One of the instrumental leaders of the Georgia automotive industry actually lives in Alabama. Davis Woodruff, P.E., president of Management Methods Inc., a Decatur, Alabama-based consulting firm, helped launch the Georgia Automotive Manufacturers Association (GAMA) in 2011 and continues to play a leadership role in the organization.
As GAMA’s vice president of professional development and a member of the association’s advisory board, Woodruff works closely with Rick Walker, GAMA’s founder and president, and has helped play a pivotal role in shaping the automotive industry in Georgia. Walker and Woodruff met in the early 1990s, when they worked together on a project at Kuhlman Corp. — Woodruff as a consultant, Walker as a senior executive.
“We have become good friends over the years and when he formed GAMA, he asked me to come on board at the beginning of this journey, ” Woodruff says. “It has been exciting to see the growth and impact of GAMA in Georgia. The association provides opportunities for members to learn, connect and make a difference as the industry continues to grow in the Southeast.”
As a resident of Alabama, Woodruff has also been a member of the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association for a number of years.
By being involved in GAMA from the beginning, Woodruff has been able to bring to the organization his longtime expertise as a leadership and quality consultant — and to build ongoing knowledge about and contacts in the state’s automotive industry.
“Being involved from the beginning has given us insights into the Georgia automotive and Southeast automotive industries, ” he says. “GAMA has provided members with the opportunity to make new friends, develop business relationships and participate in cutting edge continuing education opportunities. I know of at least one consulting assignment I’ve had because of a GAMA connection at a continuing education session. And the GAMA members are experiencing value for their participation; Rick Walker has worked tirelessly to make sure members are getting good value for their investment.”
From Farming to Consulting
Woodruff grew up on a family farm in rural south Alabama, where his family also owned and operated a country store, he says. After high school, Woodruff left the farm to earn an engineering degree at Auburn University. He eventually became a Professional Engineer and Certified Management Consultant.
After college, Woodruff worked at 3M for 10 years. He started as a process engineer and moved through the ranks as production supervisor, maintenance supervisor and quality manager before becoming the youngest plant superintendent in the company. There, he led the team that produced the first home video films in the United States and assisted with a plant start-up in Europe. During his tenure at 3M, Woodruff soaked up knowledge about manufacturing standards and processes and learned to “apply similar methodology in many areas of the business, ” he says.
After a life-changing experience with cancer at the age of 30, Woodruff decided to leave 3M to become a consultant, forming Management Methods Inc., in 1984. Almost immediately, he began gaining experience in the automotive industry. Woodruff worked with Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama, to provide course development and training for the workforce at Saginaw Steering Division of GM, as well as other automotive related companies. This work involved developing and teaching courses in statistical process control (SPC), problem solving, design of experiments, measurement tools and measurement systems analysis.
Woodruff’s experience developing and automotive training led to opportunities to assist companies in developing and implementing quality management systems and process improvement efforts. In the early 1980s, he designed those quality systems to meet customer-specific requirements such as GM SPEAR, TFE and Ford Q-101 and Q-1 specifications, “which were around before the ISO 9000, QS 9000, TS 16949 and now IATF 16949:2016 standards were developed, ” he says. By working with those customer-specific standards, Woodruff was able to transition naturally into the ISO/QS/TS families of standards when they were introduced in the late 1980s and the following years.
“As an engineering graduate of Auburn University and with the experiences in the real world of manufacturing at 3M, along with the opportunities in working with Calhoun College in the early 1980s, I was uniquely positioned for the automotive industry as the growth in the Southeast occurred, ” Woodruff says. “We attempt to provide common sense support in quality management systems, process improvement, environmental management systems and safety in helping companies grow their businesses with a focus on people, processes and products.”
Over the years, Woodruff has become a recognized expert in showing companies how to be “the low cost, high quality, environmentally responsible leader in their industry, ” he says. His Management Methods has served clients in 35 states and on three continents, including companies such as BP, GM, Endure Medical, 3M, Tyco and many other large and small organizations.
Through his work, Woodruff focuses on developing leaders; optimizing resource utilization; improving processes, quality and customer satisfaction, and saving time and money for his clients.
“We want to work with companies to develop and implement quality systems in a way that makes sense for their business, process improvement and leadership development, ” he says. “We attempt to provide support that helps companies become low cost, high quality, environmentally and safety conscious leaders through effective applications of international and other standards while focusing on common sense approaches.”
Woodruff has written three books focused on management and leadership —Taking Care of the Basics: 101 Success Factors for Managers, Energy Management Made Simple and Numbers to People: Making the Leap From Technical Expert to Successful Leader — plus a DVD, two CD programs, two e-books and a number of online professional development courses. He serves as a peer reviewer for Energy, an international technical journal.
For more than three decades, Woodruff has maintained Management Methods as a small firm “by design, ” he says. Today, he is in the process of transitioning his small international firm to the next generation, as his daughter, engineer Katie Gaertner, joined the business in 2015 and is currently working with a number of clients in the automotive industry.
“Having my daughter work with me is a rewarding experience and a blessing, ” Woodruff says. “She is a brilliant engineer with an ability to see right through an issue to the root cause and guide solutions that work. Having been in business for nearly 35 years and with relationships all over the country, I’m really pleased to see the business continue into the next generation.”
Although Gaertner has become a valuable part of the business, Woodruff is not stepping out anytime soon. Currently, he’s providing continuing education classes for Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. He recently completed a certificate series on Risk Management and is currently finishing another series on Problem Solving and Root Cause Analysis. He’s also working on an online class, “Understanding IATF 16949:2016, ” which will be available in time for SAC this year.
Working in the automotive field has been rewarding for Woodruff — and he enjoys giving back through his involvement with GAMA.
Text By Nancy Mann Jackson // Photo by Tyler Brown