Managing for Improvement Award Recipients

2017 Recipient

Randall Lewis, Vice President, Manufacturing, Flesh Co

Randy Lewis used his considerable leadership skills to motivate the company's associates, many with long tenure, to embrace Lean manufacturing concepts. The manufacturer of business documents and labels has made major gains in efficiency, quality, capabilities, and teamwork.

He began his print management career in 1985 as pressroom supervisor and subsequently oversaw a variety of forms, direct mail, and fulfillment operations from Virginia to Iowa. Upon being hired by The Flesh Company as plant manager, he refocusing the workforce on waste reduction, problem solving, performance metrics, and making fact-based decisions. His achievements include a 40% decrease in inventories and lowering waste from non-conforming materials and customer rejects by over 60%.

2016 Recipient

Michael Peluso, president, Shawmut Communications Group

Michael Peluso has led a transformation in the service offering, culture, and performance of Shawmut through the adherence to a continuous improvement mentality.

After 16 years on the sales and management team, Peluso was appointed president of Shawmut in early 2014 during a period of severe business challenges. His first decision was to engage almost every member of the operations and customer service staff in a dedicated program on Lean manufacturing. Every business process was open for analysis and investigation. A targeted look at the customer experience and industry benchmarking on efficient practices resulted in a standing Lean team, 5S and safety focus, a team-based problem-solving methodology, and a way to evaluate and triage customer issues in a swift and efficient manner. His efforts contributed to strong growth in sales and profits. 

2015 Recipient

Cary "Parrot" Ripsch, value stream manager, The Ovid Bell Press

Over a career of 45 years, Ripsch honed his management skills in such positions as finishing supervisor, customer service/quality manager, process manager, and plant manager at The Ovid Bell Press (OBP). In 2002 he earned the status of a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt. This rich and varied background of experience made him a valuable and seasoned asset to The OBP management team. Under his direction the organization has focused on a set of key metrics, implemented 5S throughout the plant, organized production processes into an efficient flow, and applied visual management techniques. He has successfully engaged employees in the continuous improvement efforts, with morale rising to an all-time high.

"The Ovid Bell Press is enjoying its most successful period in the history of the company and much o f its success is attributable to Parrot and continuous improvement," his nominator said.

2014 Recipient

William Denzen, general manager of rollfed and Red Rock Technologies business units, Smyth Companies

Denzen became the general manager at Smyth Companies, Minneapolis in 2008 and since then the company has seen more than a 30% reduction in changeover with some press groups achieving over 50% reduction, a 70% reduction in the cost of poor quality, and a 15% reduction in in-process waste. Under his leadership, Smyth introduced the e3 program (Engaged, Empowered Employees), which is the organization's foundation to create a positive work experience, breakthrough results, and operational excellence.

"Leading by example, good decision making, empowering and trusting his staff, and a tremendous passion for this business, are all important traits and some of the many reasons I trust Bill to run one of our flagship operations," said William Weernick, EVP of Operations, Smyth Companies, Inc.

Smyth Printing was founded in 1877 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Originally established to help local businesses with their commercial printing needs, the company eventually turned its focus to the production of labels for consumer product goods packaging. Smyth Printing was recognized in the Best of the Best Category for Printing Industries of America's 2013 Best Workplace in the America's Competition.

2013 Recipient

Timothy Keran, CEO and owner, Western Graphics 

Keran created a culture that has inspired Western Graphics employees to share their knowledge and creativity. In the last five years, the company has completed more than 2,000 employee-initiated projects and demonstrated striking improvements in rework, lost-time accidents, and sales per employee. 

Keran's innovative practices in collaborative goal setting and communication is reflected within each department's visible scorecards, daily stand-up "huddles," and weekly performance review meetings. At monthly all-staff meetings he reviews finances, shares team-by-team results, and recognizes employees. Supervisors hold quarterly coaching conversations with each employee. Keran also instituted a profit sharing plan that rewards employees for improving efficiency and customer satisfaction.  

Western Graphics is a 50-employee commercial printing company in St. Paul, Minnesota, that provides front-end document creation, offset and digital printing, wide-format displays, and fulfillment and distribution services. It is a six-time recipient of Printing Industries of America's Best Workplace in the Americas Award.  

For more information about this award, including nomination procedures, visit