2021 Smart Business Evolution of Manufacturing

Industrial Solutions is proud to be the presenting sponsor for the 2021 Evolution of Manufacturing awards. This past year has not only been filled with challenges on the work front but also challenges in every facet of our lives. As the pandemic continues, it is important to recognize and celebrate the innovative ideas that these manufacturing companies bring to Northeast Ohio.

David Bishop, President, Alliance Industrial Solutions

In many ways, this year’s honorees represent not only an evolution but a transformation into the digital age, where flexibility and agility reign supreme. Evolution is about transformation, adaptation and automation of processes to create better products. In some cases, this means the manufacturing processes of tomorrow may still incorporate today’s influence. But in all cases, today’s workforce will need to evolve and change, as well.
Dana Wegzynowski, VP of Workforce Solutions, Alliance Industrial Solutions

Our goal is to continue to attract top talent by adopting the benefits of automation into their working environment. Why? It’s simple. Automation takes away tedious and sometimes physically taxing jobs to open up higher wage jobs running robots and machines, while allowing tomorrow’s worker to gain amazing skills and training that is computer-based and will be the future for years to come.
For someone entering the workforce for the first time, we must always remember that manufacturing remains just a single choice out of myriad career options. Our mission is to work with every company in Northeast Ohio that values talent as its most important resource. I believe the workforce is searching for the same thing — people want to be appreciated and feel like they are making a difference. Manufacturing remains a viable and exciting career opportunity. It is abundantly evident that this year’s honorees all share this sentiment.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners for making their mark on manufacturing and specifically for choosing Northeast Ohio as their place to evolve and make their magic happen. ●

2021 Award Honorees


Lenny Trocano, President | Anderson International Corp.

Anderson International Corp. manufactures and installs equipment for processing oilseeds, meat byproducts, synthetic rubber, animal feeds and polymers. It has designed, manufactured and commissioned over 12,000 pieces of processing equipment for more than 1,000 plant installations in 100-plus countries that are specially designed for each customer.
Led by President Lenny Trocano, its processing systems are built around the Expeller® press technology, invented in the 1800s by the company’s founder. All mechanical screw presses used in the industry today are built from the concept originally developed in Anderson’s Expeller press design.
In business for more than 130 years, the company is continually evolving its processing solutions to meet customers’ unique needs. For example, The Anderson Oil Expeller can change from one oilseed application to another, allowing for adaptation to market shifts and fluctuations with minimal modifications.
Anderson continually looks for ways to improve efficiency and adapt to market needs by growing its product line and focusing on quality products that last. It offers onsite technical support for the life of the equipment and assists when the plant operator has changing needs or system requirements.
Anderson provides a full-service go-to resource for processors in the oilseed extraction, synthetic rubber drying and animal feed industries and  accompanying services. ●


Armand Massary, General manager | ArtiFlex Manufacturing LLC
ArtiFlex Manufacturing is a premier resource for design, tooling, automation, past model service, factory assist and low-volume tooling/production solutions. Its team, with Armand Massary as general manager, consists of passionate, high-performance people organized in a lean fashion. The company partners with its customers to implement innovative tooling and manufacturing solutions while managing their complex programs.
ArtiFlex Manufacturing’s name is derived from two words: artisan and flexible, which define the essence of the business. “Artisan” signifies the company’s diligence when working with customers to design and build high-quality, cost-effective tools.
The company is a high-growth business focused on safely growing its people and unleashing them to their full potential. It continues to build an innovative team that focuses on bringing engineering, tooling and manufacturing solutions to its customers in an evolving manufacturing and global economy.
Flex Manufacturing excels in light-weighting closure and structural stamped assemblies while achieving style and product engineering goals for cost and strength. Partnering with customers early in their project timelines allows the company to be a complete supplier, from design innovation, tooling and automation speed to market, and body in white stamping and assembly manufacturing. Its people truly enjoy serving and growing with their customers while growing the value of the business. ●


Michael Ripich, President and CEO | AT&F (The American Tank & Fabricating)
AT&F (The American Tank & Fabricating), founded in 1940, is a fourth-generation steel manufacturing operation owned and managed by the Ripich family and led by President and CEO Michael Ripich. The enterprise is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, with locations in Orrville, Ohio; Manitowoc, Wisconsin; and Aarhus, Denmark.
AT&F was established on three primary core values: Work hard, do what you say you will do, and take care of each other. At the cornerstone of everything they do, the leadership team is passionate about and committed to the health and safety of all team members.
The company recently implemented a new EOS platform, which has helped  its 260 team member simplify and focus on goal completion in a 90-day time period. It also has aggressive goals centered around profit-sharing for team members, whose mantra is, “We invest in customer success.” This speaks to its commitment to its multinational OEM customer base.
AT&F has consistently made significant technology investments on behalf of its customers, investments that include the latest advancements in cutting, forming, rolling, robotic welding and machining equipment. The company pushes the limits of size, capability and power and has made significant investments in equipment the last few years, as automation in key areas of production and handling remain at the forefront. ●


Andrew McCartney, President | Bowden Manufacturing
The top challenge faced by most manufacturers is finding and keeping capable employees.
To address this, over the last five years, Bowden Manufacturing — led by President Andrew McCartney — has evolved the process for hiring, yielding the most capable staff in the history of the company.
Hiring almost exclusively from the ranks of mechanical engineering (ME) students and recent graduate MEs, its program is designed to have interns and MEs training to become Setup CNC Machinists while running production on the shop floor. The result is a far greater supply of eager new teammates than ever before, eliminating the short- and long-term staffing worries most manufacturing firms face.
Bowden’s evolution has provided an atypical method for production staffing while building a pipeline of capable manufacturing engineers. Having college interns and graduates as more than half of the production staff provides intellectual horsepower beyond normal expectations of the past. The two tiers of the program provide lower-cost interns to cover entry-level operations and longer-term MEs fill CNC Setup roles as they tackle new and different projects. All of these teammates have rotations over all three shifts to enhance the contributions they make and allow for greater numbers to join the team. ●

Peter Botten, President and CEO | CODONICS INC.
CODONICS INC. is an FDA-registered manufacturing facility, a developer/innovator of FDA-listed medical devices and ISO 13485 QSR certified.
Historically, its focus has been on the development, manufacturing and sales of its FDA Class II medical device product line. Recently, however, under the leadership of President and CEO Peter Botten, CODONICS has expanded its manufacturing capabilities to include contract manufacturing of other Original Equipment Manufacturer products.
Although these contract manufactured products are not medical devices, CODONICS utilizes the same high level of quality and control required to produce Class II medical devices in manufacturing nonmedical devices. In addition, CODONICS U.S.A. manufacturers several FDA-compliant medical devices — innovated and sold into 110 countries — that are used in radiology, as well as patient safety devices used in the operating room, ER, ICU and the floors.
Through the pandemic, CODONICS expanded manufacturing to provide contract manufacturing and increased its manufacturing employment. Its lean, flexible workforce enabled it to balance the demands of several product lines with OEM contract manufacturing.
With these increased demands, and locations in the U.S. and China producing the same products, its operations and sales teams have become much more diligent in forecasting and parts procurement. ●


Joey Arnold, President | Delta Systems Inc.
As the economy and the industry in which Delta Systems Inc. operates increasingly becomes more global, the company has shifted focus to maximize the value it provides.
Under the leadership of President Joey Arnold, Delta prides itself on having a superbly designed product with unwavering quality built into each manufacturing process, enabled by state-of-the-art technology and a committed team of employees working to meet the needs of customers. As the economy shifts, its value proposition becomes even stronger.
Delta’s ability to fulfill requirements and maintain strong relationships with its partners has been highlighted by the challenges of 2020. Its commitment to vertical integration, employee development, cross training, risk management and automation is translating to unmatched customer value.
The company is seeing an increase in business as its customers look to re-shore production back to the United States and mitigate their risk. This requires cultivating sturdy partnerships and leveraging the entire skill set of the organization to deliver distinct solutions. Delta Systems has restructured key positions to dedicate more resources to customer engagement earlier in the product development cycle. Its ability to tailor a solution that meets their needs from both a quality and differentiation standpoint has helped Delta Systems grow and gain market share. ●


Craig Arnold, Chairman and CEO | Michael Regelski, Senior vice president, R&D; CTO, Electrical Sector | Eaton
Eaton, a power management company, helps customers around the world effectively use power. Its electrical solutions form the backbone of a safe, reliable supply of electricity.
With Craig Arnold as chairman and CEO, and Michael Regelski senior vice president, R&D – Intelligent Power Management Solutions and Chief Technology Officer, Electrical Sector, the company’s industrial products play a key role in its infrastructure.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic took hold, health care workers were in dire need of personal protective equipment. Eaton leveraged its manufacturing strength and expertise and activated its additive manufacturing — or 3D printing — capabilities, along with a healthy dose of innovation, to compress product development timelines. It then collaborated with hospitals and Cleveland’s Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network and applied its design engineering and manufacturing expertise to optimize design and production of PPE.
Through this initiative, Eaton developed comfortable face shields that can be sanitized and reused. And through collaboration with University Hospitals and Eaton’s research and development team, the company developed and manufactured a 4-inch Touchless Tool to help medical workers grab door handles, turn faucets and push buttons on phones without touching surfaces. Eaton also donated supplies of PPE to hospitals around the world. ●


Steve Allison, President | Fire-Dex
Founded in 1983, Fire-Dex is a global manufacturing leader of head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE) for firefighters and first responders and an ideal paradigm for undeviating business growth. Fire-Dex continues to thrive through expansion, increased sales and its unending dedication to the fire industry.
Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fire-Dex — under the leadership of President Steve Allison — launched reusable AAMI-Level 3 nonsurgical isolation gowns and coveralls for first responders and medical associates within the health care industry. This isolation personal protective equipment exceeds CDC guidance and is tested to 100 wash and sanitation cycles to withstand the demands of front-line emergency services. This product helps reduce the carbon footprint of the typical throw-away-after-one-wear isolation gowns and coveralls.
During the pandemic, Fire-Dex shifted nearly all of its office staff members to remote positions to keep production associates safe. It continued to promote internally and invest in new talent with the hiring of two product managers. Expanding the product team will help provide innovative solutions to firefighters and first responders around the world.
At Fire-Dex, it’s paramount to have a good team, which is why leadership stays committed to celebrating employee accomplishments, holidays, contests and improving the work environment by implementing feedback from team members. ●


Chris Schwartz, President | G&S Metal Products Co. Inc.
G&S Metal Products Co. Inc. got its start in 1949, and since then, the company has grown to become the country’s largest manufacturer of metal bakeware products.
Chris Schwartz, the company’s third-generation president, is proud to be guiding the company into the future through the use of innovative manufacturing processes and techniques. The ability to streamline and automate certain manufacturing operations has given G&S Metal Products the ability to compete on a worldwide basis.
Throughout the past 70 years, G&S Metal Products has evolved and adapted to meet consumer needs and demands. It has increased its product mix, and new product offerings — which include kitchen gadgets and accessories — have been added to its offerings. In addition, the company has introduced new, innovative products such as the Evenware Bakeware Line and the Grill Sensations Line.
On one hand, G&S Metal Products has been very fortunate in these troubled times through the COVID-19 pandemic because so many people are now cooking from home instead of eating out. On the other hand, increasing the number of employees needed to meet the increased demand has been a challenge. Once again, innovative approaches to this have helped the company achieve terrific growth numbers for both shareholders and employees. ●


Brian Lennon, CEO | General Die Casters, Inc.
The die casting business has been impacted in several ways over the last decade. Overseas competition has caused tremendous downward price pressure, while new research and development have allowed the die casting process to produce castings of quality and complexity to replace components produced from more expensive processes.
Led by CEO Brian Lennon, General Die Casters Inc. has combated price pressures by aggressively implementing robotic automation in the company’s casting and machining operation. As a result, its productivity has increased 30 percent over the last four years.
Now, General Die Casters is developing its own internal education system, GDC University, to advance the knowledge and education of its entire workforce. And while its workforce is now smaller than it was previously, it is also more productive and knowledgeable.
The company has been early an adopter of cutting-edge casting technology. In addition to automation, it has invested in plant-wide process monitoring and control, vacuum-assisted die casting and high-efficiency stack melting. It uses software that models the flow and solidification of the metal into the die for new process development and improvement, high-pressure jet cooling for die cast dies, new die coatings to extend die steel life and energy-efficient equipment that improves quality. ●


Jack Schron, President | Jergens Inc.
COVID-19 has led to increased uncertainty for businesses across the globe, and for a majority of companies, business as usual has not been an option. This has especially been true for the medical device industry. Medical device manufacturers are facing immense pressure to rapidly produce tests and ventilators needed early everywhere around the world.
In response to the global pandemic and the invocation of the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19-related medical equipment production, Jergens — under the leadership of President Jack Schron — implemented an order priority initiative for medical device manufacturers. During this time, Jergens received a call from one of its partners, DMG Mori, stating that medical device manufacturer Vyaire Medical was in desperate need of parts to build ventilators and under pressure to quadruple production as fast as possible.
Jergens team members traveled to Vyaire’s facility to reverse engineer its current tooling and duplicate and retrofit an existing machine. Within three weeks, Jergens:

  • Reversed engineered Vyaire’s current process.
  • Provided product drawings to the Vyaire engineering team.
  • Fabricated and shipped custom tooling.
  • Installed the new setup and cutting chips.
  • Implemented a new custom workholding solution. ●


Adam DeFrancesco, Founder and CEO | OMNI Systems Inc.
OMNI Systems Inc., led by Founder and CEO Adam DeFrancesco, has been in business for more than 30 years.
Over the past 10 years, it has had consistent, sustainable double-digit growth in an industry that grows 2 to 3 percent yearly. And despite the pandemic, as an essential business, its 2020 growth was over 20 percent. The company has created and sustained this growth by offering label products and accessories at the lowest cost and the highest quality, with exceptional service.
With its business model, it has built simple and easy sustainable standard operating procedures in all departments. This consistency and the daily attitude of continuous process improvements create a culture and atmosphere that allows OMNI to sustain its operations. Its no-debt running of the business creates opportunities with large customers that its competition either cannot perform or takes too long to react, while its training programs have helped it train associates with no prior experience to become top skilled operators.
Many of its associates have been with OMNI for over 15 years, in part due to the company’s collaborative culture and the fact that it maintains better than average wages, with a substantial bonus program based on performance. ●


Victoria Marquard-Schultz, CEO | OxyGo
Founded as Applied Home Healthcare Equipment in 1993, OxyGo brings more than 100 years of engineering, regulatory and safety experience to an essential health care business.
CEO Victoria Marquard-Schultz, leads OxyGo, a fast-growing multinational medical and industrial gas equipment manufacturing company and a market leader known for its high-quality products and technical and regulatory expertise in the multibillion-dollar compressed gas industry.
OxyGo’s technology provides portable oxygen by taking air and removing nitrogen from it, leaving medical-grade oxygen for use by people requiring oxygen due to low oxygen levels in their blood. Its featured product, which weighs only 4.8 pounds, has a battery life of up to 13 hours and provides the user with an easy-to-use solution that allows patients to lead an active, on-the-go lifestyle. This gives them the freedom to live their lives without worrying about running out of oxygen or having to carry heavy, cumbersome tanks.
During the pandemic, OxyGo committed to stable employment for its employees and granted raises for everyone. The teamwork culture at OxyGo has resulted in the recent development of a new cleaning product that cleans and disinfects oxygen equipment for maximum oxygen service. ●


Craig Stiffler, Division general manager | Parker Hannifin Corporation, Inc. – Precision Fluidics Division
Parker Hannifin Corp., Inc.’s Precision Fluidics Division designs, assembles and tests precision valves, pumps, flow and pressure controllers and finished medical devices for the global marketplace.
Led by Division General Manager Craig Stiffler, the division’s devices are found in systems and applications such as gas chromatography, mass spectroscopy, liquid chromatography, negative pressure wound therapy, scent dispersion and semiconductor manufacturing.
As the COVID-19 pandemic went global in March 2020, customers began urgently seeking increases in output. There was a global shortage of ventilators, and ventilator OEMs were under enormous pressure to respond.
Parker Hannifin’s Precision Fluidics Division stepped in and formed a leadership team to organize around safety, supply chain, management of change, personnel, customers, information technology and quality. It prioritized customers, and considered whether it would accept customer investment in capacity and how it would handle requests for increases of its suppliers. From March to August, the division increased capacity by as much as five times in its leading product family, adding manufacturing lines, more than doubling the number of shifts per week and increasing manufacturing staff from people to 300.
The result was the shipment of ventilator valves to 38 locations across the globe and from March to October shipped enough valves to build 500,000 ventilators. ●


Vincent Bartozzi, Co-founder and CEO | Stakes Manufacturing
The beginnings of Stakes Manufacturing stem from co-founders Jed Seifert and Vince Bartozzi, CEO, who have been best friends since they were 5 years old.
While running their first business, an iPod and cellular accessory company, they worked closely with Jakprints Inc., which printed marketing materials and back sheets for the pair. In 2012, they sold their company but wanted to continue in the print-on-demand space. They segued into apparel print-on-demand, in partnership with Jakprints, to build out their business. Then, in 2019, they had an opportunity to acquire the business they had been partnering with and rebranded it as Stakes Manufacturing.
The print-on-demand company focuses on quality, and its clients include major sports league, major record labels and media companies. Stakes Manufacturing also offers its services as a back-end manufacturer to other print-on-demand operations.
While the pandemic initially had a negative impact on the business, Stakes Manufacturing has come back strong as people stayed at home and ecommerce spending increased substantially. The result has been significant growth, and the company has increased it number of employees from 46 in April to 280 today. While hiring so quickly has been a challenge, the company has emerged stronger than ever as it continues to deliver quality products to its customers. ●

Seth Uhrman, CEO | State Industrial Products
When Seth Uhrman took over as CEO of State Industrial Products in 2013, there were big shoes to fill, with the commercial cleaning products tracing its roots back to his great-grandfather in 1911. But with over 40 years of experience working his way up through State’s ranks, he was ready to take over.
Then, as the COVID-19 virus emerged, it became clear that people would be heavily relying on cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants, and Uhrman focused his leadership on two goals: Helping customers and helping to ensure healthy employees. State bolstered its inventory of raw materials for the production of cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants, many of which were approved by the EPA to be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
As customers’ needs skyrocketed, State expanded production efforts, manufacturing key items 24 hours a day, seven days a week, following strict safety protocols. As the second part of his goal, Uhrman  took steps to support employees and keep them healthy.
Two care packages of sanitizer and disinfectant were sent to employees, with a letter thanking them for their efforts. They also received company-branded masks. And while unemployment soared, State employees continued to work safely, without having to worry about their jobs, pay cuts or loss of benefits. ●


Jay Nordholt, Vice President, Continuous Improvement & Quality | Swagelok
Guided by its core values of customer focus, quality, integrity, respect, innovation and continuous improvement, Swagelok continues to evolve its manufacturing operations and adapt to the global economy to benefit all stakeholders.
With the help of Vice President, Continuous Improvement & Quality, Jay Nordholt, Swagelok’s core values of respect and customer focus were at the forefront of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It prioritized the safety of associates and their families, and committed to supporting customers that perform critical work around the world.
Its dedicated COVID-19 crisis team made decisions and adapted quickly as information about the pandemic evolved. Early actions included completing supplier assessments to understand long-term supply chain risks. Measures included hedging on purchasing and mitigating risk for suppliers that were not deemed essential.
Swagelok acted quickly to help ensure the health and safety of associates, allowing the company to continue to unlock features with its SAP system implemented in 2015. For example, Swagelok’s Connected Factory program focuses specifically on shop floor data to improve responsiveness, reduce setup times and improve quality by providing associates with the right information at the right time. And Swagelok’s simplification programs aim to reduce nonvalue-added process steps and compress operations on the shop floor to improve responsiveness, quality and profitability. ●


Steve Peplin, CEO | Talan Products Inc.
Talan Products Inc. has had to continually evolve to remain a high-growth company for 34 years, staying on the cutting edge of its industry.
Onshoring has been increasing, a significant change to the $160 billion a year global market for metal stampings that Talan Products operates in. While Talan still had to compete with suppliers from Asia, it had to be a low-cost producer in the U.S., as well. Manufacturers in the U.S. have been further evaluating their offshore supply of component parts due the effects of COVID-19 shutting down long supply lines.
To compete, Talan — led by CEO Steve Peplin — focused on what makes the company the best value supplier of its products. Being efficient and removing labor costs is key, focused on areas including the handling of incoming raw material, minimizing material movements and reducing handling.
Talan’s efficiency, measured by sales per employee, is at the top of its industry, more than three times the industry average. By reducing labor hours from the process of manufacturing parts, Talan Products maintains a well-compensated U.S. workforce while being globally competitive.
Talan also reduces costs with an energy-efficient plant. And the company invests in materials markets analysis reports and reviews them to make the best material purchasing recommendations to its customers. ●


Adam Gent, President | The Gent Machine Company
The Gent Machine Company was founded in 1927 by Richard Gent Sr. and his father, Arthur Gent. They operated out of a barn until WWII, when they were called upon to produce grenade fuses and firing pins for the recoilless rifle. In a short time, they built a factory in South Euclid and hired over 50 people to work 24/7.
After the war, Richard ran the company, joined by his brothers, and in the 1960s, Richard Gent Jr. joined, purchasing Gent Machine in 1977. He set out in an aggressive modernization plan, renovating the building and upgrading equipment. In the 2000s, Richard Jr.’s sons, Rich and Adam, joined the business as the fourth generation before purchasing it.
In 2009, the company was awarded the IATF:16949 quality certificate, and in 2012, it started producing all of Tesla Motors fasteners for the Model S & X. And in 2013, Gent Machine moved to Collinwood, more than tripling its building size and allowing for years of growth.
Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, all automotive sales stopped, and two companies called on Gent Machine to produce ventilator parts. It ramped up quickly to set up eight ventilator parts, purchased a new piece of equipment and by August had shipped over 1 million ventilator parts. ●


Chip Gear, President | The Technology House
Over the last 10 years, The Technology House has grown from a job shop to a production aerospace and medical device manufacturing company.
With the help of EDGE and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, it participated in Scalerator, a six-month program that helped leadership focus on the internal workings of the company and create a strategic plan. It modernized and automated its network, ERP program and internal audit processes. It also partnered with innovative additive manufacturing companies to unlock new products using new design software, technologies and materials, with the ability for 3-D printing at scale.
In 2020, The Technology House team, led by President Chip Gear, was forced to pivot due to COVID-19. That was made easier by the company’s flexible manufacturing fleet of services and employees with additive manufacturing, urethane molding, injection molding and CNC machining experience, allowing it to launch into production builds in days, not weeks or months. Its vertical integration with these processes, plus engineering, allows the company to design, develop and manufacture full products.

In support of the COVID-19 relief effort, it ran and shipped over 10,000 parts per day, making 3-D printed ventilator parts, face shields and nasal swabs, maintaining social distancing by working in teams across multiple shifts to support production.