Carl Beckwith, 44
Senior vice president of global operations, Dana Inc.
Big break: Being selected early in his career as a plant manager for a factory in Sweden
When Carl Beckwith arrived in Sweden to run a door panel plant for Lear Corp., two product launches were about to start, and there were serious problems with both of them.
But he was young, unmarried and could fully commit himself to the job, he said.
“I was a fresh-faced kid,” said Beckwith, now 44 and senior vice president of global operations for Dana Inc. “The customer was there and looked at me like, ‘You’re here to solve this? A young kid from America?’
“I politely told them that I understand we’re in a bad situation, but let me gather the team and we’ll get back with you,” Beckwith said.
Some tough customer meetings followed. But in the end, he recalls, “one of my proudest moments was that the customer actually sent me a signed book thanking me for my time there.”
The lessons he learned in Sweden have been invaluable to his career. And even the gesture of the signed book made an impression.
“Getting acknowledgment from the customer about doing a good job is something that says, ‘Hey, is your compass right in life? Are you trying to do the right things? And do you understand the business?’?” Beckwith said. “Because if you’re always trying to make sure that the customer is satisfied, you’ll find a way to be successful.”
Beckwith, a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, went to Tower Automotive before spending more than a decade at International Automotive Components.
He joined Dana last year and now leads the supplier’s manufacturing operations across the globe.
As Dana has diversified its product offerings and implements an electrification strategy, its manufacturing processes will also evolve under its Industry 4.0 initiative.
“We have some very advanced manufacturing facilities, but we’re defining what the factory of the future will be at Dana,” he said. “We have a strategy for our plants that will take us to the best of the best in the auto industry.
“A lot of people look at manufacturing as old school, and not as cool as Google, Amazon and those type of things,” he said. “But what we’re starting to do with technology is very exciting.”
— Jack Walsworth