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Mack Trucks boss goes undercover at local Volvo Powertrain plant for CBS series

Denny Slagle, president and CEO, leaves top office to work alongside employees

February 16, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Denny Slagle, right, president and CEO of Mack Trucks, goes undercover and accidentally brings their plant's assembly line to a sudden halt. The episode of "Undercover Boss" airs Sunday, Feb. 20, on CBS.
2011 Studio Lambert. All Rights Reserved

Yes, that's Denny Slagle working in the Volvo Powertrain North America plant in Hagerstown.

But it's hard to tell for sure.

Slagle doesn't wear glasses, but he's peering through a pair of black spectacles in the plant, and his normally clean-shaven face is stubbled.

That's a fake mustache, too.

Slagle, the president and chief executive officer of Mack Trucks, Inc., is the latest company president to go undercover in his business in the upcoming episode of the CBS series "Undercover Boss." Each week, "Undercover Boss" follows a different executive as he or she leaves the top office and works alongside other employees to see the inner workings of the company.

In the episode featuring Slagle, — which will air this Sunday on CBS at 9 p.m. — the 56-year-old also appears in two Mack Trucks facilities in Baltimore, Md., and Macungie, Pa.

Mack Trucks, Inc. is part of the Volvo Group, one of the world's leading manufacturers of trucks, buses and construction equipment and other products. Volvo acquired Mack Trucks in 2001.

The Volvo Powertrain plant off Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown employs about 1,100 people. About 975 workers are employed at the Macungie plant, and about 100 work at the Baltimore warehouse.

Part of the fascination with the show is seeing a top executive working in a different environment.

A preview promotion for Sunday's episode provides some comical moments, including when Slagle's Mack Truck's baseball cap is knocked cockeyed by a piece of equipment.

In another segment, a worker cautions Slagle to go "slow, slow, slow" as Slagle operates a vehicle in a plant.

"Roger would drive me to drink," the worker tells the camera.

Roger Donovan is Slagle's undercover name in the show.

Slagle also accidentally causes an assembly line to shut down, and in the Hagerstown plant, he works alongside Tracy Sweatt, who is in charge of applying a "final dressing" on engine assemblies.

"If that leaks, I'm going to say Roger did that," Sweatt said in the episode.

In a telephone interview this week, Slagle described how CBS approached Mack Trucks about doing the episode.

"It was actually on April Fools' Day last year," said Slagle, who works out of Mack Trucks' corporate office in Greensboro, N.C.

When the episode was being filmed, workers in the plants were told that Slagle was there because of a contest to see which two unemployed workers would get a position with the company, Slagle said.

Slagle said Mack Trucks has been through some tough times, given the economy and other issues. He said he came away from the "Undercover Boss" experience with a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the company's front-line employees.

Slagle said he didn't see anything he would change as a result of his experience but he emphasized the importance of listening to employees.

"We can always improve in that area," Slagle said.

The Volvo Powertrain North America plant in Hagerstown, which produces every Mack engine sold in North America, is featured first in the episode, Slagle said.

Slagle said he traveled to Hagerstown last fall and was at the plant for a few days for the show's production.

The Baltimore warehouse is shown next in the episode followed by the plant in Macungie, Slagle said.

The Baltimore warehouse is a distribution center that provides parts to Mack dealers and customers, and the Macungie plant assembles every Mack truck sold in North America.

"Undercover Boss" debuted to 38.7 million viewers, the biggest new series premiere since 1987, according to CBS. The Emmy-nominated show was the No. 1 new series of the 2009-2010 season, and continues to be among the most popular programs this season, according to the network.

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On the Web:

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/undercoverboss

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