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Manufacturing insights

New CEO at Sudbury manufacturer anticipates strong 2019

July 10, 2018
Photo | Courtesy
Photo | Courtesy
Jerry Rex, President and CEO of Sudbury-based Methods Machine Tools.

Jerry Rex, formerly the president of Sudbury-based Methods Machine Tools, has taken on the additional role of CEO, the company announced last week. In an interview with WBJ Tuesday, Rex talks about his long manufacturing career and what he sees for the future of the 60-year-old company in today's manufacturing climate.

How long have you been with the company?

Just a little over two years, and that's an interesting story. The bottom line is, when the previous president and CEO was deciding he wanted to begin an exit strategy and plan his retirement, he spoke to me multiple times over the years. I didn't really have any interest in moving, especially to New England. All I ever heard was about the traffic, expenses and crazy drivers. Bryon Deysher, the former president and CEO, said, "Listen, I'm getting ready to retire, and you're the perfect guy to take my place." I met with the owners and board of directors, and I joined May 2, 2016 as the chief operating officer. I was then made president in April 2017.

What exactly does the company make?

We actually import and sell CNC machine tools and automation. We add options to them and resell them.

So, you manufacture machines to manufacture products?

We resell them along with applying them. Say you need to make a brake component, an aerospace part or dental implant. We pick out the right machine, select tooling, develop processes for them and apply it to the machine so they are making parts at the end of the day.

My short elevator thing: If it's not born, hatched or grown, then it's manufactured.

How is this company different from others you've been with?

One of the differentiators is we are the actual importer. We buy machines directly from company that builds and manufactures them. We sell though our own direct offices at eight locations in the U.S. We have more than 60 application engineers and more than 80 service technicians. A lot of manufacturers with subsidiaries in the U.S. don't have the number of people to support that. We buy direct, provide support, keep spare parts and provide training. Where we don't have direct offices, we sell through exclusive distributors.

Another thing we do is manufacture and install many options and accessories here. We have full automation capability in our Sudbury headquarters, Michigan office and Charlotte facility.

Some manufacturers have said this brewing trade war and tariffs are straining their funds. What has been the effect at Methods?

The majority of the import tariffs have to do with China. So far, that has not impacted us much. Where we do think there may be some impact is potentially with Canada. We do sell throughout North America, including Canada and Mexico.

How difficult is it to retain talent in an industry with a declining workforce with financial issues to worry about?

We're very busy right now. 2018 has been a strong year, and indicators suggest it should be strong well into 2019. That doesn't mean that won't change or can't change, but we're still pretty bullish on the manufacturing economy. We're busy enough right now that it is difficult now to find people when we need to fill positions. We work hard on retention and making sure we provide solid benefits and opportunities for growth. We just embarked on some new educational and training development.

What does that program include?

So far, we've had two two-day sessions on how to be an effective leader. You can be a leader no matter what your title is if you lead by example and your work ethic. We're trying to have everybody have the understanding of what those around you are dealing with and how to be better in handling those situations, and how to improve communications and priorities. We also have surveys to find out what kind of training or growth opportunities people would like

It's the company's 60th anniversary this year. What does it mean to join such a long-running business?

It was an opportunity for me to take the experience and relationships I've developed over 40 years in the industry and apply them in a way that would let me finish my career in a very strong way and help make a difference to an already strong company.

The values, ethics and goals of this organization very much align with mine, and I'm trying to bring my desire, love of and experience with technology and people to help take us to the next level.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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