Steve Brenneman

Steve Brenneman has a big idea. Actually as the owner of Aluminum Trailer Co. (ATC) in Nappanee, Ind., and an emerging civic leader in the region, he has more than one, but let’s focus on the one that’s bigger, more pie-in-the-sky than the rest.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune, he would like the community to solve one big problem. His singular focus comes out of how he operates his business. Brenneman is one of the few in the South Bend-Elkhart Region who has gone all-in on lean manufacturing. ATC has a new plant designed after years of focusing on eliminating waste.

Business owners are often involved in shaping the future of a community. Those who make money and create jobs are asked to serve on boards and wield influence. Brenneman’s idea arises out of that type of work, but more out of how he runs his business.

In many companies and organizations, strategy is focused on a few ideas each year. It could be pricing, supply chain or even management methods. But eventually any new ideas are relegated to a scrap pile and get no attention until maybe next year, he said.

When you start to focus on eliminating waste, you start to see all of it and want to get rid of it all, he said. You can end up talking about problems 60% of the time rather than focusing on solutions.

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