The 2016 Evolution of Manufacturing Awards

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Evolving the way we build, protect and perpetuate the manufacturing workforce

On behalf of our 350-plus employee-owners, Oswald Companies is proud to support the 2016 Evolution of Manufacturing Awards.
The war for talent is at each doorstep. Employers are facing battles on evolving fronts, with the clock always ticking, and the stakes never higher.
Against an increasingly competitive environment, employers are forced with tackling the training and skills gap for current and future generations, as well as areas such as retention, compensation, benefits and succession planning.
At Oswald, we partner with hundreds of manufacturing companies to provide insurance and risk management consultation and service in areas including but not limited to employee benefits, population health and wellness management; workplace safety and loss control; property, casualty and supply chain risk; executive risk management; financial and succession planning; mergers and acquisitions; and more.
It’s only in seeing this full picture of risk that manufacturers can put themselves in the unique position to address their total workplace health, safety and financial protection.
What’s more is that this holistic approach to creating a safe and healthy environment can yield significant costs savings, which enable organizations to continue to reinvest in their workforce.
Your people thrive when the company thrives, and we take care of both at Oswald.
These 2016 honorees exemplify the energy and focus it takes to conquer all fronts in the war for talent. They never stop working for their business or their employees and recognize that there’s room for everyone to evolve together.
When it comes to the complex challenge of building and protecting tomorrow’s workforce, I ask you to remember these words of Sun Tzu, from “The Art of War”:
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
The revolution has already begun; the evolution is up to us.

We salute this year’s Evolution of Manufacturing Award Winners for their commitment to the industry and the region, and we wish them the best in their continued pursuit of excellence.

neo_ev_RobertKlonkRobert J. Klonk

Oswald Companies

Quick links:
HONOREES Blair Rubber, Dave Jantzsch | Channel Products Inc., Teresa C. Hack | Cleveland Whiskey Tom Lix | The Garland Co. Inc., Dave Sokol | Hose Master LLC, Sam Foti Jr.. | Albert M. Green, Ph.D., Kent Displays Inc. | Rockwell Automation Inc., Bob Murphy | Sandridge Food Corp., Mark Sandridge | Talan Products, Steve Peplin, Pete Accorti | Tekfor Inc., Kevin Weldi | Thogus, Matt Hlavin


Blair Rubber Co.

DaveJentzsch_150Dave Jentzsch
general manager 
It was just over a decade ago when Blair Rubber Co. learned a critical fact about its customer base. Expertise was being lost faster than training could accommodate. A solution was needed to address this problem and Blair Rubber quickly took action. The company started conducting seminars to educate both customers and end users in the use, care and maintenance of the company’s products.
Seminars were conducted at Blair Rubber’s plant and at customer sites and plants all over the world. The result was another offering that the competition could not duplicate as customers attended seminars, increased their expertise and saw the value in what Blair was providing.
The focus on building trust and engagement is a staple of the leadership provided by Dave Jentzsch, the company’s general manager. The company gets its production teams in the plant involved in the seminars by encouraging them to present at their workstations.
This effort resulted in sales growth of 550 percent from 1995 to 2005 and led the company to move into a new facility with more plant space and machinery. The growth continued between 2005 and 2010 with sales rising by another 54 percent.

Staying on top of industry changes has enabled Blair Rubber to stay ahead of the competition and deliver the shortest lead times in its sector, getting customers what they need when they need it. An environment has been created where hard work is valued and employees strive for continuous improvement. Everyone is given an opportunity to lead and contribute to the company’s success.

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Channel Products Inc.

Teresa-Hack-300Teresa C. Hack
president and COO
Whether cultivating an intense ONE Team culture, being bold about customer experience, or insisting on the behavior of leadership instead of management, Channel Products is purposed to set themselves apart. In the world of manufacturing today, it is no longer enough to satisfy product expectations. Quality of product, on-time delivery and good service are simply the price of admission.
“There are many companies out there. What sets one apart from another is the ability to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level, which is why we are culturally driven and Wildly Obsessed with Thrilling Our Customers™,” says Teresa Hack, President and COO. She adds, “We want others to be able to positively feel Channel at every touch point. It’s about an experience.”
This attention to detail is important for any business that aspires to be great, and it all starts with Channel’s culture. With that standard at the helm, this commitment is ingrained in every decision they make. Their core values are both a set of principles at the foundation of the company and a catalyst. The six points of integrity, customer focus, bias for action, teamwork, meritocracy and fun are discussed in detail on a regular basis and held as the standard – both internally and externally.
The inventor and manufacturer of component systems and technologies has built internal events and discussions around driving this type of culture. This ensures everyone understands how their values make a difference in the way they do business.

Not only does the company provide cultural and leadership training for its’ employees, but they have also created and branded their own internal training education, Channel U, to further enhance employee’s opportunities for forward movement. They operate with the belief that people and creating an experience are everything. Business is what happens as a result of getting these things right.

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Cleveland Whiskey

TomLix-300Tom Lix
Cleveland Whiskey shipped its first bottle of bourbon on March 1, 2013, and now has distribution in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The company has risen up at a time when stories of whiskey shortages have captured headlines across the nation. Fortunately for whiskey enthusiasts, Tom Lix’s company has developed disruptive technology to dramatically accelerate the maturation and flavor development of distilled spirits. The process provides a significant competitive advantage by creating an innovation-friendly, flexible and scalable “just-in-time” manufacturing environment, which Cleveland Whiskey believes leads to a better product.
Cleveland Whiskey has won almost every gold and double-gold medal available in whiskey competitions around the world. The company began exporting in early 2015 with its first shipments to Germany (re-orders shipped in June and October 2015) and expected to make initial shipments into Asia by the end of 2015.
Lix, the company’s CEO, believes his whiskeys are getting better with improved technology, purposeful attention to detail and enhanced consumer feedback initiatives. Cleveland Whiskey has recognized that every product it makes needs to leverage its technology-based competitive advantage.
To support growing production levels that include added export markets, the company recently announced a new equity-funding round with monies to be used for capacity expansion, additional hires and new technology developments.

The company has also released a series of unique and transformative bourbons finished with woods that include black cherry, apple, sugar maple, honey locust and hickory — all transformative woods and part of Cleveland Whiskey’s UnCommon Barrel™ collection.

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The Garland Co. Inc.

DaveSokol-300Dave Sokol
Founded in 1895, The Garland Co. Inc. has evolved from manufacturing and distributing oils, greases and paints to a leader in manufacturing high-performance roofing and building maintenance systems for the commercial and institutional markets.
Led by President Dave Sokol, Garland continuously evolves its manufacturing, operational and technological processes to remain competitive in today’s global market. By investing in R&D, Garland has become known for developing innovative products. This year, the company introduced the world’s first ever polyurethane-modified asphalt-based membrane, OptiMax, designed to provide 40 years of waterproofing protection.
It was not a start-from-scratch, new technology, but rather the discovery of combining two highly effective waterproofing materials together to create a resilient, long-lasting roof membrane designed to outperform current products.
In addition to the introduction of the innovative OptiMax membrane, Garland has improved product consistency and quality by investing in its manufacturing processes. The company upgraded its hot oil system, which heats up the asphalt and polymers used in the manufacture of its roll good products. The new hot oil system is deliberately designed with excess heating capacity to ensure consistent and rapid product heat-up and deliver the necessary manufacturing efficiency.

The torchable line product will benefit most from this system. Over the last few years, there has been double-digit growth in that product line. Garland has increased its overall roll good production by more than 10 percent. As such, the need to produce more products efficiently and with the same high quality is a requirement of taking Garland manufacturing to the next level.

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Hose Master LLC

SamFoti-300Sam Foti Jr.
Hose Master LLC is a designer and manufacturer of specialized flexible metal hoses and metal joints headquartered in Cleveland. Employing on average 350 people and led by President Sam Foti Jr., Hose Master utilizes state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment at a 250,000-square-foot facility in Cleveland and three fabricating facilities in Houston, Atlanta and Reno, Nevada.
The company has persistent challenges finding skilled welders; at the same time, the proficiency of the entry-level workforce is of paramount importance.
Hose Master solved a gap in its workforce by creating a two-tiered career pathway: a step-up for incumbent workers to advance into higher-skilled positions and an on-ramp for lower-skilled workers to gain general labor employment.
Hose Master acknowledged the impact of an increased collaborative and knowledge-based environment to work in partnership with a nonprofit organization to create a winning situation for both organizations. By reaching out and engaging Towards Employment, Hose Master was able to provide training opportunities for its workers that might not otherwise have occurred due to related cost and management time.
And with this willingness to partner up, Hose Master learned about and connected to community resources that helped address its workforce needs, while also broadening its recruitment pool and providing opportunities for new entrants to the workforce.

After hiring several Towards Employment participants who performed well in their jobs, Hose Master was willing to deepen the partnership and pursue the internal advancement/backfill program. It has increased morale as people are motivated by the opportunity to participate in the program, which enables the company to fill hard-to-fill skilled positions.

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Kent Displays Inc.

Albert-Green-300Albert M. Green, Ph.D.
Kent Displays Inc. exemplifies how a small business manufacturing company in a highly technical, fiercely competitive global industry can evolve and thrive in Ohio. A leader in the flexible electronics industry, KDI has changed a great deal to design, make, sell and improve novel consumer products with innovative manufacturing operations.
In 2005, KDI’s unique LCD technology needed a new manufacturing process to meet customer demands. KDI launched the world’s first roll-to-roll manufacturing line to produce flexible LCD’s on plastic film.
KDI has now become a high-volume manufacturer with two lines that can run 24/7. During this time, KDI created an entirely new consumer product category — the Boogie Board® LCD eWriter — which captivates millions.
KDI launched the Boogie Board brand for eWriters in 2010 and international awareness of the product continues to expand.
Boogie Board eWriters are now sold in approximately 30 countries. This new product line generated an average 33 percent annual revenue growth since 2010. Revenue has grown ninefold over the past decade.
As an Ohio-based advanced manufacturing small business producing a consumer electronics packaged good distributed across the U.S. and around the world, KDI addresses many technical, operational, marketing and workforce challenges on a daily basis.

Under the guidance of Albert M. Green, Ph.D., the company’s CEO, KDI has expanded from a small core staff of under 25 to more than 70 highly skilled employees — including engineers, scientists, software developers and skilled roll-to-roll manufacturing technicians — to sell innovative products to major global retailers and original equipment manufacturers.

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Rockwell Automation

Bob-Murphy-300Bob Murphy
vice president, operations 
Rockwell Automation Inc. is a world leader in providing industrial automation equipment and solutions. Its mission is to improve the standard of living for everyone by making the world and its customers more productive and sustainable.
As a manufacturer, Rockwell faces the same challenges its customers see every day. To address those challenges, Rockwell has adopted smart manufacturing, which the company likes to refer to as The Connected Enterprise.
The principles of smart manufacturing are the marriage of information, technology and human ingenuity to bring about a rapid revolution in the development and application of manufacturing intelligence to every aspect of business. Smart manufacturing represents the fourth industrial revolution to hit the manufacturing world.
Bob Murphy is the vice president of operations and Keith Nosbusch Is CEO of Rockwell. The company uses the integration of IT and physical systems to enable it to drive manufacturing improvements above and beyond what it was capable of in the past.
Nosbusch was recently quoted as saying, “Automation and manufacturing will change more in the next 10 years than in the last 50.” Nosbusch believes the change be brought about through the use of smart manufacturing principles, though estimates currently show only 14 percent of manufacturing companies are taking advantage of this technology.

Rockwell has seen the light, however. Technology has allowed the company to utilize data from manufacturing operations, contextualize it and turn it into information that can be aggregated, analyzed and delivered to stakeholders across the enterprise. It’s all about delivering the right information to the right people at the right time in the manufacturing process.

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Sandridge Food Corp.

MarkSandridge-300Mark Sandridge
When retailers and consumers were calling for fresher food products as interest grew in dining out and food preparation the last several years, Sandridge Food Corp. took notice.
Not only was there national demand, there was global demand as well. Sandridge Food, under the leadership of CEO Mark Sandridge and Vice Presidents Jordan Sandridge and Dane Sandridge, sought the optimum process to produce fresh food products without the excessive use of preservatives or heat for pasteurization and extending the life of the item on the shelf.
One way the company evolved its manufacturing operations was to invest in two High Pressure Processing (HPP) lines, the first in 2010 and the second in 2013. The investment was based purely on consumer insights nationally and globally.
Because HPP significantly mitigates bacterial growth, it reduces spoilage, minimizes shrinkage and essentially reduces the potential for bacterial recalls throughout the shelf life.
HPP removed shelf stability as a component for crafting recipes and allows Sandridge Food to remain competitiveness in a global economy. Most importantly, it allowed chefs the opportunity to realize their passion and Sandridge Food’s mission: To create great tasting food.
The company also feels it has a responsibility to be environmentally focused and has implemented eco-conscious processes at its facilities. In 2015, more than 2,300 tons of plastics, tin cans, cardboard and vegetable waste were recycled.
To accomplish this, Sandridge Food has a team of 17 employees whose responsibility is sustainability.

Overall, the company invested $1 million in its recent Recycling Center expansion and continues to investigate new ways to reduce waste and improve the environment.

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Talan Products

Steve Peplin
neo_ev_PeteAccordiPete Accorti
Talan Products is a metal stamping operation that doesn’t stop at just selling a product. The company promotes innovation and problem-solving as key pillars of its culture. Employees are encouraged to think and create, not just build and sell.
For example, a leading solar energy company had a design for a solar panel mounting assembly. Talan Products’ experts examined the single-piece design and modified it so it became a several-piece design that could be manufactured in parts and then assembled at the facilty.
The customer was very pleased with the final product — and the company has gone on to make similar design modifications for other solar energy companies.
Led by CEO Steve Peplin and President Pete Accorti, the 30-year-old organization has focused on constant adaptation to meet the demands of a changing market and economic conditions. By investing in newer, more technologically advanced and efficient machinery, Talan Products has been able to turn orders into deliveries faster than ever before. The savings is passed on to the customer in the form of lower prices.
The company recently added a 600-ton press and a 40,000-pound crane as part of its 50,000-foot expansion. Sales in 2015 grew 30 percent over 2014 and are predicted to grow 20 to 30 percent over the next several years.

While overseas manufacturers in some cases may undercut prices, what they can’t match is Talan Products’ unparalleled customer service. Customers are willing to pay a bit more if they know they are getting a partner who will work with them to fashion customized solutions.

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Tekfor Inc.

KevinWeldi-300Kevin Weldi
president/managing director
When it comes to manufacturing automotive components more efficiently, Tekfor Inc. has worked hard to evolve its Wooster operations to adapt to the global economy. Several years ago, the Wooster plant was ranked the weakest operation in the parent organization’s nine international locations. A dynamic transformation and turnaround over the last five years has earned the plant kudos from the McKinsey Group as the best operational facility.
The Wooster operations, led by President/Managing Director Americas Kevin Weldi and Director of Human Resources Americas Scott Hanis, instituted several best practices, including the Kanban lean manufacturing process, 5S workplace organization methods, sharing engineering resources, putting in best practices to forging and machining technologies and standardizing cost structure. The standard cost structure now focuses on tool cost validation, DVP analysis and machine hour tariffs.
These improvements increased profitability and helped the facility to turn around.
But the efforts didn’t stop there. Tekfor is using more collaborative robots to help prevent workers’ compensation claims for carpal tunnel syndrome, improve ergonomics, reduce labor costs to be more competitive with low-cost foreign sources, increase labor efficiency and allow for significant Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) improvements in the plant. The company has achieved a 24 percent improvement in OEE over the last three years.
Tekfor has increased the emphasis on Six Sigma approach to eliminate defect in the plant. Three employees have been certified as black belts and three as green belts in the last two years.

The company also has designed and implemented a pay-for-skill training program. This program trains employees on desired skill sets and gives them the opportunity to advance in their career and earn more money.

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MattHlavin-300Matt Hlavin
CEO and president
Under Matt Hlavin, president and CEO, the 65-year-old plastic injection molder Thogus weathered the biggest challenges of the recent recession and emerged on the other side. Thogus’ challenges stemmed from rapid-sales growth in a short amount of time, which led to a rapid growth in personnel. The growth and associated pains drove the company to drastically change how it on-boards and trains personnel.
From 2009 to 2010, the company’s sales revenue jumped 64 percent and from 2010 to 2012 Thogus increased its workforce by 37 percent. Lacking a comprehensive training program, Thogus hired a former educator to help the operations team create a training program. The first focus was on inspection operators. The duties of these entry-level but critical positions were documented and work instructions were standardized.
Thogus then created the position of production shift trainer to oversee the training. Within a year, the standardized training program had been created and new trainer positions were filled. Since implementation of the program, 91 employees have completed the training and 41 percent of those still employed have been promoted at least once.
Following lean manufacturing concepts, a visual management board was created on the production floor. Thogus then was able to eliminate one of the biggest obstacles on the floor — the claim that either someone was not trained to a specific job skill, that they didn’t understand what they were trained to do or that due to subjectivity not all people were being trained.

The company hopes to have in the future an internal Thogus University available to all employees.

Click here to revisit the 2015 class of Evolution of Manufacturing honorees. Or click here to learn more about the event.