Maria Garcia, the new Paragon kiln plant manager. Maria is a lean manufacturing specialist.
Maria Garcia is the new plant manager at the Paragon Industries, LP kiln factory in Mesquite, Texas. She spent her first week at Paragon studying the new Global Shop ERP system that the company is currently installing and will begin using next January. Maria Garcia then worked for two weeks with the previous plant manager, David Vives, during a transition period.
Maria is a specialist in lean manufacturing (the art of eliminating waste) and 5S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain). She led lean operations at two large factories before coming to Paragon. “I have come to Paragon because I love being part of a growing company, and I love a new challenge,” she said.
“Manufacturing is all I’ve ever done,” Maria added. “I fell in love with manufacturing when I was 18 years old working as a seamstress at Levi Strauss in Plainview, Texas.” She loves the people who work in manufacturing. She likes to see them succeed and meet their goals.
Maria believes in Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership. “If you want to be a leader, you first have to know how to follow,” she said. “Leaders are not held above everyone else. We are here to help others. We put ourselves at the bottom of the pyramid and the factory employees at the top.”
“I’m pleased that Maria is here,” said Todd Lokash, president of Paragon. Todd and Maria previously worked together in other manufacturing operations. “She walked in the door understanding my vision and has the ability to quickly implement the desired process improvements and cultural changes to the entire operation. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her back on my team.”
Maria is working closely with assistant plant manager Mariana Flores. “In the short time I’ve been here, I have already learned a lot from Mariana about the kiln factory,” said Maria. Mariana has worked at Paragon for 19 years and started out wiring kiln switch boxes.
As her first factory project, Maria set up a kiln production schedule. The employees estimated the time needed to complete each task. The production capacity is turning out to be much higher than the employees thought. “I am amazed at the success of our first schedule. Lead times are getting shorter,” said Maria.
The new scheduling system is encouraging communication throughout the factory, because the departments are working closely to keep up with the schedule. “This is a bonding experience,” said Maria. “Getting employees to talk to each other is strengthening a culture of teamwork and cooperation. Communication is very big in lean manufacturing. Some of the employees fought the scheduling a little, and I welcomed that, because it gave us the opportunity to discuss it. The schedule is the roadmap of the week.”
Cross training will be implemented throughout the kiln factory. “Cross training is a motivational tool,” explained Maria, “because a highly cross-trained employee receives higher wages. This also adds variety to the work day.”
Maria’s biggest fulfillment is in seeing people grow. “I get really excited about all this,” she said. At Paragon, the factory department leaders are coming out of shells, getting involved, and giving her feedback. “I tell employees that I don’t want anyone to go anywhere, but if you do, you will know lean. Knowing how to practically implement it is invaluable.”
The simpler lean is, the better. “You’re never there,” she said. “You are never finished. There is continuous improvement. You never arrive.”
Maria loves to read. When she is waiting for someone in an office, she reads the titles on book shelves. She has read all of Stephen King’s books. She likes mysteries, crime TV shows, and legal dramas. After she retires she wants to write an autobiography.
Maria Garcia (left), new Paragon kiln plant manager, and Mariana Flores, assistant plant manager. They are standing next to one of the kiln assembly lines.
Seated, foreground: Todd Lokash, president of Paragon Industries, L.P. Center: Maria Garcia, new Paragon kiln plant manager. Standing: Mariana Flores, assistant plant manager.