Case Study: Utility Trailer Manufacturing

Summary: 8.5+ year engagement over 30 total projects (2013-2022)

The Challenge

Utility Trailer Manufacturing, then a 99-year-old company, had been searching for the right leadership development program for its production leaders for several years. Then, in the summer of 2013, an incident between a supervisor and subordinate at one of their plants became the impetus to engage Catalyzer. The identified challenge, moving unprepared individuals into supervisory roles without adequate training, was not only prevalent across Utility’s plants, but has proven to be a common thread across the manufacturing industry.

The Goal

Utility Manufacturing sought to train a professional cadre of production-focused, front-line leaders, not only to improve its performance but also to protect its brand.

The Solution

Utility Trailer Manufacturing engaged Catalyzer in the fall of 2013 to develop a trial leadership program at their plant in Enterprise, Alabama. That program was aimed at two cohorts, the first of which included more senior leaders who had not yet had benefit of such training, and a second that focused on developing rising supervisors, which would enable Enterprise to expand its bench. The overwhelming success of that effort resulted in Catalyzer building and delivering leadership academies at every plant, plus the R&D facility, across Utility, improving retention at a time when production was strained to keep up.

The Results

Catalyzer’s efforts ultimately enabled Utility to build and implement a front-line leadership framework, one that both enabled that level of leadership, but established an expectation for the company moving forward. The now famous “wedding cake” of leadership competencies became the standard for rising leader identification, development and promotion. Skills acquired via Catalyzer’s programs steadied the workforce, reducing absenteeism and turnover, at a time when manufacturing backlog was rocketing. Long-term impacts are still evident, almost a decade later, in the approach and vocabulary used by leaders in the organization. Utility’s Chairman and CEO, Paul Bennett, called Catalyzer’s work “the most important retooling effort ever undertaken by the organization.”

The Feedback

“Their enthusiasm and genuineness they possess for leadership training, combined with their ability to connect with anyone in the room regardless of educational background or experience level was an early highlight.”

“Once I saw that the energy level and commitment to engage participants remained just as high in an evening session as it had been with a group earlier in the day, I knew we had found a great group of professionals to put in front of our supervisors and management.”

“I’ve been part of many, many attempts to bring professional leadership training to Utility’s plant supervisory personnel. Catalyzer was, without a doubt, the most effective and committed group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They allowed us to get to know them as people and they, in turn, were genuinely interested in getting to know our people as well. They exceeded all my expectations of what they would do for our people.”

“Top notch professionals and top-notch people. They bring everything from impressive educations and work experience, to possessing a great work ethic for what they do. Yet they never seem to ‘talk over’ anyone in the room. That is to me their greatest talent across Catalyzer I’ve seen in action.”

“Catalyzer’s work here has raised the level of professionalism and confidence in so many of our supervisors. Their work here with our supervisors and managers has served to make them feel valued and appreciated. Knowing Utility places so much value on them as leaders, I would definitely seek out Catalyzer to help us be the best we can be.”

“If you want your leadership to have every opportunity to fully learn what it means to be leaders and see what it means to be professionals at what they do, you would be wise to invest in the best leadership training and trainers you can get. Catalyzer brings to bear a tremendous amount of competencies and experiences, while maintaining the wonderful ability to put everyone participating at ease. This allows participants to truly open up and learn.”

“If Utility has the financial resources to continue an ongoing partnership with Catalyzer, why in the world would we not want to continue to enhance a great relationship for the benefit of our current and future leaders?”

What Came Next

Facing unprecedented production demands, Utility managed to stabilize their leadership and teams. Catalyzer’s success in Alabama, for which Utility credits Catalyzer’s unique ability to embed itself into the culture, resulted in an exponential expansion of its efforts. Catalyzer delivered another 29 programs/initiatives to Utility’s four other domestic production facilities (Virginia, Arkansas, and Utah), to their newer international production facility (Piedras Negras, Mexico), to their R&D facility (California), and to the corporate headquarters (California) over the next eight years. In the end, Catalyzer was privileged to deliver 131 separate programs for over 4,500 manufacturing leaders throughout Utility.

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