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BMW – Go Get One

As a Port Ambassador for the State of South Carolina, I was invited to go to Greer, SC with the other Port Ambassador’s to visit our state’s Inland Port and the BMW manufacturing plant.  Yes, South Carolina has a port in Greer, SC – they also have one in Dillion, SC. These ports are ingenious creations to connect parts of the state with the port in Charleston.  They are basically Cargo drop off and pick up points with a rail connection to allow for quicker transport to Charleston.  An amazing fact about the inland port of Greer, SC for you.  Last year they shipped over 100,000 containers by rail to Charleston – that  means 100,000 less trucks on the Interstate.  This helps reduce wear and congestion on the road, it is faster, and better for the environment.

Almost every product now a days is packaged in a 20 TEU (short container) if it is a heavy product or a 40 TEU (normal container).  Therefore, the need for those massive cranes you will see in the Charleston skyline.  Those Cranes costs about $10,000,000.00 each, but the Port of Charleston has used those cranes to become the 6th ranked Port in the country.  It is one of the biggest ports on the East Coast and an economic juggernaut for the state of SC.  There is no other water port in SC that can support the draft depth needed or has the infrastructure necessary for the future of container transport, so instead of clinging to “the way things were,” the decision to reform with the way things are and move inland to assists their customers.  This move has propelled the South Carolina Port Authority near the top of the nation’s port system.

This move illustrates 3 core principles to running a business:

1. Give your customers what they need to succeed.  This may be literal, or simply giving them the customer service they need.  Either way, simply relying on the way things were (or “should be”) is self focused, not customer focused.

2. Do what others don’t.  Going to two rather rural destinations for a Port may sound nuts but it is that creative thought that spurred so many unrealized benefits.  Take risks and take a shot.  You might fail, but you may also succeed.

3. You need relationships.  Those people who call it the “Good ole boy system,” are the people that don’t have the relationships they need to be successful.  Through hard work you and your business must create and nurture relationships, so when you need help you have it.  The Port had to do that with Norfolk Southern and BMW, because without them this Greer Port would just be a parking lot.

Talking about BMW, we were able to tour their 1.2 million square foot manufacturing facility where they can make a car in 32 hrs and made over 300,000 cars last year.  An amazing place and very secure environment – cell phones off, no pictures, walk in a straight line – I am glad I was released.  But those rules and other ideas they have put in place have really proven them to be part of the cream of the manufacturing industry.

I was able to speak with the Director of the BMW facility and also our tour guide about what makes BMW Greenville successful from a management and employee perspective:

1. Team Work.  Everyone works in teams and relies on their team, they also trust that their team members are doing their job properly, so that they can do theirs.  They do their job and don’t over reach into another team members work.

2.The Team members feel respected.  The management gives them breaks, good benefits, and good pay.  They feel respected and this leads to only a 3% overturn annually.  That is a lot of people when you look at having 8,000 employees, but very small in an industrial field.

3. Keep the work space clean and organized.  The tour guide said that this helps led to efficiency and safety, but most strikingly comfort.  She stated that it is nice to walk in to a clean space with light and no clutter.

4. The importance of cross-training, shifts, and breaks.  The employees at BMW work four, two hours shifts with breaks in between. Each two hours they shift locations.  For the employee that means they have four breaks too mentally recover and prepare for the upcoming shift.  For the management, that means they have a team that is efficient in what they do and are cross trained in four different skills.  That way if someone does leave position, they can fill the vacancy immediately in house.

5.  Managers help, they don’t do.  The team has a rope they literally pull if they need help from the manager.  Beyond that the managers job is to supervise and train – they do not do.  There is no micromanaging.  Just like the teams themselves, the manager trusts his team and in turn the team trusts the manager to be there when needed.

What an amazing learning experience from two SC industries that have really helped set the tone for the economic force South Carolina has become.  Thank you for the opportunity to learn and hopefully apply these skills to make Goldfinch Winslow Law Firm the X factor for our clients and team members.

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