Member WillowWood opens new office to boost, improve West Coast business

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s smallest member company is making a play for a bigger footprint and a better customer experience.

WillowWood, the prosthetic product manufacturer and COE member based south of Columbus, opened a new office in Salt Lake City, Utah, in recent months as part of a move to cut down on shipping times for its West Coast customers and gain more business in the market. The company is leasing office space and manufacturing space, running a four-employee operation that’s – for now – exclusively dedicated to its custom fabrication business.

WillowWood makes a number of products for amputees, but its custom fabrication operation is a critical part of it. This entails making “sockets” that slide over a protective sock-like liner the company also makes. To avoid discomfort or, worse, injury, the socket must be custom-made to fit perfectly on an amputee’s residual limb – sometimes above the knee, sometimes below – before connecting to a prosthetic foot or pylon.

At the beginning of this process, a prosthetist sends WillowWood a plaster cast of the residual limb to ensure the socket is precisely custom made, but shipping that from the West Coast to the company’s Mt. Sterling headquarters could take nearly a week in some instances before fabrication could even begin.

WillowWood COO John Matera said that for the company, which employs 211, the new office was “a small step, but a big enough step for us.”

“Our big push was to get service turnaround time a lot shorter than it was for the West Coast,” Matera said.

Sights also are set on growing sales in the market without plaster casts and finished custom fabrication needing to criss-cross the country. It’s a notable step forward for a company with a 100-plus-year history that’s now led by Ryan Arbogast (pictured in featured image above), whose great-grandfather founded WillowWood in 1907.

“WillowWood has been working to provide innovative products and services to clinicians and amputees for over a century,” Arbogast said. “When we see an opportunity to expand our services in a way that gives our customers more and better options, we do our best to take advantage.”

CEO offering insights on op-ex push at Lancaster Colony in Feb. 9 keynote

You might not know the name Lancaster Colony, but you almost certainly have one of its products in your refrigerator or freezer right now.

Lancaster Colony is the company that owns and makes the market-dominating Marzetti salad dressing and dip brand along with other products such as Sister Schubert’s homemade rolls and New York Brand Bakery Texas toast. It’s a $1.2 billion-a-year company based in Columbus, part of the Center for Operational Excellence since 1998 – and starting a brand new chapter in its corporate story.

Lancaster Colony Corp. President and CEO David Ciesinski

David Ciesinski, who joined the company as COO in 2016 and took over as CEO last year, will be highlighting that new chapter in a keynote address he’s delivering to close out COE’s first members-only session of the year: A Feb. 9 networking and learning event at the Blackwell on the campus of Fisher College of Business.

New to Lancaster Colony, Ciesinski is a seasoned veteran of the packaged food industry who’s served in leadership roles at well-known brands such as H.J. Heinz Co. and Kraft Foods. He’s a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

In his new role with Lancaster Colony, he’s said he’s making continuous improvement a central focus of the company’s forward momentum, leveraging a multimillion-dollar project portfolio and growing team of Black Belts to cut expenses in products’ journey to the shelf and eliminate waste along the way. More importantly, Ciesinski said he’s working to create a culture in which employees are driven by purpose and data-centric decision making.

That sense of purpose and data-rooted decision making will both prove critical in the years ahead for Lancaster Colony, which is dealing with unprecedented change in consumer preferences that are shaking up the restaurant industry (the company supplies a number of top chains in addition to brand-licensing deals on their own products) and grocery aisles (the company’s biggest customer is Wal-Mart). Lancaster Colony itself, though, is no stranger to change. The company was formed in 1961 when several glass and housewares makers merged and went public in 1969, when it bought T. Marzetti Co.

In the subsequent decades, the company grew as a conglomerate, selling a wide range of products. As recently as 2003, its glassware, candle and automotive businesses made up more than 40% of its sales. Since then, the company has made a concerted move to sharpen its focus on its food brands, becoming exclusively so by 2014.

In his presentation, Ciesinski will offer a candid look at his lessons learned in this new era for a company with a more than half-century legacy.

This session is available for in-person attendance and via livestream for members. Registration is available here.

Leadership principles in Huntington transformation focus of December keynote

“How much will this save?”

“When will this get done?”

Jeff Sturm knows leaders need the answers these questions get. He also knows there’s a better way to ask.

“’When will this get done’ is a legitimate question,” said Sturm, Huntington’s Chief Continuous Improvement Officer, “but if you ask it over and over – and at the wrong time – you’re going to drive the wrong behavior.”

jeff sturm
Jeff Sturm

Changing leadership behaviors – starting with how they ask questions of their people – is a key component of a wide-ranging operational excellence transformation rounding out its fourth year at the Columbus-based bank, a stalwart among Midwestern financial institutions with more than $100 billion in assets. Sturm stepped in to lead the bank’s formal effort to build a culture of continuous improvement as it launched in 2014, and he’s appearing as a keynote on Dec. 8 for a seminar hosted by The Ohio State Center for Operational Excellence, where the bank has been a member since 2011. Registration for the event, open exclusively to employees of COE member companies, is open now.

Looking back at the early days of the initiative, Sturm said part of the foundational work was in communicating what the culture change wouldn’t be.

“Most people’s perception of continuous improvement was two things: this very rigorous Six Sigma orientation, and that everything was about expense reduction,” Sturm said. “Really, we wanted to help better equip our employees to have more formality around their problem solving to help in the day-to-day.”

The road map driving Huntington’s continuous improvement efforts is a three-pronged strategy that aligns employees on establishing cultural behaviors, creating capable colleagues and delivering results. That’s operationalized, Sturm said, as “making great, customer-centric, process-focused, data-driven decisions.”

Four years in, Sturm said a key focus is sustaining momentum. Huntington closed a $3.4 billion merger deal with Akron’s FirstMerit Corp. last year, and CEO Steve Steinour told Crain’s Cleveland Business this fall that Huntington is “investing in growing.”

A sustained continuous improvement capability, Sturm said, is critical to what the bank has achieved – and what’s in store.

“Our team has really focused on making sure we’re helping creating a culture where our people are able to identify and take advantage of opportunities because of that growth,” Sturm said.

Learn more about Huntington’s operational excellence journey on Friday, Dec. 8, when Sturm’s 10:30 a.m. keynote will be followed by a presentation on keys to visionary leadership from Tim Judge, the executive director of the Leadership Initiative at Fisher College of Business and a top-ranked researcher in the field.

COE accepting breakout session proposals for 2018 summit

Have a story of transformational change at your organization you’d like to share? Have research-based insights that can help business professionals develop their leadership or problem-solving skills?

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence is accepting proposals for breakout sessions at its 2018 Leading Through Excellence summit, set for April 10-12 at the Fawcett Center on Ohio State’s campus. For attendees, the 25 breakout sessions to be offered at the event – spread across April 11 and 12 in five 60- and 75-minute blocks of five concurrent sessions – allow them to customize their summit experience to choose the topics that fit their interests and best align with their personal and organizational goals. For presenters, the sessions offer the chance to share best practices and make connections with hundreds of business leaders.

As with past summits, COE is building its breakout session offerings to represent a mix of “case studies” taking place inside member and non-member companies; actionable insights from researchers; and best practices from thought leaders in the world of operational excellence. Topics are to be broadly focused on one or more of the following subject matter areas:

  • Industry disruption (technology, trends)
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Lean deployment best practices (tools, techniques, behaviors)
  • Organizational behavior (team-building, communication, decision making)
  • Supply chain management

While COE will still be recruiting a number of breakout presenters outside this process, between five and 10 sessions will be drawn from submitted proposals. All session presenters receive complimentary admission to the summit.

Think you’re ready to submit a proposal for a breakout session on April 11 or 12? Have the following information ready about yourself and your presentation:

  • a) Contact information
  • b) Proposed title
  • c) Key challenge/trend the presentation addresses
  • d) A few sentences on the content you plan to cover;
  • e) Key “takeaways” attendees will receive at your session.
  • We’re also interested in past presentation experience, with video links welcome and encouraged.

Presentation proposals will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis, and all those who submit proposals will be notified of their status by Jan. 15, 2018, at the latest.

To view the proposal form and begin the submission process, click here.

DHL Supply Chain riding digital wave with ‘smart glasses’ pilot

The digital wave continues to wash over the global economy, and it’s making a big splash at a Center for Operational Excellence member company.

dhl supply chainMember DHL Supply Chain this month announced that it has completed a pilot of a new augmented reality addition to its warehouse picking operations, equipping employees with “smart glasses.” By wearing these glasses, employees have instant access to visual displays that give picking instructions, along with details on where the item is located and where it should be placed on carts.

DHL Supply Chain in a press release said it’s seen boosts of productivity of up to 15 percent during pilot tests in the U.S. and in Europe, CIO and COO Markus Voss calling the digitalization “not just a vision or a program” but “a reality for us and our customers.”

DHL Supply Chain is one of many companies grappling and experimenting with the role of digital technology in legacy business models that, in some industries, haven’t seen radical disruption in generations. The challenge of digitization was the subject of an event just this week at The Ohio State Univeristy, where COE partnered with three other Fisher centers to address challenges and opportunities in this area.

In the opening keynote, Cisco executive Jeremy Aston shared research from the company’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation showing that in just two years, companies’ perspectives on digitization have shifted drastically. In 2015, only 15 percent of surveyed companies told Cisco and its partners that digital disruption was already occurring in their industry. That number jumped to 49 percent this year. At the same time, roughly one in three of the executives surveyed told Cisco that digitization would have a transformative impact on their industry. Just two years ago, that perspective was shared by one in 250 surveyed executives.

DHL Supply Chain hinted that the “smart glasses” picking pilot is just the start, with plans to look at leveraging this technology in training and maintenance functions, among others.

NetJets joins Center for Operational Excellence

A company renowned for its customer service and rich history in Columbus is stepping up its commitment to process improvement by joining the Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence.

netjetsColumbus-based NetJets Inc. formally joined COE in February, with Jennifer Barlette, NetJets’ director of strategic initiatives, serving as board member.

NetJets’ forerunner, Executive Jet Aviation, was founded in Columbus in 1964. Two decades later saw the rollout of NetJets’ signature operational model, where customers – instead of buying an entire private aircraft – can purchase “fractional ownership” of an aircraft for a specified number of hours per year. Billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett joined NetJets as a customer in 1995 and the rest is history: Berkshire bought the company only three years later, propelling it to new heights as the worldwide leader in private aviation.

Today, NetJets has 7,500 customers – dubbed “owners” – around the globe and its fleet of 700 aircraft fly to more than 4,000 airports in more than 160 countries.

NetJets isn’t a stranger to COE: Executives Rich Wrona and Patrick Gallagher headlined a February 2013 seminar, giving an inside look at the processes that fuel its best-in-class customer service. NetJets’ debut as a member of COE steps up an already strong commitment to excellence.

“Process improvement is a priority at NetJets,” said Mindy Drummond, SVP of Human Resources at NetJets. “Every day we strive to maintain our position as the industry leader and that takes discipline and a commitment to continuous improvement. By joining COE, we will be able to learn from and collaborate with other industry leaders, pushing each other forward.”

COE Executive Director Peg Pennington said the addition of NetJets to the center’s roster further grows opportunities all members have to share best practices.

“COE has seen exciting growth in service-sector membership in the last several years, and we’re thrilled to bring NetJets on board,” Pennington said.

Click here for a look at COE’s full membership roster.

Member Huntington Bank commits to major bump in hiring, lending

Center for Operational Excellence member Huntington Bank on Nov. 22 announced plans to add 1,000 jobs in its home city of Columbus in the next several years and boost its commitment to lending in low-income area neighborhoods.

Huntington BankHuntington said it plans to achieve its jobs push by 2024, adding 1,000 workers to its Columbus-area payroll of about 5,600, according to data from Columbus Business First. Huntington today ranks as the 15th-largest employer in the Columbus area, just ahead of COE member Cardinal Health Inc. The bank also said it will commit to lending $300 million to low- and moderate-income areas of the city over the next five years, with a focus in the Linden and Northland neighborhoods.

“Columbus is our home, for the past 150 years, and we’re stepping up to help transform an important area because we believe in helping small businesses grow and families prosper,” Huntington CEO Stephen Steinour said in a statement. “The city has been an outstanding partner and we’re proud to support the Mayor’s vision to revitalize key growth neighborhoods.”

For more details on Huntington’s announcement, including its plans to consolidate jobs in a brand-new office, check out reports in Columbus Business First and the Columbus Dispatch.

Member news roundup: OSU fundraising tops $3B; Progressive makes hiring push

Center for Operational Excellence member companies have made headlines in the past week. Here are the highlights:

BMW Financial looking to innovate in auto-finance sector (Automotive Management Online)

Columbus-based BMW Financial has selected five startups to join an Innovation Lab, dubbed the automotive sector’s first financial technology business incubator. “The five finalists,” according to AM Online, present a range of innovations that could revolutionize how consumers own and insure cars in the future, from opening up entirely new types of leases to consumers, through to tackling the barriers young drivers face.”

FedEx Services Co-CEO to lead solo next year (Bloomberg)

FedEx Corp. this week unveiled a number of changes in its C-suite, led by news that FedEx Express chief Dave Bronczek will become president and COO of the parent company. This makes him primed to succeed CEO Fred Smith. FedEx also announced the retirement of Mike Glenn, whose roles included co-CEO of FedEx Services. The other Co-CEO, Rob Carter, will become FedEx Services CEO in 2017.

KeyCorp clears major hurdle to purchasing First Niagara (Albany Business Review)

Cleveland-based KeyCorp this week received clearance from the Office for the Comptroller of the Currency to buy Buffalo-based First Niagara Financial Group. It’s the last step in a nearly yearlong process to merge the banks’ assets.

Nationwide in deal to buy Jefferson National (Louisville Business First)

Columbus-based Nationwide is buying Jefferson National of Louisville, taking on the company’s portfolio of investment and fee-based advisers. Nationwide said the deal marks a major expansion of its sales reach in the financial services market. The transaction, which will make Jefferson National a Nationwide subsidiary, is set to close early next year.

Ohio State fundraising push tops $3B (Columbus Dispatch)

The “But For Ohio State” fundraising campaign launched under former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is coming to a close with a haul past the $3 billion mark. OSU President Michael Drake on Thursday told major donors that the university brought in $3,004,563,961. For scale, that’s about half of the university’s annual top line.

Progressive Insurance mounts big hiring push (Insurance Networking News)

Cleveland-based Progressive Insurance said it plans to hire about 1,300 people by the end of the year, mostly information technology positions. Jobs will be added at its headquarters and other offices around the country. That’s an increase of about 5 percent over Progressive’s headcount as of June 2016.

Wexner Medical Center chief outlines path forward in Q&A (Columbus CEO)

Dr. Sheldon Retchin, CEO of OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, said in a recent interview that he’s seeking to “make Ohio State a place where innovation and research are really top of the chart.” Growth areas, he said, include research in addictive medicine and health policy.

Member news roundup: Huntington-FirstMerit deal, Cardinal Health leadership

Center for Operational Excellence member companies have made headlines in the past week. Here are the highlights:

Cardinal Health steps up commitment to women in leadership roles (Columbus Business First)

Cardinal Health Inc. is making a concerted effort to promote women because that will bring it closer to its customers in health care, said Paul Gotti, vice president of nuclear pharmacy at the Dublin health care giant.

Crown Equipment honored for commitment to hiring veterans (Lima News)

Crown Equipment was honored Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services for its dedication to hiring and retaining military veterans. Chip Tansill, director of the the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, traveled to Crown’s headquarters in New Bremen to thank the veterans for their service, and to acknowledge the company’s consistent recruitment of Ohio’s military servicemen and women.

Huntington sets sights on converting FirstMerit branches (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Columbus-based Huntington announced its $3.4 billion purchase of FirstMerit in January. The deal closed two weeks ago and FirstMerit will be converted to the Huntington brand in full early next year. Until then, Huntington is asking FirstMerit customers to continue using existing FirstMerit branches.

Wexner Medical Center revenue tops $3B (Columbus Business First)

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center had $3.21 billion revenue in its first full year with the James Cancer Hospital tower and doubled emergency department, a 9 percent increase over the prior year and passing the $3 billion milestone for the first time.

DHL Supply Chain adding to payroll in central Ohio with tax-cut help (Columbus Business First)

An unidentified beauty products company will receive a six-year, 1.485 percent tax credit in a pass-through by third-party logistics partner DHL Supply Chain. The company, formerly known as Exel, will add $13.31 million in annual payroll as a result of the project.

Scotts buying 90 acres in Marysville (Columbus Business First)

A Marysville hospital system is scrapping plans for an expansion in the city, opting instead to turn 90 acres of undeveloped land back over to Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. for product testing. Memorial Health will sell the land bordering Route 33 to Scotts (NYSE:SMG) for $4 million, both organizations said.

Goodyear’s SVP of global ops on way out (Crain’s Cleveland)

The tiremaker this week disclosed that Gregory L. Smith, senior vice president of global operations, will leave the company Dec. 15. Joe Zekoski, the company’s chief technical officer, took over his duties earlier in August.

Greif tops earnings estimates in latest quarter (Yahoo! Finance)

The Delaware, Ohio-based industrial packaging maker said it had profit of 78 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 91 cents per share. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations of 72 cents a share.

Nationwide, Owens Corning make ranks of best places to work in I.T.

A pair of Center for Operational Excellence members have landed on ComputerWorld’s annual ranking of the best companies to work in information technology.

nwide oc logosThe magazine’s 23rd annual ranking placed Toledo-based COE member Owens Corning fourth on its large-company list, up from No. 7 in 2015. Columbus-based Nationwide landed at No. 36 on the list, up from 49th in 2015.

ComputerWorld’s rankings surveyed nearly 25,000 I.T. staffers at the nominated companies to rank the list, culling details on office culture, benefits, and training/career development opportunities.

The magazine singled out Owens Corning’s “dynamic environment that offers employees opportunities to grow professionally.” Nationwide received plaudits for its learning and innovation events, “hackathons” and peer-led educational sessions.  The company also is active in COE’s IT Leadership Network, a group of IT leaders committed to implementing process improvement principles in that space.

Coming in at No. 1 on the large-company list this year was Detroit-based Quicken Loans, whose president spoke for COE members in 2012.

Explore the list here or download a PDF of the detailed ranking here.