517 Magazine Days of Giveaways

Rebecca Roberts: Building People, not just parts

Rebecca Roberts is the executive director for the CEO, president and executive team at Dowding Industries in Eaton Rapids. She joined her family business 30 years ago as a recep…

Rebecca Roberts is the executive director for the CEO, president and executive team at Dowding Industries in Eaton Rapids. She joined her family business 30 years ago as a receptionist, while also in college studying accounting. Roberts’ taste for challenge has allowed her to wear various hats at the company, and she sat down with us to explain a few of the many impressive qualities. Dowding holds as a manufacturer in the industry.

What areas of your background brought you into the manufacturing field? 

I started back at Dowding when I was 18, right after high school. I’m 51 now, so all those years ago I began as a receptionist. At the time I was also going to college for accounting, and my uncle, Skip Dowding, was the owner and founder of the company. I was fortunate enough to come on board, and then one thing just led to another. I began working closely with the accounting team. Then I transitioned into scheduling, logistics analysis, customer service and day-to-day operations, where I stayed for many years.

Since you’ve been at Dowding, what type of growth have you seen from the company?

When Dowding first opened its doors, it was simply a tool-and-die shop. Over time, and in a desire to maintain growth, we transitioned into a stamping facility. Then eventually morphed into fabrication to include laser cutting, forming, welding and large machining.

We have a couple of long-term customers, Cummins Engine and Caterpillar. Cummins Engine was our first significant tier-one customer, and Caterpillar was who enabled us to launch our fabrication plant. Currently, we also do business with other major players such as Kubota Manufacturing and Kawasaki Rail Car. We have three facilities on our campus in Eaton Rapids and nearly 200 employees. We are also on target to becoming a $50 million company within the next few years.

Could you mention a few competitive advantages Dowding has in comparison to other manufacturing companies?

In 2015 Dowding celebrated its 50th anniversary, which is quite phenomenal in the manufacturing industry. Our initiative has always been to continuously diversify, such as becoming a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise and working with the latest technology to stay ahead of the curve.

What really sets Dowding apart in the arena of manufacturing is our quick response manufacturing system (QRM). QRM is utilized to eliminate white space and is important to all areas of the business, not just production processing. We pride ourselves on the QRM training we’re able to hold at Dowding facilities for our suppliers, customers and employees.

Can you tell me about Dowding’s involvement with nonprofits in the Eaton Rapids area?

Our CEO, Christine Dowding-Metts, is a real humanitarian, which resonates throughout our entire company. We’ve served on the boards for Workshops for Warriors, Sparrow Hospital, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Capital Area Humane Society, to name a few.  We have been an instrumental supporter of the Eaton Rapids Teen Center that was put into place last year, and Dowding team members have just recently been accepted to the Adopt-A-Highway roadside cleanup program. 

What does your typical day look like?

In some sense, I am the glue that holds everything together. I am the liaison between many of our teams. I do low-level work from managing everyone’s schedules, up to the highest level of working with CEOs and presidents to schedule and engage in upper-level management meetings. My favorite part about Dowding is the family atmosphere and the constantly changing business landscape. I loved my job 30 years ago, and I still love my job now.

Is there anything else you want readers to know?

I guess I would have to say, if someone were to ask Dowding the question “Why are you here?” our answer would be “We are here to build people, not just parts.”




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