“My background in lean manufacturing equips me with the “out-of-the-box thinking” that it takes to design intuitive, custom solutions. I’m able to see things that a lot of other people miss.”
Putting Years of Manufacturing Assembly Experience to Work by Providing Unique Material Handling Solutions
Material Handling Specialist Steve Roper recently joined the Advanced Equipment Company (AEC) team and brings with him decades of experience in industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, and material handling problem solving.
After years at both the Robert Bosch Corporation and Boeing, Roper accepted AEC President Darin Boik’s invitation to be a part of the AEC Family.
Though he’s been busy learning the ropes, we managed to borrow a few minutes of Steve’s time to talk about his past experience, starting with the company during a pandemic, and what he brings to the table for AEC’s clients.
You have a unique history and connection to AEC. Tell us about that.
I was at Robert Bosch Corporation for 23 years as an operator, mechanic, and industrial engineer – and that’s where I met Darin Boik. We’ve been friends ever since, and it’s been 20, almost 25 years now.
Back then, I had an opportunity to go to Boeing as a manufacturing engineer and project engineer. About a year ago, Darin contacted me saying AEC was looking for someone in Charleston to represent the southern portion of South Carolina and my name came to mind.
I was happy with my current position, but then the pandemic erupted and my focus shifted. I called up Darin and expressed my interest, so that was my ‘open door’ to AEC. It was a very timely opportunity.
You started out at AEC during a pandemic. Has that been a challenge?
I honestly don’t think there’s been a lot of difference in the way that business is conducted. I represent 15 counties in South Carolina, so I work out of my house and still visit customers on site, like usual.
The only difference now is that I’m careful about practicing social distancing and wearing a mask.
As a new guy coming in, how would you describe the AEC culture?
It’s a pretty tight family group. The last visit in to the office provided me some time to meet with a handful of the team – with the pandemic a lot of people were out of the office. The rest of the team have reached out to me on their own.
The entire team has made me feel very welcomed, and they continue to offer their assistance and generous support. I truly feel fortunate to be working with such a great group of people!
How does your experience make you a good fit for AEC?
I have hands-on experience in manufacturing assembly. At Bosch I basically owned assembly lines, and I was able to reduce headcount and throughput time, improve hand-eye coordination, and make other workstation improvements. Using a predetermined time-study analysis, I ensured parts were closer to the operator which reduces throughput or cycle time.
Due to my extensive background in manufacturing, when a customer shows me an operator station and says, “how can we make this more efficient?” it just clicks. I go through the same process with every workstation.
What has been the best part about working for AEC?
Working directly with my customer partners is what I enjoy most. To solve their problems with the best and most efficient process is definitely what I look forward to – every time. I get a lot of satisfaction from hearing my customers say “I never thought of it that way, I think that will work.”
My background in lean manufacturing equips me with the “out-of-the-box thinking” that it takes to design intuitive, custom solutions. I’m able to see things that a lot of other people may miss so I offer the insight needed for creative problem solving.
What do you feel is most important when building partnerships with your clients?
It’s not about the sale.
I was visiting my client’s facility a couple of weeks ago to survey their operator stations and I asked how the operators retrieved their parts. They turned and pointed to a pallet.
The operators were loading their own parts into a tote which they transported to their workstation. Regarding efficient productivity, there’s always better technology and emerging processes that will increase productivity.
So I suggested a solution, which they had never heard of before, that involved reorganizing their workstation with a more efficient process to retrieve parts.
Though it didn’t benefit AEC, it benefitted my client. Whether we make a sale or not, we’re in the business of developing long-term partnerships, and that means going the extra mile to help out our customers.
When you’re taking a break from creative problem solving at AEC, how do you like to spend your time?
For the most part, I like working on my yard. I get a lot of satisfaction from standing back at the end of the day and looking at what I’ve accomplished – just feels good. Around the house, I have a few home improvement projects that keep me busy. My wife, Kim, always has projects for me to do! In my spare time, I enjoy playing golf and have teamed up with a couple of golf leagues.
Family is very important to me. My Son, Grant, just graduated last year from USC and has returned home to start his career, so we get together often for golf and dinner. I also like to hang out with my wife. Her family lives close, so we spend a lot of time with them. I have two elderly parents that I get together with often and do a lot of running for too.
Any last thoughts about joining the AEC Family?
Just that I’m very happy working at AEC. I’m excited about the future and what we can accomplish.
The AEC family is taking good care of me, so I’m happy as a lark right now and can’t wait to see what’s in store for us as we advance into 2021.
Advanced Equipment Company has had a unique history of successful, continuous growth with more than six decades in our industry—and that success starts with a strong partnership with you, our customer.
Through the years, we have evolved into a respected top resource for systems automation, conveyor, storage, and other material handling solutions and integration. For help finding a solution that fits your application, call AEC today at 704-527-3141.