The road to being an entrepreneur is not a straight line to success. It’s a winding path with many ups and downs. The amount of risk that an entrepreneur takes, whether it’s quitting a job, making a capital investment, or borrowing money, is greatly underestimated. Hiten Shah’s entrepreneurial journey is an inspiration for many emerging business leaders. He is the CEO and President of MES, Inc. and believes in fostering a culture of values in both the company and its employees. “I believe that the magnitude of the risk and the stakes are underappreciated. It is frequently the most undervalued aspect of success, where one must have emotional and mental stability, “says Hiten.
Beginning as a Supply Chain Professional
Hiten began his career as a plastics engineer, but he has held a variety of positions throughout the years, including manager, process engineer, and vice president of sales. When Hiten quit his job in December 2001, he had the option of working with a couple of other rivals, but he preferred to work on his own as a consultant and focus on honing his networking and sales abilities, which he did for many years. In the year 2006, Hiten travelled to India to search for supplies for a machine shop owned by one of his friends. He identified a few decent suppliers, but the company decided to go to the Chinese market. He says, “Then, I didn’t know much about India and many of the other firms I was calling on in lighting, agricultural and medical were seeking an Indian supplier. I know what excellent factories look like. And it turned into more of a rep relationship. ”
Soon, some of his clients began asking for other services, such as supply chain and storage, in addition to shipping, thereby asking him to serve as both a logistics manager and a supplier. He says, “I kept thinking, how hard could it be? So we said, we’ll do it. ” Hiten works with the motto ‘How hard can it be?’ and he finds himself too naive to know how hard it is and too stubborn to give up.
No Success without Challenges; Growing is Essential
For a business leader, every day is a new challenge. Over the past 14 years of MES, Inc.’s scaling, Hiten has certainly faced a lot of challenges that have taught him some great lessons. These challenges include picking the wrong team member, working with the wrong supplier, pursuing the wrong customer, and taking some preventable risks. Hiten quickly learned how to be much better at the briefing and recruiting experts to avoid some of the early problems he encountered. For him, the other constant challenge is always staying ahead of the curve, whether it is in technical development or interpreting market conditions, including the regulatory environment. He knows how to overcome possible obstacles. He leads as a strong leader who is always up to date on all the pertinent factors and inspires the same behaviour in his team. He says, “I think what really amounts to, at the end of the day, is having a very good, engaged team of people that care about their work that can help us navigate that can be reactive.”
MES, Inc.; Comprehensive Services across Commodities, Regions, Processes, and Industries
Marketing and Engineering Solutions (MES) Inc. is a full-service provider of global manufacturing and supply chain management services with registered companies in nine different countries. It sources manufactured components from India, China, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The company maintains warehouse facilities in Poland, Ohio, California, Texas, China, and Mexico, and will add India to the list soon. The company helps many North American OEMs by managing the entire outsourced manufacturing process.
MES counts on a base of over 427 suppliers between China and India and has personally audited few of these suppliers. Team actively works with 60 suppliers, all of which are ISO Certified. For automotive projects, MES will use only IATF16949-certified suppliers.
As a global manufacturing and supply chain management service provider, MES is an important supplier partner for its customers. Now, the company is trying to reach for different commodities and does not want to be limited to castings or forging machine parts. Hiten says, “We have the geographical reach, we have process diversification, we have customer side diversification. In terms of lighting, agriculture, automotive, and industrial, we’re doing a lot of work in the EV space with most of the EV manufacturers.”
MES currently employs 150 people internationally. The talented staff of the company includes six sigma engineers, sourcing experts, quality inspectors, supply chain experts, sales and account managers, business analysts, and support staff to ensure best-in-class metrics for the work the company does. MES strives to acquire talented and skilled employees through all the media available in all of the international locations it operates in. Hiten says, “We have people from all over the world on our payroll; we like to be good community members. We offer best-in-class facilities to our employees with good benefits. We are diversified in terms of the different supplier-side networks that we can build; we are also very diversified in terms of our customers. ”
Responsibilities as a Leader
MES, Inc. has a very empowered and responsible management team. The company is led by a young management team, like most leading companies that are run by managers who are in their 30s, at least when they took over.
At present, Hiten is primarily focused on three key areas. The first one is hiring. It focuses on hiring new talent, who can find a place in the company and help it to become more innovative. The second one is acquisitions, where Hiten is looking for new opportunities and sectors to expand the company’s boundaries; right now, his focus is on software. The third is masterminding and planning with the sales team on creating new prospects to increase the customer base, and building strong relationships with existing ones. He asserts, “New business initiatives, sales and hiring, and a little bit of time are on key escalations.” He further adds, “I usually get engaged in customer dealings such as shipping surcharges, or raw material issues. Things like these are escalated to me. ”
“We don’t live to work, we work to live.” Hiten follows the previous statement as his work philosophy. While leading a company, there is no assurance of limited work hours. He believes that being a manager does not mean there are only 30-40 hours working in a week. Sometimes the team has to work 45, 60, or even 70 hours a week. Hiten works by keeping key priorities in his mind. He believes, “A fair amount of my work is done when I’m alone. So, I tried the day times, but they are mostly filled up with predetermined meetings. ” He further adds, “I’d say 30 to 50% of my days are probably booked one week or two weeks in advance (deleted) .”
At MES, Inc., the company has a wave of metrics management systems, which includes daily huddles, sweeping blitzes, monthly metrics reviews, and one-on-ones with people. Hiten keeps some time free during the daytime and is usually available to have conversations with people about the subjects they want to talk about outside of predetermined meetings. Besides his office working hours, Hiten finds himself doing analysis and writing about marketing that he does at night, or at least once every week. He has a routine of waking up at 3:45 am and completing early morning work.
Hiten never worked between 5 pm and 9:30 pm, when his kids came back from school. He avoided working between these hours unless it was an important call or some travel. He says, “I was at home, spending time with my family, playing hockey, or cricket, or football. But after 9.30, I have worked most of my life, even at a job I used to do. ”
Changes the pandemic has brought on the manufacturing industry
The biggest lesson the pandemic taught the world is that different people react differently. As having companies in many countries, Hiten saw his own team members, suppliers, and customers react differently due to the fear of contracting the virus. He says, “Some people need more time, some people need less time. Seven out of 35 people in our office never stopped coming to the office, and they didn’t want to work from home. There were seven working people in a 5000 square foot office. We maintained enough distance, installed acrylic dividers, and all the stuff worked. ” He further adds, “We knew we were essential services, so we never stopped working.”
During the Pandemic, MES, Inc.’s warehouses were open all the time. Moving goods is the biggest responsibility for balancing demand and supply. The other learning was to understand how complicated shipping is. Back in 2014, to 2017, a lot of the shippers consolidated and basically made three main shipping lines. Hiten opines, “We feel like they’re kind of holding monopolistic powers now, and that was unforeseen.”
MES has a very active team on the ground that makes decisions on a day-to-day basis and is focused on making sure that the customers have enough products. Hiten mentions, “With higher inventory and higher shipping, we’re still plodding along and making sure that we are the best in class performing suppliers for all of our customers.”
Using Modern Technology to Increase Business Efficiency
The organizational strategy of MES is to become more efficient and competitive by concentrating on essential business techniques such as on-time delivery, quality testing, inventory management, and so on. The automation of the company’s processes is the most essential feature that distinguishes MES in the worldwide market.
The use of technology is one of the major things that MES was a very early adopter of. MES developed a portal called “MESH” for sending RFQ’s instead of giving an entire, very complicated Excel sheets. The company has developed an RFP system where it sends the link to suppliers. It eliminates all the Excel work, and suppliers can quote it into the portal. He says, “We would just analyse, then we build off of that for Customer Quotes. We built off of that impact by extending it to quality portals, shipping portals all of these are all inbuilt tools, and our customers have expressed a lot of interest. ”
Last year, MES bought several new softwares for warehouse management, forecasting, sales order automation and packaging optimizations. The company did HR transformation, and over the last several years, the company has done all of its marketing reports in automated formats by adding technologies like Power BI and all other advanced tools for business intelligence reports. The company also has a ERP system and follows order management by using different software tools, and it implements this system in all its companies globally.
Heading to Achieve New Heights
The development of additional local manufacturing capabilities, realizing commercial possibilities in the UK, Japan, and expanding local storage facilities throughout the world are among MES’s future initiatives. Currently, the company is focusing on building its name in the software industry with Hiten’s older son himself leading that unit. Hiten opines, “Our team of managers are very engaged, and they want us to see us grow.”