Rodney Tharp began as the Tulsa Bus Plant manager in the beginning of September. Rodney has worked at Navistar for about 19 years serving in several roles including manager of the former Conway Assembly Plant and most recently as Navistar’s supply chain director. He is now applying his years of bus manufacturing knowledge to his new role in Tulsa. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rodney and learn about his background, why he is passionate about building buses and his goals for the plant.
You’ve worked at Navistar for several years and in many positions. What makes you excited about leading the Tulsa Bus Plant?
I love the people and the product. People say that once you get in the bus business you bleed yellow. There is something very special about building a product that enables education and protects our children. We take safety and quality extremely seriously because we know that our vehicles carry children all over the country and the world. Parents allow us to carry their kids with confidence every day! They know we give them a product to get to school and back home safe.
I also love the ability to influence a team. I believe in practicing servant leadership – my main goal is to serve my team. We are survivors here at Navistar. We all work hard and do our part toward success, I am so proud to be a part of it and I know that our trucks and buses are built by the best group of people in the world.
What are your goals for the Tulsa Bus Plant?
I’m still learning our opportunities, but I know that first and foremost, I want to deliver a product that is better. I’m focused on improving our ability to give our customer’s a product that sells itself.
At a plant level, I’d like to see continued success through high and low seasons. We should never feel victimized, but always empowered to perform. I believe that with teamwork, the right expectations and right tools our performance will fall in place naturally.
What is your favorite part of the role so far?
My favorite part of this job is watching this team be successful. The energy is changing at our Tulsa facility. We are having fun celebrating successes. The activity committee is back engaged at the plant from both a union and plant perspective. We are bringing passion and energy to let our plant employees know that we all, as a team, are good at what we do.
I start my day out on the floor, end my day out on the floor and rotate between groups. Watching people, who have very clear expectations and tools, turn their metrics green is rewarding for everyone. If we are struggling, we find out why we can’t be successful, ask what’s keeping us from making this green – and how can we help. We empower each other to always look for opportunities to improve safety, people, quality, delivery and cost.
When my head hits the pillow, I really enjoy that we have employees that all row the boat the same direction.