Kelley Stacy Shares Her Journey to Becoming President and CEO of SMC Corporation of America

Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photographer / Brian Brosmer

Kelley StacyKelley Stacy, president and CEO of SMC Corporation of America, is a prime example of how hard work, personal sacrifice and a willingness to speak up can lead to big things. 

The Japanese-owned company has been working tirelessly to build a culture that values women, families and relationships. Now, with Stacy at the helm, the culture at the facility, which spans 2.6 million square feet on 345 acres in Noblesville, is accelerating that charge. 

In 1994 Stacy left her job as a court reporter during her first pregnancy and, in search of new opportunities for her growing family, applied at SMC in a small office near the Indianapolis airport. 

I was looking for something temporarily and I was not familiar with the Japanese culture at all,” Stacy says. I walked into the front lobby, and the general manager at the time spoke to me for a minute and hired me on the spot, never leaving the lobby area. On my first day I walked into a huge room with desks set up like a schoolroom and cords all over the floor with duct tape everywhere. There were about 100 people there. I remember thinking, This is not happening. No way.’” 

Stacy sat in silence in front of her computer screen that day. There was no training and no direction, with the exception of a loud buzzer signaling lunch at noon. 

Two weeks later she sat down with the manager and said, I dont think this is for me.” 

Stacy says from there, the manager begged her to stay, and they spoke about how her skills in human resources could help them take steps that they had yet to accomplish. 

She set to work learning everything about each area of the company, including much more about Japanese culture. 

I learned, from the ground up, the step-by-step manufacturing process,” she says. “I moved into purchasing and was able to incorporate what I knew. I was able to really be in the process and work with different managers, and learn every aspect of the business.” 

More than 10 years ago Stacy became the senior vice president of the SMC U.S. headquarters, and shes still the only woman at the table when attending administrative meetings in Japan. Three years ago she was promoted to president and CEO, though the job responsibilities are very similar. 

She runs her branch of the business quite differently than her peers. 

The strength of my side of this business is customers and people,” she says. “Even though I was able to maneuver through the various divisions, I was able to get here because of people. My strength is managing, caring for people, making sure they each have a seat at the table, and making sure everyone is being treated fairly. When you overlook people, thats what crashes a company. Being in all of those departments and listening to people, seeing what management paid attention to and what they didnt, is whats made me successful today.” 

And the numbers dont lie. 

Kelley StacyAt one point SMC had a 40% turnover rate, but today they have more than 250 employees that have been with the company for more than 25 years. Another 60 to 70 employees have been with the company for more than 30 years. 

The company was also voted a U.S. Best-Managed Company, through a program co-sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, for the second year in 2022. 

Driving by the huge campus, one might question what SMC does, or if theres an opportunity for them at that location – and chances are, there is. 

Our products move air,” Stacy says. “Were different than hydraulics. Were pneumatics. We make thousands and thousands of components for our customers’ machines that enable human life to have those everyday products. The sound of the bus door when it opens and closes, the sound of the roller coaster coming to a stop, thats us. Were behind the creation of your phone, your television, and the car you drive. There isnt an industry out there that isn’t enabled by our products.” 

With more than 600 outside-sales employees, they are still finding new business and creating business as well. 

We find new applications every single day,” Stacy says. “Were not only looking for it, but customers come to us and say, ‘I know you have this standard product, but can you make it this way?’ We have 140 engineers in this building that design and redesign product. Its really fantastic.”

One might think it’s time for Stacy to rest in her success, but shes not slowing down any time soon. 

Seven years ago the company launched the Sales Academy, a six-month program that trains potential sales team members on everything SMC. 

Our product is very technical with hundreds of thousands of variations,” Stacy says. “Typically it takes a least three years for you to be productive as a salesperson in this industry, but weve shortened that through the academy. We recruit from all over the U.S. looking for people with experience in sales, but also engineers and those looking for a career change. As a salesperson you may be working with the president of the company, the engineers or the maintenance guy, and you have to be ready, and that’s exactly the sort of training we provide through our Sales Academy. In the meantime let’s say you decide you want to sell in Florida, New Jersey or California, we arrange for you to get training from and meet with that branch manager as well, so you’re ready to hit the ground running. You get your car, your phone, additional training at the local branch, and youre off. Its a pretty good gig.”

Recently SMC launched their Women in STEM program, with the goal of encouraging an environment that welcomes women in technical fields. Their first Lunch and Learn program reviewed how to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people, and Stacys hope is the program will continue to foster mentorship and allies among the employees. 

SMC also offers opportunities to grow, travel and learn more. 

Kelley StacyMany Japanese peers come to the U.S. headquarters to learn, help and participate in American culture. In turn, similar opportunities are offered to the staff in Noblesville. 

We are building great relationships,” Stacy says. “We have opportunities in Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan. Its more challenging here because its difficult to find someone willing to spend three years in another country, but it really helps us with understanding culture, and a win-win for everyone.” 

Above all else, Stacys goal is making the company a positive environment for all involved. 

I take care of this building and everyone in it,” Stacy says. The most important thing to me is the people, investors and the customer, and as long as I take care of that, everything else is gravy.” 

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 8, SMC will host a National Manufacturing Day event. The public is invited to visit the LEGO-themed event for facility tours, demonstrations by a local robotics team, outdoor games, a scavenger hunt and much more for the entire family. 

For more information, visit 

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