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Behind The Scenes Part Four: Dave Howard, Challenging the Norm as Chief Operating Officer.


“Challenging the norm” and “pushing brands and people outside of their comfort zone” are sentiments that represent Dave’s philosophy and approach to his work as chief operating officer. Blame it on the 25+ years of working in the operations of various B-to-B and consumer brands, but Dave’s discipline has instilled in him a continuous vision of creating efficiencies and driving optimization - which is part of what makes working with Flowbuilt so compelling. As is keeping things nimble, because “what’s right today isn’t necessarily going to be right tomorrow.”


Tell us about your background and how you’re drawing on it to help with your current role at Flowbuilt.

My role as the chief operating officer means I’m responsible for the supply chain and logistics, the adoption of internal processes, and oversight of business units like IT and finance. I’m fairly involved in most aspects of the Flowbuilt business as well as the various brand partners we work with, making sure that our teams have the necessary tools, products, and materials readily available.


I’ve been in operations and support for about 25 years, working for large organizations on a global scale. So in my role with Flowbuilt, I’ve been pulling from my experience with global support and supply chains, as well as looking for the most efficient ways to get a business from point A to-point B in the most cost effective means.


How do you describe Flowbuilt to a prospective partner?

Flowbuilt is a brand agnostic contract manufacturer where multiple brands can work simultaneously, without the fear of overlap or concerns about sharing IP or trade secrets. Thanks to our internal firewalls, we can ensure a safeguard for our partners, their products and their brand DNA.


We have the ability to provide a turnkey solution for footwear manufacturing - both in-line or custom, from one pair, a prototype, one size run or a much larger production run. And we’re doing so with ‘local’ and onshore efficiency for the North American market here in Washington state.


What do you see as the vision for Flowbuilt, where could this facility go in the future?

We’ve really just started this journey but as we continue to evolve globally, and as a turnkey solution provider, there’s a possibility to create new satellite hubs around North America, and perhaps beyond. We’re offering an end-to-end solution, with rapid prototyping, design, and development all under one roof. And again, this isn’t just in-line products, as we have the technologies and innovations to specialize in custom and personalized footwear.


What, if anything, has surprised you about Flowbuilt since you started working there?

The caliber of the local talent has been a very welcome surprise. We obviously sit in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s a great deal of talent in this area of the country thanks to the amazing footwear companies who call this region home. It’s been wonderful to see the number of individuals who were forward-thinking enough to effectively work at a start-up because they could visualize what we’re doing here at Flowbuilt.


What obstacles do you foresee Flowbuilt needing to overcome?

I would say our location, but again, we’re close to most of the iconic footwear brands in the Pacific Northwest, like Portland, for example. So perhaps logistics could potentially become an obstacle for us in the future but through our work with Superfeet, we have a special partnership with our courier network where we have a very nimble 48-hour turnaround time. So I’m not sure if there are any obstacles or challenges for us now, and quite the opposite, I believe more and more brands will begin seeking out opportunities for localizing - or nearshoring - their production. And more and more people seeking custom, personalized and individualized solutions from those brands.


Stay tuned for part five of our Behind the Scenes Series where will be interviewing Matt Gooch, Flowbuilt Director of Product and Innovation.


In future posts, we’ll also take a closer look at some of the challenges and issues facing today’s manufacturing industry as a whole, and how we are using new innovations - and existing technologies in new ways - while looking to turn the entire industry on its head.


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