Dennis Oates, Chairman, President and CEO, Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.

Dennis Oates, Chairman, President and CEO, Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.


Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc. was launched in 1994 when founder Mac McAninch rejuvenated a defunct stainless steel mill in Bridgeville, Pa. The company became a successful stainless steel producer and soon opened two more previously shuttered mills in Titusville, Pa., and Dunkirk, N.Y.

When Dennis Oates joined Universal’s board in 2007, McAninch was approaching retirement age but hadn’t found a suitable candidate to succeed him. Less than three months later, Oates had won the confidence of both the founder and the board, and based on Oates’ industry and leadership experience and his strategic vision for the company, the board named Oates president and CEO of Universal. In 2010, he became chairman of the company as well.

Oates refocused the company to pursue best-in-class lead times, on-time performance and customer responsiveness. Lean manufacturing practices were implemented. Capital investments were made to overcome operational bottlenecks and advanced metrics were adopted to monitor progress. The company’s management team was built up to ensure a high-performance culture.

Oates also won the board’s support for a major capital investment in Universal’s melt shop, one of the company’s key assets. He proceeded unwaveringly with the implementation of that investment during the uncertain times of the 2009 recession, and thereby positioned the company for the recovery while fast-forwarding operational improvements.

Quarter by quarter, the improvements implemented by Oates and his team have gained traction. Oates also refocused Universal’s selling efforts toward high-value products and toward markets with strong potential that were previously underserved by the company.

By 2011, Universal was achieving record quarterly sales, 15 percent of which came from new products, and the company recorded some of the highest operating margins in its history.

HOW TO REACH: Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.,