Honorees are innovating, breaking down barriers

Alliance Industrial Solutions is proud to be the presenting sponsor for the 2020 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. It is important to recognize and celebrate the innovative ideas that these companies bring to Northeast Ohio.

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 still incorporate today’s influence. But in all cases, today’s workforce will need to evolve and change, as well. 

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 that 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 — 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 and Ashley Deighan
President; Vice President of Client Experience
Alliance Industrial Solutions

2020 Award Honorees

Jimmy Zeilinger, CEO

Over the past three years, BRAND CASTLE LLC, a manufacturer of interactive baking kits for children and adults, has made a monumental effort to transition its operations from an outsourcing model to in-house manufacturing. That three-year effort included all departments of the company to move a portfolio of more than 300 items in house. 

According to BRAND CASTLE CEO Jimmy Zeilinger, the company needed to make the transition to keep up with competitors, stay ahead of inferior products, and increase margins, capacity and food safety. BRAND CASTLE made a $3.5 million investment to control its destiny. 

This entailed two large production lines, including a full-scale bakery and co-packing operations. It also meant changes to the facility and hiring more professionals, which has all paid off. Not only are margins up, but sales are up significantly, and 2020 is expected to be even better. This is because of BRAND CASTLE’s ability to manufacture new products and take on more capacity as a result of its in-house manufacturing. The move even changed the culture at BRAND CASTLE for the better, and the company has embraced manufacturing. In fact, moving forward, robotic automation will be put in place to further increase efficiency and capacity.

Channel Products
Teresa Lindsey, President and COO 

In 2013, Teresa Lindsey took over Channel Products, a manufacturer of component systems and technologies designed to improve safety, reliability and efficiency, as its new president and COO. At the time, the company was facing a host of challenges.

Channel Products, which is best known in the gas appliance industry for igniters, safety controls, assemblies and accessories, had problems with reliability, quality, R&D activity and turnover. It had poor morale and culture, low community engagement, was losing customers and even considered filing for bankruptcy.

Lindsey addressed the pain points. To that end, the company recently upgraded manufacturing operations in North America and added distribution capabilities in Europe and Asia. Channel Products also expanded its controls business to add manufacturing capabilities, capacity and relationships with the addition of a factory in Guangdong, China, and established an engineering and manufacturing training center in Solon, Ohio.

With these new changes in place, the company made a significant turnaround in 2018, and now celebrates 99.5 percent on-time delivery, a 98 percent quality performance rating, six new patent applications in 12 months, a culture of integrity and performance, a new corporate headquarters under way, expansion and new customers.

Great Lakes Cheese
Dan Zagzebski, President and CEO

As an agricultural business, there are many forces Great Lakes Cheese cannot control. However, as a family business, the company can control its approach to those unpredictable forces. To that end, the Epprecht family and Great Lakes Cheese President and CEO Dan Zagzebski have taken a long-term approach to reinvesting in the business. 

To complement the Epprechts’ commitment, the Great Lakes Cheese culture is one that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and rewards team members for continuously seeking ways to innovate and improve the company’s operations. As a result, Great Lakes Cheese has made investments both in its people with continuous learning and tuition reimbursement programs, as well as in its one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art equipment.

The commitment to being ahead of the curve has led Great Lakes Cheese to improve its operations, including facilities, equipment and training, as well as expand its product mix to meet the demands of on-the-go and two-income lifestyles. The company’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan also means employees have a stake in the company’s success and are given a voice to make a difference.

Great Lakes Cheese prides itself on its ability to constantly evolve, and the strength of the company’s future rests in its collaborative culture.

K&M International d.b.a Wild Republic
Vishnu Chandran, President

Since 1979, Wild Republic’s leadership team has inspired toy innovation and environmental consciousness around the globe. Today, the company offers dozens of leading toy brands and hundreds of stuffed animals designed to inspire learning and imaginative play.

Vishnu Chandran, Wild Republic’s president, leads the team with a firm commitment to the company’s mission and core values. As Wild Republic continues to pursue business growth, the obligation to customers remains a top priority.

Wild Republic features a footprint of vertical innovation that is currently serving global offices in the U.S., China, Australia, India and Denmark. The company recognized its customers’ need for multiple types of products and services by creating software to service the customers who currently purchase its toys and plush.

In order to create a global infrastructure, Wild Republic heavily invested in geographical and cultural research to understand the best locations and environment to create a labor force capable of serving its sales and manufacturing needs. The operations infrastructure started as a total partner manufacturing footprint, and product demand caused rapid growth and the need for the company to vertically integrate its manufacturing.

Wild Republic quickly learned that owning and operating its own manufacturing facilities placed quality, profitability and innovation at the forefront of its operations.

Locus Fermentation Solutions
Andrew Lefkowitz, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO
Sean Farmer, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer

Tremendous global demand exists for natural, non-GMO, nontoxic, biological solutions to replace chemicals in almost every industry. However, current worldwide manufacturing capabilities for biologicals falls short of demand. Locus Fermentation Solutions (Locus FS), led by Co-founder, Chairman and CEO Andrew Lefkowitz and Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Sean Farmer, has developed manufacturing technologies that position it to become a large and effective producer of microorganisms and biosurfactants, capable of driving a global shift to the use of green solutions. 

Industrial fermentation is considered a key component to reducing dependence on chemicals. However, using these processes to produce commercial quantities of biologicals has not been feasible because of scaling and supply chain issues.

Locus FS has solved these challenges by using microbrewery-type fermentation technology unmatched in cost, efficacy and production capabilities. Locus FS’s modular fermenters produce nontoxic and non-GMO microbial and biosurfactant solutions at up to 100 times the potency of competitive technologies and at as low as 10 percent of the production costs of traditional manufacturing methods. 

The Locus FS manufacturing technique can be quickly scaled for applications in numerous industries.

Process Technology
Jody Richards, President

Process Technology has transformed itself to compete on a global basis. Founded in 1978 by Tom Richards, and now being led by his daughter, Jody Richards, this transformation has evolved through the continuous application of severl disciplines.

Process Technology manufactures chemical heaters and power supplies used in manufacturing semi-conductor chips and surface treatment equipment for aerospace and automotive parts. The company’s strategic approach to becoming a more global business included launching innovative products; improving manufacturing, sales and administrative processes through lean principles; investing in training; and designing and building a global distribution footprint for sales and service.

The results of this transformation have been remarkable. Sales in the last four years have doubled and the company’s head count has increased by over 100 people at all levels of the operation, including manufacturing, engineering, IT, sales and management. In this same four-year time frame, the mix of Process Technology’s business has changed from primarily domestic sales to primarily international sales.

While most of Process Technology’s growth has been organic, in February 2018, the company acquired Dynatronix to complement its product line. The company has also begun construction on a new corporate headquarters in Mentor, complete with a full R&D facility and product development laboratory.

Shiloh Industries, Inc.
Ramzi Y. Hermiz, President and CEO

Over the past seven years, Shiloh Industries, Inc. has grown from a regional U.S. automotive stamping supplier to a global partner for automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. This growth has required changes to the way the company conducts business in a global economy.  

In order to gain efficiencies and remain competitive in the marketplace, Shiloh’s manufacturing operations have continually evolved thanks in part to Ramzi Y. Hermiz, Shiloh’s president and CEO.  Shiloh Industries began its evolution with the development of the Shiloh Business Operating System, which covers strategy, planning, sourcing, manufacturing and interfacing with customers. 

In addition, the Shiloh Production System (SPS), which is a disciplined production system, is built on core values of integrity, respect, trust and teamwork, and integrates properties of safety, quality and lean manufacturing. SPS, in combination with manufacturing management systems, has helped improve Shiloh’s overall equipment effectiveness and increased quality, delivery and safety metrics. 

Since 2012, Shiloh has expanded its manufacturing footprint from nine North American plants to 33 operations, sales and technical centers throughout Asia, Europe and North America. The company has more than doubled revenue and increased its employee base nearly four times. These changes have allowed Shiloh Industries to develop and evolve its technologies and processes, resulting in an increased product mix.

SIFCO Industries, Inc.
Matthew Morrison, Vice President and General Manager

Though SIFCO Industries, Inc., a provider of highly engineered, forged components for the aerospace, energy and defense markets, is a 106-year-old company, it has continued to evolve in manufacturing. Throughout its history, SIFCO has implemented and sustained initiatives to continuously improve and meet modern business challenges. 

From implementing Lean Six Sigma to offering co-op and engineering development programs, SIFCO and its Vice President and General Manager Matthew Morrison find ways to keep the business on the cutting edge. In 2015, SIFCO added a Maniago, Italy, facility, and in 2016, it moved to a corporate sales function with global coverage in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, the Far East and Israel.

In addition, SIFCO added to its manufacturing capabilities by installing crucial pieces of manufacturing equipment. SIFCO also completed a $1 million electrical infrastructure upgrade and built a 20,000-square-foot tooling storage building, which centralized and organized tooling storage and opened key manufacturing space. 

Further, SIFCO began a three-year die room modernization project in 2019 with the installation of three new CNC mills and the intent to add robotic welding. All of these improvements stem from SIFCO’s revised organizational culture to encourage and reward continuous improvement, values-based actions and decisions, and strong personal ownership in quality.

Swagelok Company
Ward Dumm, Vice President, Operations
Jay Nordholt, Vice President, Continuous Improvement and Quality

Guided by the core values of customer focus, quality, integrity, respect, innovation and continuous improvement, Swagelok, a manufacturer of valve components, has evolved its manufacturing operations and adapted to a global economy. 

Utilizing SAP software, Swagelok improved reporting and forecasting, as well as efficiencies in data sharing. The software’s variant configuration logic analyzes the characteristics of a part number without any manual intervention and determines a bill of materials and routings. This enables customers to receive a nearly immediate response to quotes and orders and has reduced the amount of indirect labor required to process orders for new part numbers. 

Swagelok’s long-term investment strategy to get closer to customers around the world includes a manufacturing facility in Changshu, China. In 2019, an 80,000-square-foot building expansion doubled floor space, and 68 new primary and secondary assets are in the process of being added to the facility. The expansion enabled Swagelok to move some legacy component manufacturing to the Changshu facility. As a result, Swagelok was able to retire some older equipment in Northeast Ohio facilities and make room for new equipment.

With the help of Ward Dumm, vice president of operations, and Jay Nordholt, vice president of continuous improvement and quality, Swagelok expects to deliver world-class safety, quality and service.

Talan Products
Steve Peplin, CEO

How does a manufacturing company located in the Rust Belt achieve an 18 percent compound annual growth rate over 32 years? By constantly evolving. Talan Products, a metal stamping company led by CEO Steve Peplin, has learned to be flexible, to anticipate market forces and formulate strategies to deal with them.

Being in a $160 billion market, Talan Products has lots of competition and also plenty of opportunity. Talan uses data to examine where it can be better and where it can continue to evolve to keep rising in its market.

To combat a tight labor market, Talan invests twice the industry average in both dollars and man hours in training. To keep up with an ever-changing business climate, Talan Products advocates for its customers and offers a transparent view of the material usage and cost for its products.

In addition, at a time when “going green” is important, Talan Products has made strides in the solar industry, LED lighting segment and green transportation. The company’s own green movement surrounds internal waste streams and energy-saving initiatives.

Reducing customer costs is also important to Talan. Designing for manufacturability is a win for both customers and Talan, and it has become part of Talan’s culture to improve, adapt and evolve.

The Oatey Company
Neal Restivo, CEO

Since 1916, The Oatey Company has provided reliable, high-quality products for the residential and commercial plumbing industries. Today, Oatey operates a comprehensive manufacturing and distribution network to supply more than 6,000 products for professional builders, contractors, engineers and do-it-yourself consumers globally. 

Thanks to its strong team and CEO Neal Restivo, Oatey has continued to meet customer needs for more than a century by offering innovative plumbing solutions that deliver results the first time, build trust and improve lives. With values such as collaboration, integrity, respect, courage, leadership and excellence, Restivo ensures Oatey doesn’t rest on its laurels.

In fact, Oatey sets the standard within its community, markets, industry and its associates to drive performance and maximize opportunities. As a market leader and manufacturer, customers and end users depend on Oatey to perform, and the company hasn’t disappointed. 

Oatey has built its business on a commitment to teamwork and of trust with associates and business partners, while never forgetting its humble beginnings. The company is always challenging the status quo, harnessing the creativity and knowledge within the organization to innovate and embrace emerging technologies to lead change within the company’s markets. It’s because of these practices that Oatey has grown profitably, sustaining the organization through changing market conditions.

United Initiators, Inc.
Mark Mroz, Site Manager

United Initiators, Inc. is a manufacturer of organic peroxides and persulfates products, which are essential for a multitude of uses in modern daily life. As such, the global demand for its products has changed on an annual basis. In order to meet this demand, the company has globally redistributed where products are made and maintained U.S. and international regulations and safety standards. 

This has impacted the company’s Elyria location, led by Site Manager Mark Mroz, by repurposing chemical plants to make completely new products. United Initiators’ Elyria facility has prided itself on being nimble, something it believes keeps it ahead of its competitors. Part of this nimbleness is the operational processes themselves, but other parts are because of its people.

In Elyria, United Initiators continues to have a strong focus on efficiency, ergonomics and safety automation. The company maintains ISO and Responsible Care certifications, which cover environment, health, safety and quality. It also celebrated one year without a recordable accident and more than one year without a lost time injury, which is significant considering the materials used at United Initiators are hazardous chemicals. 

Every year, the company applies lean principles and other efficiencies to make operational improvements, which have doubled production from 10 years ago.