Keeping Care Local: Michael Harlovic, President and CEO of Oswego Health

By: Becca Taurisano

Michael Harlovic, President and CEO, Oswego Health

Inpatient Staff, Oswego NY

Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY

Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness, Oswego NY

Patient Room, Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY

Emergency Department Staff, Oswego Hospital, Oswego NY

The Manor at Seneca Hill, Skilled Nursing Facility, Oswego NY

Careers are the intersection of time, place, and opportunity,” says Oswego Health President and CEO, Michael Harlovic. “It’s been a fantastic decisioncoming to Oswego.” A Pittsburgh native, Harlovic received a Bachelor of Nursing in 1985 and a Masters of Psychiatric Nursing in 1989 from the University of Pittsburgh. For 24 years, Harlovic served in various roles from Psychiatric Program Manager, Director of Nursing, Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and eventually President and CEO for Allegheny General Hospital, the flagship hospital of the Allegheny Health Network, a seven-hospital health system.

Harlovic was the President and CEO of Allegheny Valley Hospital, a 230-bed, community hospital in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, when he was asked to serve as the interim President and CEO of Allegheny General Hospital, a 635-bed academic quaternary facility with 5,000 employees. He ran both facilities for nine months while the health system searched for a permanent CEO. “I never wrote interim on my badge, I just worked as if I was the permanent CEO from day one,” Harlovic says. The balancing act of running both the flagship facility and the community hospital prepared him for working in any environment.

Harlovic was named as the permanent President and CEO of Allegheny General Hospital for three years before new corporate management decided all health network hospitals should be physician-led. Management offered him a different position in the organization, but Harlovic decided at 55 years old it was time to retire, and he enjoyed his first summer off in his adult life. That fall, a recruiter called him about an opportunity at Oswego Health.

ROBUST OFFERINGS IN OSWEGO COUNTY

As Harlovic began to learn more about the community Oswego Health serves, he was surprised by what he found. “I was taken aback at all it had to offer,” he says, “such as the waterfront area, readily available education (SUNY Oswego), city revitalization projects, aluminum and energy industries, and a centralized location between Syracuse and Rochester.” The Oswego Health system impressed Harlovic as well. Oswego Health has 17 different locations offering diverse services, including a 162-bed acute care facility, a 120-bed long-term care facility, a 57-unit retirement home, full-service urgent care with laboratory and radiology services in Fulton and Central Square, primary care physicians, and a home care agency. “Typically, smaller hospitals, or sole community hospitals, do not have these robust offerings.” In addition, Oswego Health offers specialty services like orthopedic, bariatric, wound care, gastroenterology, ENT, general surgery, behavioral health, and obstetrics and gynecological surgery.

Oswego Health serves all of Oswego County, which includes approximately 120,000 people over 1,100 square miles. At 140 years old, the Oswego Health system is one of a handful of independent health systems left in New York State, including over 200 hospitals. Staying independent is very important to Oswego Health. “We are so mobile and fast. We don’t seek approval from anyone to change direction, other than our board of directors. I have worked in both kinds of health systems and being an independent health system is fabulous,” Harlovic says.

KEEPING CARE LOCAL

Oswego Health’s mission and vision is to provide high-quality, affordable, accessible health care to improve the health of the residents of the community. “It’s important to us to keep care local,” Harlovic says. To this end, Harlovic oversees a focused effort on the modernization of facilities including equipment and structural enhancements, made possible by the Oswego Health Foundation and private contributions from the community, local businesses, and their very own employees. “It’s that kind of help that supports providing local healthcare,” Harlovic says.

Oswego Health recently completed the development of the Lakeview Center for Mental Health and Wellness, a 42,000 sq ft behavioral health facility, made possible by a $13 million transformational grant from the New York State Department of Health as well as $4 million in board pledges and community support. The facility opened in January 2021 and has 20 adult beds and 12 geriatric beds. Currently, all the inpatient general medical surgical beds in the main hospital are being renovated. The dual-occupancy rooms will become private rooms equipped with a new HVAC filtration system purchased through Healthway Family of Brands, that will greatly improve the indoor air quality within the rooms. In addition, Indigo-Clean, a new light technology, will be installed in each patient bathroom to continuously disinfect the surfaces within the bathroom area. Indigo-Clean technology is known to reduce pathogens by nearly 99%, creating a greatly reduced chance of hospital acquired infection and better patient outcome.

Once completed, the 44 inpatient beds will have a hotel feel. The project is estimated to be complete by the end of 2021 at a cost of $8 million.

Fulton is an area of strategic growth for Oswego Health. The health system has been expanding its presence in the community, recently completing a $500,000 renovation to their Fulton North location, which will provide Primary Care services for the community. Oswego Health recently added tomosynthesis, which is 3D imaging for mammograms to the Fulton site. System wide, Oswego Health has state-of-the-art equipment, including robotics for orthopedic surgery.

A BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS

Harlovic has put together a compassionate, approachable, and accountable senior leadership team. Harlovic looks for individuals that are self-starters and work collaboratively. The senior leadership team sets strategic organizational goals and utilizes defined metrics as part of the Oswego Health “blueprint for success” which includes the pillars of Quality, Strategic Growth, Finance, Service, and People.

Quality
“Quality is our core service, we do needs assessments to identify what service lines we need to provide for our community,” Harlovic says. Because of the high diabetes rates in the community, Oswego Health opened the Center for Wound Healing four years ago. When they learned residents were traveling out of the area for orthopedic care, Oswego Health responded by opening the Center for Orthopedic Care. Oswego Health also opened a Center for Weight Loss and Surgery. “You can get the same great care locally and you don’t have to travel,” Harlovic says.

Strategic Growth
“To stay viable, you have to grow your organization and invest from a capital perspective and a service line perspective,” Harlovic says. Without enough primary care providers, residents were leaving to seek care. Building up this network in Oswego County translates into more business for Oswego Health specialists. Oswego Health established Physician Care, P.C. and acquired Oswego Family Physicians to facilitate growth and keep care local.

Finance
As a nonprofit healthcare system, Harlovic says the senior leadership team has worked hard to improve their revenue cycle, made the workforce more efficient, worked with insurance companies on contracts, reduced the timeline for patient stays, and controlled the cost of pharmaceuticals. “The saying goes no profit, no mission,” says Harlovic, “we are all fiduciary stewards.” Setting financial goals and being metrics-driven is important to ensuring Oswego Health stays profitable.

Service
“We are a service-oriented culture from the time you walk in the door. Communication is key,” says Harlovic. Offering free valet parking at the main hospital and training employees to help visitors with directions, introduce themselves, and explain care to patients is how Oswego Health does business. “Not only is service important when people are seeking healthcare, but it’s also a really good business model. If people have a good experience here, they will tell others and are likely to return,” Harlovic says.

 

People
Employees are Oswego Health’s number one asset and Harlovic makes it a priority to connect frequently with his 1,200 employees. “You have to engage with one another,” Harlovic says, “it is about being visible and knowing people’s names.” He holds a daily debrief with department leaders throughout the health system, meets with the senior leadership team weekly and welcomes all new employees as part of their first day orientation. Harlovic believes in a classic open-door policy and in non-pandemic times travels to all campuses to meet with employees face-to-face. During COVID, he started virtual CEO Talks which are broadcast system-wide so he can keep employees connected. Between holiday gatherings, summer outings, and staff recognition throughout the year, Harlovic says you must “do your best to connect.”

DESTINATION WORKPLACE

Harlovic calls Oswego Health a “destination workplace: a place where people want to work, doctors want to practice, and patients want to go for care.” About 80% of Oswego Health employees also live in Oswego, so at any time, the hospital is likely caring for an employee’s family member or friend. It is important to Harlovic that his employees are compassionate and that there is a family feel when dealing with patients, all while delivering high-quality clinical services. “We are a very traditional community hospital. It’s a wonderful place,” says Harlovic.

RECOGNITION IN A PANDEMIC

The year 2020 was difficult for healthcare workers, but Harlovic says being recognized helped morale. Oswego Health received the Greater Oswego Fulton Chamber of Commerce Community Investor Award for improving the community through local testing and admitting COVID patients, as well as being ranked #1 in the state for administering COVID vaccinations. Oswego Health was recognized as a Healthcare Hero by CenterState CEO for their performance during the pandemic. Jamie Leszczynski, Senior Director of Communications for Oswego Health says, “Before the pandemic, Oswego Health was already a community partner and collaborator. With the pandemic, that became even more evident. We became a leader, we stood out and stood strong. Those relationships and collaboration with our partners are something we will continue to strengthen as we go forward. When minutes matter, we have the technology and services to help our local families. We are looking to support our partners and this community however we can.”

Right Price Companies / RPC Technology; Role Models For Their Community In The Heart of Syracuse

By: Sarah Hall

Darin Price, CEO (sitting), Paris Price, CFO (Standing) at their Syracuse, NY office.

RPC Technology company climber repairing an antenna in Hartsdale, NY.

Darin and Paris Price in their laydown yard

Darin and Paris Price are looking to create a legacy.

The Syracuse couple, who owns Right Price Companies and RPC Technology, hope to hand their business down to their children someday.

“We want Right Price to be in existence well after we’re gone,” Darin said. “We want it to be a company that is a pillar in Upstate New York for years to come.”

The Prices launched Right Price Companies in 2004. The firm provides commercial furniture to the corporate, education, healthcare, and government sectors. RPC Technology, which launched about seven years ago, made its mark in the industry participating in New York State’s New York State Broadband for All program as a value-added supplier, as well as a logistics material coordinator. The program seeks to bring broadband internet to underserved or unserved areas, where nearly one million New Yorkers, mostly in rural areas, do not have an internet connection (based upon 25/3 bandwidth connection).

Darin maintains that Right Price Companies’ primary goal is to provide solutions and excellent service to its customers.

“Our desire to provide superior service for our customer is what prompted our pivot into the technology industry,” he said. “While working with a client to provide both furniture and a paneling system, the client asked if we could also handle his computer networking and set-up. At the time, our company had a relationship with RMS, a technology service and solutions company, and together, we were able to deliver a complete solution exceeding our customer’s expectation.”

“It went so well that I had an ‘aha moment,’” Darin said. “Our customers need a total solution. That was the birth of RPC Technology.”

Right Price and RMS merged and began working in the industry, bidding on and winning projects. SUNY Oneonta was its first substantial contract with fiber optic cable.

‘This project allowed us to see technology as our next business frontier,” Darin said. RPC Technology strategy began planning to participate in the NYS Broadband for All prior to the announcement of grant awards. The program launched in 2016 with three phases of grant awards to telecom and cable service operators and providers, as well as municipalities, throughout the state over the next three years.

“As one of the few certified minority suppliers of fiber optic cable in the area, RPC became a key supplier of fiberoptic cable to cable service provider in Upstate New York that participated in the broadband program, addressing a vital need in Upstate New York.” Darin said.

“When we think about the personal aspect of high-speed broadband, we have to understand that the program allowed for a higher level of connectivity to the rural areas of New York State, especially now, because computer access is more important than ever before,” Paris said.

“It’s so desperately needed for our children to learn remotely, for hospitals, businesses, not to mention your home. Not only did we see the benefits for our business, but we recognized the desperate need for the opportunity of expansion of fiber optic cable throughout New York State, especially its rural territories that had some level of access.”

 

Ultimately, the Prices said they are looking to be a full-service wholesale electrical supply distributor as well as an outside plant construction company. This aspect includes fiber cable deployment, antennae/line installation, and maintenance in relation to cell towers.

“As alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, we have a very clear vision for our future growth,” Darin said.

The Prices also emphasized that RPC is one of the only minority-owned companies in the field. They are certified with New York State and New York City as a Woman/Minority Business Enterprise, as well as the New York Port Authority and the Mass Transit Authority. They are also registered with the National Supplier Development Council as a Minority Business Enterprise and the federal government as a Small Disadvantaged Business.

“We are a company that wants to work with everyone. We are a corporation first that just happens to be owned by a minority,” Darin said. “We’re not a minority first when we walk through the door. We build our reputation on the service and on our products.”
There are some, however, who balk at the MBE label.

“Some people have the stereotypes—the preconceived notions—that because you’re a minority business or a woman-owned business, that there’s going to be something different, they have to do; something different to deal with us,” Darin said. “We go through the many steps of certification to get into the door, to get a fair look-see at a project. Unfortunately, these same old stereotypes never seem to die.”

In reality, being an MBE just means that RPC is looking to make a relatively homogeneous field a little less so.

“RPC is an equal opportunity employer. We hire diverse candidates to go into an industry where there’s not a lot of diversity,” Darin said. “It is our responsibility to give our people a fair opportunity at these jobs.”

As a minority business, RPC is also focused on workforce development and hiring.

“We have a relationship with SUNY EOC, Jubilee Homes, and CNY Works,” Darin said.

In particular, Darin and Paris’ goal is to bring in talented candidates from their neighborhood.

“We intentionally created our business in the heart of Syracuse,” Paris said. “One of our personal goals is to be role models for those in our community, the community that both Darin and I grew up in. It was very important for us to be able to let our community see a business prosper and to let them see themselves in it. They see business owners and people working that look like them.”

RPC is the culmination of Darin’s aspiration to start his own business, something he dreamed about way back when he was mowing lawns as a kid—and told Paris about it back when they started dating in the early 1980s.

“He always came to me with the idea that one day, he would be self-employed,” Paris said. “For a while, I didn’t understand the benefits of being the boss. But I definitely understand the benefits of it now. We are able to have a pride in ownership that, had he not been persistent about reaching his lifelong goal of being self-employed and owning our own business, we would not have the experience today.”

While there have been challenges, Darin said he would not change a thing.

“My worst day being self-employed doesn’t compare to my best day working for someone else,” he said. “[There’s a] sense of accomplishment and knowing that you started a business from the ground up and seeing how it has blossomed into something that is a legacy builder that you can then give to your children. Your children’s children can see the spirit of entrepreneurship within your family, which really encourages your children to do the same thing.”

What Keeps You Up At Night?

By: Pierre Morrisseau, CEO, OneGroup

I’m not talking about the noisy neighbor next door or that loud car that seems to rumble by as soon as you drift off to sleep. I’m referencing the kinds of things that could set companies back on their heels, or worse, damage companies beyond repair.

Like you, I am aware of the many things that can potentially be a danger to our success and growth. At the macro level, political, economic, environmental, technological, and other forces demand our best forward-looking attention and planning. Yet it is most often one of the many everyday functions of business that pop up and bite us.

Running any size business is complex and risky. A decision-maker’s attention is drawn in seemingly hundreds of directions. I remind our employees that we cannot think in terms of the products we offer, but instead on how we can help our clients with their short- and long-term priorities.

I was recently consumed with rolling out new technology that would streamline our operations and allow us to dramatically increase our time and focus on our clients. During this project, a salesperson cold-called me. He worked hard to pitch me on his product even though it was not aligned with my current needs or focus. He was unwilling to listen to my needs. I’m sure he is a fine individual, but his solution was not on my radar screen. It was not relevant to what I was dealing with that was keeping me up at night. This interaction led me to further evaluate how OneGroup approaches the sales process, and how important it is to put the client’s true needs first.

I spend a lot of time with our sales team, consultants and service teams educating them on The OneGroup Way—our focus on helping clients and individuals with what’s stressing them regardless of whether OneGroup has an immediate solution. We may still be able to help them, for example, by making useful connections. More importantly, if we take the time to understand and discuss their real issues, we can often times have opportunities to help improve their personal and business outcomes.

Had the young salesperson taken a few minutes to listen to what my immediate focus was on, he may well have been able to build a case that his product or service was part of the solution, or perhaps could have recommended another company to assist. Either way, he would have gained my attention and appreciation.

As we enter a second year of unprecedented challenges and risk, I believe it is more important than ever to listen to those around us—loved ones, employees, friends, clients—and to understand what they are stressed about. We should not assume. We should be quick to listen and offer our help. I truly believe that this behavior makes us stronger and is actually better for our bottom line by strengthening our collective relationships and trust.

A recent Harvard Business Review article stated that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are now torn between “generating sales and respecting the threats to life and livelihood… .” I firmly believe that by shifting our attention from selling to helping, we are far more useful to and valued by our customers simply because we are demonstrating respect and caring.

As business leaders continue to deal with many things that keep us up at night, we would be wise to understand that our peers are also struggling on many fronts. We would be wise to offer our help in any way, not just with our specific products and services.

Bright Future Ahead for Construction Industry As We Learn to Live with COVID-19


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By: Earl Hall, Executive Director, Syracuse Builders Exchange

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry and the skilled crafts men and women who continued to work have been deemed a key component of New York State’s essential workforce. Contractors and their employees, while not immune from contracting or spreading COVID-19, have been able to complete vital projects, while limiting the spread of COVID-19 by following the latest health and safety recommendations from the New York State Health Department, New York State HERO Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unfortunately, with the rise of COVID-19 variants, such as Delta, the construction industry is now subject to some of the same rules and regulations from 2020. Construction industry leaders believe that responding to the COVID-19 virus is of critical importance for the health and safety of construction workers throughout New York State, their families, and communities.

As a result, most industry leaders remain committed to encouraging all construction workers to get vaccinated unless there are underlying circumstances that would not permit one to receive the vaccine. Many believe a vaccinated workforce is vital protection for the employee and their fellow workers. A vaccinated workforce is also important for the industry and the contractors who have contracts in place to perform for a General Contractor or project owner.

Penalties for non-performance or an untimely completion of a scope of work is real and can be devastating to any business owner who failed to anticipate labor issues on a particular project.

On September 9, 2021, OSHA announced that it is developing a new workplace safety rule through an Emergency Temporary Standard. This new OSHA requirement covers all employers with federal contracts, as well as those employers with more than 100 employees. Covered employers will have to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. Additionally, many project owners, both public and private, are mandating all contractors and employees performing work on their site must be fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID test result. These requirements are mandatory for all employers regardless of the number of employees employed.

At a time where there remains a significant labor shortage, losing valuable employees from an employer’s workforce due to some or many employees choosing to not being vaccinated poses unimaginable challenges for construction industry employers. Without workforce compliance, construction industry employees will miss out on valuable work hours, while many employers may choose not to bid projects for fear of not being able to supply the appropriate work force to complete the project on time.

It is anticipated the industry will have a significant increase in building and infrastructure work over the next 5-7 years, in particular upstate New York. This construction work is expected to last for many years, but to bid on and secure these projects will require that all associated with the employer meet the OSHA, New York State and/or project owner rules for mandated vaccination or weekly testing. To ignore these rules means losing out on the billions of dollars in future projects and job opportunities. Additionally, ignoring such requirements exposes construction contractors to increased pressure to supply skilled labor to their projects, thus potentially jeopardizing the long-term viability of an employer.

While respecting personal opinions of whether vaccines should be mandated as a condition of employment, one being vaccinated addresses a government identified safety issue for employees and their coworkers while not limiting potential employment opportunities. And, equally as important, not causing undue pressure on employers who may not be able to supply enough skilled labor during an historic labor shortage era.

This is the new reality during the COVID-19 pandemic – governmental and project owner mandates on employees, all while employers endure a labor shortage crisis. The industry cannot afford to lose any more employees from the workforce for any reason.

Contractors rely upon a skilled and available work force. Each employee leaving the construction workforce poses great risks to contractors and project owners alike.

In the end, the COVID-19 vaccine will be the antidote that will attack a pandemic which has limited our freedoms, and may threaten our future. Regardless of where one’s position is on vaccine mandates, personal freedoms, freedom of choice, etc., construction industry leaders must address this issue as an unvaccinated workforce impacts more than just the unvaccinated employee. It impacts others on the job site and the very contractors who employ them.

During an unprecedented era of significant labor shortages in the construction industry, employers today cannot afford to lose employees from their workforce. The project owners and governmental mandates may get more demanding over the next few months before such may be relaxed in 2022. While learning to live with COVID-19 in our day to day lives will someday be the new norm, it is evident project owners and government officials today are not ready to address this. Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC logo

Planning For A New Future

By: Robert J. Corona DO, MBA, CEO, Upstate University Hospital

Before COVID changed everyone’s lives, I had a series of meetings with our hospital officers on the future of our hospital. Anchored by our strategic pillars,the conversation was open and wide ranging.

As we assess our progress, we learned that our pre-COVID ideas were viable and most were able to begin the path to implementation. We also saw how the plans were being reshaped — in real time — both by the current situation and by the ability of staff to be flexible and intuitive to create innovations. The pandemic proved to an accelerant to new ideas, rather than a state that put the brakes on.

I picked four examples that show creating the future can happen while we are still addressing the needs of today.

Telemedicine had been quietly incubated at Upstate for more than 20 years, surged in importance. Our telehealth visits went up by an astonishing 60,000 percent in the first two weeks. The capability had been proven and was now succeeding on a faster timeframe than we originally dreamed. Now, our goals have moved forward to making the experience more seamless via technology, where patients can click into their medical record to have their visit. We can also offer telemedicine visits a first option, where people are limited by work, distance, or physical constraints. What was planned to emerge over several years for telehealth, is being accomplished in several months.

Another area that has accelerated is our use of robotics. Our hospital runs lab tests for patients 24/7 and is currently served by a system of pneumatic tubes that shuttle tests samples quickly. As our campus footprint for testing sites has expanded, the idea of a fleet of drones that could convey samples and urgent tests was proposed. With the pandemic, the needs for tests surged to record levels. The idea of drones to help speed the needs became a reality and we received the first ever waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly over populated areas and deliver medical supplies. Now we are looking at a different type of robotics that will alleviate routine tasks and allow nurses and other caregivers to work at the top of their license.

Bricks and mortar are always part of future plans, but with COVID we made changes in the ideas of where patients could be treated and what could help us be more efficient in our physical space. Telemedicine was part of home care, but we are expanding this idea to further levels, exploring the use of wearables and other at-home diagnostic equipment for care that does not require the stress of hospital admission. In physical space, we also created pop-up clinics and testing sites to see patients quickly and keep them from unnecessary emergency room visits.

A teaching hospital like ours is by nature a high-tech place. All our pre-pandemic ideas have been enhanced by a focus on a high reliability approach to surges. We now have even more advanced software systems in place to pinpoint how patients, people and PPE move through our system. We also worked with Microsofton chat bots that initially handled thousands of inquiries from the community and are now used to quickly pre-screen employees for COVID, and developed new dashboards that provide immediate summaries for our new reality.

The future was not put on hold as we battled what was right before us; it was evolving beside us right along.

Robert J. Corona DO, MBA, is CEO of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY and is the John B. Henry Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs in the College of Medicine.  Previous roles at Upstate include Chief Innovation Officer and Associate Dean for Industry and Academic Relations, and the endowed chair for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He also served for many years as chief medical officer and vice president of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Welch Allyn Inc. 

State of Manufacturing- A Case Study

By: James A. D’Agostino, CEO, MEP Center Director

As we turn the page from Summer and head into the closing months of 2021, I wanted to share some hope for 2022 and beyond. In the Summer 2021 edition of this magazine, I wrote about the many challenges facing manufacturers, including the ongoing pandemic, fractured supply chains, workforce retention and recruitment, and outdated manufacturing technologies. But I also highlighted the various opportunities facing these same manufacturers, including reshoring, employee wellness programs, innovation, and technological investments. I am here today to write about one particularly progressive company that heeded the many external warnings and worked alongside my company to make the necessary changes and investments to their processes and overall organizational culture.
Company Profile

Oneida Air Systems (OAS) was founded in 1993 in a garage on Oneida Lake in New York. From their humble beginnings, OAS sought to provide industrial-grade dust collection products and technology to smaller wood working operations. Since then, they have dedicated themselves to the innovative design of high-quality dust collection systems that help create a safe, healthy, and practical workplace environment in various applications including woodworking, concrete finishing, and many others. They are world renowned, industry leaders in workshop hygiene and dust collection, and they strive to provide quality US jobs, excellent working conditions, and benefits for the people they employ.

Situation

OAS had been pursuing lean manufacturing for over 10 years. Whereas they had realized some improvements, they were not to the extent required to ensure their future as the dominant dust collection system provider in the world. OAS’ Research and Development team regularly created the most innovative dust collection solutions in the world, but their products were being copied by competition at a faster rate than they had ever seen before. OAS needed to establish operational excellence and rapid order fulfillment as a new competitive advantage in the midst of numerous external obstacles. OAS initially decided to focus their improvement efforts on a value stream for an innovative new product. The technological advantages of the new product design were expected to result in more sales volume than the product it was replacing. At the same time, foreign competitors were warehousing their products in the United States and offering faster delivery, so decreasing their overall lead-time was critical even with the expanding sales volume.

Solution

TDO was approached to provide expert mentoring for OAS’ lean journey. The philosophy behind lean manufacturing is to drive and sustain continuous improvements through the elimination of waste. However, many lean manufacturing efforts result in backsliding after achieving incremental gains, even with the adoption and implementation of the right processes and lean tools. Rather than pursue tool-based lean manufacturing approaches, TDO recommended that OAS focus on practicing Toyota Kata. Toyota Kata is a systematic approach for developing and sustaining daily continuous improvement efforts, and it introduces different necessary skills and lean manufacturing tools only as they are needed. Toyota Kata inherently seeks to change the way workers solve problems by creating scientific thinkers.

TDO facilitated a Value Stream Mapping kaizen event to ensure that the current state and future state challenges were well understood. After an initial introduction to Toyota Kata, TDO took on the role of “coach”.

TDO continued to coach 2-3 mornings per week until OAS personnel became proficient at striving to new levels of performance using the “Improvement Kata“ pattern and scientific thinking. TDO then shifted their coaching focus to develop OAS’ internal coaching capability so that they could spread daily continuous improvement throughout their organization. Since its initial inception, Toyota Kata has now been practiced in fabrication, assembly, shipping, purchasing, and inside sales departments, as well as strategically at the Operations Management level. TDO is currently providing assistance with product design for manufacturability and layout for a new production line.

Results

OAS developed the knowledge and capability to build and ship product faster than foreign competition could ship their lower-performing products from US warehouses. The lead-time to deliver their focus product was reduced by an average of 70% with regular intervals of 85% reduction. In addition, common wastes associated with hidden factory transactions and transportation were reduced along with front-end process error rates that could cause shipment delays and customer complaints, and labor content for the new product was significantly decreased. Practicing Toyota Kata helped OAS develop the flexibility and scientific thinking that continues to allow them to navigate the myriad obstacles from the pandemic through rapid experimentation. Since the adoption of Toyota Kata, OAS has had consistent increasing sales volume and growth year over year.

Opportunities

The next several months will continue to define the future for many manufacturers. I know that most were hoping that recent issues with fractured supply chains, workforce challenges, technology, and innovation would have subsided by now. However, as OAS was able to emphatically prove, I continue to be confident that those businesses who do invest in their people, processes, equipment, and reshoring will not only experience personal success, but they will also lend a hand to this country’s ongoing post-pandemic renaissance.

For more information on how TDO can help you capitalize on key strategic opportunities to move your manufacturing processes forward, please contact: James A. D’Agostino; (315) 425-5144, Ext. 306; jim@tdo.org;  or visit online at TDO.org.