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[Music]

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

man.com 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 automation.com 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

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