Connect with Todd Drouillard
Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. Our guest today is Todd Drouillard. Todd is the section leader of the manufacturing and product development sector within the national architecture and engineering design firm, H E D. As a member of the state of Michigan construction code commission board of directors, Todd focuses on design innovation and improving speed to market in manufacturing, supply chain, and design for automotive and battery technology.
Todd, welcome to the show.
Todd Drouillard: Thank you. Thank you again for having me on. We're happy to be here.
Lisa Ryan: Todd, please share a little about your background and what led you to do what you're doing.
Todd Drouillard: Sure. It all started when I was ten years old, which is crazy to think that you knew what you wanted to do when you were 10. I wanted to be an architect. I had a brief period just because I grew up in the Metro Detroit lake area and was highly influenced by the shows we would have. So a short time, I wanted to design vehicles. That kind of squashed a little bit when I discovered that my artistic talents weren't as great as they should have been.
So I did go ahead and received a degree in architecture in the area that made sense to work in automotive. So that's where I've been spending most of my time, probably two-thirds of my 20, 21 years of doing this.
And the work has been focused strictly on the manufacturing side. So my role at H E D is precise in that I look for ways that we can design buildings to build better products.
Lisa Ryan: Okay. So what was it about architecture? That's so fascinating that you were captivated at age 10.
Todd Drouillard: Yeah. I just loved to look at blueprints and drawings, and when my folks had a cottage built a few years before I was born. They still had the old blueprints, and I'd love to roll them out, study them, look at them, and sometimes try to recreate them. I was just amazed that these drawings turned into something tangible. So from there on out, it was just like a passion of mine.
Lisa Ryan: Wow. Wow. That's just fascinating. I had no idea what I was going to do at age 10.
Todd Drouillard: My children are just beyond those ages, and I asked them, and they don't know. So maybe it was just a strange thing that happened to me.
Lisa Ryan: So when it comes to design, I know we talk a lot on this show about the workforce we're going through now with the great resignation and all that stuff that's going on. How do you feel that good facility design can be used to create and retain workforce talent and reduce staff turnover?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah. There are a couple of things that we do. My firm has a workplace side too. We often collaborate because what happens in offices and lab environments can quickly move into manufacturing. Many of our clients are coming to us and saying we must differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
We need to make the space better than it used to be. So the dark, dreary manufacturing plants are not working. It's strange; we've gone back in time a little bit. If you think back to some of the greatest factories built, they were open-aired skylights and the use of natural ventilation.
And then we went back into this box. And we took out the windows, and we just used enough lighting to save money or whatnot. And we found out that you get some fresh air when you bring in light. You make it a more workable space. The employees stay. They enjoy what they see. A lot of times, too, we try to open up areas that may not have been visible to even the offices to show the employees what they're building. So they have this idea that they're part of something greater than before.
So we found out that, and the other spaces are making great more, I want to say a better area to have lunch a. A better opening to have a communal teaming room, and those bases have made it much better. The other part about it is just going through the exterior design.
When you drive by these newer manufacturing spaces, they tend to have more of a brand. Then the old white box that we've seen in the past. So our clients have been asking that we want people to drive down the freeway and know that it's an Amazon warehouse.
They want to know that it's just not a big white box, that it has a branding that something's going on there. And something's excellent.
Lisa Ryan: Is it something that you're primarily starting? I'm sure it's easier to start with new construction, but do you have many of your clients? I'm in Cleveland, which I'm sure is a lot like Detroit when it comes to manufacturing. There are a lot of old plants around, so how would you go about retrofitting and doing some of these things to bring back those dark, dreary places and make them more user-friendly and workforce friendly?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah, I think it's just going through and looking at what, what's available, and what's there. It's trying to bring like I've noted in, in some of the older, like manufacturing here, like in Detroit, But a lot of times what they would do is I guess to hide the old brick, the old look we've, torn those down, to expose it, to kind show how the building's built.
So even in the simplicity of trying not to hide the way the building's built because sometimes, the architecture of the building can speak to how cool it can be. So try not to hide that, but a simple way to do it is to lighten it up.
Does paint everything white
I know it sounds right. But, like a simple thing, installing new lighting, efficient lighting to bring some light into the space helps. You can create a bright room with those two things. The other thing is to do your best to get some natural daylight, even though, at times, Detroit, Cleveland, and some of the Midwest can be dreary.
Lisa Ryan: We do have some beautiful days. And that does seem to help the morale quite, quite a bit. And like you said, even a fresh coat of paint. There are so many places where you go into the office or where the customer-facing parts of the things or the office facing, and everything's nice, clean, beautiful, and up to date.
And then you go into the plant or the warehouse, and it's just dirty and everything. So even a coat of paint of a clean coat of paint can make a huge difference for sure.
Todd Drouillard: And it's just that, it's just the going through it, what an looking at it has, what I want to work here, what I want, people that I know wanna work here and to embrace the space for what it is.
Try not to make it something that's not it. And I think one of the biggest things is to expose and get down to why that building's there once you're trying to build. It's enjoyable.
Lisa Ryan: I think about, I was just in Savannah speaking last week, and there's so much history in that it seemed that every restaurant and hotel that I went into, they welcomed that exposed brick, and you can feel the history. And I think that's such an important point. With these older buildings, there's so much history, and employees want to feel that they are part of something bigger than they are.
And if they're in this one of these historic buildings, they are, and then it's up to the company to clean it up. And like you said, they can do the natural light or other things. So what are some of the other things that you're seeing? We talked about natural light. We talked about a paint job. What else are companies doing to bring that up to date and make it where they want to work?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah. The other thing that I've seen a lot of times, too, is when a what, like when they start to introduce them because most of these manufacturing plants have an office slick area exposing the office area into the manufacturing area. So there's not that hierarchy of having the office up above. And everybody's looking down on the like on the workers. So, it's becoming more of an impressionable thing to introduce those, and sometimes you know what, like even blend them.
So there's no clear line between what's in an office and what's a workspace. Or like a manufacturer or manufacturing space. The same thing is happening in the warehouse, with the warehousing also trying to expose that. So it's not so hidden away and lost a lot of our clients want open spaces with as few barriers as possible, fewer columns, fewer walls. Let's open up the room, make it bright, and we want to be able to see what's going on. And if there's a problem, we can address it. The other part of that is trying to make a very efficient space. Both leading manufacturers, you have an office. You have the manufacturing bees like inbound processing, outbound, nice and linear streak. Sometimes that doesn't like always happening. So our clients look to us to create more efficiency within their floor plans.
Lisa Ryan: Then a lot of times that that's achieved by just good planning. Good overall planning of the building. And so, how involved do you get the employees in the process? Because it would seem that, nobody likes change. So you're going in, and all the workers know is that you will change their space.
So what are some of the ways you get the buy-in from them? For example, are you meeting with different committees? Are you finding out from the workers there about workflow, or how does that process work?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah, it's a little bit of both. We've seen it happen both ways, where some groups were created to be the voice of the people on the floor.
And then other ones have been where we've gone through and done. The companies we've worked for have conducted surveys like their top parts. And it almost always comes across as for people to stay. They want to be treated well and all those things, but down to the buildings, it comes down to the amenities. We've seen many employers offer gyms, even smaller ones. They'll provide like a fitness clean light-locker rooms cleaner just. You know what it seems like when you make it simple and don't overdo it.
And you create a space for people to be that's important. So it's like that third space between their vehicle, where they may park the car to their workspace. So it's that third space that's important: lunch rooms, fitness areas, break rooms, and team rooms.
Lisa Ryan: Those are probably the top things I've seen in the manufacturing-like environments. So what's been your favorite project to work with? You talked about gyms and breaks and break rooms and lunchrooms and stuff. So what was something you worked on that you thought was super cool that this client wanted?
Todd Drouillard: In one of our projects, this particular light manufacturer makes safety components for like vehicles. So one of the cool things we were likable to do as they had these templates. So that they press out of metal, so in certain worker-areas, we put those up like a ceiling kind of design.
So you can imagine all these wheels and cogs and things they use to make the parts. We painted them flashy and placed them up so people could see what they were building. I thought that, just down, and that's a straightforward thing.
In the other areas we've done, we've created some green spaces, courtyards, and exterior spots. So if people wanted to do what they had to, they would break outside. So use of landscape taking it like outside a little bit, getting some fresh air.
We found that the employees love that stuff. It's something that can be like a differentiator. I love the idea of using the pieces and parts they make in the design.
Lisa Ryan: I know a couple of years ago, when I spoke for the spring manufacturers, they would have a part of the week where the person would take one of the parts they were making, make a poster of it, and show where the particular piece went. So again, you're looking at employees who are doing the same thing on the line every day by just valuing what they do and even making art out of it.
Todd Drouillard: Yeah. That seems that it would put a sense of pride into the workplace. It certainly does. And they've done these companies do follow-ups too.
And one of the few employees even said, it's almost like we're making art. The manufacturing side can be an art because it's essential to have that piece. And that may go to a seatbelt assembly or something and, and, and it's the graphics of like you're saving lives, not only are you making parts, you're saving people's lives.
Lisa Ryan: So it has that holistic approach of, of, it has all the good feels for the company and the employees to create a message that comes across very well. The other thing you mentioned is incorporating the office and the plant environment to eliminate that "us versus them," but how would you do that from a noise control standpoint?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah, that isn't easy. Products have gotten much better. And Glass has gained higher what's called STC ratings to develop that. So instead of being open, per se, it has a glass wall that you have to be careful with the design of what areas you integrate. You can often put a fraction of maybe the conferencing rooms, things that may not have to be so loud. And then you create the private phone booths you want to keep away. For many loud noises
Lisa Ryan: We talked about kind of optimization of the processes. What are some of the trends you're seeing that are being applied? Facility design. Yeah. Where the, where lately I've been seeing the most like optimization is in the warehousing side bits that whole concept to have that last mile shipment, the idea that you and I can go on our complex computer in a day or so we have a product at our porch or even like the same day. So what's been happening? Are there automatic retrieval parts? And so the warehouse-like of the future is not just a big warehouse with rack storage. It's a multi-floor, multi-piece that is all automated.
Todd Drouillard: I've seen a lot of leg innovation there. It but the same with any product, especially one that creates any level of waste or scrap or recycling. That's been a big piece too. So in a, let's say, a parts stamping plant where they're stamping out parts, there's an underground system of tunnels that you don't see what's taking all that metal.
To a specific space that can then be recycled to make more parts, so significantly less wasteful, it's cleaner. It keeps all the noise, dirt, dust, and oils below. So it keeps the plant floor clean and safe as well. So that's, and then the other major innovation.
Lisa Ryan: Mostly, come on the safe side. One of the top priorities of any company I have ever worked for is always safety. So they are keeping the workers safe. And that helps with the lighting and with all kinds of things. But you know what, again, there have been a lot of changes to how safe the buildings are.
And employees are getting back to the workplace and helping people to feel valued. Suppose they think their employer cares enough about them to create a safe environment, not just to protect them from getting fined by OSHA, but because they care about the workers' safety. In that case, they can implement that into the design, making a massive difference in their retention.
Todd Drouillard: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I think everybody would probably agree that everybody wants to go home, be safe, and not have a problem. So if the employee was to step beyond the band, a boundary machine shuts down, with all these checks and balances in a blaze. Even though humans were intuitive, don't put your hand there. Don't touch that. There's the idea that sometimes you're doing something and you don't; you do something and don't have to think about it.
So these are there to check and to make sure that the worker is safe throughout the process. Yeah.
Lisa Ryan: So somebody listening to this show today, if they were thinking about the fact that, what it would be nice to upgrade our space, what would be an excellent way to start, or how would they begin to figure out their priority list of what would make the most sense?
Todd Drouillard: Yeah, I would appreciate the advice that we usually get his, for them to look at their project holistically though, the entire piece of it, not just one, like little like area if they came back, but by and said we want to upgrade our team rooms, but we're like, then what about the office space spaces?
What about the cafeteria? Like again, you don't have to do it all haul at once, but you can think about it and plan. So when you do the next phase of your project, What it's planned out? So it's coming across as a master plan for the space and seeing where the priorities are.
It hit their due for lighting, like a like upgrade. It's a great time to do it. You are trying to sell like leadership on the benefits of being able to save money in the long. So that's another piece of it too, is by doing these projects and making the building better, more efficient, new air, like HVAC to help cool the building or these can be made as more of a longer-term saving money. So talk rather than just a quick, immediate fix.
Lisa Ryan: Okay. And if you were to say your number one tip or the best idea for facility design, for everything we talked about, workforce and optimization and cost savings.
Todd Drouillard: Sure. What would that be? Sure. Hire us earlier than you higher us, like earlier than you think you should bring us in as soon as possible. But, again, let's plan and start slow. Let's front-load the project with some time during construction or building. Or the renovation cost, you'll save money been the long run. So getting in there as early as possible and thinking about these things is probably the biggest.
And then taking a survey of your employers would be another excellent opportunity to see what's on their minds. Absolutely. Okay. And Todd, if people did want to continue the conversation with you, what's the best way to get ahold of you? The best way is through my email address Attard HD.design, or to check out our website, which is hed. Design.
Lisa Ryan: Okay. Todd, thank you so much for everything you shared with us today. It was great having you on the show.
Todd Drouillard: Excellent. Thank you again, Lisa.
I'm Lisa Ryan, and this is the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. We'll see you next time.