Mike Lev on Harbinger's Heartbeat
Sit down with Harbinger’s V.P. of Manufacturing Operations, Mike Lev, for just three minutes and you’re guaranteed to get excited. “I could go on and on about what we do here all day,” says Lev. “I have a lot of passion for what we produce – it’s exhilarating.” From his office in the sizable Harbinger shop, Lev observes his team of manufacturers. “It truly is more than your average depot,” he remarks. “We’re a custom fabrication facility where the possibilities are boundless.”
Asking Mike about what makes Harbinger’s processes so effective, he immediately points to the people around him. “We have a superior work culture that respects our manufactures as craftsmen. Cross-training is an essential aspect of our success, and we work to bring people up from their starting position.” Lev would know something about moving through the ranks – he began as an installation helper with Harbinger (Quality Sign at the time) over 23 years ago. Working on the trucks gave him the knowledge of how signs had to function in the real world, and he keeps that at top-of-mind now as he oversees a multitude of products fabricated under Harbinger’s roof each day.
“Our people have a variety of tenures,” says Lev. “Danny Bell for example just passed 30 years here. The dynamic of old-school fabrication, non-automated tools and hand craftsmanship brings a great attention to detail.” “On the other hand,” Lev continues, “our wave of new employees – some of our vinyl techs and painters – they’re used to more modern automated techniques.” Together, that old-school know-how mixes with modern-era usage to balance the ship that is Harbinger’s manufacturing. “Cohesiveness gives us a very low turnaround in our company. I think making a career here is easy to do, and that speaks volumes about us.”
Walking through the facility, Lev looks over a giant convenience store sign large enough for a crew to fit inside, and then on to a new paint shed which looks something like a giant walk-in freezer. “This is a state-of-the-art piece,” he says about the booth. “We are fortunate that management has their eye on keeping us stocked with the latest technology. It allows us to go the extra mile on custom projects and continue to innovate.”
As Lev continues moving through the shop, his enthusiasm is contagious. He speaks on enabling his team so that they feel empowered to make an informed decision on best practices. “They can say to me, ‘I think if we did it this way we can save time and money.’ I believe in research and testing – I want to figure out how to do it best for our customers. And I believe that we have to let our employees think outside the box in order to achieve that.”
“This is the heartbeat of Harbinger,” remarks Lev as he finishes his circle of the shop and looks back and the bustle of the hive. “It takes all of our teams from sales to design to fabrication and installation to complete our work, but back here – wow! Look at the size, shape, and creation of this. It makes it exciting. We’re not a construction site back here; we’re professionals that take pride in our work, help each other out. It’s excellent communication between our systems – the tools, talent, equipment, vendors and suppliers – combined together that make a product easy to build under a creative challenge.”
As Lev gets ready to leave for the day and head out, he steps out of the busy facility and into the North Florida sunshine. “One of the best parts of this company and our industry is that we get to see the fruits of our labors. Whether it’s seeing it at a Jaguars game or driving by a 7-11, our work is out in the community. That’s very satisfying.”