Q&A: Marco Wishart

New Matthews Marking Systems General Manager Marco Wishart puts focus on seamless customer interactions, driving innovation

Following the recent transition of the previous leadership team to expanded roles within Matthews International, Marco Wishart has joined Matthews Marking Systems as senior vice president and general manager of product identification and strategy. An electrical engineer by training, Wishart joins Matthews Marking Systems following a long and successful career leading large organizations, charting product strategies, and helping manufacturing customers boost efficiencies and lower costs.

Before taking on his latest role, Wishart spent over 25 years at Rockwell Automation. During his tenure with the leading supplier of automation solutions for manufacturers, he moved from engineering and product management roles to a series of management and executive positions. These included stops as vice president and general manager for the motion control business, head of the control and visualization business, and vice president for corporate development strategy. He holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Purdue University and has studied business at Harvard and the University of Chicago.

You’ve enjoyed a varied and successful career as a business and operational leader. What drew you to this position leading Matthews Marking Systems?

There were a number of things. First the company and the culture intrigued me. The ability to work in a business with a greater level of autonomy as a general manager is exciting because there’s a lot we can do to make our own success. The solutions we deliver to customers are important to their success and there are exciting opportunities here for growth and innovation.

We’re at an interesting intersection of being able to deliver our core set of marking solutions and then building on them to deliver additional value, such as tracking and tracing capabilities that drive efficiency, safety, and speed for our customers.

And then as I got to know the team, I found a dedicated group of individuals who put their customers first, who are very knowledgeable about their space, and have a great ethic about what they do and how they do it.

Can you talk about how your experience as a leader at Rockwell Automation helps you to be more successful in your role with Matthews?

Rockwell gave me a lot of good experiences, and I’ve also been fortunate to have gotten good experiences throughout my career. My first job out of college was at a steel mill where I ran a swing shift crew of electricians. To make this work, I had to learn a couple of things pretty quickly. First humility. The electricians were in a union. They didn’t have to do anything for me because they were pretty well protected. And second, it taught me how to influence people without having direct control. I needed to motivate them to make the lines run. That was a great learning experience.

The main things Rockwell Automation taught me were how to scale operations, how to integrate acquisitions, and how to grow businesses by delivering increased customer value at every release. I had a number of experiences where I was a general manager of businesses with a lot of scale and growth. As a business grows, you have to change your management style and what you focus on. Because of the different positions I’ve had in leadership throughout my career, I’m able to adjust accordingly for the size and what’s at hand to drive success for customers, and in turn for the organization as a whole.

What can Matthews Marking Systems customers expect in the coming months and years under your leadership?

We are looking to deliver in a few different areas that will help drive the value we can deliver to our customers.  First off, we want to deliver solutions that can cover a broader array of marking capabilities in expanded applications, on more substrates, and with increased quality of mark to enable customers to take advantage of 2D barcodes and other more complex markings. We want to be able to cover more of our customers’ applications and add more capabilities. In the near future, we will deliver upgraded TIJ (thermal inkjet) solutions and bulk ink systems that will reduce the downtime of high-volume marking systems.  A little further out, we will deliver systems that will compete in the continuous inkjet space and broaden our applications capability. These will all still be controlled with our MPERIA controllers, which are best in class and continue to deliver new features with every release.

Longer term, we will add technologies that allow us to mark on most applications and use MPERIA as the central control with increased capabilities to tie into upstream and downstream applications, like cameras, to validate the marks. We believe digitization will allow us to use software to rapidly create value for our customers in the entire life cycle of the product, reducing unplanned downtime, improving productivity, and adding more information to help with tracking and tracing of marked products.

Everything we do will be focused on helping customers to be more successful and efficient.

Let’s talk some more about the importance of “track and trace” and how Matthews can help customers to implement traceability solutions?

One big need is to give customers greater transparency about where products and materials are throughout their life cycle. Even inside a plant that can be a bit of an unknown. They know where items are at certain points, but they don’t know where they are in between points. They’re not always as efficient at tracking them as they could be. I worked on a project once at Rockwell in which a car company lost about 200 cars within their facility every year. They didn’t really lose them; but they had no idea where they were in the workflow. Examples like this, and there are many more, illustrate just how big the problem potentially really is.

Then there are things like farm-to-table tracking. This involves being able to answer some important questions that consumers want to know like: Where does what we make come from on a batch-by-batch basis? When was it produced? Where did it go along the way? Who consumed it? The technology that’s now becoming more available will allow us to do a better job of helping our customers answer those questions.

The thing that really hasn’t been solved is pulling together a centralized, accurate view. How do I start from the beginning and make sure all the information is correct? Let’s say you’re making batches of ingredients and want to make sure it’s sustainable. You can only prove that if you have traceability all the way through. Here’s where you might want to use things like blockchain to create an indisputable record. There are a lot of new technologies that if you piece them together correctly, you can come up with a compelling solution.

For sure, marking plays a big role in this. That is our core, and we have a lot of domain expertise about the quality, consistency, and the ruggedness of tracking marks. This gives a natural advantage as a starting point because we’re already in that core.

What’s your take on the best way to drive the kind of innovation you’re talking about? Do you see a focus on in-house innovation, looking externally for innovation through partnership or acquisition, or a combination of both?

Let me say a few things about innovation. A big part of being innovative is a mindset of always trying to do better. Some of the best innovations come from continuously delivering solutions that eliminate challenges our customers face.

From there I divide it up into in-house innovation and outside innovation. You need to look at both. Looking outside is critical for a couple of reasons. One, you’ll never out innovate the world. There are 7 billion people and it’s naïve to think that one company can ever be smarter than everybody else. Second, looking outside allows you to see some trends and breakthroughs that are maybe not directly related to your business, but you can adopt in your business.

Finally, internal innovation mindset is critical because of all the knowledge our people have on the products and customers. We need to foster a culture that embraces innovation, moving fast while still being willing to fail occasionally.

What should customers expect when it comes to interacting with Matthews?

Fundamentally, my belief is customers want to work with partners who are easy to work with along the whole life cycle. It’s not just one shipment for a new product installation or the next shipment of ink. It’s the whole life cycle.

It’s thinking like the customer does. Can you help me pick the right ink? Can you help me with configuration and deployment? When I’m in operation, can you help me be as efficient as possible? Can you minimize my unplanned downtime or my downtime altogether?

So anytime we have a customer interaction, we need to look at how does the customer define easy? It’s not how I define easy. We’re not here to make our jobs easier. We’re here to make our customers’ lives easier and better.

Our customers should expect us to help them with every step of the life cycle and be the easiest marking supplier to deal with.

Sustainability is an important topic in the business world today. How do you anticipate this playing out at Matthews?

We have two obligations around sustainability. First, it to become more sustainable as a company. The second is helping our customers meet their sustainability needs and requirements.

We have a corporate accountability to try to be as sustainable as possible, which are the internal things that we do to make sure that we are responsible corporate citizens, trying to drive energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of what we do in manufacturing to the lowest level. My belief is we’ve only got one world. It has a finite set of resources and there are more of us than ever. So, it’s incumbent on us to do things as efficiently as possible, to allow the next generation to enjoy the same things we have. We have the opportunity to put a focus on it in our business and help our customers and ourselves do better.

Want to learn more? Give us a call today

With more than 170 years of marking and coding experience, Matthews has helped countless manufacturing companies streamline and automate their operations and streamline marking and coding processes. If you’re looking for the right guidance from a supplier you can trust to be there year after year, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 1-800-775-7775 or email us at [email protected].