The annual year-end review and awards ceremony for the OpExChange was held in early December. Mike Demos, coordinator for this collaborative group of manufacturers in South Carolina, led this virtual event with participating companies from across the state. Mike began this session by announcing that this is always his favorite event of the year.
“We not only get to see what the upcoming 2023 schedule looks like, but we also get to recognize some outstanding companies and individuals.” During this session, awards were presented to three companies and one individual for outstanding engagement, collaboration, and employee development during the year.
The OpExChange is growing! In the last two and a half years, there was a net growth of 65% – from 107 companies in mid-2020 to 177 companies in mid-December of 2022. What is so remarkable about this growth is that it occurred during the peak of the pandemic, when many companies were limiting plant visits. Mike commented that much like the manufacturing base in South Carolina, the OpExChange adapted and improved during this time.
Virtual report-outs and the members-only, online Portal not only bridged the gap but also magnified the value a company realizes from participating. Companies now benefit from plant visits and past events even if they were unable to attend. This is one of the features that attracts so many of the new additions.
Much of the credit for the growth goes to the SCMEP and the SC Department of Commerce. They are helping to spread the word so that more companies across the state realize the tangible benefits from participating.
The OpExChange Board asks Mike to coordinate between six and nine events per quarter, for a maximum of thirty-six events in a calendar year. In 2022, there were a total of thirty-three events, including fourteen report-outs from member companies. Twelve of these were in-person plant visits and two were virtual. The SCMEP also provided thirteen half-day workshops on Training Within Industry, A3 Problem Solving, Leadership Training, and Value Stream Mapping.
During the year, over one thousand employees from OpExChange companies participated in these events. All plant visits and virtual events are documented on the Portal, including event recaps, shared documents, and templates, and even videos and pictures from most events.
The “Gieselmann” Award – Collaboration
The foundational element of the OpExChange is collaboration – sharing successes (and failures) with peer companies in South Carolina so that operational excellence propagates throughout the state. To accentuate the importance of the annual recognition for collaboration, the award is now renamed after an individual that consistently demonstrated that value throughout her career – Missy Gieselmann.
Missy was a member of the OpExChange for eighteen years. This was all during her time with Wikoff Color Corporation in Fort Mill, SC. Missy epitomized collaboration through plant visits, engaging her team, and sharing with peer companies. She served on steering committees and the OpExChange Board before retiring after thirty-two years with Wikoff in May of 2022. The OpExChange collaboration award will now affectionately be known as “The Gieselmann.”
In 2022, there were multiple companies and individuals that collaborated and were super-engaged. Awards were presented to three companies and one individual for the most engaged company of the year, the company that best utilized the OpExChange for employee development, the most engaged individual of the year, and of course, the Gieselmann. Each received a handsome plaque or trophy to display at their site.
Most Engaged Company – BOMAG – There were twenty-six companies that made the top ten list of engagement each quarter and were candidates for the most engaged company award. Congratulations to BOMAG in Ridgeway for winning this award! They were the only company to earn a top ten spot in each quarter of 2022.
They were represented at fifteen different events and were close contenders for both the employee development and Gieselmann awards. BOMAG also hosted a lively plant visit in May that resulted in further collaboration with other sites. OpExChange members are still learning from this event by reviewing the documentation and video from the plant visit on the member Portal.
Employee Development Award – Starbucks Roasting Plant – Starbucks has been effectively using the OpExChange to develop their employees since they joined in mid-2021. In the last year, there were fifteen different partners that participated in twelve different workshops or plant visits. They are frequently “pushing” the OpExChange coordinator to see how many people they can squeeze into an event (this is an admirable company behavior 😊). Mike will often reference Starbucks as a site that is realizing a large ROI on their OpExChange investment.
Gieselmann Collaboration – Dantherm Cooling – Six companies were in contention for collaborator of the year – BOMAG, Dish Network, T&S Brass and Bronze Works, Graphic Packaging International, Dantherm Cooling, and Harsco Rail. Each of these are companies that “gave back” to their peers, opening their doors for deeper-dive collaborations. The OpExChange Board voted on the winner for this award and selected Dantherm Cooling in Spartanburg.
During 2022, Dantherm hosted eight separate deep-dive visits to share their lean turn-around story. They also provided a plant tour to Spartanburg Methodist College students, educating them on personal Kanban, project management, and manufacturing as a career.
Most Engaged Individual – Andrew Klein – This award goes to the individual that exhibited the most engagement throughout the year. Andrew Klein with Autokiniton in Fountain Inn rose to the top to receive this award. He held the number one spot in both Q1 and Q2 of 2022 and attended nine different events throughout the year. Andrew also made significant use of the online Portal, completing fourteen on-line events. He recently received his green belt in Lean Six Sigma from the SCMEP and was welcomed as a member of the OpExChange Board in October.
The OpExChange Board
Mike explained how the OpExChange Board functions and works for South Carolina. The Board is comprised of fourteen individuals whose purpose is to guide the direction of the OpExChange. They work to ensure member companies across the state are receiving value from the group and to provide guidance and support for the coordinator. Ten of these are from member companies from across the state, two are from the OpExChange sponsor, SCMEP, and two are non-OpExChange members with a large network across the state. This team meets at least once per quarter in Columbia, SC.
The By-Laws require that there is at least one member from each of the five regions of the state. Mike pointed out that there are three positions that will become available in 2023. There will be an e-mail announcing a call for applicants sometime in early Q1, 2023. He added that the Board heavily weighs participation in OpExChange events and activity on the Portal when reviewing applications.
Board Member Bios – https://www.scmep-online.org/pages/opexchange-board
2023 Events – Q1
Mike was visibly excited to share the agenda for the start of 2023. Ten events are scheduled for the first quarter including six plant visits, three four-hour workshops, and a virtual session on value analysis and value engineering. The plant visits and workshops are spread throughout the state. A calendar graphic is below.
Details on all events are available at https://www.scmep-online.org/pages/opexchange-calendar-public
Eddie Cogdill, Existing Industry Manager with the South Carolina Department of Commerce provided an impromptu commentary at the end of the event. He shared that prior to working with Commerce, he was a plant manager and did not take advantage of the opportunities with the OpExChange. “In my current role with Commerce and being exposed to the OpExChange, I see what a huge benefit it is. You won’t find anything like this in any other state. This is a top-notch deal.” Eddie added that he preaches OpExChange whenever he visits a manufacturing company.
A video recording of the entire event (35 minutes) is available on YouTube:
The OpExChange, sponsored by the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is a peer-to-peer network of manufacturers and distributors in South Carolina known for generating success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. Annual dues are $960 per site, which includes everyone at the site. If your company is interested in participating in this collaborative effort to improve both the competitiveness of your operation and South Carolina, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com). More information and upcoming plant visits are available on the OpExChange website www.OpExChange.com.