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Industry Spotlight: Michelin Business Unit Leader

May 11, 2017

Michelin: Providing Purpose-Driven Careers 

Since opening its first South Carolina manufacturing facilities in 1975, international tire maker Michelin has been touching lives and creating career opportunities in the Upstate.
Today, more than 8,520 people are employed by Michelin in South Carolina – at the company’s North American headquarters located alongside Interstate 85 in Greenville, at its research facility near the Donaldson Center and at the production facilities in the state.
Michelin is a mobility company that designs, manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, farm equipment, heavy duty trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles, as well as publishing travel-related guides and maps.  
At Michelin, the Company puts people first – its own employees and the people who use its product and services.  It is guided by its core values and its Purpose: “We care about giving people a better way forward.”
The Company’s Purpose is carried out by its employees – demonstrated as these three company employees – each from a different area of the business, with varying experiences – reflect on their roles:

Ben Pickens

Business Unit Leader (BUL), Michelin Plant US 2 in Sandy Springs, Anderson County 
Years of service with your company: Six years 
Education: Before Michelin, I was a firefighter and in EMS; I always worked in the emergency field. I was used to helping people, having a direct impact on people’s lives. 

Growing up, I wanted to be a firefighter – I’m still a volunteer firefighter now – but Michelin gives me the chance to help people and be more financially stable. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.
Tell me some about the work that you do: I started off as an operator working on the production floor, I did that for four years and went through the ranks and then into salaried job as a flow manager.
As a flow manager, you are responsible for coordinating the entire plant’s day to day activities. I did that for a year, and now I’m in the business unit leader role, where I’m responsible for an actual shop and the employees in that shop, overseeing about 40 people. 
A typical day usually starts at 6 a.m., going through and looking at production numbers for the previous day. Every morning, I go through and talk to the employees working third shift who are about to get off and see how their night was – see how their families are doing, if there’s anything they need to talk about one-on-one. 
During the day, I go to meetings for production, employee engagement, that type of stuff. So the work varies on a day-to-day basis. I’m on my feet some, sometimes at the computer, and doing a lot of talking with people. 
The biggest portion of my day is talking to employees; seeing if there’s something you want to talk about that maybe doesn’t have to do with work, or maybe a new idea that does have to do with work – right now, I’m helping other managers out with employee communication.
The employees handle all of the machinery and equipment, I just make sure they have the tools they need to perform their job. 

What skills are most important to your job?: Employee communication is the #1 thing. If employees don’t feel like you have that connection where you care about them outside of work, they’re not going to come to work and perform at their best. It’s about getting to know them at a personal level – knowing about their children, asking about their hiking trips over the weekend, just getting on the same level as them. 
What is your favorite thing about your job?: Helping people out, and connecting with them. When I was working at the fire department, it was easy to connect with people because I was helping them out in life or death situations a lot of times. 
So when I came here starting off as an operator, I didn’t really see what I was doing to make a difference – ‘What am I really doing to help people by running this machine?’
But Michelin gives you the opportunity to advance, and becoming a manager lets me interact with people more. Now I’m in a position where I’m walking the whole plant, interacting with employees on a day-to-day basis – you can still connect and have an impact on their lives. 
So my purpose is being able to make a difference in somebody’s life, just by being that listening ear. 
A child tells you they want to follow in your footsteps when they grow up. What advice do you give them?: Just be passionate about what you’re doing. When you find something that you’re actually passionate about, that’s when you’re really making a difference. 
Is your company engaged in the community?: I’m heading up the United Way campaign for my facility this year, and we just finished up with March of Dimes and had our walk last week, so that was a big success for us. We also have a couple of schools that are close to our facility that we volunteer. I’m also a volunteer firefighter, still, and I’ve been doing that for 10 years. 

For more insights from Michelin employees, see: 


TOPICS: Existing Industry, Manufacturing