Looking Back on a Challenging Year with an Eye on the Future: An interview with Kirk Petty, SVP of Operations
Q: When did you join the Capstone team? Where were you prior to this position?
I joined Capstone in 2007 as an Assembly and Test Technician. Prior to Capstone, I served for nine years in the United States Marine Corps. During my time in the service, I was deployed around the world in various climes such as Japan, South Korea and stateside. I also served two tours in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. When I wasn’t deployed, I strived to complete as much off-duty education as possible to set myself up for the future. Seeing how other people were living around the world gave me a better sense of the value of education and the importance of our planet’s future environment. I met Capstone at a military hiring fair right as I was leaving the military. The fit seemed natural, and I was thrilled to join an organization that is making a difference in the world.
Q: What’s your role here at Capstone?
Soon after joining Capstone, I was able to work my way into the quality department. This experience exposed me to a broader view of the organization. I was able to use my hands-on production floor experience to start driving quality improvements into the product. My mentors in that new role allowed me to develop professionally, and after a few years, I moved into quality management. While an invaluable experience, my heart lied in Operations. In 2015, an opportunity to move back into Operations materialized, and I moved over from my position as the Global Director of Quality to the Director of Manufacturing Operations. Once again, this was a chance to learn a new role and drive improvements. One of my first opportunities was to consolidate our two facilities into a single building. Doing so greatly improved our efficiencies and lowered our overhead costs. Additionally, it was a terrific cultural boost to have everyone housed in a single facility. The project was completed in four months, all while not ceasing our production or missing schedules.
Finally, in late 2016, I was placed in the role of Vice President of Manufacturing, which now entails the responsibility of production, the supply chain, warehouse and logistics, and demand planning and procurement.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
The challenges associated with this role are endless and require quick action, and the team I work with is wired, engaged, and thrive in such an environment. I love being part of a culture that embraces creative solutions to solving the challenges we face, and I enjoy not having the layers of bureaucracy and red tape often typical in larger organizations. The culture of teamwork and rapid decision-making is pervasive throughout the organization, and it is absolutely motivating to be a part of. Overall, I enjoy most the speed at which we move and make decisions together, all for the greater good of the organization.
Q: What do you appreciate most about Capstone?
I alluded to it earlier, but it is the people I work with that keep me coming back each day and pulling my weight. I think the average tenure of a Capstone employee is somewhere around 10 years. I’ve been here going on 15 years next year, so at this point, (and I know it is cliché) these people are “family.” I say that with all the intent and allusion that word ‘family’ entails. The team around me is working dilligently to make this dream and vision of what Capstone can be come true and for that, I am appreciative.
Q: Has Capstone’s business evolution changed what you do in your day-to-day job?
The business is constantly changing. Being nimble and flexible are characteristics we built into the company, because we knew speed to market would be a big competitive advantage. Unlike a lot of manufacturers in our space, we can deploy our product within a week. And so, we set up our supply chain to be able to accommodate that.
Q: How have things changed with regard to supplier relationships in the past challenging year?
I think in the past year, we really learned who our true partners are in the supply chain. Prior to the challenges of the pandemic, when things were more predicable and stable, our needs were different. When pandemic hit, we still had projects to get out the door, but in order to not run out cash, we had to implement our contingency plan. Thankfully, a number of our supply partners—who were experiencing challenges of their own—jumped into the trenches with us and were responsive to our changing needs. There were others, though, that were still trying to push parts on us or to pull us through the wringer on making cash payments. That was very self-serving on their part and ultimately, they paid the price for it as we have moved more of our business to those suppliers who worked creatively with us.
Overall, we’ve created stronger relationships with the partners that stuck with us.
Q: Tell us about the upcoming supplier symposium?
I am really looking forward to the supplier symposium. It is something we haven’t done in over 10 years, and I think the timing of it couldn’t be more perfect. As most people experienced during the pandemic, Capstone missed the connection of in-person interaction with our partners. While nearly 85 percent of our supply chain is within 200 miles of Capstone, the pandemic blocked us from visiting their facilities and vice versa. The symposium is a meaningful way of getting back together with our suppliers, who we consider an extended part of our team.
The symposium is also a good chance to update our supply chain on what’s happening with the company, to tell them about our name change and new business focus. This opens up new opportunities for them as well, since, in addition to maintaining our regular supply chain, we’re going to need new supply chains for these four new verticles.
The event also happens to coincide with IndyCar Grand Prix at Long Beach. Some suppliers are choosing to stay throughout the weekend to participate in the activities. Therefore, it is an opportune time to showcase all the great things that Capstone is doing.
What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
In my 15th year at Capstone, I would love to see a return to normalcy, whatever that may look like. I am looking forward to seeing the ways in which Capstone’s four verticles, particularly the rent business, grow the the company in exciting new directions.
The pandemic challenged us in huge ways, but we came out stronger on the other side. Today, having lowered our operating costs, we are leaner, more efficient, and have a more nimble operations process. I want to take that momentum and drive it forward into everything we do. Seeing where we go with new products, microgrid solutions, and hydrogen development and continuing to evolve—as Capstone always has—will allow us to play an even bigger role in fighting climate change. That’s what I look forward to every year, but this year with our new direction is especially exciting.