manufacturing leadership

A Practical Guide to Daily Leadership in the Manufacturing Factory

Bryan Geary and Carlton Sorrell are boots-on-the-ground manufacturing professionals with over 50 collective years of experience on the plant floor. Their original book provides a practical guide to daily leadership in the manufacturing environment. The work is educational, inspiring, and entertaining to all markets interested in management and leadership improvements. Keep reading to get a better understanding of what went into making this book a reality.

Sharing Leadership Expertise in the Manufacturing Industry

Shortly after Bryan Geary and Carlton Sorrell left the corporate world to become entrepreneurs, they decided to write a book. “The motivation was simple — we each remembered how it felt when we started work on the plant floor.”

The duo was sure they had valuable insights to offer a new supervisor or freshly promoted plant manager. “At the very least, we wanted to help them avoid the deer in the headlights expression we surely wore far too many times in our time as supervisors and plant managers.”

Over a six-month period, they wrote, edited, complimented, and critiqued each other as the chapters came together into the finished book. The individual chapters are outlined below.

Topics that everyone in a new role will face:

  • Welcome to Management (we all have a first job)
  • Dealing with Difficult People (sometimes you, sometimes me)
  • Managing Upstream and Downstream (very much a learned skill, and certainly not immediately apparent to a new manager)

Topics based on shared experiences:

  • Engagement (the importance of interactions with the workforce, commanding excellence, and setting standards of personal behavior)
  • Building the Culture (regionalism in plant culture, attitudes toward work hours and working conditions, and how to influence a culture of improvement)
  • Celebrate Victories Large and Small (the importance of recognition and how it affects the culture and operation of a factory)
  • Disaster Strikes (how our team put a factory back together after a major tornado)

Topics based on personal experiences:

  • The Walk (Bryan’s approach to dealing with conflict and managing emotions)
  • Not Everybody is Like You (the best advice Carl ever received, which came from his first boss)

What Makes A Great Manufacturing Leader — Advice from the Experts

There are three crucial characteristics that are essential in your ability to succeed as a leader in the manufacturing industry: confidence, respect, and control. “We are certainly not psychologists, but we can speak proficiently on the subject because of our often notable success in learning things the hard way.”

leadership in manufacturing industry


What often takes years to build and gain? Confidence. Full trust and assurance are terms to keep in mind when speaking of confidence. You have great expectations for those reporting to you. Each day you compel them to perform in a safe and effective manner to reach the needed performance levels. You also rely upon them to be a large part of the voice to the customer with the quality of their work. This entails you building their trust and assurance in you — the boss that leads, guides, and directs.


As someone in a leadership role, you should command respect. We all know too well that earning your peers’ respect takes time and patience. Often this ends up being one step forward and two steps back when we appear constantly rattled and allow unrestrained comments to others or equipment to get out of hand. If you do not maintain respect at all levels, never underestimate your ability to see a sequence, shift, or plant take serious steps in the wrong direction.


It is a tremendous responsibility to be in control of an area in a manufacturing plant, and especially to be the plant manager in control of the whole operation. If you have been there or are currently there, you appreciate this statement immensely. However, if you signed up for the gig to acquire more power or money, you are sorely disappointed by now. It is far more about having a larger voice and more impact on the plant and the company as a whole. You can easily forfeit control of your area when anger or rage is involved. Stay in control, and run your emotion so you can run your area.

In conclusion, manufacturing leadership is not easy—it takes years to find a balance.


As it turned out, ten years after its publication, On The Plant Floor remains a best seller in the world of self-published non-fiction books. Additionally, at least one Fortune 50 company uses the work as a training manual, and more than one university uses it as a classroom text.

“Although we never dreamed it would become a best seller, we did hope it would reach a few people who would go on to benefit from our hard-earned experience. We humbly admit to being happily surprised at this level of popularity. Most importantly, our experience in – and love for – manufacturing people and practices has been shared with those who can use it in their daily lives. With luck, it will prevent them from repeating our mistakes and reinventing the wheel.”

What Lies Ahead?

Bryan and Carl may have another book in the works – as well as plans for updating On The Plant Floor. “Despite everything we poured into the first one, we still have a few things to say and a lot to get off our chests!”

Check out their book to learn more about manufacturing leadership: On The Plant Floor: A practical guide to daily leadership in the manufacturing factory

IntoCeramics has 70+ years of experience ceramic engineering, manufacturing consulting, operations, and leadership. Contact us today to learn more.