On the Rise: Michael Shivers
Production Systems Manager | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 29
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the tire industry was in Cooper’s Innovative Technology department. Inside that group, I served as part of the team that researched guayule as a domestically grown source for natural rubber through a $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant. I also worked on compound development. These efforts aligned with my background as a chemical engineer and allowed me to use my technical expertise while being exposed to the tire business.
What attracted you to the industry?
I had several co-ops with Cooper Tire which allowed me to see not only the compounding process, but also tire manufacturing plants and manufacturing processes. The complexity to create each component of the tire and assemble it was fascinating. I have moved closer to the manufacturing process with each position change at Cooper. I think everyone needs to get into the details of manufacturing to truly understand the business.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is my transition from project leader to manager. I want to be involved in the details and help drive projects. My most recent role has forced me to delegate and coach projects to success.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
The individual with the biggest influence on my career is Nick Schieltz at Cooper Tire. Nick was my second manager at Cooper. He had a great deal of influence on moving me away from research and development and closer to the manufacturing process where I am now. Nick and I continue to have valuable discussions regarding Cooper and our careers here.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My involvement in our Cooper Production System launch was very successful and spanned our international facilities. I enjoyed getting to perform the launch at the international level and drive excellence across the whole Cooper organization.
How do you spend your work day?
My current responsibilities are to mentor Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, facilitate Cooper’s lean production system, assist in five-year capital planning and manage our industrial engineering team. Most of my day is spent meeting with individuals or teams to discuss projects to help make us better.
What keeps you up at night?
Wondering if the Detroit Lions will ever break through to become the elite football team they are. Go Lions!
Early bird or night owl?
Messy or neat freak?
Growing up, what was your dream job?
My goal of being a chemical engineer started in high school. I thought I was going to be an engineer in the oil industry optimizing processes to be their most efficient.
Tell us about your family.
My wife and two daughters (ages 3 and 1) are all about Disney right now. We plan to take them at the end of the year.
Describe your first car and what you loved most about it.
My first car was handed down to me from my brother. A ’94 Pontiac Sunbird. It was a teal color and turned heads because it was so “loud” of a color. I later upgraded to a manual transmission Red ’89 Ford F-150. I have many fond memories of that car.
What advice would you give your high school self?
Never stop learning.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Best way to spend a Saturday night:
Staying in with friends playing one of my new board games.
What song do you crank up loud and always sing along to?
This is a difficult one for me. Not really much of a sing along person. I am nostalgic to the songs of the 2000s.
What habit do you wish you could break?
I wish I could consistently be more organized. I go in “sprints” where I become hyper organized with a single task list and become very efficient in completing work. Then multiple meetings, a conference, or a big project make me lose focus.
What’s your secret superpower?
No secrets here. I think if I had a superpower I would let others know it.
What game show would you most likely win?
I think I am pretty good at Ping Pong for a casual player; however, I realize I can very easily be outmatched.
If we gave you $1,000 and one hour, how would you spend the money?
I think I would want to do something new that I hadn’t done before. Bungee jumping, sky diving, or scuba diving.
How should the tire industry attract and retain more young talent?
The tire industry needs to demonstrate what it can offer to young talent. This is a highly complex field with highly complex problems that need solved. These problems range across engineering disciplines, business units, marketing, and supply chain will not truly be solved until we work across these disciplines to solve problems. The ability to work in teams, research new ideas, be a lab chemist, or test tires on a track creates a very diverse field with a niche job for everyone.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I hope to still be working in the tire industry making a difference.
What’s the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
The biggest issue facing the tire industry is sustainability. Natural rubber is single “specie” sourced and we use predominately petroleum products. The first tire company that can make an affordable green tire will have a product that is desired from the market.
If you could spend a day supporting a charity, what would you do?
In the past I have helped serve at a soup kitchen and I would enjoy becoming more involved again.
If you could start a new career tomorrow, what would it be?
College professor. I have found that I enjoy helping others understand and grow to be successful.