AERZEN USA: People for Prosperity

February 5, 2016

Distributing Leadership with a Purpose AERZEN-LOGO-TIF

Since 2011, Aerzen has achieved 17% annual growth in order intake and headcount has grown by 75% over the same period. They’ve done this by hiring talented people, growing existing employees, training nearly 100 employees through DVIRC’s Lean Manufacturing program, and adopting lean thinking and methodologies.

“Aerzen’s continuous improvement journey is much more than applying lean tools for ongoing process improvement,” says CFO Keith Rolfe. “It’s about organizational growth and development, in a culture that puts employee development at the top of the agenda.”

Now, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of a German parent company, Aerzen USA is challenged by the parent to achieve compounded annual revenue growth of 13%! The company continues to grow…but is keenly aware of the need for talent as the primary ingredient for success.

JeffandAerzen

Keith Rolfe is on a mission: doing everything in his power to create the people and environment at Aerzen USA to achieve the corporation’s 13% annual revenue growth goals. Since joining Aerzen as CFO in 2011, Keith has directed and participated in the transformation of the company and the people in it that led him to a deep belief that “developing people is a path to sustainable corporate growth.”

What he knows now and has come to believe is that an ambitious goal like that can only be achieved with a focus on developing the people that do the work that creates customer value. The company operates in the market with a focus on triple bottom line: People, Planet, Prosperity.

Aerzen USA re-invented itself with a new facility in Chester County in 2008, building a LEED certified, award-winning building that reflects the values and culture of the company. Powered by a solar array of almost 700 panels and built from sustainable materials (including clay taken directly from the site and recycled materials such as hay bale insulation), the building has a warm and inviting feel that customers and employees can sense when they visit or come to work. To their credit, Aerzen USA was named one of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania in 2013 and 2015.

Aerzen USA re-invented itself with a new facility in Chester County in 2008, building a LEED certified, award-winning building that reflects the values and culture of the company. Powered by a solar array of almost 700 panels and built from sustainable materials (including clay taken directly from the site and recycled materials such as hay bale insulation), the building has a warm and inviting feel that customers and employees can sense when they visit or come to work. To their credit, Aerzen USA was named one of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania in 2013 and 2015.

The company’s success and growth created challenges that were met with a focus on giving Aerzen employees the education, training, skills and tools they needed to manage their work toward common goals—education and training given generously in a culture that inspires innovation.

But success like that doesn’t happen by itself or overnight. It came with challenges and obstacles, and with Keith and the Aerzen USA leadership team realizing that a transformation of that caliber comes from a deep personal commitment to putting employee growth at the forefront of the company’s agenda.

And it’s not just Keith. “Our President and Board have wholeheartedly supported our people strategy,” he notes. “And we also have a Leadership Team that very much feels the same way as I do.”

Working on the Business

Having invested heavily in lean training and leadership development—in a combined package that represents a new, richer approach to creating high-performing teams, Aerzen has empowered its people to “own” what they do and support their colleagues—in all aspects of the business. They know this work must continue and are poised for the next phase of growth.productioncenter

Quote: “DVIRC has been a true partner in this work and Jeff [DVIRC’s Jeff Kopenitz, ] is really part of our team,” said Keith. “They have been just as passionate about and committed to our success as our leadership team and have been able to bring alive our commitment to valuing each and every employee.”

Keith notes that a key developmental stage was the first wave of Lean training provided by DVIRC for 50 people that resulted in teams taking on 10 improvement projects. Though ambitious, the payoff was personal ownership. “People weren’t just working ‘in’ or ‘for’ the business,” said Keith. “They were working on the business.”

The company grew because the employees, through learning and doing, grew. And management learned to “listen” to their employees and give them broad opportunity to make change.

Recently, to continue developing the Aerzen team, the company developed a Team Leadership and train-the-trainer program. “There are many soft skills the individual must have to be successful,” said Keith. This is a critical area of the individuals and organizations success.” Creating career paths and growth opportunities for people has become part of the company culture.

Having doubled in size in 4 years, Aerzen knew it had to distribute leadership and responsibility among managers so that the Leadership team could focus on leading the organization toward its 2022 Vision, which amplifies its focus on People, Planet, and Prosperity, particularly on people: “Communication, team spirit, trust, commitment and diversity of opinions are fundamental cornerstones of our company. We promote long-standing engagement, advanced training and experiences gathered abroad as well as group-wide exchange of experience and staff.”

Investing pays off

The company provides training in areas beyond Lean and Leadership, devoting 2% of payroll toward training and development (most companies average 1%)…and employees still get paid while in training.

Aerzen’s current Team Leadership program, which includes 4 modules of Leadership, Communications, HR/Compliance, and Business Concepts, will run through February 2016. And they have recently put in place a “Continuous Improvement Challenge”—offering a nominal bonus to employees whose suggestions were accepted for implementation.

U.S. Customs

Keith tells one story of an employee who took the initiative to look more closely at an area critical to the business—importing, since 50% of what they buy comes from abroad.

This focus on the import/export dimension of the business led to a closer relationship with U.S. Customs and Aerzen USA’s acceptance into the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT—a voluntary joint government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security.

“As we were developing our relationship with Customs, one of our Buyers put together a proposal that identified opportunities for improvement on our end. He then took part in leadership training, went after his Custom’s Broker license and became our Import/Export Manager. The point is, we gave him some room to innovate, listened to his ideas, gave him a budget, and enabled him to make positive changes in the company. There’s usually good mileage in letting employees take the lead.”


The Road AheadAerzenbuilding

The journey for Aerzen is ongoing. They are currently expanding their physical plant and going after new markets to support their growth goals. “We will build on all that we’ve done to achieve the ambitious challenge set to us by corporate…and we will do it by developing people—the only sure path to sustainable corporate growth,” says Keith.

“Talent will be the primary driver of manufacturing competitiveness,” he adds. “I can validate these sentiments, as can many of my colleagues: we’re all facing the challenge of finding skilled, trained workers.”

Jeff Kopenitz, DVIRC’s director of Advanced Manufacturing and Lean Master said, “Working with Pierre [Pierre Noack, former President and now Manager of the Process Gas Division at the Parent Company], Keith, and the entire Aerzen leadership team has been extremely fulfilling for me. Their vision and dedication have created and will continue to create tremendous value for the people and the company. What they’ve undertaken has not been easy…but they are so committed to their people and so willing to do the hard work necessary for sustainable success, their story is truly inspirational. Theirs is a company living its vision—keeping their eye on people, planet, and prosperity. And not just for the corporation but for everyone involved.”

About Aerzen USA

Aerzen USA is a wholly-owned division of the German manufacturer, Aerzener Maschinenfabrik GmbH, and has been a recognized world leader in the production of rotary positive displacement machines since 1868. Aerzen USA is based in Coatesville, PA. For more information, visit www.aerzenusa.com

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