New Opportunity: VP of Engineering at SawStop

About the Company

SawStop is a technology-focused company that has become the world leader in premium table saws and accessories. SawStop’s saws are equipped Active Injury Mitigation (AIM), a technology the company pioneered. AIM detects contact between the user and the blade and deploys a brake to stop the blade in less than 5 milliseconds, avoiding serious injury.

SawStop’s AIM technology was invented by Steve Gass, a lifelong woodworker with a Ph.D. in physics. Dr. Gass, along with three colleagues, founded SawStop in 2000 to commercialize the technology. Working from Dr. Gass’ barn/shop, the founders created a new table saw incorporating AIM technology as well as many other improvements. That saw was an immediate success when released in late 2004 and the company has since essentially taken over the industrial table saw market. SawStop now has over 120,000 saws in the field and has documentation of over 5,000 fingers saved by SawStop saws.

SawStop was founded by patent attorneys with backgrounds in science and engineering, and the company recognizes the value of innovation and technology. SawStop focuses on premium quality woodworking products with an emphasis on safety. Hand in hand with this focus on innovation is a diligence in protecting that innovation with patents. SawStop has received over 100 US and foreign patents to date and continues to file and enforce new patents on the inventions created through its ongoing R&D. The company is uniquely positioned to grow, redoubling its focus on product innovation and industry leading quality.

In July 2017, a family-owned German power tool company, TTS Tooltechnic Systems, purchased SawStop. TTS was founded in 1925 and is respected around the world for their innovation, quality, and gold-standard market position. TTS (and their largest company, Festool) has a long and proven record of precision high-tech products. SawStop and Festool each focus on premier products in their respective markets and have minimal product overlap.

SawStop’s history has taken it from humble beginnings to North American dominance. SawStop has achieved this success quickly by creating market differentiation through better design and safer technology. By joining TTS, SawStop now has the ability to significantly expand market reach and product scope going forward.

Position Summary

Reporting directly to the CEO, the Vice President of engineering is a vital member of the SawStop executive team, and will provide the leadership, management, and vision necessary to lead all engineering efforts of the company.

The mission of the VP of Engineering is to lead the SawStop Engineering department as they aggressively execute the product development strategy while maintaining the company’s position as the undisputed leader of high-end, high-performance and high-innovation woodworking tools and accessories.

The VP of Engineering will interface with everyone in the company, but most importantly with the SawStop’s CEO and fellow executives, members of the engineering team, and the CTO of the TTS Board. In addition, the VP of Engineering will work closely with members of the company’s manufacturing partners and strategic partners within TTS.

Primary Areas of Focus

1) New Product Development: Organize and lead the Engineering Department to execute both the short-term and long-term new product development strategies. Challenge the engineering managers on methods and assumptions. Provide continuous critical review and analysis to all engineering activities to ensure technical feasibility, manufacturing practicality, serviceability and cost-effectiveness.

2) Department Leadership / Development: Define the organizational structure of the department and set the goals for each departmental team. Lead, motivate and mentor the team managers and members to achieve team goals and career development. Evaluate the Department’s personnel and identify additions and changes needed to meet the Department’s mission.

  • Align all disciplines to optimize results.
  • Fosters a positive, goal driven team atmosphere.

3) Project Management and Communication: Oversee communication of all technical information between the Engineering Department and other functional groups within SawStop as well as counterparts in other divisions of the TTS organization. Coordinate assistance to and collaboration with other TTS divisions. Manage the relationship between the Engineering Department and SawStop’s manufacturing partners to establish design parameters and ensure fidelity of final build.

  • Optimize processes and projects for best deliverable within schedule.
  • Provides flexibility to help shorter decision paths and designing for uncertainty.
  • Leverages Project Management skills that result in shorter timelines and predicting issues.
  • Identifies and implements tools/methods for consistency and information sharing.
  • Fosters internal overcommunication.
  • Minimize superfluous bureaucracy – embodies culture of practicality and pace.

Professional Qualifications

Relevant Experience: 10+ years’ experience with continual career progression and demonstrated employment stability/longevity in a relevant industry segment. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 4 years’ experience as a manager of managers.

Passion for Quality, Customer Service, and Operations:  A demonstrated passion for developing and driving new product technology to ensure the products meet or exceed customer expectations.

Leader and Communicator:  The ability to recruit, retain, inspire, mentor and lead a multi-discipline team toward an aligned goal at pace, in addition to the ability to communicate effectively and succinctly with a diverse range of constituents, verbally, on paper, and digitally, with all levels of an organization. Ideally, experienced presenting at board level meetings.

Relationships: Possess the ability to build relationships and influence key decision makers and technical experts. The VP of Engineering must have a proven ability to work well with staff at all levels of an organization.

Educational Credentials: BS/MS/PhD in either electrical or mechanical engineering. The ideal candidate will have a foundation in both disciplines. MBA preferred.

Prior Experience:

  • with hands-on and management working experience developing products from a “blank sheet” through production.
  • working with primary offshore, third party production.
  • and knowledge of “best practices” in new product development processes.
  • in project management leading cross-functional subject matter experts.
  • leading small and mid-size engineering teams.
  • working in both small and large corporate settings would be a benefit.
  • working at the Director or VP level will be expected.

Personal Qualifications

The successful candidate will:

  • Be highly self-driven.
  • Have interest in “engineering solutions”.
  • Possess excellent people skills, with an ability to partner with a dynamic leadership team.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work cross-functionally.
  • Have a deep understanding of business operations and demands across disciplines.
  • Be willing to travel approximately 10% time (Taiwan, occasionally Germany.
  • Demonstrate resourcefulness in setting priorities and guiding investment in people and systems.
  • Possess personal qualities of integrity, credibility and commitment.
  • Be modest in nature, recognizing the accomplishments of the team before the individual.
  • Be highly motivated and possess vision and enthusiasm.
  • Be comfortable acting both as an individual contributor and as a team manager (Player/Coach.
  • Communicate in an open and honest way that quickly builds trust and respect.
  • Possess an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Be comfortable on his/her feet making presentations.

Ready to Apply?

180one is a retained search firm and has been engaged by SawStop to manage this search. If interested in learning more about the opportunity, please contact Kim Barnes at 180one.

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