Honorees are innovating, breaking down barriers

Alliance Industrial Solutions is proud to be the presenting sponsor for the 2019 Evolution of Manufacturing awards. Each of us receives many event invitations every year but for us, and hopefully for you, we recognize that this annual event has become the must-attend event of the year. Not only is it important to recognize the innovation and leadership these companies bring to Northeast Ohio, but it’s also important to make sure everyone knows that manufacturing continues to be cool.

In many ways, this year’s honorees represent not only an evolution, but also a revolution against the rigidity and limitations of the past. Evolution is about transformation, adaptation and automation of processes to create better products. In some cases, this means the manufacturing processes of tomorrow may look little like today’s. But in all cases, today’s workforce will need to evolve and change as well.

Our goal is to stay in front of this change to create a working environment that continually attracts talent. Even automation brings with it the need for workers unlike those we may have needed in the past. Whether the workforce develops new skills alongside traditional skills or shifts to primarily entry-level work or to a room full of robots, there will continue to be career opportunities.

For someone entering the workforce for the first time, we must always remember that manufacturing remains just a single choice out of myriad options. Our goal is to work with every company in Northeast Ohio who values talent as its most important resource. I believe the workforce is searching for the same thing — they all 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.



John Wittine, president
Vic Ing, vice president of client development
Alliance Industrial Solutions


A-Brite Plating
Hal Leitch, president of sales
Mark Lamancusa, general manager

It’s not easy to be an employee at A-Brite Plating. As a supplier to the automotive, truck, appliance and plumbing industries of decorative chrome-plated plastic components, the company is challenged with work that is quite labor-intensive, with limited automation options. Each part must be manually racked and unracked in order to be processed through A-Brite’s equipment. 

The company ships over 25 million parts annually, and each part is handled multiple times through the process. The company deals with thousands of part numbers for hundreds of customers. The challenge to its 250 employees is immense in a world that expects excellence and zero defects. Competition becomes yet another challenge as A-Brite is confronted with low-cost labor countries that also have fewer government regulations.

Despite these difficulties, A-Brite has stayed a step ahead and adapted to a global economy. It is not the low-cost supplier and does not have the deepest pockets or government subsidies to support growth. However, through the leadership of Hal Leitch, president of sales and Mark Lamancusa, general manager, the company continually examines its processes and services and finds ways to adapt and thrive. It’s through innovation, taking risks and continuity within the management team that A-Brite continues to succeed.

Anderson International Corp
Lenny Trocano, president

Succession planning and knowledge transfer are essential components to maintaining strong performance at Anderson International Corp. The processing equipment manufacturer is always looking for opportunities to further develop its employees; it is imperative to pass the existing knowledge base on to the next generation of leaders and employees to ensure success for years to come. 

Anderson has developed several training programs to help with the transfer of knowledge in processing, field service training and manufacturing leadership. In today’s global economy, the company recognizes that as valuable as its 130 years of industry experience and success are, new knowledge, ideas and practices are just as valuable and, in fact, vital to future growth. 

Anderson offers tuition reimbursement to all employees who wish to further their education. This investment in personnel is essential because, if employees are learning and growing, the company is learning and growing with them. 

Under the leadership of President Lenny Trocano, Anderson keeps pace with what has been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution by both continuously improving its manufacturing capabilities and working to revolutionize the talent pipeline and the education of skilled trades. The current shortage of skilled trade workers is a major concern, and Anderson is committed to being part of the solution.

Dave Aheimer, owner and CEO

ArtWall is changing its ways, enabling the company to remain an industry leader as the home décor market shifts. Whereas the company once supplied distribution centers for major customers like Amazon with big orders, it has revised and refined its operation to meet daily orders on a same-day or next-day lead time without stocking inventory in house or at the customer’s site.

Historically, some inventory was maintained to distribute for shipment. The company adapted its operation to stock certain work-in-process components such as preassembled frames. Each day essentially starts with almost no work in process. ArtWall produces images and frames based on the orders that come in and ships that day, allowing unlimited flexibility to meet consumer demand. Across over 1 million SKUs and six core product lines, the company prints, fabricates, assembles, packs and ships in a four- to 36-hour cycle on every order.

Every process and aspect of ArtWall’s culture has had to evolve to fully execute on this model. The advantage of this make-to-order flexibility is that the company can take in between 200 and 500 new pieces of artwork a week, then convert them into new products that can be curated. No inventory means very little risk to launch many new products and the ability to see what consumers like and purchase.

Automation Tool & Die
William Bennett, president
Randy Bennett, vice president

Automation Tool & Die is committed to building a brighter future for manufacturing by getting young people excited about the opportunities that exist in the industry. By partnering with local community colleges, schools and communities, ATD is confident it can help create a new ecosystem and make a long-term impact on manufacturing workforce development in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

Led by William and Randy Bennett, who serve as president and vice president, respectively, ATD understands the role that manufacturing plays in the global economy. Ohio manufacturing is responsible for 17 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and more than 660,000 jobs for Ohio workers. The challenge is demonstrating to young people that manufacturing is an exciting field that facilitates a desirable career path and lifestyle for those who pursue it. 

ATD has worked hard to make this vision real with objective data, personal interaction and exposure to manufacturing. The company understands the need to show a path and provide information to inspire next-generation workers. 

Businesses need to get involved by reaching out to schools and making a commitment themselves. The Medina County Manufacturers Partnership is an effort to build momentum and create opportunities for companies and prospective employees to each find success.

Clampco Products Inc.
James Venner, president
Linda Venner, vice president

In-house solution engineering has always been Clampco Products Inc.’s niche. Bringing these solutions into larger, more global arenas has forced the company to look deeper into how it does things. 

The ability to service customers from the front end of a sale to fulfillment required Clampco to adapt to what larger companies require, shifting from the approach that had traditionally worked for smaller customers. The company’s lexicon now includes more emphasis on ingenuity in terms of cost control, quality and safety-driven solutions than ever before. And in order to properly attend to these facets of change, the company needed to hire more people. To service every customer effectively, it added multiple engineers to the team, many of whom now work in sales, operations and quality. 

Led by James and Linda Venner, who serve as president and vice president, respectively, the company tapped into different markets to further add to its professional staff. Clampco now employs metallurgy experts who run operations and production, sales and purchasing agents with aerospace experience, program sales account reps, automation engineers and technicians, and offers a tool and die apprenticeship.

Codonics Inc.
Peter Botten, president and CEO

Peter Botten’s entrepreneurial spirit has grown Codonics Inc. from a solo startup to an international company with a well-established brand. Today, Codonics has over 150 employees, more than 30,000 product installations and is represented in nearly 100 countries. It’s a multimillion-dollar global business that provides the medical industry with some of the most advanced medical imaging products in the world.

The catalyst for the company’s 21st century growth was the development and introduction in November 1999 of the Horizon Multimedia Medical Imager. It was the world’s first medical imager to combine film, color and gray-scale technologies in a desktop-sized device. The product competed head to head with big-box medical imagers offered by major global film manufacturers in the industry.

With Botten as the company’s president and CEO, research and development of target markets is a core competency for Codonics. The company continually strives to expand its international presence and identify channels and training distributors in the sales and support aspects of its products. Finding the most successful and closely matched local distributors, as well as local original equipment manufacturers of medical devices, has contributed to the company’s success across multiple regions. Its export growth is due in part to effective management to reduce restrictions into target foreign markets.

Exsurco Medical Inc.
Sara Ann MacKinlay, general manager

Exsurco Medical Inc. could have started from scratch when it entered the medical device sector. Instead, the company chose to look within and utilize the strengths and knowledge of its parent company, Bettcher Industries, to develop a turnkey process that allowed for a faster time to market versus outsourcing. 

Funneling global knowledge, local manufacturing and years of innovation, Exsurco Medical launched the Amalgatome SD in 2017, a medical device for skin grafting and wound excision with a novel technology in a device category that has not seen any innovation for over 70 years.

Exsurco Medical revenue has grown over 50 percent in the past year, and the company, led by General Manager Sara Ann MacKinlay, is now a leader in the tissue bank and processing market. The company’s sales team continues to engage nationally recognized surgeons and burn units that use and promote the product and to engage in panel discussions and case studies using the Amalgatome SD.

What started as an innovative concept in Wakeman has surprised the medical device industry by challenging current embedded surgical practices and offering a superior option for grafting and excision technology. Reducing the transportation footprint of raw material and sourcing locally allows Exsurco to produce its reusable and disposable medical device products with limited carbon impact.

I.D. Images LLC
Brian D. Gale, CEO

The motto at I.D. Images LLC is, “If we are not getting better, someone else will, and they want our customer.” To that end, the company continues to invest in both equipment and training in an effort to stay ahead of the competition and remain a leader in its field.

I.D. Images’ product offerings are continuously expanding and currently include thermal labels, printers and ribbons, laser labels and integrated labels and cards on various substrates, including paper and film. The company is led by CEO Brian D. Gale.

I.D. Images recently updated one of its production lines to automate its packaging and reduce the amount of time its machine operator spends doing things other than running the equipment. The result is a 15 percent increase in output on this machine, and there are plans for similar investments on other equipment.

Another key to I.D. Images’ success is the ability of its personnel to learn offsite. The company recently sent two of its flexographic press operators to Chicago for training, and they came back with great ideas and a wealth of knowledge.

I.D. Images continues to grow its employee base, expanding from 180 in November 2017 to 205 this past November. In addition, sales continue to increase and outpace industry growth.

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc.
Michael A. Conny, president

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc. began as a one-man operation repairing wrecked trailers in a single-bay garage. Since then, Michael A. Conny has built the business into the nation’s foremost manufacturer of dump, flatbed and transfer trailers, as well as straight truck bodies. MAC Trailer also makes dry bulk pneumatic tanks for both food grade and raw material usage, as well as a line of liquid tank trailers equipped for gas, oil, fertilizer or food grade materials.

With vision, forward thinking and demand in the transportation industry, MAC Trailer now encompasses more than 1.35 million square feet of facilities on campuses covering more than 500 acres, with a staff in excess of 2,000 employees. The company, led by Conny as president, services both national and international markets. 

The opening of two new manufacturing centers in Texas and Oklahoma in the last two years has enabled MAC Trailer to build products closer to its customers, reduce shipping costs and access a new workforce. It has also begun to build a specific line of trailers at certain plants. This approach allows the company to set up plants in such a way as to be the most efficient in building the specific trailer assigned to that plant.

Mactac LLC
Ed LaForge, president

Ten years ago, Mactac LLC found itself at a critical juncture. Like other pressure-sensitive adhesive manufacturers, Mactac was coating solvent acrylic adhesives to manufacture its industrial tape products. 

However, in order to grow, expand, reach new markets and differentiate its solutions, it needed to do something that no one else was doing. Mactac, led by President Ed LaForge, set out to find a competitive advantage in its manufacturing technology and asset capabilities.

After months of research, development and innovative engineering, Mactac created a fully customized, 100 percent solids, hot melt adhesive coater. Unlike anything else in the industry, this new technology utilized two independent coating heads, with each head coating either UV acrylic or hot melt rubber. It would allow the company to run any adhesive combination at a much faster rate, roughly 1,000 feet per minute, a significant increase over prior speeds.

Additionally, this manufacturing innovation could coat both sides of a web, simultaneously creating an extremely efficient manufacturing process, as well as a more sustainable cost model that maximized customer value and added flexibility in solutions, service and support.

Mactac’s cutting-edge operations have created a best-in-class manufacturing environment, opened doors to new sales and production opportunities and positioned the company at the forefront of its industry.

Rockwell Automation
Blake Moret, chairman and CEO

The implementation of Factory Talk Production Center at Rockwell Automation in 2011 changed the way manufacturing associates function in the organization. Previously, they would log in to one system for entering defects, another for creating product labels and yet another for recording downtimes. They also needed to log in to Rockwell’s enterprise resource planning system for tracking work order progress. It all took a lot of time and made training new employees difficult. 

Once the company transitioned to the new system, work flow vastly improved. 

Rockwell has real-time critical-to-quality measures that are automated and standardized, making it easy to identify best practices. Order management has been integrated, making it easy to tell where individual serial numbers are on the production floor. The company can also look back and see where each individual product was built, who was on the line when the product was produced, what defects, if any, were experienced, and if there were any process disruptions.

The company, led by Chairman and CEO Blake Moret, uses integrated test equipment that automatically uploads test results to Rockwell’s manufacturing execution system. It enables Rockwell to recruit and retain younger generations by creating a highly engaging work environment where operators get real-time feedback on their performance.

The Cleveland Electric Laboratories Company Inc.
Jack Lieske, CEO

The Cleveland Electric Laboratories Company Inc. has regularly been challenged to create new efficiencies in its business model. And its ability to do so effectively is a key reason why the 98-year-old innovative sensing company remains an expert in its field, maintaining a lab that has the most accurate readings on the market. CEO Jack Lieske ensures that Cleveland Electric Laboratories does not remain stagnant in its research and development for heat sensing or in new technologies the company explores.

When the team wasn’t satisfied with how one of its plugs was working, it developed a new plug that fits and acts better. The company does not listen to those who say there is nothing new in heat treating and continues to create new and adaptive products.

By attentively listening to customers, Cleveland Electric Laboratories has also found a place in the software market. It is currently working to develop software that will not only allow a customer to remotely manage its certified thermocouples but remotely manage the furnace itself from an easy-to-use platform. Through creating efficiencies in its own work, as well as for customers, Cleveland Electric Laboratories continues to set the pace in its industry.

The KEENE Family
of Companies
James Keene, CEO

Companies that work in blended chemicals understand that with such large markets, they need a different approach to succeed. Continental Products and Dependable LLC are Cleveland companies that compete against billion-dollar public entities in multibillion-dollar industries. 

To come out ahead in this space, The KEENE Family of Companies takes the philosophy of a nibbling niche company. KEENE seeks out customers where it can add value to a process. In industrial coatings, that means providing a tailored product for an individual process, just in time and ready for use. In floor prep, KEENE created Synthecem™, a binding system of multiple chemicals that gives Dependable LLC a significant performance advantage.

With three different manufacturing processes, KEENE, led by CEO James Keene, is always searching for the means of providing a system that incorporates all three. In noise control, that means a sound mat, a liquid primer and a powdered underlayment all made by one company. A significant step in this evolution was the decision KEENE made about where materials would be made. Instead of permanently outsourcing product from overseas, KEENE built the capability to make materials in Northeast Ohio. It’s a formula for success that has enabled the company to vastly increase its product offerings.