Adrian Schaffer has been appointed as the new President of A&I North America. Adrian is a tenured transport segment executive with extensive product and technology leadership and sales experience, spanning manufacturing, electrification, telematics and connectivity and conventional powertrain across North America and globally.
Coming to Ricardo feels like the culmination of everything I have done throughout my career. This truly is a match made in heaven because my background and context fit right in with what we're doing today and where the industry needs to go.
Q: What was your educational journey which led you to where you are today?
A: After graduating from DeVry Institute of Technology as a technician and working with a medical equipment company, I eventually went back to school and earned a degree from Triton Junior College in suburban Chicago. This led to receiving a scholarship to play basketball at Oberlin Ohio College, where I earned a BA in Economics. Years later while working at Motorola, the company offered me the opportunity to attend Michigan State University, where I received my Executive MBA. It was not a typical collegiate career, but one where I amassed a broad range of experience and knowledge – from the intricacies of automotive software and electronics to real-world application of new technologies and financial impact on a business and the industry.
Q: How did you find yourself with a career in the transportation sector?
A: After attending Oberlin, I met Dave Wooldridge from Motorola and he asked me to attend an interview. Motorola's telematics business unit was beginning to focus on GPS navigation and digitised maps. Soon, I was selling telematics systems and consultative solutions to customers around the world. From there, I moved to Motorola’s Automotive Industrial and Electronics Group, working with customers like Allison Transmissions, Caterpillar, John Deere, Detroit Diesel, Cummins, Mack trucks, Volvo, LoJack and more. This management role allowed me to build my sales skills and expand my knowledge of new and emerging technologies. During this timeframe, I was sent to Michigan to help close a deal with General Motors. We succeeded – and soon after, I relocated to Michigan to be a sales director at Motorola, working with GM, Ford, Stellantis and other customers.
About a year later, I began managing the brand-new OnStar account, which led to working with another upstart technology… Bluetooth. I've been lucky to witness the beginnings and drive the advancement of new technology – from traditional propulsion to electric vehicles, software and electronics. My career has since evolved to focus on decreasing the complexity of bringing new and advanced technologies to market, delivering production quality and scale while managing the integration with and maintenance of legacy solutions.
Q: What convinced you to transition from Motorola, one of the world’s leading electronics companies, to Linamar Corporation and their machining business?
A: Motorola was a wonderful experience. I became Director of Marketing - not only handling sales, but also the business side, including product branding, labeling and working the wholesale business cycle to get products to market.
But the time came for a change and new challenges and I moved from electronics to a mechanical operation at Linamar, a billion-dollar machining company that manufactures blocks, heads, transmissions, crankshafts, and gears.
For me, the overall transition was rather easy; relationships are critical in the automotive-industrial market. Learning the products was a little bit more challenging, but I became acquainted with the mechanical side of the business, dealing with steel, aluminium and products that are machinery for automotive and industrial applications. It was great exposure, rounding out my technical background and giving me insights into the broader realm of challenges our customers face.
Q: As the VP of Sales for the Industrial Group at Linamar, managing a global staff and handling $1.5 billion in annual revenue, what led to your transition to UQM Technologies in 2011 and how did you approach expanding their business?
A: UQM needed people who had experience getting product to market - scaling production, growing the business, securing senior level meetings with customers and translating their visions to production realities. It was a chance to grow, travel the world working with customers and, as one of four executives running UQM, be part of the decision-making process for a publicly traded company.
My first step was to improve and expand our customer base, enabling UQM to partner with customers across multi-year programmes. By 2018, we were the standalone motor inverter company in a marketplace witnessing numerous mergers and acquisitions. In 2019, Danfoss, a European company, purchased UQM. We continued to grow as part of a larger, more stable organisation and we engaged larger OEMs, providing our solutions to achieve their performance specifications. By the time I left UQM-Danfoss after nearly 10 years, we had signed three long-term agreements in the electric vehicle market with lifetime sales exceeding $400 million and worked with numerous OEMs to incorporate EV drivetrains into their new vehicle lineups.
Q: After three decades of experience that spans from conventional powertrain and manufacturing to connectivity and electrification, you’re now President, Ricardo A&I North America. How did this come together and how will you drive growth for Ricardo?
A: I’ve been familiar with Ricardo forever, and I've known Marques McCammon, Ricardo’s Global Managing Director, Automotive and Industrial for years. Marques and I have discussed various opportunities and held numerous strategic conversations about the future of transportation and clean mobility.
I’m confident my work experiences will contribute to our vision and growth as a company. I am packaging my product and technology leadership and sales knowledge - spanning manufacturing, electrification, telematics and connectivity and conventional powertrain across North America and globally – to build stronger relationships with existing and future customers. Great technology and insights, which Ricardo has in abundance, sell themselves, and having strong relationships across the industry will enhance the solutions we bring to the table both for Ricardo and our customers.
Coming to Ricardo feels like the culmination of everything I have done throughout my career. This truly is a match made in heaven because my background and context fit right in with what we're doing today and where the industry needs to go. Ricardo’s exceptional background in technology and engineering leadership is guided by a lot of very talented people on the team. I’m looking forward to being a team player who allows us to win, grow and enhance our business.
Q: How would you describe your management style?
A: I am a very humble person and that translates to my management style. I simply insist everyone on my team understands what their role is. To quote New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick …‘Know your job and do your job.’ I’m a very gentle, easy-going person, but we will work hard, and we will work hard together.
This industry demands on-time, expert execution where the timing and delivery of one programme can have critical impact on the success of another. From an engineering and programme management perspective, that is always the case. I will always support my team in those aspects, doing what I need to do to ensure our customers and Ricardo are successful together.
Q: What has helped you be successful throughout your career managing and selling complex technologies?
My background has granted me exposure to a wide variety of technologies and business applications across numerous verticals in North America and globally. To manage technology businesses effectively, I need to understand the technology to a certain degree. Even more importantly, I need to understand the industry challenges and pain points, and the value and support that Ricardo can deliver to advance our customers forward.
I have come to deeply appreciate the value of my all-star engineering teams, who have an entirely different world of understanding of the market and emerging technologies. I spend a lot of time with engineering to understand how products are designed, built, and integrated so I can most effectively communicate their value.
I've worked for 30 years with engineers, so I have enough insights to be dangerous, but I also recognize that there are experts behind me who can support what I do. This is why coming to Ricardo makes so much sense and I am thrilled to be a part of, and lead this team to even greater success.
View Adrian Schaffer's profile on Crain's Detroit Business: https://bit.ly/3j0Jsb0