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Connecting the Value Stream

Whirlpool VP Dale Laws feels clarity of purpose is essential for M4.0 leaders.

Q: What is your role and focus at your company?
I am Vice President of Manufacturing Operations for Whirlpool Corporation’s North American Laundry and Dishwasher facilities. We’re the world’s leading major home appliance company with 14 manufacturing operations in the North American Region (NAR). My focus is delivering our goals and objectives at four of our manufacturing operations and actively supporting the execution of our broader strategy across the NAR manufacturing enterprise.

Q: What is the most pressing issue facing the manufacturing industry today?
It’s an exciting time in manufacturing. We’re seeing advances in automation and robotics that are making these technologies more cost effective. Sensors, computing power and software advances are making true connectivity possible. All of these are coming together to allow us to produce and operate in new and creative ways. The issue is that the talent and skills to integrate these and other technologies into our operations, maintain them, and use the data to best advantage, is in very limited supply. I believe this will be a challenge for many years to come.

Q: What is the most important corporate initiative?
From a manufacturing perspective, our primary objective is to deliver our Manufacturing 2020 Strategy. This is globally aligned and the focus of all of our manufacturing operations around the world. It consists of six focused work streams ranging from infrastructure changes, to leveraging technology, i.e., Industry 4.0.

Q: What will be the most important leadership qualities to possess in the future?
Clarity of purpose. I may be a little old school with this one, but I consider some leadership traits to be fundamental and timeless. The pace of change continues to accelerate and does play a role in how I think about leadership. However, to me, this acceleration of change means that clarity of purpose is more important than ever. True alignment means questions can be answered faster at all levels of the organization. It can also be very engaging, motivating, and freeing for your team. They don’t have to wonder where we are going, or what success looks like, if you’ve clearly defined it for them.

Q: What will be the greatest opportunities for manufacturers over the next five years?
It’s Industry 4.0 and the connected factory. Most manufacturers are working diligently to understand how to leverage technology to drive additional value. However, we are still just scratching the surface. We are still early in our journey. What happens next? Perhaps, it’s the connected value stream. I believe the closer we get these connections to the customer, the more opportunity and value there will be.

Q: What is your favorite activity outside of work or the last book you read?
I tend to gravitate to those that involve things that are motorized, such as dirt bikes, cars, and flying powered paragliders.

Dale Laws

Company: Whirlpool Corporation
Location: Benton Harbor, MI
Size: $21 Billion annual revenues; 92,000 employees
Industry: Home appliances
Website: http://

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