Mercury – an inside view. Interview with Pat McKee
We have built a plant in China, providing a process from zero cycle to maintenance of our high-quality and latest products from scratch and it took 18 months. And you can’t imagine what it takes to build a plant from scratch and to gain from the street completely random people and to train them a work which is completely unfamiliar to the, but we have done it and the factory works!
Quite similarly, we built a new factory in Japan …
Boating Industry (BI): You evaluate the resignation and departure from work as a positive development, and are not going to come back in any other capacity, and only time will tell what you would like to do more?
Pat Mackey (Mercury President) PM: I walked away from work and come back to it if I do not know. I do not think so. My wife is convinced that there is a very strong likelihood that I will go back to work, and believes that the account goes on week. However, I have no such confidence. Although I did not say I have something like circumvent the intent around the world under sail, from 1 May, for which I would need at least 2 years, or even something like this.
It seems to me that we need to change the style and pace of life.
BI: Earlier, you said that, coming to the Mercury, were going to stay here for 4-5 years, but eventually worked seven. What was the reason, and whether you can specify, which is why you stayed with the company, these additional two years?
PM: As you can see, like the majority of people taking up a new business, we say to ourselves, “This thing will take me two, three or four years,” and I discussed, analyzing the state of affairs in the company.
Well, with the advent of the “Mercury”, the time just flew by: My God, when I ran for four years, it seemed to me that it all started yesterday. Mercury was in turmoil, and it’s really exciting. Every day brought something new. But as soon as you do it with something new, immediately it appeared something else that should do immediately, so I was like the man in the fairy tale that only does that solve the problems caused by the decision of the solution.
But once you step aside and say to yourself, “How long can this continue for?” That’s my wife once told me, “And what will you then do?”
Now we are in the final step of creating my line of outboard motors, which can be still not quite finished, but has come a long way. I see that we have done a hell of a lot of work.
Is it possible to make even any significant improvement? You see, in this case, it would take another three years, no less. And take my classes sterndrive: released “Aksius” released “Zeus”, released plenty of other equipment and all almost simultaneously reached the highest level of development. And certainly there is someone like me, who want to improve and perfect, because it is such a person.
These seven years, in fact in my life have flown by like a flash.
BI: Why did you go to work in the “Mercury”, because until you’ve already retired?
PM: Oh, yes, I knocked out his first pension. Most of my life I devoted to the chemical industry and to the other of his life, I met Dusty McCoy. In those same years, George Buckley moved to leadership roles in the production in “Brunswick”, he came to the post of Executive Director, and then they need a president for the company “Mercury”. That Dusty and called me and asked if I’m interested in this work, and it took several months before my candidacy was proposed.
Following this invitation, I began to ask about the company and gradually understood what “Mercury” is engaged. Gradually, I got the impression that this is really new and interesting work, and I’m probably too early retired, because in this new reality so much fun!
In general, Dusty was right. In fact, the adrenalin was enough. So I came back out of retirement to take the case, simply because it seemed to me interesting and I enjoyed every minute of it devoted.
BI: Do you know anything about small shipbuilding, when they decided to go and, if not, how quickly you managed to get into the swing of things?
PM: I absolutely knew nothing about this industry. I am a mechanical engineer by training, but has since been a long time. So it was quite new to me. So, what I had to do, it was quite unlike what he knew and could.
But I had experience general manager, and I understand the production process and production processes. I understand people relationship system of production and consumption. So that was part of a new business acquaintance I work, though different on purpose, but it is very much in the general organization of these businesses.
Processes are obviously very different, and, in truth, much more entertaining than in a chemical plant. This nice product and they bring joy to people.
If we talk about the difficulties, it seems to me that the first year or two I just soaked up information like a sponge and tried to formulate itself, what it represents, the industry and its products, these engines, these consumers, global distribution, and so on. It was really hard work, but again, it was also a learning process.
I have studied a small shipbuilding and industry recognized me, and I’m not sure who proved harder than I or them.
BI: What do you miss working in Mercury and to work in the industry as a whole?
PM: I really miss working in the industry, because I was now vodnomotornikom, which was not there before. So maybe it will help me to brighten up your stay at the pension. Perhaps because of this, and I have retired, but if you look back, I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m getting old grouch. I hope not. I do not consider myself a guru in a small shipbuilding, or in general anything.
I really miss the mass of different people, more than about anything else. The staff of our customers, whether it is our dealers or wholesalers – are very important to me. I am filled with the deepest respect for all of them. Well, even if not to all of them, the vast majority of them. I think it’s a really talented people. Our dealer network consists mainly of small family businesses, and I met with the heads and members of their families, but it’s worth it.
Then, if you take a little closer to home, I really do not have enough people from Mercury and from Brunswick, especially those from Mercury, here I was surrounded by people who are rooting for the work which they have done. They like their job, among them high-class professionals. I enjoyed socializing with people happily engaged in intellectual work, and so on.
I believe that now it is possible to ask about what I was doing.
BI: If we look back, in the most general terms, what you are proud of done what most remember?
PM: Well, I do not have time to experience. It is interesting that I was fired, but I looked at the pictures of new products the company was happy as a child with a gift in the New Year’s morning.
However, if you think about the achievements, we have created many products that have shaped the face of the 21st century, including this outboard motors and electronic control systems are our electromechanical actuators, our family of four-stroke engines and a series of engines with direct injection, and, of course, all interfaces “Merkruzer” sterndrive “Zeus” and “Aksius” – Lever steering and navigation GPS, and much in the same way.
This is a major milestone, and I think that some of these technological innovations have become, and will continue to convert all small shipbuilding. I think our product line, “Zeus”, as well as a series of articles “Aksius” attracted to the small navigation many new people. Around this small shipping about boats in general we had a lot of heated debate. And if it ever was, I recall the past, I always say, “Do I know had a chance to work together with people who come up with all this equipment,” and I feel this sense of immense pride.
We have built from scratch a plant in China, providing a zero cycle to build the best quality of our products and the latest, which took 18 months. And you can not imagine what it takes to build a plant from scratch and gain from the street completely random people and train them completely unfamiliar to them the culture of work, but we did it and the factory works!
Quite similarly, we built a new factory in Japan. Such is the globalization of our business, spread on a global scale, “Mercury” and “Merkruzer ‘names, and related brands products, fill me with genuine pride. I’m pretty sure that people from the “Mercury Marine” are able to quickly and accurately perform all that they will reflect.
BI: Working in Mercury, you have proved to be a real expert to establish idea of the company as a source of new developments. Do you put in front of the goal originally, and how you managed to achieve this?
PM: Yes, it was in my plans right from the start, though maybe not the first day, but definitely at a very early stage of the work, when it became clear the state of the company. I thought then that Mercury has historically always advanced in technology, should be such to continue, although at one time the honorable gown slipped off her shoulders.
So we decided that we need to bring new products to market. They must submit the market to work, rather than experimental. It must be of high quality, durable, modern and stylish. To do this, we needed to build a very consistent all the work in the company, to the creation of new products to put on stream.
Looking back now, I see it as if many years have passed. We have created a very tough circuit the process of developing new products. We attracted people from around the world to improve our design and engineering capabilities. We have introduced modern industrial technology. We tied all our design and engineering information technology with production and technology.
After we joined the free in their designs of designers with a very disciplined and highly sophisticated production workers in the business, made possible the great achievements. And they come to pass.
That’s it, the degree of change was phenomenal, and, looking back, I sometimes even inclined to believe in their ability. We have created, now it seems to me that there were a number 49, completely new outboards in about 40 months. This is unheard of achievement, and yet, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard the comments of these motors.
Well, let’s look at the system “Merkruzer” that have not changed 30 years, and have acquired resistance to seawater, most models are equipped with a digital speed control and gear change, and we have identified a group of independent feed drive “Aksius”. Whether we develop sterndrive “Zeus” series, as well as all the electronics, which ensures their work.
My friend, sometimes the inability to believe is determined only by our limited knowledge. It happened, when our experts in materials science have created a whole new generation of boat propellers, which will now rule over seas, as once shod in rubber tire surpassed horse forever. All these innovations, we have created over the past two years.
It was shaped coup, and it was a fantastic time.
BI: One day, when you first came in the door, you may have had with them a list of things you want to do, and what was your first order for the company that was your highest goal when you started to work with Mercury?
PM: I remember clearly the first day and almost every one of the first hundred days in the company, because all the time I was on the road and visited our customers in all parts of the world, in almost all. I have visited Asia, traveled in South America, of course, traveled to North America and traveled to Europe, I was talking to dealers, consumers and collectors, I talked to everyone who I thought could help me understand what is happening now.
The first thing I started talking (to Mercury), where it could not speak, I began to talk about the quality of our products, product quality, which is delivered to the client. I visited all the company’s production capacity to stand in the face of almost every employee who has at least some influence on the result, and tell him or her, “Our products are so much better, as only they can be the best, because we offer people pay a lot of money for our products, which often cost more than the car. They have a right to expect compensation.
And now let’s look at the warranty and its size, and count the number of phone calls for repairs, which generally is incalculable, and we have to respond to incoming calls. All this can be avoided, if we go to the quality assurance standards such as ISO 9000, which is what we had to do. And we did it in 18 months reorganizing the activities of almost seven thousand people on a wide variety of plants. We were the first, and I think only one of the shipbuilding companies, fully certified for compliance with the ISO standard.
This was my foundation, and then I started doing the security staff in the production, because the human factor in our business means a lot. They may not like me to be in an ivory tower. Therefore, security issues, we decided to take strict control.
And then you get into the special world of the quality philosophy of the “Six Sigma method,” which begins to live by its own rules of quality assurance, and I have always been convinced that the quality management system should be established at each plant, and it requires constant improvement. And not, as some plans events for the month: one month to engage in price, another month to engage in customer service, and then a month to engage in something else.
I used to see Mercury Marine as a whole system, so everyone in the company needs to work on the system.
BI: Can you tell us a bit more about the method of “Six Sigma”, how important it is for us, and that gave it to you personally?
PM: Wow! I can tell the four weeks of the “Six Sigma” method. In short, this devil of a job.
When I talk about method, I am referring to the method of “Six Sigma” and I always mean just that, and not, as some people say, of “General Electric” for example, that they comply with the “Six Sigma” and others – that they are guided by the production methods, whereas I have always said that we will follow the method of “six Sigma.” But the methodical part of this approach relates to the scheme of process anything, and is aimed at the elimination of losses. I have always said: “Nothing is more ineffective than to do what it is not necessary to engage in the first place.”
So let’s eliminate all the losses. And we have made technological maps of all the products and started to rectify them according to the principle of the method. With regard to the production of “Six Sigma” refers to the elimination of all possible uncertainties in any cause-and-effect relationships, regardless of whether it is the physical size and physical characteristics, or time, or a text document, or anything at all whatsoever. These uncertainties as inconstancy of quality, should be eliminated.
And after everything is set on methods and eliminated all the reasons why the quality of impermanence, you can peer in a good deal of your hands and then be able to go to another level. If you are in the affairs of chaos, you do not have a reference point from which you can start the countdown towards this success, because you are not to rely on.
You can not upgrade fast, if you do not know definitely where to start. And this may sound very childish, but the world is not so many people who take up a new business with determination and enthusiasm.
So we got one part of the equation. The next part will give you a method of “three sigma” as an opportunity to involve in the production process of all the thoughts and all the skills of almost all the company’s employees.
Remember the old joke specialist personnel management system – “sometimes I want to be on the watch checked also the brains of employees.” Well, I will most likely do not want this, and I wish that employees bring with them to work their creativity, their energy and desire to participate in the changes. And only if they could be involved in the process of improvement, when it will change their position. You can not expect the desire for change from the people involved in day-to-day routine matter.
But if you will reduce enthusiastic people in the community and give them the freedom to create, to great results coming will not keep.
In this form the “Six Sigma” method has now become part of the announced strategic mission, “Mercury Marine.” I do not think this phenomenon is transient, it has already taken root in the company.
BI: Was it difficult to bring it to a point, beyond which the return will not be if people around you quickly take your approach and methods for change in the company?
PM: We’re talking about the process of development. Can not you just throw the light switch, and to think that someone would buy this! As I said, we started with the production certification for compliance with ISO standards. The certificate means that you are using the correct procedures that you perform these procedures, recording and documenting what plan to do, and because you believe in what you are doing exactly what you said, what you are doing. This is the first.
Well, the “Six Sigma” method has become a natural extension of this. It gripped us all, but you teach a group of people, and they will become a “green belt”, and then they become “black belts”, success will bring success. And here we have hundreds and hundreds of certified “green zone”, and a lot of “black belts” and “Master Black Belts”, so that the conversion infiltrated virtually every cell of your business.
BI: In one of your publications it has been said that from the very beginning with the Mercury You tried to change the culture of the company. What exactly do you want to change, or, to put it more precisely, what you trying to do?
PM: Change culture – for me it is a multidimensional concept. First of all, I believe that the culture of behavior is the sole responsibility of the client, and a deep understanding of the customer, as well as in the organization of the relationship with the client is strictly on a pro forma basis, and not anyhow. And when we formalize this relationship, we will be able to sound the client’s right to influence the development of our products at the stage of development of the concept and the reasons to resist our technology, without which there can be no sales. Create what you want the customer – the best opportunity to succeed.
This was one part of the problem. Another part of the necessary cultural change was the development of methods of incentives to move. We are a large, even very large company, and I was sure that our staff must work as alone can work the staff are very large companies. The people had to inject entrepreneurial spirit to the entrepreneurial spirit prompted people to move quickly, because it stimulates people much more effective than the primitive edition orders.
In general, I am about the same, that all this should be done at the same time. I do not think you can inspire people, saying, “informs you that from Monday you are stimulated to success.” However, if your people are trained in the method of “Six Sigma”, can no longer keep track of the production, because people operate according to strict rules in order to achieve well-defined goals. Because of the process eliminates any risk and uncertainty.
It can be on the promotion of employees to hear a lot of talk, and talk, these are more like the choral chanting slogans. This is not what I mean. This rigorous production and the procedure here must be present by definition. But ensuring order in the production does not mean that you need to control every little thing. This means that you need to comply with all standards.
BI: Were there any other processes or procedures, you enter that, in your opinion, played a key role in the success achieved to date of Mercury?
PM: Of course, yes. Unusual changes required skills, which we did not, and we had professionals with the skills which they previously did not know themselves. Personally, I went through a very intensive training in the MBA program. We gained a lot of great young people from the country’s best schools. It was a major task.
And it was necessary to become global. Having production facilities in different parts of the world and the connection between different cultures in order to achieve common goals, – does not mean a simple transfer of low-cost production to areas with cheaper labor. I take my Chinese plant, especially as an important part of my strategic plan, and not just as a cost-effective solution. In fact, the production here – top quality and it is equipped with the latest equipment.
All that is being done in order to satisfy consumer demands, so that manufacturers have to take into account the opinion of customers in the design and manufacture of products. For example, our European allied very closely integrated into our corporation, so that the human factor of production is of paramount importance to me.
BI: If we look to the future, what are the specific problems may arise because the company, manufacturers of engines and the entire industry as a whole must compete with each other to be successful?
PM: The modern economy, and I do not intend to say that we live in the best of worlds, but a modern economy based on competition. And it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the fact that shipping is very whimsical entertainment area. And if whims imply waste of money, we have to make sure that people are interested in our products, and make boats and yachts more attractive than hiking or tennis, or travel abroad, or other activities for which people are willing to spend their hard earned money.
Consequently, our products must meet the requirements of our customers. Our products must be durable, reliable, pleasant to use, and so on and so forth. Sometimes, as we are still the industry, we tend to forget about it. We need to make sure that our clients have always been at the center of what we do.
I think this is the main challenge facing us as to industry, given the fact that we are a major player on the size of trade, without a difference – in North America and worldwide. At the same time, we are relatively small in front of this problem, despite the fact that the players on the market very much.
I think that the initiative “On the boats!” For the promotion of boats and yachts, if briefly, to supply certified shipbuilders faced with the need to provide customers exactly and only what they need, and dealer training and certification program will provide on their part competent and comfortable customer support all the way from purchase to after-sales service.
These moments in our industry are extremely important. Indeed, for the success of the business, we need less hung up on their problems, and to think more about the client’s requests.
Sometimes we gave him a lot of trouble. I certainly wish the industry expansion and prosperity. Boats and yachts belong to the genus of human activity, family or friendly vacation, sailing or fishing – such activities, which, of course, for the benefit of the whole society, which I truly believe.
I do not want to seem like a chur optimistic, but all our activity is directed towards this goal, and we will do everything to achieve it. We must be sure that we know the environment from all sides: As to whether it is fuel efficiency, emissions into the environment, or the noise level. We must act ahead in these areas to enhance the positive image of our entire industry.
BI: Do you believe that the sector develops properly and turns in the right direction?
PM: I think that a small shipbuilding actually really starting to realize that it requires it to the modern consumer. Are we on the right path? Basically, I think “yes.” Is there enough fast are we going? No, I do not think so. I believe we can move much faster than it does now.
BI: What are the consequences for the Mercury will have your withdrawal from business, including employees and customers of the company, for the products?
PM: I do not know, maybe they will be happy to get rid of me. The Mercury operates a powerful team of specialists. Mercury – not Pat McKee Company, it manages a team of managers. I had a close-knit team of professional managers. My staff working in all corners of the world, committed to their work, the company and the industry.
I hope that I left the company a few in a better state than it was, and I believe that even after a few years it will be even better than I had left it. I believe that this organization has a strong foundation for the development.
BI: Do you expect a change of the company’s management style with the arrival at your place the other team?
PM: Dusty McCoy decided that Kevin Grocka, president of “Merkruzer” and Mark Schwaber, president of the division, which produces outboards that before contact with him through me, like so many other people who have communicated with him through me, which is usually for large structured organization – that he will now communicate directly with them. This should reduce the vertical integration of the company.
In relation to Kevin and Mark can say that these guys skillfully manage their companies and all together, that is the Mercury as a single company, they do business with confidence in the company’s future, and I see this as a guarantee of its further progress.
Will they evolve?
I hope that they should and will develop. The role I’ve seen as a stimulator of development. If they are now no longer develop, all my efforts would be in vain. That would be terrible. However, I am sure that today they have a solid foundation for the development and progressive vision of the future development of the company with regard to products and personnel, systems and the like, so that they will act in the same spirit. And then they will always move in the right direction, and no doubt this will not occur.
BI: Could you at least a hint of what the Mercury works today, and that may appear unusual, that all of us so lacking?
PM: Well, if that happens, I’m not too surprised.
BI: Some believe that the two-stroke engines and leave in the near future to replace them entirely four-stroke engines. What do you think about it?
PM: As was once said, “I think that the news of my death is premature.” Conventional two-stroke engines, think the definition of waste in North America. With the market in North America go the old carbureted engines with electronic fuel injection. By the way, they are not going to go anywhere from many developing countries.
But there is no doubt that the two-stroke engine with direct injection is destined for a long future. I do not think that with them something in the near future it may happen because the emissions have a quite acceptable, with extremely high fuel efficiency. They invariably have a low weight and high power are popular among freshwater anglers. Two-stroke engines with direct injection – a decent choice, though they fully comply with the requirements of the legislation on nature protection.
So I think that the rumors about the withdrawal from the market of two-stroke engines with direct injection are premature.
As for four-stroke engines, I think they have a lot and advantages but also many drawbacks. Of course, reliability is a huge advantage of such engines, despite the fact that they comply with environmental requirements for emissions into the environment as a match and two-stroke direct injection. The principle of the four-stroke engine is much more understandable to the ordinary user.
But let us remember and supercharged four-stroke, which I think he appeared somewhat premature. I think its time has come and it is coming. This project has a great future. For example, our engines “Merkruzer” represented exclusively by four-stroke models.
So if you talk only about the outboards, then on the stroke – I would not worry. We have invested in them hell of a lot of money, despite the fact that one of our competitors is engaged exclusively in two-stroke engines with direct injection. I have great respect for their loyalty to the idea, and I wish you success. We have a lot invested in this technology and our motors series «PRO XS» are ready, by the way. So I do not worry about it.
BI: How are things going with the “Verado”?
PM: Actually, the last few years, our efforts have focused on creating it and bringing to market. More recently, we have revised his design, so that “Verado” second generation became extremely economical, besides maintaining all the features that we have equipped with engines of the first generation, but has passed since only some five years.
Created when the outboard motor has become the most important breakthrough in the production of supercharged engines, and received a digital gas control knob and gear shift, worked smoothly, almost silently and all that. In fact, it is a significant innovation.
Now we turn to the sources and reviewed the entire structure, especially in terms of fuel consumption, reducing it to a minimum, so that turned out the combination of diverse advantages, including low fuel consumption, good traction, smooth and quiet operation, and all the other nice capabilities.
Therefore, I am quite satisfied with the engine “Verado” and at the “Miami Boat Show – 2008”, we will demonstrate this new product of our technology.
Without exaggeration, it was hard work, but in many ways it was a job, and with the soul, with the thought of the future.
BI: Can you imagine, “Verado” in the form of a built-in motor or stern drive?
PM: No, I can not imagine a version of the built-in “Verado”, and I think that this is a different technology designed to work with the other drives.
I think that our built engines with a stern drive, if we talk in terms of development, is currently undergoing a transition to less polluting technologies in terms of compliance with the requirements of environmental legislation of the USA, is something we work hard.
A very important innovation was also a complete separation of our twin sterndrive that we called “Aksius”. Creating abutting drive was the most important innovation. So I see “Merkruzer” developing in its own way toward the unknown.
At the same time I see here the connection of various technological developments in the field of outboard engines and stern drive, called Does this e-filling, while we called mechatronic part of the system, and all the hydraulics and other electronics, leading all in action – we get a fusion of different technologies as digital transmissions and the gas control switch. After all this a lot of synergy, although I think this is specifically different propulsion systems.
BI: So what you do now until the day of his dismissal?
PM: Well, let things go as passed. We have announced my resignation from the last working day of March 1 at 16-hour working day. So I have no reason to greatly change your daily routine.
I want to choose the time and clean up the desktop in the last week. But this place is always filled up, because there’s always something is not finished yet.
BI: So, do you have a plan of action for the period after retirement, or if you just take a break, to look around?
PM: Well, if we talk about what are going to do after March 1, then my wife and I go together to various places in the United States, to show that I had promised my wife, still perhaps 10 years ago. I have visited many different places, but few of them have seen, I see what I mean? Here we are with his wife and go on hiking trails in the Grand Canyon. When you live somewhere, you never visit that tourists see, but we’re going to go this route, then to say: “Still, we were there and saw it!”.
And then probably in April or May, we will return to his home in Ireland, and let us live there.
BI: And here’s how simple katernik, will you still use your boat whenever possible?
PM: Well, my house is right on the beach and in the bay next to the golf course, of course. I am not only passionate about golf, but I love my boat, so this development is very likely.
BI: Is there anything else you would like to convey to someone in the industry who will read these lines?
PM: Well, what can I say. I was happy for real every minute when I worked in the industry. There were ups and downs, and had a difficult battle, but, looking back at the past few years, I must say that the good memories far outweigh forever outweigh any trouble or setbacks that were with me during the work.
I think the industry as a whole wonderful, and I think that it should grow.
BI: What do you mean by that “grow”?
PM: I think we need to take care of our clients. We are not a closed elite club, we need to involve new people. We need to invite people with different ethnic traditions, different genders, different ethnic groups. We need to become a global family, and inspire people to small navigational and not get hung up on counting the number of resales.
Therefore, our campaign “around the boat!” It seems to me extremely important, and the industry need to constantly keep track of the movement in the same direction, ending squabbles due to internal differences and focusing on external opportunities.
According to the materials published in the Boating-Industry Journal
Translation Paul Dmitriev