Mike Baker received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and began his career with a startup company located in Effingham, Illinois that provided industrial evaporative cooling equipment. As with most startup companies, Mike had an opportunity to be involved in many different aspects of the business. As a Manufacturing Engineer, his first assignments was in leading the greenfield investment by overseeing the construction of the facility then the installation and startup of the equipment . From there, he was promoted to Plant Manager and worked to build a team that would put the facility in operation by overseeing Manufacturing, Engineering, Quality, and R & D. Mike was then promoted to Refrigeration Sales Manager, and assumed responsibility for supporting the development of the Refrigeration Markets for the company. This transition provided invaluable exposure of understanding the markets across the US by learning first hand the requirements of the customer while working through a distribution network. By the end of this role, annual sales of refrigeration equipment had grown to $ 1,500,000. He then moved back into operations as the VP Manufacturing as by this time the company had positioned itself for growth but needed help maintaining the balance in supplying a reliable quality product. This role allowed Mike to realize the importance of Quality and significance of Cash Flow Planning as his team worked to improve the supply chain process while hitting customer ship dates and stabilizing quality.
His next step was to get closer to the Ag Industry as he grew up on farm and fertilizer business. As the Auger Equipment Engineering Manager, Mike was responsible for the development of the Auger Equipment Product Line as it was critical to fill a void within the companies' product offering. After a year of development, the product line was engineered and released to manufacturing within record time. He then moved onto a Product Manager, this move tied him to the relocation of a product from Pennsylvania as the company acquired several companies. He would work to get the products line established within the new facility making sure the training and support was in place ensuring a successful transition. This role proved to be very valuable to his future as within this period he discovered what he truly enjoyed doing. This role then led him to the position of Director of Quality, as the company had grown and acquired these entities they needed a formalized quality program and it was his task to lead these efforts. The first step was to establish the base line of the program while balancing the reactive actions of the facilities to continuous improvements teams. This turned out to be very beneficial to all areas of the organization as every step of the process needed to be defined and developed. The organization in the first year reduced customer complaints by over 50%. Total warranty spend was reduced by $ 500,000 the first year then to just over a $ 1,000,000 the second year. He then moved on to the Director of Manufacturing supporting all 7 Manufacturing Locations for the company. He continued his continuous improvement strategies while building on the importance of aligned focused teams which finally allowed him to becoming a minority shareholder of the company. After 5 Years within this role, Mike then focused on the key areas of the company that needed improvements. This led him back into the Director of Quality & Lean Enterprise positioned but focused on implementation of Lean worldwide. This position proved to give Mike a firm understanding of the power of the Toyota Production System as they reduced inventory by over 50% within the first 2 years. On-time deliveries improved from 50 % to 95 % for most facilities but the key was building focused teams. As the Lean foundation was set, he then moved into other strategic roles that focused on improving the gross margins of products that directly impacted EBITDA. He spent 3 years in this role.
After 11 years with the company, it was time for Mike to move on to a different pace in life while focusing on personal goals. He now shares interest in 4 different companies while supporting a Territory Sales Position that keeps him close to his roots in the Ag Industry. While this position allowed Mike to spread his time across various businesses and the Ag Industry the potential of Versatech could not hold back the passion to get back into manufacturing.