The Beam family has preserved their reputation as dedicated and accomplished distillery owners, bourbon crafters, and businessmen for more than 200 years. Jim Beam’s quality bourbon has been in production since the 18th century and prevailed through prohibition. Seven generations later, the Beam company continues to evolve with the help of their determined employees.
If you ask Marvin Stone, maintenance supervisor at the Booker Noe plant in Kentucky, he will tell you that Beam’s supportive environment is an essential piece to the companies success.
“I have never worked anywhere before where they were so friendly and willing to do things for you,” he said. “Jim Beam is a family. I didn’t understand it when I first started, but then I realized -- I came for the money and stayed for the people.”
Although he has been the Maintenance Supervisor for six years at the Booker Noe location, Stone will be fulfilling his 20th year with the Jim Beam company in March. He started his career in 1993 as a maintenance technician and later underwent a four-year apprenticeship. After several jobs, he was offered a supervisor role with Beam in 2006. Now he is in direct communication with the hourly personnel and assimilated to all walks of life.
“It’s about learning how to deal with people, without knowing how they think or do the things they do,” he said. “You need to learn how to react to them. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, while others are tougher.”
A typical day in the life of the Maintenance Supervisor includes daily tasks of prioritizing and assigning jobs, coordinating with different departments for machine access, contacting third party contractors, and routine inspections from a preventative maintenance program that thoroughly assesses machinery. The Booker Noe plant fills up barrels with Bourbon and ships them to Clermont for packaging. Stone ensures that vessels are clean, alcohol has been evaporated, and reports to the Senior Supervisors and Managers.
Booker Noe is the largest plant with more land than its sister sites, and functions as the primary storage center for Beam Bourbon. The plant consists of nine different departments including distillery, dry house, warehouse, maintenance, re-gage and entry, and the wastewater treatment plant. Beam employees rotate on a 24-hour basis, divided between three different shifts, with a six-day work schedule. With just 67 union, non-union, and salaried employees working at the plant, it’s no wonder they act like family.
But that doesn’t mean the job is without its challenges. Especially for those employees who are working full-time and trying to further their education.
Although he planned to attend class, Stone decided to study through an online school for the freedom in hours and pace. But balancing work and classes is “pretty hard” because “by the time you make that decision you are older and can’t stay up like you used to.”
Looking back on it, Stone said the most important lesson he should have learned was earning an education.
“I didn’t even take the SATs. My father was a maintenance guy for 20 years and I figured I would just follow in his footsteps,” he said. “Once you get out in the world, you learn it’s a very different place.”
Stone remembers falling into the trade school mentality, something he encourages others not to do. “When you’re in skilled trade you don’t look to cross the fence, you are pretty happy with where you are at,” he said. “You run into raising a family and what shift you are working on.” Stone broke the cycle within his family’s future generations by ensuring his kids attain an education.
Even so, he admits he loves working with Beam because they perform as a team. Each person is assigned a different role when a problem arises, and employees work collectively to reach the same goal. “There is no standing on a soapbox,” Stone declares.
Through all the challenges he faces, he still finds time to appreciate the benefits of his environment. Getting to know every employee makes the company more familial.
“It’s a small town and it’s like having a bunch of brothers and sisters. Sometimes you don’t get along but the next day everything is fine.”
Stone has candid suggestions for aspiring technicians.
“I wouldn’t tell people to follow in my footsteps. I climbed over some fences, when I could have just walked through the gates,” he admits. “I just push people to get educated, especially when you’re young. You don’t really know what you want to do, but you know what you don’t want to do.”
Still, Stone remains content at his position and enjoys the ups and downs. “Maintenance is a support group. When you are trying to support everyone’s areas, they often feel like they are the most important,” he says.
However, Stone always remains conscious of the vast distinction of his employees and their departments. “You have to think of the bigger picture. You have to prioritize to get the most out of everything and make everyone happy.”