Dennis Oates Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2009
2009 Pacesetters: Large Organization

When Dennis Oates became president and CEO of Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc. in January 2008, things were looking good. The economy was strong and the main challenge was to keep pace with the robust demand in all the end markets that the company serves: aerospace, power generation, petrochemical and heavy industry.

Oates’ first actions were to lay out a plan to increase the steel manufacturer’s efficiency, reduce waste and improve on-time delivery performance — all with an eye to strengthening customer service — while pursuing new market niches to build future, profitable growth.

Nine months later, the environment around him changed. The economy and end market demand dramatically reversed their course, but Oates kept Universal on track with his plan and kept the company focused on customer needs.

During the economic downturn, many corporate managements halted investment activity, sharply reducing their capital spending and postponing or canceling plans to improve their operations.

But Oates stuck to his plan and did the opposite of those companies. With the support of the board of directors, Oates initiated a major capital investment program to improve Universal’s ability to meet its customers’ future needs. On Jan. 29, 2009, the company announced a two-year, $13 million capital investment program for its melt shop, one of its core assets, as part of its commitment to enhance customer service through improved on-time delivery, shortened lead times and strengthened product quality, while reducing company costs. The company’s longtime banker in Pittsburgh, PNC Financial, provided the financing for this important initiative, which sets the stage for the company’s future progress and growth.

The steel industry has been one of the industries hit directly by the downturn in global economies. Oates and Universal have carefully and successfully focused on cash flow and guarding its strong balance sheet.

While Oates leadership has led to direct results benefiting the company, it has also helped the region. The health of the company is very important to the regional community, as the company has 285 local employees working at its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Bridgeville, Pa.

How to reach: Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc., (412) 257-7600 or