When AirbusAlabama.com first met up with Rich Bexley, in the Fall of 2021, his career was going pretty much according to his plan. A Mobile native, Rich had moved to Indiana in 2013 to work first for a logistics company and then an automotive parts manufacturer while successfully pursuing his undergraduate degree. At the latter job, he worked his way up from a supervisor role to become division manager.
But when Rich learned Airbus would be locating a final assembly line in Mobile, he knew right away he wanted to be a part of it. Here’s how he remembered it.
“I had my eyes on Airbus from the moment I heard they were coming here. In my mind, I wanted to work for Airbus and come back home to Mobile. I had been living up north where the job market was better at the time, but here was an opportunity to move my family back and to work for a great company,” Rich said.
Once he had earned his degree, Rich applied to Airbus and landed a job as an Airbus Operating System Improvement Specialist, the first of four jobs he’s now held with the company. But things didn’t get off to the best of starts when an unexpected pandemic began to affect operations.
“I moved here from Indiana, bringing my family to Mobile for this exciting new opportunity. I came to the FAL for orientation, and I was sent home two hours later so they could clean to protect everyone from COVID-19. And we shut down a week later,” Rich said.
“I think Airbus handled it extremely well. And I say that partly because my first day on the shop floor was completely immersed in COVID-19 protocols. I was creating and printing and displaying all of the signage for the six-foot separation, mask policies, the stairwell capacity, elevator capacity. I hung every single sign in this site that was related to COVID.
“Airbus had some really good measures in place, they took it seriously, following CDC guidelines. They took initiative, implemented specific requirements. They did shift separations. And I think they did it very well and they did it quickly. I think their agility as an organization is phenomenal,” Rich said.
Rich said the pandemic wasn’t the only eventuality Airbus had planned for.
“Airbus has a plan for everything, and they rehearse, and they know exactly what to do when an event occurs. I think that’s why they were able to be so agile in dealing with COVID is because they had a plan of how to approach, not necessarily COVID itself, but a mass disease event or something like that,” Rich said.
This winter, we reconnected with Rich and found he had received another promotion. He’s now working on his doctorate in business administration, and he has become the US focal point for the company’s End to End Logistics Transformation, tapping into his experience in logistics with manufacturing processes and methods. His daughter is now seven years old, and his son is two.
Rich said his advancement reflected the plans and goals he had set for himself, but he insists his success can also be credited in part to Airbus’ robust professional development efforts.
“Airbus has an extremely strong development program. They let you work on that development plan with your manager, and you can set a fairly clear path of where you want to go and how you want to get there. And your manager is able to give you feedback and say whether or not you should add things, take things away, should focus on something different, whatever,” Rich said.
“They’re always focused on how someone can progress in a position. There are so many opportunities for growth and development. They work to empower you individually, but then at the same time they help you plan for the path ahead,” he said.
Rich said his experience at Airbus has shown him that his managers and the company genuinely care about employees as human beings.
“I think they found the magic formula to be honest. They care enough about you and what you’re going through as a person, as a human. I feel like they’re more understanding and that allows them to have the empathy for that work life balance,” Rich said.
“I’ve got a good example. My sister got COVID, and she was hospitalized with it. And I was communicating with my boss, and he was asking me about her, how she was doing and all of that. And then (General Manager) Daryl Taylor walked into a meeting I was in, and he comes up right over my shoulder—mask on of course—and he says, ‘How’s your sister?’ And I was shocked, because for him to take the time to know that I’m dealing with that, at his level, is phenomenal to me,” he said.
The professional development environment at the Mobile manufacturing site has inspired Rich to be a part of helping develop the skills and talents of others. His advice for young people entering the industry? Not surprisingly, it involves planning ahead.
“Set your plan, stay focused, continue to develop yourself. When you set your development plan, make sure you set good, achievable actions, and give yourself a five-year goal and you’ll make it,” Rich said.
Rich said his next five-year plan includes becoming more involved in a strategy-focused role.
“It’s a natural progression from the end-to-end logistics project I am working on now,” Rich said.
If history is any guide, it doesn’t pay to bet against Rich Bexley.