In this very special, on-location episode of Manufacturing Live, SOLIDWORKS Manufacturing expert Mike Buchli sits down with David Wallace, CNC Manager at Speedway Motors, in Lincoln, Nebraska, to talk about the ways in which their organization approaches design, testing, prototyping and production, all while running America’s Oldest Speedshop online! The interview takes place directly on the shop floor, in the middle of all the action of the plant.
After discussing the type of work Speedway Motors gets, Mike gets right into questions about Speedway’s processes by asking about the ways the company tackles prototyping and testing in an industry where performance is paramount. David talks about the ways Speedway works to balance the priorities of its customers in terms of specific product performance features and functionality, when determining the right way to go about testing its products to maximize satisfaction.
Mike then asks David about Speedway becoming the “Amazon of auto parts” and the ways they’ve developed processes to quickly and efficiently serve their customers. Without giving too much away, David talks about the Speedway Motors strategy in this area.
David then goes into specific parts that Speedway Motors has developed to illustrate the ways in which they are able to quickly react to customer demand.
We then shift gears (no pun intended) to the issue of data-driven decision-making at the shop. Mike asks David about the ways Speedway Motors leverages data to make manufacturing decisions. David explains that the company operates similar to a job shop, but they’re differentiated from such in that the destinations for all their parts are going to internal departments.
Mike takes some questions from the audience, which actually includes one about the rate at which design changes within the industry and the ways in which Speedway Motors is able to adapt. Dave talks about the way his teams all work together to accomplish goals allows them the collaboration needed in order to continually refine their designs and processes in order to keep up with these design iterations coming out of the industry.
Then Mike decides to ask David about the internal comradery and value of ideas that Speedway Motors fosters within the organization. “As a company, we have a lot of very smart and intelligent people everywhere…It’s a group effort of engineering and the QC department, the guys on the floor running the machines, the guys that program…” He also talks about how employees have multi-disciplinary talents that they bring to their roles at Speedway, and the company is a better place for it.
Mike then starts to talk about company culture and asks David about the ways the company has fostered their collective culture to make Speedway Motors a great place to work. He talks about how Nebraska has an extremely low unemployment rate, and David responds with his philosophy on continuing education and overall employee satisfaction – in an effort to promote retention – which has helped the company grow over the years. He also discusses the importance of having an appealing shop to help attract new talent. A great deal of effort was spent researching what makes a shop grab a potential applicant’s attention in order to continually maintain a funnel of incoming employees.
Throughout the episode, Mike calls out some questions from the episode chat. Here, he asks David projects he’s the most proud of that Speedway Motors worked to complete. Dave talks about an older project from 10+ years ago that went from paper to completed bellhousing project over the course of about seven days. This involved lasering parts, machining, and more.
Manufacturing and technology are discussed next when Mike asks David if he sees manufacturing as particularly high-tech industry. With a certain level of nuance, David talks about how the field itself is very high-tech, but many people within the industry refuse to adapt and upgrade their process and way of thinking about manufacturing in order to keep up.
Mike then goes into multitasking on the shop floor and asks David how that affects operations at Speedway Motors. Wallace talk about the fact that they don’t typically have the amount of manpower that they’d ideally want, so having employees jump around from one machine/process to another has proven crucial to keeping parts moving and orders going out the door to their customers. At one point he states, “the employees are the smartest part of the equation.”
After taking a few more questions from the audience (ie. “What manufacturing processes does Speedway currently NOT do that you’d really LOVE to add to your capabilities?”), Mike shifts the conversation over to product testing and asks about using racecar drivers for product testing. David goes into the overall product testing philosophy at Speedway and discusses the ways their R&D team craves and seeks out feedback from the professionals to help ensure product satisfaction in an industry whose customers are VERY particular about performance.
You can watch the entire Manufacturing Live episode below.