Former middle-school teacher Mary Ann Mauldwin had no experience in the racing industry back when two legendary car-engine builders asked her to join their new company nearly 14 years ago.
Today, as COO at Roush Yates Engines, she isn’t just one of the highest-ranking women in a male-dominated industry – she has steadily transformed her company and industry, applying good management practices to a sport that has sometimes been slow to accept them, she told a midstate business audience this week.
“It was not considered a business – it was considered entertainment,” the 60-something Mauldwin said of the racing field.
Privately-held Roush Yates Engines is the exclusive Ford engine-builder for NASCAR. It has nearly 200 employees and a stable of drivers that includes Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. To date, it has more than 280 combined wins in NASCAR, the International Motor Sports Association and the worldwide Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, its webpage said.
The Mooresville, N.C.-based company formed in 2003 when racing veterans Jack Roush and Robert Yates – who once were fierce compeitors – realized they could do more together than separately, Mauldwin said.
“They were really visionaries,” Mauldwin told roughly 130 business and manufacturing leaders at a seminar this week at Spooky Nook Sports in East Hempfield Township.
The seminar, an event for regional financial executives and owners in the manufacturing and distribution industry, was presented by regional accounting and business consulting firm RKL LLP.
Mauldwin turned to manufacturing after a stint in teaching. She earned a degree in industrial engineering, and worked from 1979 to 1998 as materials manager for Pelton & Crane, a dental-supply store in Charlotte, and from 1999 to 2004 as director of supply-chain management for North Carolina padded-sock manufacturer Thorlo Inc.
After coming aboard at Roush Yates, Mauldwin saw that the company’s inventory accuracy was only around 50 percent, and operational-improvement experts suggest that businesses want a figure as close to 100 percent as possible. Under Mauldwin, the Roush Yates number climbed to nearly 100 percent accuracy within a year.
Among other steps, Mauldwin made sure that stockroom personnel were trained to find and correct problems with inventory accuracy, and had employees trained through CPIM (or, Certified in Production and Inventory Management) classes in order to use and understand software, among other steps.
Within a year of her starting with the company, Roush Yates won the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Championship.
Today, she oversees all operations-management aspects for Roush Yates, including finance, IT and engineering change control.
The company, meanwhile, continues to grow. Roush Yates plans to add 10 jobs to its Mooresville shop and spend $3.5 million to buy new production equipment and expand its buildings, the Charlotte Business Journal recently reported.
But like manufacturers in the midstate, Roush Yates also has had trouble finding skilled workers to support its growth.
“It was easy to find the right equipment,” Mauldwin said. “It was much more difficult just to find the right people.”