all of those different parts
communicate and work together to the
best um to the best overall efficiency
of the system you know if you go through
yeah you can go in and you can buy this
from over here and this from over here
and you can take all of those pieces and
integrate them in yourself but a lot of
times there’s some efficiency that we
bring to that process that I think a lot
of Manufacturers can benefit from after
40 years we kind of learned some tricks
you know after 40 years we know a thing
or two because we’ve seen a thing or two
I guess that those Insurance guys say
that but I mean we can probably say that
too um so what we bring to the table is
a more tailored uh kind of approach and
we use that 40 years of experience in
knowing what products would be best
fitted I mean you can’t go on to Granger
or mcmas car so you can you can buy
stuff but how do you know where to start
and what to buy you know I mean and and
the beautiful thing about working with
an integrator like our company is we can
take this project from start to finish
we can incorporate Vision systems we can
incorporate you know um C directors
palletizers you know labelers you know
whatever you need check wearers the the
whole thing and you know so we make that
easy we make it easy to to automate yeah
it’s like a One-Stop it is yeah okay I
kind of want to to take a step backwards
in the conversation a little bit cuz you
had mentioned starting the business with
your husband in your barn and I was kind
of curious about that I was wondering if
you could kind of expand was this kind
of a venture that you wanted to go in
what brought as a you know a woman
business owner um I mean it was
absolutely not at all what I wanted to
go into was this your husband’s idea and
again I what was the evolution that took
you to be the president of this company
you know I mean I grew up on a farm
right and um I have one sister my dad
had two daughters after my sister when I
came along he kind of realized well this
is it this is this is as good as I’m
going to get right so he took me and
kind of tried to guide me I mean I took
tractors apart and rebuilt equipment and
farmed and hunted and fished and did all
of the things that a son would do and so
he prepared me for you know having the
Ingenuity having you know just the the
stick toess the ability to just tackle
these projects and get them done because
that’s how you handle things on a farm
so fast forward I meet my husband and um
I’m going to school he was still going
to school at that time and his dad was
in industrial filtration and we were
kind of at a point I was I was working
for the um Department of Commerce and I
was kind of liking what my government
job right right and so we had this
opportunity to get involved with the
conveyors and he wanted to do it and I
totally didn’t and so um we did
it and you know I got involved and
basically I was the Gopher I was the one
that set up the inventory I was the one
that you know had the jobs that they
didn’t want to have yeah because you
know but I did a lot of turning of the
wrenches and looking back I’m really
happy happy to have had that kind of um
immersion into this industry because I
didn’t have any formal training in
automation you know I’m I’m bringing
that farm Ingenuity I’m bringing 40
years of experience you know uh that’s
what I bring to the table and so I I
really fell into it I wasn’t the most
willing but I did it I’m glad as as
things I ended up being the president
because I’m naturally bossy right
and so um in the early years of our
business it was really hard because we
would like fight over decisions and
things like that because it’s really
tough when you work with your spouse and
then throw your in-laws in there it’s
really tough but um so we drew these
circles and it was pretty much a VIN
diagram and you know we had just this
small sliver where where we would
interchange other that’s where I wound
up having to work I just I was going to
make sure I brought you in here yeah
well and and you know so so it just just
naturally evolved that I was the one
that was making a lot of the management
decisions cuz my husband was very much
the the technical the engineer and while
I was still doing that and traveling in
and on site and doing that kind of thing
too it was just kind of we migrated into
our areas of expertise and we finally
after 40 years don’t fight about whose
decisions or what anymore and Lauren you
know has been in the business she left
the business for a short time yeah I
went and I um got my masters in
marketing at Mississippi State so I
worked at flexline took about a 2-year
Hiatus and then I’ve been back ever
since so yeah nice and um what has it
been like for you I mean I’m curious on
both stance points because you’ve been
in the industry for 40 years so you’ve
seen the women’s place in this space
evolve and you’ve come in as a young you
know a millennial kind of with a
different Viewpoint where women were
encouraged to enter all these different
Industries or do different whatever they
wanted to do do stem jobs so what has
been like for you to come into this and
see it and it’s it’s been really really
nice I mean I was really really lucky
growing up with obviously my mom as a
strong female role model in this
industry and there were also um so in
flexlink which is the tabletop conveyor
system that we started with and that we
still work with most frequently there
were uh two other female presidents of
conveyor companies and so I got to be
exposed to them as well so I really
didn’t have any concept that women
couldn’t be presidents of automation
companies or anything like that so
whenever I first you know went to my
first pack Expo in God
2006 not seeing women over the place was
actually kind of interesting cuz I was
like wait a minute I know Joan and I
know Dana and I know my mom where where
are all of these other women and so it’s
been really interesting especially over
the last 10 years to see more and more
women getting into the industry because
there’s no reason that we shouldn’t have
been here this entire time absolutely
well yeah I mean when I was a kid
basically my guidance counselors the
pathway was do you want to be a nurse
you want to be a homemaker do you want
to be a teacher um you know we were very
limited fortunately my dad kind of blew
that whole stereotype out of the water
because he’s like oh you want to be a
mechanic you can be a mechanic you know
you want to work construction and I did
build houses for a short amount of time
before so you know I explored a lot of
different things I had a lot of
opportunity that I just took um I think
Generations today have that opportunity
and it’s more of a given you know I mean
I I invaded that
space and and I did it and I had a lot
of fun with it and I I have to say that
being a woman in this industry is
amazing because you know I I can have a
level of vulnerability and honesty that
I don’t think my men counterparts can
have and that’s really unfortunate I I
can go into a meeting and be like oh
geez I don’t know I screwed this up or
or I don’t know let me find out and and
that’s okay and everybody’s okay with me
saying that well you can also throw
things out like have you considered this
and it’s
not an attack to ask a male engineer as
a woman like hey have you thought of
everything whereas a lot of times I find
it if my male counterparts ask those
questions there’s some defensiveness
that innately comes up yeah so we don’t
have that to deal it’s really really
nice to be a part of those conversations
yes so that part you know and yeah over
the years I mean I I related the story
about how I walked into the conference
room and was asked to make coffee one
day and I made the cup of coffee and I
handled to the gentleman and I left the
conference room and then I was brought
back into the conference room as the
president of the company so you know I
mean it’s not that but I did not take
that personally you know and I make a
pretty decent cup of coffee and I’m not
going to lie so I mean I’ve just never
taken any of it personally I have worked
side by side with a lot of gentlemen
that I’ve learned so much from and I
think as women in this industry it is
very important for us to
Value not only the the feminine
qualities that we’re bringing to to the
table but also to appreciate the men
that we work alongside of because I
think together that partnership really
strengthens what we can offer to
customers and and it’s really important
I mean women we have the soft skills and
I mean we have the other skills as well
but you know I mean we are the doers we
are the it it’s it’s just I think it’s
been easier for me to be in this
business as a woman than it would have
ever been for me to be a man
interesting it’s nice from a male
perspective it’s you know I think it’s
kind of a generational thing uh for me I
some of the best bosses I’ve ever had or
female and you know in the past like in
publishing and marketing there’s there’s
plenty of females there and that’s
that’s fine but like in in general
automation or manufacturing maybe
there’s less females so for me it’s in
the past anyway right so now it’s nice
to start seeing and meeting and talking
to people like you to show people out
there like maybe um girls or women that
are in high school or in college to say
well I can go do that if I want to I
don’t have to go to the you know
traditional career path right absolutely
I think part of that too is people are
getting exposed more and more through
podcasts like this one and through a
variety of social media to what
manufacturing really is because as an
industry we really need to be better
about selling ourselves to those
students and educating them that the
jobs in
manufacturing are not nearly as sucky as
what one thinks that they are right like
it’s not I Love Lucy on the chocolate
Line Manufacturing anymore yeah yeah
totally it’s not just like you know
flipping things over or making sure the
box it’s any range of jobs it could be
marketing be an executive level job like
even if you’re on the factory floor
could be running um watching a robot
flip those boxes around well you know
the greatest thing about my job is
problem solving and it’s not only
executive level problem solving or HR or
marketing I mean it’s it could be like
how you’ll find me out run an airline
sometimes if if the guys are busy and
and I’ve got a minute and they need a
hand hey I’m happy to throw in and you
know I I like to stay out on the floor
and in touch with what going on and
learn what’s going on and you know this
marketing over here we were we were at
pacx and the robot had a little glitch
and I was programming the robot and
she’s throwing out Snapchats look it’s
so easy even the company president can
do it right so you I guess that’s what
happens when it’s your mom that my
sometimes I say things without thinking
which gets me in trouble a lot became
the but I’m sure that that was a really
well followed post or well engaged with
absolutely it’s approachable it’s funny
you know from a marketing perspective
you there’s a lot of operations though
like being completely honest right that
that don’t have the people that are
trained you know they need to see that
robots are easy to operate so as is a
joke right not everybody is paying for
the highest level engineer so right if
you can show them that they can upskill
their current worker and just teach them
how to use it I think that’s you have a
good example of that I
guess current worker um but I think
that’s that’s really interesting did you
want to um I did want to ask about um a
couple of uh robot related questions I
guess you could say Okay um Ur plus is a
this ecosystem of universal robots uh
everyone knows Universal robots
collaborative robots or cobots as
everyone calls them um you’ve got a new
product that is ur plus certified is
that right yeah um so our box easy which
is a collaborative robot box director
just recently became a UR Plus
Solution and using that we can erect
multiple sizes of cartons without having
to have the change over that you would
have with a traditional carton erector
often from a single pick point in a
really really small footprint you know
earlier mom was talking about how space
in a manufacturing facility is at a
premium and this is really a case and
point of that um we can then since we
are handling the container still all
with the uh gri and the end of arm
tooling on the robot then we can
maintain that box through the picking
erection and placing process so we can
discharge pretty much anywhere that you
would want it to be whether that’s in a
gravity queue with a lane designated for
each box size or onto a conveyor into a
cart we can even palletize that same box
without ever changing over our end of
arm tooling and uh we can design that
end of arm tooling to even be able to be
used to case pack if rate allows so it’s
pretty flexible traditional quor takes
up a huge chunk of real estate and
usually you know you get maybe one or
two package sizes with a lot of change
over right and so the fact that we can
have either horizontal or vertical
magazines we can have a multitude of of
box sizes based on the robot reach based
on the size of the box that kind of
thing I mean we just really bring
flexibility to that task that hasn’t
been there before yeah and and that kind
of ties into something I wanted to ask
about like Warehouse Automation in
general right so Market intelligence
company interact analysis predicts
modest growth for warehouse Automation
in 2024 but double digigit growth in the
years to follow
right what are the well I want to ask
you what you think the growth drivers
are behind that but but you kind of
talked about one thing that I think is
maybe a main growth driver there and
that’s ease of use so Like Ur Plus in
general is it’s yeah one of the things
that makes them so popular I think is
that relatively easy to use but from
your perspective what else do you think
some of the are some of the growth
drivers behind uh the increase in in
Warehouse automation well I mean
everybody is short staffed yeah that’s
uh and and safety you know I was going
to say back in my day safety was a
luxury you know it wasn’t something that
people spent money on
because you just that wasn’t what you
did you know workers came workers went
and that’s not the case anymore so
safety is is really important and I
think automation provides a very safe
workplace and it’s not just safety it’s
also the employees that places are able
to get now they want a more rewarding
job right they don’t want to stand there
and erect cardboard boxes all day
because it’s boring and you get
cardboard Cuts tell you from unting
boxes at trade shows all day I would not
want that job absolutely um and so it’s
a solution like ours you know it’s
providing the employees a job that’s
more fulfilling because they’re able to
watch the robots work to make sure that
they’re working properly the same
employee can look over several
workstations they’re not hurting their
shoulder because they’re having to
palletize heavy boxes the robot can do
that for them they’re not throwing out
their back trying to lift pallets over
their head because they’ve integrated
like a Palam mat inline pallet magazine
I mean there are all of these wonderful
automation solutions that
really improve safety and
fulfillment in the in the the warehouse
industry and amrs as well she mentioned
the uh pallet dispensers you know um
we’re doing a lot more work in the
warehouse space and and that is exactly
ease of use and and just employee
satisfaction morale and safety I mean
people need to want to go to work I
think it ties back into that
conversation you were having earlier
about making this manufactur industry
more appealing to people right making it
safer making people want to go to work
and making it I get to go to work and
wear those cool ex skeleton I get to go
to work and use that cool thing you know
we all like cool technology who doesn’t
want to use you know a new camera or
yeah I mean we installed some mobile
industrial robot robots in a plant and
people were taking selfies with them you
know and and they thought it was really
cool that they were that they had that
once they got past the robot’s going to
steal my job face is that’s the first
thing of course that’s the first thing
um that that you encounter when you
deploy any type of new system how how do
you address that conversation well I
yourself frankly yeah absolutely I feel
like so much of what I do whenever I’m
doing sales is not necessarily even
selling the product it’s no no it’s okay
you can look at automation it’s fine
you’re not betraying someone by wanting
to make your employees lives better and
really framing that and not just
eliminating the dull dirty and dangerous
jobs we’re eliminating the depressing
jobs right like don’t want to do but I
mean we we faced this with the taxi
driver last night we get in the taxis
like where you going all the A3
conference what do you do robotics oh
you’re taking everybody’s jobs like
interesting your first takeway that was
that was the first thing and but but you
know what by the time we got out he was
like hey you I never thought of it that
way before so I think just having
and telling people frankly and straight
up and let’s not beat around the bush
it’s like you know I’m not here for your
job um I’m here for the job you didn’t
want to do right you know it’s
interesting I have heard some stories of
that where people have gone to
automation because they had a job
listing up for so long and no one took
it it’s not it nobody wanted the job
it’s not that we’re taking it from
somebody it’s that we need something or
someone to do this you know as companies
automate that allows them to then expand
and add more of the jobs that people are
interested in pursuing you get better
jobs because you get the technician jobs
you get the ones that are fulfilling for
a human to do one of our local private
label food manufacturers they’re down
1500 employees over three plants wow
that’s a lot yeah and so they are really
looking at automation to to fill that
void and you know and it not only fills
the void but it improves the life of the
people that are working there yeah you
know their jobs do get easier and they
do get better and so I mean we just have
to have those open conversation but you
have to call it out you know you can’t
walk into the plant and not talk about
the elephant in the room right you might
as well just walk over to that group of
employees and just throw it down yeah I
know you guys are not happy to see
us but here’s why you should be and and
just have those conversations and and I
think just the honest ability to to to
talk about it really then you know well
it it dis it’s disarm it’s alleviating
that cuz you know whenever a lot of
times right when in this industry you’re
not talking to the people on the line
who are the ones that are really
impacted by introducing Automation and
they the ones that can make or break a
project if you don’t sell the guys at
the very end of the line it doesn’t
matter how many people in the upper
management or are pro your project your
project is going to tank you know you’ve
got to out on the line and you’ve got to
make friends with those people and you
have to really show them that
Improvement if you want their Buy in and
at the end of the day if you don’t have
their buyin yeah no one’s going to use
it righta well they’re going to sabotage
it you know I mean that’s what people do
they’re like oh well this
robot hope he’s not working see no it
just protective stops for no reason
whatsoever and so have you guys actually
seen that oh absolutely oh wow yeah sure
wow so I I think it’s really important
you have those honest conversations and
not just with upper management but you
you talk to the people that are using
the technology and are going to be most
impacted by the technology openly and
and that’s you just you just have to be
yeah yeah interesting um I I don’t have
much else that we’ve covered a lot yeah
we really
have yeah sorry no no you’re okay I was
toning in on you is there anything else
yeah we should talk about wellow I don’t
know we could talk all day cuz that’s
how we are right agree for I think is
the that’s a kind way to put it well no
fair enough uh if anybody wants to learn
more about your company what what’s the
website uh we are at
flexline all right it’s
interesting though I am the conveyor
cougar and I’m going to give myself a
plug that is my LinkedIn tremend it’s
the conveyor cougar
and is another one that I can tell you
we we left a meeting one day with the
sales meeting with these young engineers
and I walked out and like when did I
become the old lady in the room you know
when did this happen I just feel like
God I feel like such a cougar and she’s
like yeah Mom you’re the conveyor cougar
and I’m like yeah wait a minute that’s
great I am the conveyor and so whenever
I was in high school right I we would go
to the mall which is a very dated thing
now but so we’d go into like Spencer’s
Gifts and I remember the guy at
Spencer’s Gifts once was like oh my God
you’re so lucky your mom is so cool and
I just at like 13 wanted to melt into
the floor yeah and now I get to live
that every day of my professional life
so every day my mom is still so cool
right oh my God every day I make it my
goal to try to give her something
cringeworthy that’s what moms do what I
I like what I Aspire towards is just
giving her something and one day it’ll
be you and it is she’s right now the can
bear kitten but you know oh my gosh I
love it she hates it which makes me love
it more not going to
lie awesome well thank you so much for
being here we really appreciate it was a
pleasure to have for having us guys we
appreciate yeah absolutely thanks very
much this is uh if anyone has any
questions comments or wants to reach out
uh manufacturing um Kathy Lauren
thank you so much thanks guys pleas you
you too

Manufacturing Matters: Cathy Rinne and Lauren Van De Mark, Flex-Line Automation

AS SEEN ON Transcript: 0:08 hi everybody uh my name is Jimmy Carol 0:09 I’m the Vice President of Operations at 0:11 Tech BB marketing we’re here on the 0:13 manufacturing matters podcast I have the 0:15 pleasure of being joined by Kathy Renny 0:17 and Lauren vandemark of flex line 0:18 automation along with […]



This week’s episode is a little different since Nikki was at an industry event: the A3 Business Forum hosted by the Association for Advancing Automation in Orlando Florida.

She thought she found a quiet corner to have a conversation with Cathy Rinne (the infamous Conveyor Cougar on TikTok) and Lauren Van De Mark – President and Sales and Marketing Manager respectively at Flex-Line Automation

We apologize for the audio quality and noise in this one, turns out the spot was quiet for a while until a large crowd walked by for a bit around the middle of the episode.

They had a great conversation talking about the event, happenings in the industry, how we still have work to do changing the mainstream attitudes about automation in manufacturing and more.

These ladies are the real deal and we are looking forward to having them back on the show soon in our more traditional format where we get to hear their background stories and maybe a bit more about being a mother daughter duo in the systems integration space.

Support the show

Co-Hosts are Alicia Gilpin Director of Engineering at Process and Controls Engineering LLC, and Nikki Gonzales Head of Partnerships at Quotebeam

Follow us on Linkedin for live videos, demos, and other content

Music by Samuel Janes

Audio Editing by Laura Marsilio

Leave us an audio message or get in touch at

Automation Ladies: A3 Business Forum with Cathy and Lauren

AS SEEN ON FROM THE AUTOMATION LADIES’ WEBSITE: This week’s episode is a little different since Nikki was at an industry event: the A3 Business Forum hosted by the Association for Advancing Automation in Orlando Florida. She thought she found a quiet corner to have a conversation with Cathy Rinne (the infamous Conveyor Cougar on TikTok) and Lauren Van De Mark – […]



[Music] welcome to failing for you where I’ll fail so you don’t have to or even better
yet so you can too but real quick before we get started
let’s hear a quick message from our sponsors hi there I’m David Turner from
process and automation specialists in our world process Improvement isn’t just a phrase It’s the key to unlocking
efficiency in your operations with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the heart of facturing plants I’ve walked in
your shoes worked alongside teams like yours and understand the ins and outs of your daily challenges my journey from
the plant floor to Leading process Solutions means I know exactly what it takes to elevate your operations
interested in transforming your process efficiency with a partner who’s been there let’s connect on LinkedIn don’t
wait for the future of automation let’s create it process and automation specialist engineering efficiency
together Hello everybody welcome back to the failing for you podcast it is me
your host Jordan Yates and today we have two guests and all I have to say is meow
we have the we have the conveyor cougar Miss
Kathy Renee re oh my gosh rinin oh my gosh meow Jordan hashtag hasht hashtag
meow everybody hashtag Jordan doesn’t know how to pronounce names hash forgetful and then Lauren vemar Lauren I
think I did that right Miss uh conveyor kitten slash automation armadillo okay
I’m butchering it all to uh to Workshop that and figure out which one is going
to stick I know which one I prefer yeah uh I’m team conveyor kitten all the way
sorry not sorry guys if you haven’t heard of the conveyor kitten SL cougar combination
well this is your introduction today now I I come across Kathy on LinkedIn and I
I don’t remember when it first happened but I do remember being kind of taken about when I saw conveyor cougar I was
like okay this is very interesting one thing unto another we’ve been sort of chatting through different messages and
interacting with each other’s post and so they have a very interesting background in they have a family company
they’ve done Automation and if you guys didn’t pick up on it Kathy and Lauren our mother daughter so we’re going to
get into all things family Dynamics working together Automation and the generation of Tik Tok and automation
coming together so let’s start off Kathy I’m Gonna Let You Go first kind of give yourself your introduction and say hello
to everybody hey everybody by now you may have already heard of flexline
Automation and the conveyor cougar I have to thank my lovely daughter Lauren
for that to name she totally regrets it now which just feeds me
yeah um the name actually came about because I am a smart alec and I say
things sometimes without thinking about it and so it really is my own damn fault
and that only makes it that much worse yeah anybody like oh my God I I
know I know the conveyor Co I see her on LinkedIn I’m like great you know we were in a meeting
and we we were making a sales call a joint sales call and I mean I walked out
of there feeling like the total old lady and I looked at Lauren and I’m like when did I become the old lady in the room I
mean these are just like you know kiddos in there and when when I feel like such
a cougar and she jokingly is like a yeah Mom the conveyor cougar and I was like
oh my God but I am though and I floated it on a LinkedIn post and everybody was
just like that is too funny and Lauren was like oh I hate it so I
went with it and it’s actually a Kind of a Funny
Story because um the first time I met you Jordan was at HC last year yeah and
that show someone came up to me and they were looking at our uh box director that we were exhibiting there with our
friends at Southwestern pts and they’re like flex line flex line I know that I
know that I’ve seen your stuff somewhere like and then honest to God he came back the next day and was like oh I figured
it out so I followed this lady called the conveyor cougar on LinkedIn and I’m just like
great I am never going to be able to tell her this story or I’m never going to live it down and um yeah it’s kind of
just snowballed from there obviously it’s got name recognition and it’s got uh little bit of fun and alliteration
which is always a good thing in my mind but um yeah that’s that was brilliant you did a great you did a great thing
Lauren you gotta trademark that Lauren personality to pull it off I mean I don’t mind wearing the leopard’s print
and you know the the leather pants and all of the things that you would expect with a conveyor cougar I’m for so you
know it works for us or just a regular cougar you know
right no it’s amazing so when you started using that like how long did it
take to sort of catch on to where people start calling you more by that or recognizing you more as the conveyor
cougar than Kathy wow you know it really seemed like it didn’t take very long at all but uh
it it really all came together in The Perfect Storm for us because we had a Marketing Group that worked for us for
some time and we were making all these really great videos and they were just languishing out on YouTube with no views
no nothing and one day one of them was like well you know if you really want to
get some views and get your videos out there you need to use Tik Tok and Lauren being my Millennials like not it and me
being you know like well I’m I’m the old lady here well why the heck not right so
I started the Tik Tock so I started the Tik Tock about the same time as the whole conveyor
cougar thing was born and so um it came
I floated it on LinkedIn kind of all at one time and I went from you know two
followers which were probably Lauren and her dad and you know I I really jumped I
mean I don’t have a million followers or anything like that but I am so grateful for the followers that I have because they are they’re diard loyal in their
you know I mean they are truly interested in what content we put out
and and give us feedback on it but it it was to answer your question probably I mean within three or four months I mean
we we went to pack Expo we had had people coming to the booth at pack Expo asking for the conveyor cougar and
Lauren’s just like no say it is not so
they expect you like put some sort of like show on like oh it’s me the conveyor cougar like are he supposed to
do something oh my God I getting like a monogram shirt and my husband bless his
heart he made himself this hat out of puff paint that said you know I’m with the conveyor
cougar and he wore that to pack X and I me we have just really tried to have fun
with it I mean that’s the I’ve been in this business this will be my 40th year this year flex line turns 40 um it’s my
anniversary with Lauren’s dad Rhett and you know if it weren’t for the sense of humor and being able to laugh and really
have fun we would have never made it 40 years as a couple let alone 40 years as
a family business you know that that just would not have been possible so the whole sense of humor thing has played
out well and and we just have lots of fun with it Lauren how did you end up sticking
around and being a part of the family business did you ever venture out and try something else and then get pulled back in or did you always just kind of
go with it because I mean it sounds like a fun place to be but you know how kids and parents are sometimes it’s like oh
I’m gonna do my own thing did you ever try a different path first um I did so I
actually I worked here right after undergrad and then I went and I got my Master’s Degree and whenever I came back
mom actually didn’t want to hire me back I was still a little salty that she left
I’m not GNA lie mad at me um but I wanted I wanted to come back
and I wanted to come back to the area um because over the course of time that I was gone I really realized what was
important to me and one of those big things was to be able to be around my family and at that point all of my
grandparents and everybody was here in this area um and then it just so
happened that we got a really big project at the same time and so Dad
actually um hired me against mom’s wishes to do project management on that
and uh yeah it was a it was a really really fun project and it was um really good
learning experience for me and for a variety of of reasons
and and to be able to talk to like my professors and things and be like you know your HR class did not prepare me
for for mediating these arguments that I’m having with these employees that we’
hired specifically to do that project and things and it’s just like oh boy real life versus uh the academic career
was a bit of an Awakening but it was also a lot of fun and it was interesting and I got to spend a lot of time with my
dad and uh my grandpa while he was still alive and he would come over and was
just very impressed with it and it was really nice I was very impressed with it she did a phenomenal job and and I’m
just gonna like throw this in I I didn’t want to hire her mainly because I really
why Kathy I wanted her to go get a job with another company so that when she
did come crawling back but she’d realized just how good she had
it doesn’t sound Petty at all you know I mean hey it’s a mom you
know it’s a mom thing but uh I’m I’m super proud of what she accomplished you
should probably give Mississippi State a plug you know um she did graduate with
the Masters in marketing and that’s probably where the whole conveyor cougar thing came from it was probably planted
there as a seed in school but sure all of my classmates there from the MBA program are going to listen and be like
oh God that’s what happened that’s what up doing like she was president of the
MBA Association she had so much promise like I feel like from the outside
looking in what you guys are doing looks super cool and I think you’re putting that inba to work in all the best ways
possible like and that’s the funny thing with marketing and social media sometimes when you’re at home and you’re
doing this stuff it’s like it it’s it feels not like an impostor syndrome but kind of like you don’t always feel like
it’s as cool as it is to people who don’t know you and then if they don’t know you and they’ve just come across like sort of your branding they’re like
whoa like like this is all they know you as like this is the personality and it’s very interesting to see how people
absorb it that don’t know you in your like actual real life versus who know you through social media so I think it’s
very fun to kind of like play with branding and see how you come across cuz I think whatever you two are doing it’s
obviously working very well and it’s been very fun to watch now I I want to get back into the the Tik Tok thing so
as a person who does social media myself I find it pretty interesting that you’ve had success on Tik Tok with like your
automation stuff now I’d kind of like to learn more about that personally and I think the listeners would too because I
think some of us shy away from Tik Tok because we think well that’s not where our buyers are that’s not where you know
like we’re going to form a deal or an opportunity so can you kind of walk us through like how the brand recognition
there and the growth there has helped you in your business and either one of you wants to take it that’s a tremendous
springboard Lauren doesn’t Tik Tok so I’m guess I’m gonna have to take this I mean I don’t even think she has a Tik
Tok account I do not so um I I drew the
Short Straw I had to learn to do the Tik Tock I found myself an 11-year-old to
teach me how and I’m still not all that great at it but you know the thing about
the platform itself is that Tik Tok is really trying to be more B2B and they do
have a lot more um analytical data and metrics available for the business
account and I have a business account as flexline automation I have a personal
account as me Kathy renie and I also have the conveyor cougar and and the reason why I first created the business
account and I got disappointed because I could only use really crappy music for
my videos because a business account they they really limit you know they really watch that and I want to be
trendier and so I’m like well to heck with that I will just save the business account for stagi old business posts you
know so um up came the conveyor cougar who can just pretty much do whatever she wants and that’s why I love that Alter
Ego it’s like you know but I I started doing that and I use it really as as I
say a springboard because I create content there and then I share it across
other platforms you know x Facebook and Instagram and of course LinkedIn and
Snapchat and um so even some Reddit sometimes will share out to that and and
it’s it’s just really quick it’s easy to use it’s something you can throw on
there something a little catchy and I wouldn’t have thought the automation
would really fly but not to Pat myself on the back too much but I do really do
a great job you know picking out the music for the videos and a lot of people comment on that on LinkedIn when I make
a post they’re just like waiting to see what the song choice is going to be so you know I spend a lot of time I sit at
my desk making a lot of Tik toks and Lauren will hear me playing different songs and she’ll be like oh God mom’s on
Tik Tok again and Heaven help her if she wants to get things to line up just right because you hear the same
10 seconds of music over and over and over dear Lord I’m going to get you
headphones for Christmas like yes it’s really fun and there are a lot more businesses that are joining the
platform um when I first started I didn’t see a lot of other automation content but you know I’m seeing a lot
more their algorithm is pretty much like you know any anything else if you show an interest in something you know they
just fill your feed with it and so now my feed is full of all sorts of cool
automation projects and stuff like that and and I’m seeing more people and
having I have more followers I have quite a few followers I mean I don’t have anything like you know some of the
cool Tik Tok people do but you know how many followers you have Kathy I
have I think a thousand I don’t know
1,70 something almost 1100 maybe maybe 1,00 I have I really don’t know honestly
for sure um I try to post something out there every day or work yeah at least
three or four times a week and finding the full the the cool fun relevant content is
hard um but I watched a a really great webinar that A3 the association for
advancing automation put on about social media and and they mentioned a tip which
I found very valuable and that’s like recycle stuff because you know the followers that you had six months ago
when you posted that you they aren’t the ones that are going to see that in their feed and so if you’re not recycling your
posts you’re losing a lot of opportunity for the new folks to be able to see that content and that helps kind of alleviate
you know the content fatigue that we all suffer when you’re trying to stay relevant in social
media yeah no I think that’s a great tip because something that I struggle with a lot and have always shied away from Tik
Tok and like reals and things like that is because there is always a new trend like you said and hopping on it
understanding it learning it that has always overwhelmed me to where I’m like oh I create quote unquote like original
content it’s because I’m just too lazy to like go like lip sync to the video or I try and then it just makes me feel so
frustrated and I’m like you know what if I just do something that’s totally like random then that’ll be faster and easier
but like it doesn’t track as well as when you do plug into the trends because
those are the things that Trend super well yes and I I think I’ve always kind of preached to people at conferences for
marketing B2B that like hey you know it it’s fine to just stick to one platform like you don’t need to get into Tik Tok
like there’s you know we haven’t seen as much return there but I love more than anything to be wrong and learn more
which is you know failing for you that’s what we’re we’re always trying to improve and it’s cool hearing that you
guys are across so many platforms Lauren do you have insights into sort of the stuff you’re putting on the other
platforms you guys are using and kind of how that’s been going and in like what seems worth the time versus what’s like
still in experimental phase well I mean definitely for what we do you know
LinkedIn works a lot better than Facebook and Instagram and things like
that I mean there has been some research out there that uh jenzy is going to be
really shuffling and changing how um marketing really will work because they
do a lot of their purchasing based off of Tik Tok and Instagram and things like that even in the BT World which I think
is going to throw a big wrench into things for a lot of uh B2B communication
because like I I’m still very old-fashioned right like I’ve got it in my head like this needs to be
professional we need to you know there’s a certain aesthetic and there’s a certain way of speaking and like I
personally had like this major major problem where all of these studies were
like you should use emojis and your businesso business communication but and I’m like I don’t feel comfortable using
emojis and business communication like I load mine up I load it up with
Emojis I load it up with hashtags I just sprinkle that crap all over all of it you know and and I think the thing is
Tik Tok it doesn’t matter what platform you’re doing you want you want to have fun with it and and you want your
authentic side to come through and when we were having all doing all the professional videos yeah I agree with
Lauren you know you you need some of those because you need your company to have some credibility but you know what
do people watch on TV they watch reality TV for a reason you know they want to know who you are they want to know the
crap you do wrong they want to know when you feel foolish they want to see you
have fun they want to see you fail they want they want the dirty and and I don’t I I tell Lauren
all the time you know she’s like well you know who are our customers and I’m like you know you’re selling to people
it’s B2B but it’s still people and you know you have to appeal to people you’re
not I mean no business writes a check but the people in the business do you know so so those are the people that you
really have to Target and and I don’t f focus on on the trends you know I I
sometimes do them I mean I got totally into the chicken Wars because it was fine but uh you know I don’t focus on
that and part of the reason why I guess I can get by with that is I’m kind of old and have my own Niche and I just
throw my own stuff out there everybody gives me a pass you know but uh I think
it works really well though too having kind of the two-pronged approach where you you have the like oh we’re super
type professional posts and then you have also have the like Hey we’re real
we’re entertaining we’re fun to work with and you know having both of those
together works really really well for us as a company that’s nice that you have that that balance there and I think it
is so ironic that you know the mom is the one who is the fun quirky one doing
the crazy content on Tik Tok and the daughter is the one who’s like corporate structured like I I love irony and I
think it’s perfect if we were to have like dinner or drinks together or anything I mean it it tracks like she
was always the one I would want to melt into the floor going to show my age a
little bit but we would go to Spencer’s Gifts in the mall right like Spencer’s Gifts it was this really eclectic little
store and the guys behind the counter were always like oh my God Lauren your mom is so cool right like every time
anybody’s like oh my God I love the conveyor cougar I’m like 13 again standing in that Spencer’s Gifts like
yeah this is so uncomfortable for me um but yeah I’ve I’ve always been much more
I’m the straight man he is yeah that’s that’s it’s nice to have
the balance though and I I feel like Kathy I lean more towards your side in the approach of like more the silly the
fun and all that and that’s why my my tagline is making uh technical content fun and relatable because I think I’m
not good at being structured and as like serious and Lauren I feel like my
boyfriend relates to you a lot in the sense where he’s like did you really just post that like that’s so
embarrassing like why are you putting that on the internet and I’m like babe people love it like don’t worry about it
like I swear it’s good for business and he’s like you’re running a business and I’m like babe I know but they like
Jordan they don’t like the like you know and so it’s I I totally feel for you Lauren because I am such a Cathy with
that stuff and I see daily what it does to your loved ones when you are that embarrassing to them but both sides are
needed you know like it’s it is important so I guess it’s thank God you guys are you know on the same team and
has there been times though where you try to communicate to your mom of like Mom like this is a little over the line
or do you just kind of let her do her thing well not really because I one fun
thing that maybe your boyfriend doesn’t have I don’t know what background he has but I always say like the marketer in me
is just like oh my God this is great build the brand girl let’s go the daughter in me is the one that
problem with this like you know um and that’s a a very fun internal conflict to
have all the time but uh given that the the marketer in me whenever it is
something where it’s just like oh my God I would never want to put that out there
personally to the marketer and me like yes I’m just feeling and um there’s no
there’s just no rain in the end and the fact that if she would come in and be like Mom I don’t want you to post that I
mean I would have I my thumb would be on the post button faster then if she was like d post it
quick quick you know
my daughter says she can control me right exactly and you know I love to sit in my
office and hear her on the phone and be like I I always know when somebody brings up canar cougar because she’ll be
like uh that’s my mom true is is there a certain point
Lauren where you hit an age and then you become a conveyor cougar or are you always the kitten CU your mom’s the
cougar like is there a fresh thrh old I I struggle with that because I am 38 I
am almost as old as the company itself and as someone she closer to 39 but I’m
not even thanks Mom thank you you’re welcome thank you for that I appreciate it
um yeah I I feel like I am too old to be considered a kitten and that is part of
my problem with the whole kitten thing is like I am you’re always going to be my
kitten there’s that struggle is
real it’s cute though it’s it’s cute I mean I feel like it’s rare that you come across automation companies that have
such endearing marketing terms and people working there that like their personality you know rather are shining
through or they’re in a personality battle with their mom and daughter like I I think it’s it’s very refreshing and
although Lauren you’re probably cringing and dying on the inside you are giving the people what they want and it like
Kathy I think you mentioned um people love reality TV and I feel like it’s a version of that what is your favorite
reality TV shows that you feel like have inspired you in this like journey girl I
don’t even watch them what you said I am the TV life is a
reality TV show I mean I go from you know when when you have the crazy
automation business and then then Lauren and I both have arms on the side and I
mean right before today’s podcast she was dragging a a baby caffin to her Barn to to her garage to bottle feed it
garage actually yeah and you know I mean our life is a reality TV show I swear if
you strapped a GoPro on us and just followed us around we probably have a million subscribers because people would
be like wow you know just wow and you know so I don’t I don’t watch in of the
kind of I don’t the Survivor the whole back biting snipy thing is not appealing
to me because you know I mean I’m still of the generation where you know your
handshake is your word and you know we’re very honest and straight forward
and and all of those things and so I I don’t know reality TV really makes me
cringe but you used to watch American Choppers all the time like that was the whole Popeye bike thing where
I guess that’s kind of reality TV that’s a reality TV show right like I I think
so I I love like like watching like Keeping Up with the Kardashians or something like that because I feel like
I get a lot of my inspiration from when they do the cutaways and like the confessionals where they’re like oh my
gosh and Kim was totally like this like I love kind of putting that style into my videos sometimes of like breaking the
fourth wall and like talking straight to them and it’s funny because I think the guys I make videos for never would have
known where my inspiration came from which makes that much funnier of like we’re mimicking the Kardashians we’re
mimicking love islands like but we’re putting an automation Twist on it I I think it is fun because it does have
sort of like the unhinged Vibe of reality TV and Kathy I hope you get your
own show one day that would be a blessing to us all no does to I’m sure
yeah she’ll be she would be really happy about that I mean I’d be okay with it but my husband’s an engineer and he’s
like engineer kind of engineer not be okay yeah know it is it is
hard you know my husband Lauren’s dad Rhett has a very good sense of humor and so he usually just kind of eggs me on
but Eric Lauren’s husband does get very embarrassed he’s just like oh both of
them work here so you know it would be no Escape yeah we work with both of our husbands so it it adds a little Dynamic
to things that that is very interesting I mean you know hasn’t slowed me
down I love that so we’re getting kind of close to the end of our time I know we kind of like it I’m I’m such a
chaotic host I bounce around so much so guys I hope as you’ve been listening so far you’ve been keeping up with it but I
think overall something we really learned today is one working with your mom can be hella fun and a little cringe
but overall fun and two Tik Tok is in
for B2B and there’s it creative and I feel like those are kind two of my big takeways is there you
guys want to leave the listeners with today um I I know we didn’t get to go as deep because we had two guests ONN but
I’ve I’ve had a lot of fun so far um I think I would just touch
briefly on you know small businesses especially we don’t have the same
marketing budget as our especially we’re integrators right so we’re not manufacturers we don’t have like the
manufacturer budget for marketing and things like that and I think it’s important for small businesses to kind
of utilize their creativity and do fund things like the Tik Tock and exploring
different Avenues we also as small businesses don’t have the same structures in place that really prevent
us from doing fun things as much as I might personally find them to be slightly cringe um you know and we need
to really leverage that right like automation is interesting and automation is fun and what we do is fun and if you
look at all of our business LinkedIn Pages you don’t see that and changing that I think would go
a long way in into making our industry like more approachable even for the next
gener we’re always asking what do we do to get more people to join our industry and that’s maybe not be so sty and uh
and to actually embrace the younger generation you know I mean those are the
the people that have grown up with you know screens in front of them all the time they’re very comfortable they’re
very comfortable going on Tik Tok and making a purchasing decision and you know I would wrap things up with you
know if you’re not following um flexline automation on YouTube you’ll miss seeing one of some
of my best work because I did U I did a video on particularly proud of called
R’s robot Emporium and I did that because Lauren’s husband Eric was
aggravated that we were taking on all of these robot lines and he was just like slow it down slow it down we want to just do this one or this one or the
other and so uh so I dress up like Lauren’s dad my husband and I I go out
and I do this whole big sale spiel about we’ve got all kinds of robots and and
you’ll appreciate it Jordan because the whole thing there was no script you know I’m just standing in front of the green
screen and I’m just ad living and just making stuff up as I went and uh
Lauren is the in the background she’s like the the wacky arm thing in the
background because it’s kind of like a car salesman kind of vibe yeah and okay yeah yeah yeah yeah you know you you
need to go out and take a look at that R’s robot imporium so follow us on on definitely on Tik Tok follow flexline
automation on Tik Tok if you want Lauren’s sty videos while conveyor cougar on Tik Tok if you want my
edgy videos and uh and definitely give us both a follow on LinkedIn um we’re on
Instagram we’re on Snapchat we’re on Facebook and by we I mean mainly
me but Lauren does have some accounts too but give us a follow and and then
let us know what kind of things that you want to see and we’re we’re getting ready to do some like educational videos
and one of the things on conveyors is catary Sag and you know my Twist on that is going to be like well you know I’m
here today to talk to you about something that women my age don’t want to discuss and uh that’s sag you know so
I mean we’ve we’ve got all sorts of things in mind for this year um we’re
excited I did a Dire Straits Money for Nothing um parody um actually singing
I’m every band member playing an instrument singing a a song that Lauren wrote to that
so we’ve got a lot of creative stuff coming and if you’re not following us you’re going to miss it and I would
really hate that for you I I would hate that for them too it would just be embarrassing if they didn’t know what was going on so guys
like in the spirit of failing for you don’t fail by not following these ladies
everywhere because that’s just something you can’t come back from so I’m going to get all of their links from them and I’m
going to just put it all in the show notes that way you guys don’t have to work hard you just click you follow and enjoy so so ladies thank you so much for
coming on I swear 30 minutes has never gone by so fast I had such a good time
I’m such a big fans and I can’t wait to see like what you guys do next come see
us at modex we’ll be there come see us at automate we’ll be there pack Expo will be there so stop by our booth look
us up come say hello sounds great guys well as always
you know thank you guys so much for listening um it once again was me your
host Jordan Yates and in the meantime I’ll be failing for you see you next week

Flex-Line Automation on Failing For You: Creative B2B Marketing

In this episode, Jordan Yates interviews Cathy Rinne and Lauren Van De Mark, the mother-daughter duo behind FlexLine Automation. They discuss their unique branding as the Conveyor Cougar and Conveyor Kitten, and how it has helped them gain recognition on platforms like TikTok.




hey everyone happy Friday I am really excited today because I met these two

ladies I think last year or the year before and I just fell in love with them

right off the bat and who doesn’t like the name conveyor cougar because it makes everybody raise their eyebrows

Lauren does not one yeah she does not that’s fair

but if you don’t know these two ladies I’m gonna assume that you’re not a manufacturing or your life is just completely boring so uh welcome to M A

Manufacturing today I have Lauren and Kathy from flexline Automation and I’m

really super excited to have you two here so thank you so much I know you guys are busy and I appreciate you

taking the time out of your day to to spend a moment with me and have a conversation about who you are and what

you do so let’s start off with that um before we get started I do want to mention to anyone listening if you are

on LinkedIn and you’re dropping comments and I’m not pulling them up it’s because LinkedIn is some kind of recently and

it’s not letting me see all of your comments um it is a lot better on YouTube so if you go to the mavens of

manufacturing on YouTube um they should be pulling up a lot quicker there but we did get one from Stephen Rogers already

yay Hey Stephen Stephen I hope you caught all of your

varmints so all right well ladies let’s get started let’s can you dive into a

little bit of who each of you are and then let’s start talking about flex line too because you’re a familyowned

business and you’ve been in business for a lot of years and U I think that’s really great because sometimes you don’t

see that very often and I think family-owned businesses are really the the salt of the earth of us

manufacturing so Kathy do you want to kick us off yeah um well I am co-founder

um of flexline we started the business with my husband and his parents in our

farm shop literally in the bay right next to the combine so um we’ve had very very humble

beginnings so I’ve been in this for a minute uh actually this year will be my 40th Year my husband’s 40th year I’m

also for those of you that don’t know Lauren’s mom and that adds a very

interesting Dynamic to the family business um we’ve been doing it for a while

Lauren is one of the few people who can probably say she’s 30s something years old with 30-some years of experience

because she literally was born and raised at flexline so I’ve been answering phones

since I could toddle um so my customer service voice like perfected by age five

I swear oh oh that girl could work a trade show let me tell you at 10 years old I could take her out I took her to a

trade show in Anaheim and she’s like out there looking at Badges and somebody from Mattel walk by and I turn around

and she’s got like all of these Mattel guys in our booth and she’s like Mom hey

make Barbies yes I was so proud of myself

trying to get free toy at the trade show that’s absolutely so Lauren tell us a little

bit more about the part that you play then because obviously we were an expert by the time you’re five and doing sales

but well I me I don’t I don’t know that I’m an expert per se but if anybody gets

Barbie hair Tangled in a tabletop conveyor system I can give you all the tips um because they 100% look like

roller coasters to me especially like alpines and and yeah so um there’s some

very unique skills that I bring to the table that you know probably no one else in this industry has um but technically

my role within flexline is that of sales and marketing manager um Additionally

you know occasionally being in a small business I will handle other roles whether those are customer service or

bookkeeping or engineering or assembly um your mom rained in or showing her how

to turn on the do not disturb on her phone I mean I don’t know she does a lot

of tech support for uh me I don’t know that that’s necessarily the case um because keeping mom Randon

is pretty much impossible so if that was my job I would be fired by now um but

yeah so there’s a the whole lot and being in a a family business is a lot of fun and it’s very interesting I mean

after I got my masters I decided to come back because I recognized that family

was the most important thing to me and being able to be here and spend that

time with um at that time both of my grandfathers before they have since passed was some of the best best times

of my life my grandpa Orville and my grandma do which are my uh dad

late parents they founded the company with Mom and Dad in the early 80s and so

Grandpa Orville was the only one still left around at that time and he would come in and we would go to breakfast and

you know it was just so many wonderful conversations and things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have with

him um she’s telling you the good side of the family business but the bad side

of the family business was I don’t even know why she would want to come back and join the company because

it literally took up our entire life you know I don’t think there was a holiday

dinner that we weren’t sitting talking about business or that is absolutely true I had so much resentment for the

company whenever I was a kid I mean it was like the the new baby like it didn’t

matter that it was older than me like it it was the baby it got all the attention Christmas we were talking about that

like I mean I whenever I joined I can remember um one of the first

conversations that we had out to dinner and I was a part of the conversation and I was so

excited table right because so my husband also

works with us um so it’s like all all family all the time right and it’s

Christmas just this past year and he’s he just stops and he looks at me and he’s like it’s Christmas why are we

discussing this and I’m like but it’s Christmas this is what tradition

that’s a growing a business is like having a child she’s she’s not wrong there because it was very consuming and

you know my husband and I both traveled early on when Lauren was was just a baby

and a toddler he did all the traveling and I have to give him my husband’s name

is Rhett I gotta give him a shout out because he he would leave me with the farm and this this baby and this

business and the water pump would go out or something ridiculous like that and he

from a hotel with running water would make a comment like well you know you could take a bucket and go down to the

pond and and those were the absolute wrong things gentlemen if your wife

calls you with a problem like that do not recommend they get a bucket and go down to the pond so that poor guy I mean

he he got all the abuse from the end of the phone line that that any guy could

ever get I’m sure my resentment was uh very palpable and so the early days were

were tough days and fun days but uh you know I’m glad to be at this stage in my

career now and hey ladies just call somebody to come in and fix it and let

your husband handle the bill when he gets back if he wants to be smart like that I mean that’s that’s the way I figured it

out calling him for those little issues I just called I do want to get more into the

history of your company because you said that you started it with the the grandparents so uh your husband’s Mom

and Dad correct yes but before that uh LinkedIn is finally working so we have a

bunch of people coming in welcome everybody hey guys good morning love this Powerhouse

Duo Dale says I’m in ladies Nikki automation ladies you guys there yesterday good morning uh we have Doris

hello from Boston uh LinkedIn user hello from Zimmer group in North Carolina I wish I was there right now because it’s

freezing here um relationships are crazy or cray cray

sometimes so power to you all um I love this you two are an awesome

team oh hey that’s Bridget we met her at A3 that’s awesome yeah hey Bridget Bridget hi thank you for joining us and

then uh Stephen said ah so you were like a middle child then she was she was

totally the middle child and then Justin said my internet is being a jerk but I’m here for now well

to see you Justin um so yeah let let’s talk about you know where the idea came

for flex line automation because you weren’t always into to automation correct like you started out as a

different type of company we started out we were farmers actually and my

father-in-law sold industrial filtration for a living so he’s always had always

had a manufacturing background um my husband was going to school I was going

to school we were just married we had just found out we were expecting Lauren and my husband had the opportunity to go

to work for the state of Illinois and I was super excited about him doing that because that would mean study income and

not farm income and and that kind of thing and my father-in-law come rolling in one day and he said you know I met

this engineer he called on SKF bearing plants and flexlink um one of our

largest conveyor Partners um was owned by flexlink at that time he says we’ve got this opportunity they are wanting to

get into the US market and they have absolutely no representation there’s no structure there’s no nothing and and he

was good friends with a gentleman by the name of Bud Lane um went on to to found

spantech and if the spantech ladies are listening heals um so our dads kind of

partnered up and spantech took over the import and distribution for flexlink

before flexlink ever had an office in the US and we became like sales reps for

them and so that’s how we got into the conveyor business and unfortunately my

father-in-law was like you know we should do this and I’m like but you know we’ve got he’s got a job lined up and

and we’ve got a baby coming and I really didn’t want to do this so we did it

and that was that was how that worked so I came into the business kind of reluctantly and I came into the business

just like doing all the things that the guys didn’t have time to do plus trying to take care of the farm and and all of

that stuff so that’s really where we started and in the 1987 uh buds company had developed the

uh conveyor system called designer system at that time and so he had chose to park company with flexlink L and so

we took over that distributorship or that um systems integrator position for flexlink so we’ve actually been a

flexlink integrator for longer than flexlink has been in the United States

so we’ve got a long history in conveyors but everybody thinks we’re just a

conveyor company and that is not true about 10 years ago we kind of realized that the market was changing and

conveyors were becoming more of a commodity item so it was like well you know what are we going to do to stay

relevant and so we got into Robotics and more into other systems integration and

started growing that direction and it turned out that you know things have

kind of gone that direction and it was a good decision to make at the time and you’re labeled as a woman-owned

business correct so when did that decision when did you make that decision

to get labeled that way well we’ve always been a woman run company even

when I was the one packing the boxes and all of that I’m just naturally bossy so

everybody’s like how’d you end up being the president well I mean it was just a natural place for me

to be um but we decided my husband and I

and Lauren were the shareholders now um since his parents have are since gone

and we decided to do some reallocation which put Lauren and I as majority owners of the

company and so my husband’s like well you know you’ve been running this this whole time we should be women-owned we

should take advantage of being woman-owned and so we’re working right now on finalizing our certification for

that and we’re super excited for that and I’m very grateful to my husband for

having the confidence in Lauren and I to sign his shares over to us you know and

and to trust us um so that was that’s been a relatively new and exciting turn

of events at flexline it has although I have to say I don’t know that uh it is entirely like not his 10-step plan to

retirement like I’m very suspicious I am too because he just

recently wrote a book that he is in the process of having published and so I go look in his office and I’ll be like well

will you work on this and I’ll go in there and he’s working on his books so I don’t think Lauren is necessarily wrong I think this may be his uh well hey it’s

yours now see you take care that’s hilarious well

Lauren I want to get back to you too so I mean that I know a lot of people in

manufacturing who’ve come from family-owned businesses and it is a different Dynamic than a you know non-f

familyowned businesses and I know some who really loved it and you know they

capped in right away into the business and there’s others where they were like I absolutely did not like it it was like

forced on me and I left but then some of them who it was forced on and left they

were like no I realized that that was like the best thing ever so I returned

and now I’m helping grow the business and all that stuff so I really want to know like what were

some of your passion before coming back to flex line and like

what was it I you mentioned that family was important and stuff but what was like that aha moment that deciding

factor for you where you were like no I’m going to go back to flex line and help run the business I think it was

while I was um so I went and I got my Master’s um I have an MBA from

Mississippi State University and while I was there it was one of those like you don’t really

realize how well you fit somewhere until you are you know six hours south and

suddenly you’re the Yankee and like oh oh things were not so bad in southern Illinois like you

know I have always I I love living on a farm I love the rural values um and

the one I mean the work that we do at flex line is pretty freaking cool I mean I have to that out loud but um you know

just the the entire area here I love living in a flyover State and I’m sure

everybody on either Coast would be like what in the heck is wrong with you I know several of my friends that have uh

moved away after you know high school and things like that they’re like why are you still there like you’re so smart

you’re so competent why would you stay in that area and it’s like you know if

everybody with any work ethic and dreams and vision

for small towns and Rural America leaves for big cities then small towns don’t

get the opportunity to grow and tourism and bringing things and educating people

about the history in the area and um so Chester Illinois is the home of papey uh

the Sailor and we were right across the river from the first capital of Illinois

that got washed away in a flood and I mean there’s all of these really cool little tidbits of history in this area

and I really enjoy sharing those with people and sharing you know just the

love of of everything here yeah I have to drive an hour to get to a mall but you know Amazon exists now so that’s not

nearly that it used to be um so yeah I mean she almost didn’t come back to work

I didn’t I mean it’s cold here but you know when she when she graduated

from Mississippi State she almost didn’t come back to flexline well that is true um and the

only reason that I wound up coming back was we got a really really big project

and they needed project management assistance with it and so um we had

actually it was a this giant system at the time um six identical sets of

Conveyor Systems each one consisting of about 25 different conveyors upper and lower and

it was a big pallet system and so I think overall they were like 80 feet long and almost like 30 feet wide with

uh pick and place robots and all of this on there and we had to rent a separate facility um a few Towns over to actually

have the manufacturing space for it and we turned out all six of those in I think four months yeah it was it was a

lot but it was it was uh a very crazy time and so I really in in that role

doing the project management and everything you know I got to kind of use my MBA a little bit like I think that

was probably the first and only time I’ve ever had to use a Gant chart um but

it also like I got a lot of project management experience and you took a totally different Direction with this

than what I thought you were going to take because actually I wasn’t gonna hire her no she was

pretty was you left and went to grad school you you’re dead to

me you deserve to come back you left us back against my better judgment her dad

um went ahead and rehired her and I have to say I am so glad that he did because Lauren is absolutely crushing it and I

could not be any more proud of her or having her in the business and you know

her dad and I both are are just super proud of Lauren and her husband Eric and

we we finally a see a you know a way

out Lauren’s gonna be next in line for the throne so um you know we’re we’re

just really glad that that worked out the way that it did so I have to say um to my husband honey if you’re watching

that was one of those times that you were right and I was wrong because I hate this is this is

getting recorded too well I hope you can go back and like put a sound effect over that or

something like you know pretend Cur I think that was kind of like cursing so I mean that’s how it felt when it rolled

out uh yeah I mean in my I I do appreciate that Mom but it is it does

I’m a very very much the Elder Millennial and my parents giving me compliments is so

weird like gota say you do have confidence

because that’s like that’s one of the things that I like I don’t ever talk about this but one of the things that I

look for when I go to trade shows is I look for the women of course because that’s my Niche and I look to see how

they act when they’re on the floor or if they’re walking around so what’s their body language how are they talking and I

was quite impressed with you laen like you just you are really confident you

know your stuff and that’s what I appreciate that’s what 38 years of experience gets you she should know her

stuff there’s still some women who have been in this industry a really long time and

they’re I feel like they’re hesitant to come out of their show because of the the history that we’ve had in this

industry but I I just admire women like both of you because you do Inspire other

women to come out of their show and you know say F off to impostor syndome like

what we don’t need to be talking about that anymore like we all need to be good with our skill set talk about it in a

confident way and some impostor syndrome some days because you know I I make some

decisions that I totally do not feel qualified in making I mean that runs

that that goes with running a small business and that’s always been the case you know sometimes I just have to wing

it so the impostor syndrome thing I can relate to that very much because I’ll even tell Lauren it’s like I just I

don’t even feel qualified to to make this decision and she’s just like well

you know do your best and so so um not going to lie I turn to prayer a lot and

and really try to have the humility to to try to do my highest sense of right even when I’m not for sure what that is

um so everybody else out there that that are running their own business you know if you’re out there making confident

decisions every time boy you need to contact me and show me how because this is 40 years and I’m still a little like

oh I don’t know I I think that’s the way you know that you’re growing though like if you

feel so confident all the time I think you’re not in a stage of growth but when you start feeling uneasy and

uncomfortable that’s like you’re you’re challenging yourself so I think it’s good to have it but I don’t think we

should call I think we should call it something else because it’s not that you lack the skill set it’s just a stage of

growth so I’m I’m trying to get rid of that

word it’s not like impostor syndrome it’s just like

something new I don’t know like yeah it’s entrepreneur syndrome

yes do that I like that better I do entrepreneur syndrome uh so Becca said

nice getting to know about you both in the business David’s tuning in from Lexington Kentucky thank you

David J call didn’t know you repped Flex link before that so been around a long

time Jake is always full of knowledge so I’m surprised that he learned something

today on the show huh well there we go that’s our new street cred we taught J call something

new like wow that we’ll make a meme about that I don’t know I mean we should

do something to commemorate you should do that that would be funny ah Becca’s for formally from Illinois now in

Tennessee I’m jealous of you Becca because Tennessee is like one of my favorite States and I want to move there

so bad uh we have Don 15 minutes till popy shout out world record in all

seriousness Chester is a great town with great people that is centrally

located oh it’s getting juicy yeah talking about the Popeye interesting thing um this is the home of Popeye this

is like we would have a large Festival every year and we did a live broadcast radio show for Popeye and believe it or

not and those of you that know me really well will probably find this more believable I was the voice of the sea

Haag in the popey live broadcast radio shows and Lauren uh was the voice of

sweet pee and a later granny popey

granny so yeah I mean got celebrities like in a very very

niche market still cool though like I want to

hear these now I W to do you have hey man there’s I’m sure there’s digital

copies out there there or um you know you can always uh contact poey theor and join the poey fan club and uh then have access to all of these uh

back backstage maybe b-roll footage I mean um I do the makeup with the green face the

whole thing and yeah and and my husband we actually built a Popeye motorcycle

bike back in the time when American Chopper was really really cool we decided we were going to do this parody

because if you guys haven’t realized it yet we have this insane sense of humor

and we’re like you know if we can’t be having fun at work why would we be doing it so so we did this Popeye bike and we

filmed it and I was Big Paul and he was little Paul and we built the bike and and did all of this so so he created a

Popeye bike it got a three-page spread in biker magazine we took it around to all of these bike shows and and so that

was really cool so so don we do have a very deep connection to popey that’s awesome so uh six degrees

of separation or Kevin Bacon whatever the heck they call it um two of my

proudest moments I actually met Paul Senior and Junior like it was like around the time

that they got into their fight and like separated and did thing so I worked with

a magazine called product design and development and Paul Senior did a bike

for Seaman so I did the cover story for that and met him there and then Paul junor did

another bike for a different company um it was like a something special about their battery or whatever it’s like a

Green version so I met him like a month or two later and that was a different cover story so we had two cover stories

with both calls on it and everybody was like what are they talk crap and I’m like no I wasn’t talking to them about

their relationship I didn’t care about that I wanted to know more information about their bike so we didn’t get a cover but we got a three-page spread in

biker magazine and we were quite proud to have that so it was pretty exciting times so how was it and I want to get

through some of these comments too so Becca said and you’re correct about people getting degrees and leaving small towns the term for this is brain drain

for anyone cures and then Stephen what is the praise from parents you speaking

of I feel like I know we haven’t known each other on LinkedIn that long but I feel like we’re

my friend I gotta say Dale Parker deciding is always the

right thing to do not deciding stops everything that’s true Jake laughing

about us talking about him and then Bridget so instead of conveyor cougar we need to call you SE Haag hey Bridget I

answer to both I mean you can just call me it’s dealer’s choice on that I’m gonna I you know you throw me a Sea Hag

and I’ll probably give you the cackle I mean not gonna lie so I think we should dive into that story a little bit

because for people who might not know you they might not know the story and I had a couple people reach out to me and

they’re like before I met you and they’re like hey do you know who the ca cougar is and I’m like what the hell are you talking about and like you haven’t

met Kathy and I’m like what like no who is the convey and they’re like how do

you feel about that name and I’m like I think it’s hilarious if she’s in manufacturing like that’s a great way to

start conversation so like that’s how I first found out about you because people

kept asking me if I knew who you were and I’m like well now I need to know who she is so how did you get that

nickname I’m a smart smart yeah Lauren

um we had aou with a a group of really young

engineers and I mean young engineers and and I I walk into her office and I’m

like when did I become the old lady in the room I mean just when did this happen why has nobody told me I’m now

the old lady and I’m like I feel like I’m in here trying to sell automation equipment to these babies I feel like

such a cougar and she laughs and and little smarty pants is like ha yeah Mom you’re a conveyor cougar and it was like

yaha moment oh my gosh but I am though and then it stuck and she hated it

because she had coined it and then my own damn fault like we had a Consulting

well they weren’t really a consulting company they were a marketing company that was doing some work for us and we were making all these cool videos and if

you guys haven’t seen R’s robot imporium where I dress up like my husband and do this like fake infomercial you need to

go out on YouTube and search it but anyway all of these were out on YouTube and they’re just like getting crickets

and and so they were like well you know you need to get on Tik Tok if you wna to get some attention to your videos and my

little Millennial down there just like not it and so here I am I am mind you

we’ve established the old lady in the room right I’m like well well heck okay

I’ll I’ll do some T Tik Tok so I went out and I found an 11-year-old show me how and um then I started cranking out

these Tik toks and then the added benefit was I got to see how much it

actually aggravated Lauren which was a bonus I mean all you moms out there you

know I’m talking that’s a bonus right there so yeah the conveyor cougar name

she tell them the ustc story I mean that was the first time she actually admitted

that maybe maybe there was something to it well and then you’re you shared

something before you get into that story you shared something on LinkedIn and I was laughing so hard because didn’t you

get like a package or something that said conveyor kitten on it or

something and I was like oh man like so absolutely love to call her that she

absolutely hates to be called that so definitely yes I keep trying to make myself like the automation armadillo

because like I just want to curl in a ball and have a protective shell and nobody talk to me but she has not let

that stick yet I have to say and it’s never gonna just saying you

are the she’s like I’m 38 years old I’m hardly a kitten I’m like well you’ll always be my kitten so but uh but yeah

we’re getting some name recognition and you’re right it is it is a little bit on

the borderline because every once in a while I’ll get a a super sketchy message in my inbox about being a cougar and I’m

like let me just back that off a little bit that’s not the kind of cougar I am

but first of all I want to thank you for thinking that I could be you know I mean thanks I guess yeah I mean you have to

have a pretty good sense of humor in this industry I think overall yes I

think I think that’s why I lot of people gravitate towards you as well too and you know a lot of I mean I’ve been

writing for this sector since 2008 and one of the biggest pet pees in m is

people are like oh well you should have to have thick skin in this industry and I’m like well no you should just be able to be who you want but then there’s a

lot of people now so I’m technically an elder Millennial um

represent I’m the youngest of six so all of my siblings except for one uh they’re

all Gen X so I have like Gen X Tendencies so like when people like in

my P parents kind of rais me old school too like you just don’t speak to your parents a certain way or they’re going

to smack you like that’s just what they did so I don’t get easily offended by

anything and it’s like I think if we can laugh at each other and joke about certain things it makes life easier and

like you said if you’re not having fun at work then what are you doing but um I

Lauren I want to know more too like was your husband always involved with flex sign or did that just kind of come along

with you guys get married and then you just pulled them in that way like how how did that whole situation happen um

yeah so we met online uh through Farmers Only

actually he hates it that I admit that out loud um but I think it’s freaking

hilarious so uh he lived about an hour and a half away but uh over over the

course of Our dating and everything he has a uh an engineering degree um in mechanical

engineering he’s done civil engineering through the air force um he’s got a master’s in explosives engineering and

that’s what attracted him to [Laughter] me um but he whenever he moved over here

and we got married and everything he decided uh that he was ready for a little bit of a change and so he really

jumped feet first into um he heads up our robots and Robotics

and and I mean he’s brilliant like absolutely brilliant he’s the kind of guy that just like gets on YouTube and

teaches himself anything and everything and I swear like we’ll be talking about something and it’ll be like oh yeah well

I learned that whenever I spent that summer as an electrician and like just all of these little tidbits and I’m like

were you like a spy or something like have these random skills and I don’t

really know where you got them but um so yeah it’s it’s really nice and he

and I over the course of Our dating and everything we built um several sheds

together we remodeled a house together we did all of this stuff that really kind of set us up and proved to us like

hey yeah we can work together and we actually enjoy working together which I know a lot of people are like oh I could

never work with my spouse and I really don’t understand that because like I mean yeah sometimes work follows

you home but it’s still so nice to have somebody at work that you know yeah

you’re back like sometimes it’s nice that work does follow you home sometimes you that comes in handy you’re like

Christmas and Thanksgiving Gatherings have to be really interesting conversation now now her uncle also

works here at the company and um my sister’s husband and my sister sometimes

comes in and helps out and also both my nieces interned here before they went on

to their careers so I mean we’ve really really taken on the family business a

full Full Tilt you know so what tips can you give other family businesses because

like how do you you can’t spend every waking moment with each other like you just can’t and

then the bad thing is like you have to know when to separate so that you’re not

at each other’s throats like this is just an assumption I’m making so like

yes early years were especially hard um you know especially starting the

business when you’re trying to hammer out like whose responsibilities were going to be who and you know our uh

employees would kind of do like kids do to their parents oh Mom said no I’ll go

and ask Dad and then Dad would say yes and then Mom would get really bent out of shape and and all of those things and

so um you know I know I’ve posted before that that it would almost come to blows

because we were both very passionate to that and um so finally one day we just

like wrote all of the the things down and Drew these circles like this giant

Vin diagram and we decided you know who was going to have authority over what areas and then there was just a small

sliver that you know there was some overlap but you know the thing was well you make a decision in your circle I it

doesn’t matter if I agree with it or disagree with it I have to respect it because it’s in your circle so once we

came up with the circles a lot of the discourse you know

stopped and we were able to have a more respectful relationship and then you

know the other thing that Seasons that is age now at this point you know I’m still really passionate about what I do

but I’m a lot more patient than I was at that at that time and so you know the

the whole I cannot talk about it during a meal now and before I probably

couldn’t but now I can sit back and have other interests and do other things and I found a way to add balance but even in

a small of company as we have I mean sometimes Lauren and I don’t even see

each other all the day you know um her husband works over we have three

facilities here locally her husband works over at building too so you know

it’s not like we’re on top of each other my husband is is on his way to Iowa today so he’s he’s out of town and so we

we don’t see each other as much as one would probably think um even as small as we are there’s

there’s quite a bit of a space that we give one another so then with your farm do you

consider that additional work or is that like the place for you to go and get

away from work because that had to be a hard decision too because starting your own business and then running a farm

which is a business in itself as well too like how are you able to balance all of that out and do both I grew up on a

farm and um we yes it is work especially when it’s

like uh 14 degrees today and I’ve got to make sure that the cows still have water

and that the waters for the horses are working because as I said my husband’s on the way to Iowa so you know it’s it’s

going to be my baby if if something is froze up or you know we had to move hay

and so Lauren has grown up with it and so when she started her Farm I think it

was and I don’t want to to to put it in you own your own Farm too yes we have separate we have separate Farms

yes yes yeah Eric and I rais grass-fed beef you know on the

side that’s cool if you do you sell it privately or do you sell it um we at

this point sell just just by like the quarter half and Hole uh privately and then I mean we ship uh calves to other

people that want to finish out grass-fed beef for um more

commercial Fed so probably be connecting with both

of you after this because my dad is a huge fan of like buying from smaller

farms and stuff and uh so my daughter’s roommate one of her roommates uh lives on a farm and every my daughter comes

home she’ll drive out an hour just to go hang out with her because she loves hanging out with the cows and stuff but

they’re they’re beef cattle so uh my when we moved her in this last time my

dad had like a full-fledged conversation with her roommate and all of a sudden she’s selling

him beef and I’m like you know your dad should probably hire you as one of your

salespeople like no problem and she’s like I do it all the time when he doesn’t give me commission or

anything that’s hilarious well I could not imagine not living on a farm though

I I mean as much work as it is I could not imagine you know Lauren was heav

heavily in 4 as a kid and you know we had horses and and they were doing fun shows when everybody else was worried

about where their teenagers were I didn’t have to worry because Lauren and all her friends were hanging out in our

horse barn you know and and we were hauling them to fun shows and we were doing all of the things

and so I have to say I wouldn’t have wanted to raise a child anywhere other

than a farm because you I mean you just learn so much and she’s so independent

and so competent and a lot of that comes from the fact that when you’re on a farm

you have to have Ingenuity you know I mean I’m I’m gonna be by myself this weekend I’m gonna have to have some

Ingenuity if something breaks down I have to be able to fix it and fortunately for me I was was the

youngest of two girls my dad was a girl dad my sister was raised as the girl um

because he was I guess in hopes that the second child would be a boy and then I came along and I wasn’t and so he was like well heck I got to make the best

out of this right and so I got to be the The Boy Child and fortunately he taught

me how to rebuild tractors and work on equipment and do all the things you know on a farm and that has helped me be in

this business because I am not afraid to pick up a wrench I’m not afraid to jump

in and and do what has to be done mechanically I mean hey I’m not just a pretty face that sits here at my desk

and make tick TOS all day long you know sometimes I’m out running Airline and I’m doing whatever needs to be done here

and Lauren’s the same way you know I mean she’s very competent in in the mechanical end of things because of the

fact that you know that’s what we have just grown up doing and

and building and fixing and that just all is second nature at this point so

then what would your insights be your your advice because right now you know we’re hearing a lot about Workforce

Development and the struggles that some companies are doing like having trying to find Talent walk through the doors

like what are some of the things you guys are talking about within your own communities to really make manufacturing

like fun and popular among the next Generations uh one of the things that I know Jay

call since he’s listening and he focuses on a lot of the generational differences when he goes and talks and he’s just

like this is you know how the baby boomers are this is how John X is this is how the Millennials are he’s not

wrong not at all there’s there’s some big differences right and like Jen Z

like the one that my daughter is from highly annoying but I love them like but

uh you know they they are the true digital native are always on some sort of Technology with which I think is ADV

advantageous for us here in manufacturing because that’s where we’re going right like everything’s so high te now um so what are some of the things

you’re doing within your own Community to really get people excited about manufacturing especially younger girls

because that’s my Niche and I want to talk about it so and you two are ladies and you’re rocking it out so you share

about that um we like to have kids visit us a lot you know we’ve had some stem

classes come and we always like pull the girls aside and be like hey you know

don’t my my dad told me you can be whatever you want to be you can do whatever you want to do and when I grew

up your choices were teacher nurse Homemaker secretary you know that’s what

my guidance counselors pushed me towards um that’s not the case anymore I think

kids really have this tremendous opportunity that people in my generation

and I’m right in the I I could step one foot as a boomer and one foot as an exer

I am right on the cusp and so um I get Jake’s generational stuff and I see it

in our own business but I’m so proud that Lauren is trying to develop a robotics club with a local school and

I’ll let her tell you about that yeah well I mean I was kind of inspired right

so we’ve had uh a few programming clubs and different things come in but they

were from like 45 minutes an hour away and they would come in for a day of uh

just playing with our robot demos the guys would set up workstations for them and everything and it was really really

cool to see it I’m like oh my God you know we need to do this locally and um so I’ve been doing some Outreach with

local schools and then one of them just before the Christmas holiday was like

yep we’re going to do it and I’m like oh crap I’m gonna have to figure out exactly like how to do this so if

anybody has any resources for um you know starting a high school level

programming club or even like a grade school I mean I’m open to uh trying to figure out and kind of get a curriculum

together because I think there’s a lot of people and teachers that are interested in it and it’s just like they

have no idea where to start and I can understand that because I know I have a lot of resources through like A3 and

pmmi and things like that that I don’t even know how to use well let alone someone who isn’t in this industry and

doesn’t even know that these resources exist and so one of the things that I is kind of one of my goals for this year is

to try to pull everything together into

a I don’t know if curriculum is the right word but like just a group of resources like hey if your school is

interested in starting something this is a these are some ideas here you know

reach have you reached out to first I looked into it after you

suggested that and I that we don’t have anything close to us locally I mean we

are really located in the middle of nowhere we’re about yeah 60 miles

Southeast of St Louis so we’re nowhere near Chicago we are way at the other end of the state and there’s not a lot of

resources here and there’s there’s we’re right in a rural area and um so we are

definitely going to gonna look into first more and see what we can find if we can get something even started with

that here locally um we’re just really finding that talking with

people and you know like your podcast Nikki’s automation ladies Ally all all

of you guys are doing such a great job and we try to share that across all of the other platforms and even though you

know we I don’t have any kids in the family that are are at that point you

have friends that do or I have friends that have grandkids and so we try to share as much as we can and our doors

are always open if you’re rolling through Chester Illinois stop in and see us we’d love to give you a tour bring

the kiddos we would love to let them play with the robots you know I mean robots are not it’s it’s a little

intimidating and my little smarty in marketing down there she’s she’s super smart we’re we’re at the trade show in

Vegas smartass I’m I’m a progr ing the robot and meanwhile she’s videoing and

she’s sending out the Snapchat oh look it’s so easy even the company president can do it so you know that could be the

new that could be the new campaign that you are you’re welcome robotics is uh

you know so easy even the company president can do it so trying to get that out there that you

know don’t be intimidated stop and play with it you know I mean well absolutely

robots they’d have them doing things we never even imagined they could do and whenever we’ve taken like the UR uh

we’ve done a few demos at local schools and things and Eric even took it he was on his way to a customer and he stopped

in um our nieces and nephew live about six hours away and he stopped in at his

sister’s house with the robot and like took it in and set it up on the dining room table and had the niblings over

there programming this Ur to do different applications in like 15 minutes I I it’s so so simple and part

of um so I give a I’ve been asked to do another presentation on technology

updates um by from imech which is an organization here in Illinois and I’m

going to be presenting at the OSHA safety con um actually in about two

weeks on different technology advancements but one of the things that I hit on with that is that collaborative

whenever it comes to a robot to me doesn’t doesn’t just mean like oh hey yeah it’s going to stop if it hits you

it’s actually the ease of use and the ease of programming and the way that

technology is moving all of these types of automation are becoming more and more

intuitive and especially for younger generations and these younger Generations are really GNA want to work

with stuff like that because it’s cool who wouldn’t want to work with a robot right like

um and especially if it’s intuitive for them right well and any little kid I’m

sorry like if you tell them not to touch something they want to touch it right but if you like put them in a robot in

front of them I mean I see kids all the time because they have stem robots and stuff available on Amazon and even my

boys are like this the thing moves and they’re like I want to move with it and I want to touch it and I want to figure

out how to play with it and program it and stuff so I I think we need to change

the way how we’re exposing kids to some of these stem initiatives because their

curiosity is at the peak when they’re younger and their imagination is just

firing firing firing firing and that’s the best way to get some of the newest

Innovations is but allowing them to keep tapping into their imagination i’ love to see a robot in every kindergarten

class you know that’s a great place to put them you know that’s when kids really have that idea yeah there’s got

to be some way to do it I just you know why aren’t we doing it now but um I know

there’s like a lot of challenges and policies and legislation and funding and all that stuff that we got to figure out

on a community by Community basis so right and I think that a lot of that should be on integrators and

manufacturers I mean historically we as an industry don’t really do a good job

of selling ourselves to Consumers because you know what we’re businesses to business so why why why would we you

know find ourselves in those locations but really we’ve got to work to change

the the mindset of what a manufacturing job looks like and what automation is um

in that conversation that we had with Nikki we talked a little bit about getting off the plane and headed to the

A3 Forum earlier this week and as soon as the taxi driver found out where we

were going and what we were doing he was like oh well robots just take jobs and I was like oh my God this again I’ve been

on a plane all day and you’re gonna tell me this you know because there’s still

that big misconception and I think as an industry we’ve just kind of let it let

it be there we haven’t really taken to the streets and to the schools and been

like hey let’s provide some education let’s provide some opportunities let’s talk

about what advancements in automation actually mean for Community because you

know all of us hey yeah we’re all like yeah we’re gonna use chat GPT to write a term paper or do research but

yet you start talking AI with relationship to work related things

we’re like oh my God I don’t want to I don’t want to have Automation in my factory as like but you’ve got Automation in the palm of your hand with

your phone and with his intuitive as that is and drawing those parallels um I

think would be a really good place to start I’ll bring it back to farming you know when we plant our crops before we

plant our crops we have to spend a considerable amount of resources in fertilizing and those of you fellow

Farmers out there you know the cost of fertilizer is is just crazy high but if

we don’t make that investment in putting nutrients back into the soil

then our crops are are going to suffer and I think that’s where we are in

automation we haven’t put sufficient resources back into the soil to grow

these next Generations of workers and and it is expensive it it’s expensive

not only monetarily it’s expensive in as far as time it’s expensive in in just

all of these ways but we haven’t fertilized and so we have nobody to

blame for the crop that we have but ourselves you know because if you don’t

put the the sufficient nutrients back in you you aren’t going to get anything out

of it so you know I I use a lot of farm analogies because there is a lot of

crossover and that’s one way you just have to look at it you have to look at it like you know I’m I’m fertilizing I’m

I’m trying to put some nutrients back into the soil so that my next crop flourishes and that’s where we need to

be yeah Justin just said he L that analogy and then Dale said where people get the misconception a lot of robots

are to increase safety and bake jobs easier so folks can do other things to help a business girl and that’s that’s

the point that I wanted to make like we’re doing all these mundan tasks that

actually over a long period of Time end up hurting people because they’re repeating tasks and when you’re focused

life is important you know right and when you’re focusing on that one thing you’re limiting brain to think about

other things that it could be thinking about so when you free people up from those tasks it’s allowing them to kind

of open up their mind a little bit and do something else that could be more meaningful and more valuable to them and

that’s well I’m almost 60 years old and I haven’t always taken the best care of myself living on a farm you know I mean

I didn’t always practice all of the ergonomic practices I did a lot of the

repetitive stuff the dull dirty dangerous things and I can tell you at

this stage in my life I mean I have a issues with a knee I I mean you’re the

human body can’t take the abuse long term so we need robots we need to give

people a better quality of life you know I I at trade shows spend the whole day

um breaking down boxes you know and that’s like eight hours of of that task

and by the time the day is over I am shot you know we want to give people a better work experience than that and I

know we talked with Nikki about the fact that one of the problems that we have as in an industry is we sell and we’re out

there we sell to the engineer and and we get the purchase order and then and then the sale stops and it really shouldn’t

because we need to sell the people in the plants we need to sell the people that are going to be benefiting from the

automation we need to continue the sale way past the the point of the order and

we really need to get their Buy in because you know there’s going to be nobody better at attracting more people

in manufacturing than people that are already in manufacturing so if we put

our money where our mouth is and we make their jobs great and we give them some

of that benefit they’re going to be out there promoting people to come into our industry and they’re going to do it with

a lot more credibility than we could ever dream to right good point it is a

really good point well we’re almost on time so I do want to go over these last couple of comments because some of them

are funny uh Jake knew about the cougar I thought you would know and then H Justin said rex robot

and Dale never old my friend just not as young as we used to be I like that I

really like that um Farmers Only no fing yeah oh we have stories about that Jake

tell hit us next time you see us we’ve got some Farmers Only stories oh boy yes do I have yes you guys could

be yeah as long as you to come here because Justin we used 100 pounds of

tanerite to blow out a u a little issue we had in a creek so yeah that explosive

engineering comes in very handy on a farm you know so we did that for a

gender reveal for my son Ronan oh boy we uh so my former husband he was a

veteran and he we my sister-in-law wanted to do a gender reveal and I’m

like why I don’t know how to do one of those because it’s like never was interested in doing them and I don’t so

then my former husband’s like can I shoot a gun at explosives and I’m like I

don’t care if we he did he took his a rifle and shot

at a container and it blew up blue smoke it was one of the coolest and her husband lit a Unity cannon at their

wedding you know most people do the unity candle I mean one thing about us folks we’re about as Redneck as it gets

I don’t know I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but we have all of the the midwestern values the

rural Ingenuity all of the things we have them in Spades so do you have the giant ass uh bonfires yeah we do I gotta

come visit y’all you do you do heck yeah we have a flamethrower if you guys haven’t seen our Flame thrower video I

mean we did a lot of videos with the flamethrower I’ll have you know that was a farm expense because I use it a lot on

the farm that I saw a video on Tik Tok where somebody was cleaning their driveway

off the possibilities are really really endless you have to get the backpack attachment for that otherwise you just

don’t you burn through through the the fuel really I think it’s only got like 15 seconds of fuel if you don’t have the

backpack yeah it’s not worth it without the backpack so get the backpack for sure sure um and then Stephen wanted to

pricing for your your cows and then twice you were just on Farmers Only

and woke up a few laters with no recol that’s about how it went Don then

we have H Phil hi he and then Justin Kathy I love that

analogy so much oh I shared that one before sorry and then I did that one and then Dale projects always succeed when

the plant FL is part of the project so true well this this is has been fun and we’re a little over and I don’t care

that’s fine thanks for having us you know appreciate it we never short on

stories or funny uh things to talk about for sure I I can’t wait to see you guys

in person again and maybe go out for drinks but I do want to ask you one final question because uh I feel like

it’s important that we have an ask for our audience because like you mentioned before it’s up to us to promote our

industry and really get people excited about it and want to come join um the workforce with us so if you had one ask

ask for our audience today what would your biggest ask be for them well I’m gonna say I would like to give you like

um you know the When Miss America and they ask that and I say something like World Peace but I’m I’m not gonna give

you the Miss America answer I’m GNA be like my big ask is hey why aren’t you doing some more business with flexline automation I mean come on we should be

working together vendors um you know we why aren’t we collaborating why AR why

aren’t we doing projects together so that’s my ask Lord do you have a different one or pretty much well I mean

I I can’t really top that I guess

piece not gonna go world peace I I guess if anybody has any resources for how to

start a programming robotics Club please reach out to me because that is uh on my

my radar and um if anybody sees any really cool applications saying like hey

this is a a way that automation is advancing safety apparently I uh present on that fairly frequently now so I’m

always looking for resources awesome I think Courtney Fernandez is part of the women in

robotics group too so maybe reach out to them and see if they have some way to do

robotic I know first has resources because um I’m still trying to start one

here in the community that I’m in and gosh politics just irritate the out

of me because it’s all the legislation and policy stuff and how much funding the school can get versus how much they

can’t it’s just comp complicating the whole process and I’m over it uh so yeah

but uh for the people you want to work with you how can they get a hold of you and what’s the best way to contact you I

would just go to our website uh www.f flexline and there is a

contact us form on the page or um otherwise reach out to us on LinkedIn that’s always a good way to get a hold

of us um yeah if you’re not already followers um follow us I’m sure you’ll

regret it but for for the time being follow it we’ll have some fun content

you know give us a call 618 82658 um call after ours you’re going to

get our cell phone numbers because we’re very like into customer service so and

if you see us somewhere stop us and say hello if I don’t recognize you don’t take it personally it’s because I’ve

reached that stage of almost senility and so I don’t always

remember wear her glasses even though she needs her glasses and then she’ll like come up and be like who was that I

couldn’t read They’re on your shirt ju just wear them but fact factual what’s the next

trade show you’re going to be at um the next trade show we will be at mod we are

going to be at modex we’re going to be coex with uh customer virus smart Carton

and I believe a1019 um and then the next one after

that that we’ll be out will be at automate of course so yeah after that

awesome well if you’re GNA be at any of those shows make sure you guys stop by them because you’re not going to regret

meeting them in person lot of fun they’re a lot of fun to hang out with so well thank you Lauren and Cathy I

appreciate you too so much for having us Megan we appreciate it everybody that

watched thank you y well I hope everyone has a great weekend and yeah I am hoping

to have a pre-recording next week for a new episode of maven’s manufacturing but stay safe stay warm and I’ll talk to you

guys soon bye all right thank you this episode of Maven and

Manufacturing has been sponsored by Z Inc Solutions Z in Solutions this is

isn’t your grandmother’s copywriting service we provide copywriting and copy editing services that provide impactful

text and memorable storytelling for a variety of Brands and Industries contact us today at Zin that’s z-s

Flex-Line Automation on Mavens of Manufacturing

Meaghan Ziemba sits down with Cathy Rinne and Lauren Van De Mark of Flex-Line Automation. We’re going to talk about Flex-Line, family-owned businesses, and find out what a conveyor cougar is.



For almost four decades, this family-owned and operated company has been crafting unique and custom-designed automation solutions for clients across the nation. With their solid Midwestern values, out-of-the-box thinking, and a true knack for having fun, they strive to set the standard for producing top-quality solutions as well as top-of-the-line customer service.

From conveyor belts to robotics and custom-designed products, they take pride in providing only the best in service to their clients. Join us as we travel to Chester, Illinois, and meet Flex-line Automation.

Cathy Rinne: “Flex-line Automation is a third-generation family business. We specialize in integration. We bring together different components from various vendor partners and create custom automated solutions for manufacturers of all sizes.”

Rhett Rinne: “We work in various industries, anything from automotive to food to pharmaceutical to personal care products, and we just try to bring one solution from one industry may work for another industry.”

Lauren (Rinne) Van De Mark: “At Flex-line Automation, we’re an integrator, so there’s not a lot that we don’t do, but we started out with conveyor systems, primarily tabletop conveyors, but over the years, we’ve added in different types of conveyors, like belt conveyors, roller conveyors, drag chain conveyors, slack conveyors, and heavy-duty conveyors. As our customers have needed other solutions, we’e also added in a variety of feeding equipment like centrifugal feeders, pre feeders, scallop feeders, and robotic feeders.”

“We’ve also added a full line of industrial robotic solutions as well as collaborative robotic solutions. We provide pallet elevators and lowerators, as well as AGVs (Autonomous Guided Vehicles) and AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) to interface with those pallet stackers and destackers, and just about everything else, and we can provide that as spare parts or complete integrated systems.”

Cathy Rinne: “Well, at Flex-line, we really like all of our customers to feel like they’re their only customer. We like to give personalized and customized service regardless of the industry they’re in.”

Rhett Rinne: “We try to go above and beyond anything the customer expects. There was a time when a company had a line down, and their supplier wasn’t responding to them, and so what we did was chartered a plane, flew a gearbox out a couple of states away just to get them running, and they weren’t even our customer at the time. So, we just try to go above and beyond any expectations.”

Jeremy Smith: “Flex-line is one of the best automation third-party resources that we use at IMEC. They do a fantastic job of getting small to medium-sized manufacturers up to speed with automation and look forward to recommending them in the future.”

Cathy Rinne: “We are one of the world’s greatest because we bring rural values like tenacity, ingenuity, and our work ethic to work with us everyday.”

Flex-Line Automation Featured on World’s Greatest TV

AS SEEN ON TRANSCRIPT: For almost four decades, this family-owned and operated company has been crafting unique and custom-designed automation solutions for clients across the nation. With their solid Midwestern values, out-of-the-box thinking, and a true knack for having fun, they strive to set the standard for producing top-quality solutions as well as top-of-the-line customer […]



Manufacturing is woven into the structure of the American economy. For generations, the strength of our nation has rested on the power of our factory floors, both the machines and the men and women who worked them. Here in the 21st century, manufacturing stands on the threshold of a major transformation. The number of women in manufacturing and automation steadily increased between 2010 and 2020, and those numbers are still on the rise. As the nature of these jobs evolves into using more tech and automation, it’s important to encourage more women to pursue careers in this exciting and rapidly growing field.

Lauren (Rinne) Van De Mark: “There are so many opportunities available for women in manufacturing and automation today. I see so many more women at trade shows and on sales calls in a variety of positions than I did even 10 years ago. So it is so nice now to see women in engineering doing the design and programming of robotic systems and conveyor systems and entire plant layouts, and also in the maintenance department, heading up maintenance teams and really being involved in every part of the process.”

“I think the number of women in manufacturing has grown in the last decade, primarily because as a culture we have made a big push to stop telling women that all we can be are nurses or teachers or secretaries. There’s also been a push for STEM education, especially towards women, which has been really helpful. And social media, too, has been immensely valuable in giving girls and young women the idea that they can do these jobs and an idea of what the jobs are.”

Established in 1983 and headquartered in Chester, Illinois, Flex-line Automation is a women-owned, multi-generational family business on the front line of the automation industry, creating quality equipment, custom-built to serve you.

Cathy Rinne: “Flex-line Automation was born in our family’s farm shop in a bay literally right next to our combine. It has been our mission to bring our strong farm work ethic and rural values like ingenuity and tenacity to our automation business. And while our success has definitely been a team effort, Lauren and I have a special connection to Flex-line as a family business. They’ve grown up together, and I feel like I gave birth to both of them.”

Women-led in a male-dominated field, Flex-line offers the best-tested solutions and the most innovative designs to create a unique product for every customer.

Lauren (Rinne) Van De Mark: “You really wouldn’t think to find a woman-owned and women-led company doing what we do here in a flyover state in rural Illinois, but the ingenuity and the service, which are a part of the culture here, have been instrumental in us being as successful as we have been.”

“You know, whenever I was in high school, I didn’t ever see myself doing this. If you would have asked me then, I would have told you that I did not want to come back home after college, and work at Flex-line. And I would have never dreamt that I would love it as much as I do now. Whenver I was in high school and I was choosing a career path, STEM and STEAM wasn’t really pushed. That has changed so much since then,

“If I had to give any advice to a young woman wanting to study STEM and pursue a career in manufacturing and automation, the best thing that I could say is to not get in your own head and don’t think that just because you are interested in this field that you have to be an engineer and that you have to do the four-year degree pathway to success in this industry. Because there are so many different ways to be involved in the manufacturing and automation industry, and they don’t all require an engineering degree. Really, the only limits that we have as far as career advancement in this industry are the ones that we put on ourselves.”

From design and engineering to assembly, installation, and maintenance, Flex-line’s knowledgeable staff has the experience, ingenuity, and proven track record to help you accomplish great things.

Jeremy Smith: “The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, or IMEC, is a non-for-profit organization that has the mission of keeping manufacturing competitve in the state of Illinois. Flex-line Automation is one of what we refer to as a third-party resource. Those third-party resources provide a trusted avenue for us to refer to small- to medium-sized manufacturers. To say, ‘We know this is a challenge in your operation. We know and have vetted a group of people that can help support you, and Flex-line Automation is one of those organizations that has our complete trust.'”

Pat Thomas: “I have been working with Flex-line Automation off and on for the past 10 to 15 years through multiple different companies. I have used their self-driving forklifts, their mover bots, a lot of their conveyors, and other armed robots. Flex-line simplifies a lot of the process of getting automation set up in to your industry. They take the process of taking menial tasks or complex tasks and automating them quite quickly.”

Cathy Rinne: “Manufacturing is constantly changing and evolving, so we are in a continual state of metamorphosis, and we’re really dedicated to being the best partners we can be for our customers. And to do that, we will continue to collaborate with other industry leaders so we can bring really solid solutions to whatever challenges our customers might face.”

Lauren (Rinne) Van De Mark: “If there was one other thing that I could say to women and girls who were interested in getting into this industry, it would be to go for it. Because this is an incredibly interesting industry to work in. There’s a lot of change, there’s a lot of growth, and we need your insight and your innovation now more than ever before.”

The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves. This is the industrial automation company to turn to for state-of-the-art, cutting-edge gear that will serve you for years and years. We don’t sell conveyors, we sell solutions. Learn more today about Flex-line Automation: Innovate, Integrate, Automate.

Flex-Line Automation, Inc. talks Women in Manufacturing with Dennis Quaid

AS SEEN ON TRANSCRIPT: Manufacturing is woven into the structure of the American economy. For generations, the strength of our nation has rested on the power of our factory floors, both the machines and the men and women who worked them. Here in the 21st century, manufacturing stands on the threshold of a major transformation. […]