[Undercover Boss – Season 2 Episode 15]
Denny Slagle, CEO of Mack Trucks, decided to play an unemployed sub-contractor working on the front line to try figuring out what was going on with the workers. While the company had a 100+ year legacy, the company only had 5,000 employees but made $4 billion. The company was started in 1900 by the Mack brothers. Denny came into Mack’s power after Volvo took over. In the economic downturn and competition moving down to Mexico to lower costs, Slagle hoped that he could figure out how to keep the company competitive.
Before leaving, Denny spent time back at home with his wife, Karen, and grandchildren, and while his daughter hoped that he wouldn’t do anything too embarrassing, his love for his grandchildren was enough to connect him as an everyday man with a family. Denny wanted to make sure that he underwent what he called “a health check” after there were several plants that were phased out and only a limited number of survivors still existed. He said goodbye to his family as he drove off in his Volvo, a good sign that he has pride in his company.
The main premise for the show was that Denny played Roger Donovan who was competing with a woman for the same job. Before day one, at 4:30am, Denny had to make sure he had his disguise correct and adjusted his fake moustache.
Job 1: Engine Assembly Plant. Denny wanted to make sure that the company still had the high quality that Mack had before Volvo took over. “Roger” met Tracy first and she maintained a chipper attitude in the morning and all through the day. Denny stared at the robots with sensors, like Roombas but without the unnecessary bumping. Tracy went through the motions. There was a timer that would go down and there was only a little bit more than two minutes. Tracy created a cover which was inspired by painters. She explained the greasing, gluing robots, correctly sealing, and an “apparatus” to push the pieces together which has reduced part-defects. Tracy was expected to make 140 a day. Denny attempted one the first time, but he was going a bit slow and putting his fingers in the wrong side. The people ahead of the line had to wait for this step to be finished. Denny made a mistake and the coordinator had to fix it. Denny then missed screws.
Tracy constantly screamed “Oops!” and “Uh Oh!” emphasizing Denny’s incompetence in the job. Tracy worked all day knowing how repetitious it is. She doesn’t want to be worried about her job but she had a heart attack in 2006, a month after she turned 46. She worked in South Carolina Mack, but was rephased out. During break time, Tracy explained that she liked home. Two years have changed some of her perspective. She was convinced that the higher up people were being very “cold” to the front-line workers as Denny was choked for words. She was also worried about her kids. Her whole family was still stationed in South Carolina.
Job 2: Parts Distribution Center. Denny met with Mike, a Material Technician. According to Mike, he drove more than an hour to commute. He admitted to being a big fan of Philly-based sports teams. He was involved with his local youth league and one of his children was part of the Miami Dolphins. Mike explained the controls of the cool transfer forklift. After picking up the first order, the two drove to their first job. They scanned correct boxes and head to the second destination. Denny attempted driving, but he turned a bit abruptly, and drove too fast, and honked too much. Denny hit several things. The vehicle elevated and got very unsafe. Mike got snarky, pointing out the bosses and called the bosses as “The Warden” because they hawked their eyes. They eventually sent the box down. Mike then sent Denny out by himself to do the next ticket, but it took three and a half minutes. Several minutes later, Denny finally got his job finished.
The two went to lunch and Mike explained that there were only 86 workers. He’s worked for 34.5 years and his father was part of the work force. He complained about how Volvo’s purchase of Mack messed everything up and there was no unity. The plant closed down and there was no concern looking out for the now slimming number of jobs. Mike pointed out the terrible morale. Mike voiced his concern claiming untrue rumors including Mack going across the boarder as business gets more competitive. Mike’s on Facebook and hearing more rumors from there. Denny realized that the people need the right information.
That night, Denny realized that there was no bonding.
Job 3: Assembly Operations. There was a lot of emissions control issue changes as the company needed to make sure that they followed the new government based standards. Denny wanted to see how well they have adjusted. Allan met with Denny and he explained how to assemble part of the truck. Allan had an emphasis on quality versus speed when he was teaching. Allan was a good teacher. After the lesson, Denny had to try a 70-Leter version and did a good job. He was satisfied by the quality and adjustments the group had to make.
The two have a sit-down where Allan explained his children, and his special needs grandkids with MPS. Allan was choked up explaining how the grandchildren were missing an enzyme that wasn’t getting rid of the body’s waste. It’s tough to hear doctors telling you mixed news. With his wife retiring soon, she would take care of the grandchildren. The two cherish their time with their grandchildren.
Job 4: Assembly Operations. Denny was looking for Jeff the technician who was in charge of bumpers and exhaust. Jeff did a good job explaining how to put nuts, bolts, and washers on the bumpers. Jeff worked at Mack since 1998, making his time together for 11-12 years. Jeff was part of the Vermont chapter of Bulldogs, and he owns 13 Mack Trucks. Assembling a truck took some adjusting since the whole thing was moving while they assembled the truck. Denny’s bumper had a small nick, but didn’t tell anyone. As for the exhaust, Denny had some small issues, but he used the small chat to see how Jeff explained his reactions to work.
Jeff and Denny spent some time looking at Jeff’s collection of trucks. Jeff spent time explaining how he loves visiting veterans during Christmas season with trees. They looked at different beds and trucks. He lit up as he explained the trucks and his passion.
Later that night, Denny felt the pride that Jeff had. Empathy and understanding was something that he wanted to see how they impacted with the community.
The four workers arrived at the CEO’s office and said hello. He shocked several of the workers with his secret. He appreciated Tracy’s happiness and awards her for her innovation. He wanted to give a trip to South Carolina to celebrate. She loved the appreciation. As for Mike, Denny wanted to make sure they will hold a unified team working together. He will be going to Baltimore for a Town Hall meeting to answer any silly questions and rumors to the group. Denny wanted to give a $5,000 donation in his name to the local sports teams. He also gave Pirates tickets for a weekend. Denny loved Jeff’s craftsmanship; he appreciated the Volvo merger. He donated $5,000 to veterans in Jeff’s name. He also gave a $5,000 gift certificate to look for Mack truck parts for antique truck shows. Allan’s positive nature was a great asset for the workers. He gave $5,000 to the MPS Foundation and an earmark donation for the grandchildren and extended family to have a Disney World trip. His wife gave a personal donation to the family, though we never found out how much was actually donated.
Denny addressed the group in a large meeting. He explained his undercover experiences. He still felt the pride in Mack products. They witnessed some of the funnier moments. Denny wanted to make sure that family and community was a key to success and he wanted to make sure that they were still a U.S. based company.
Afterwards, Tracy had a family reunion. Mike’s donation got the local sports teams new uniforms. Jeff will be the guest of honor talking about the pride of Mack. Allan will be going on vacation soon.
Continue reading here: ‘Undercover Boss’ Recap: ‘Mack Trucks’