In a year of forced shutdowns, supply chain interruptions and historic health and safety concerns, Michigan manufacturers rallied to protect their workers like family, retooled to meet community personal protective equipment (PPE) needs, and rethought operations to excel in the post-pandemic world. While 2020 was certainly difficult for all Michiganders, there were blessings to celebrate., The same can be said for the manufacturing industry.
Manufacturing is the backbone of Michigan. More than 11,281 companies employ 628,700 Michiganders whose work results in $102.25 billion in total output. The industry creates lifelong careers with excellent benefits and an average annual compensation 59% higher than all other sectors. Manufacturing delivers for families and communities across the state.
Keeping with tradition, the Michigan Manufacturers Association presented the state’s highest industry honors in a moving virtual celebration in late January. As the state’s largest manufacturing association, MMA is proud to honor these outstanding achievers with the 2020 MFG Excellence Awards.
MFG Emerging Leader
Phil Rausch, Business Development Manager
Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, Hemlock
When Phil Rausch started at Hemlock fresh out of college with a chemical engineering degree in 2008, the company planned to build billions in assets to meet growing demand for solar energy.
Since then, Rausch earned an MBA from MSU on weekends while holding multiple positions that have helped elevate Hemlock to supply polysilicon for one-third of the world’s electronic devices.
“I’m motivated by the opportunity to make the fundamental raw material for two industries that are changing the world,” states Rausch. “One being the electronics industry, especially during the pandemic, that connects us all virtually. And the other being solar, the energy source of the 21st century that will solve our climate change crisis.”
This attitude led to his peers recognizing him as an emerging leader.
MFG Innovation Excellence
XG Sciences, Lansing
Discovered in 2004, graphene manufacturing involves reducing graphite to its most fundamental building blocks resulting in Earth’s most electro-conductive material that is 200 times stronger than steel.
“It’s a disruptive technology,” says Bob Blinstrub, President and CEO of XG Sciences. Blinstrub and his team seek to establish XG as a worldwide leader in this emerging technology. They’re also working to monetize the power and market potential for graphene, which has more than 40 potential commercial applications.
We look forward to seeing what this company and its technology has in store.
MFG Talent Champion
Julie Malesky, Organizational Effectiveness Manager
Nexteer Automotive, Auburn Hills
As the Organizational Effectiveness Manager for Nexteer, a global leader in steering systems, Julie Malesky is responsible for a wide variety of external and internal activities.
Much of Malesky’s time is dedicated to cultivating manufacturing talent. For example, in 2018 she was instrumental in the passage of a 10-year Career and Technical Education millage, a "game changer" for students and employers in Saginaw County.
“What makes Julie's approach to enhancing manufacturing talent unique is her commitment to ‘relentless positive action,” says Andy Stewart, Nexteer Plant Director. “Her attitude and approach to creating a robust pipeline of talent, not just for Nexteer, but for the manufacturing community is a springboard to get others involved.”
With her unique collaborative approach, Malesky’s efforts are certain to bring more people like her to manufacturing.
MFG Community Impact
Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, Hemlock
Though Hemlock Semiconductor produces hyper-pure polysilicon – a raw material critical to solar and electronics industries - on a global scale, the company remains family-oriented and firmly rooted in their local mid-Michigan communities.
“Being a strong, contributing member of our community is just part of our core,” explains Brooke Beebe, Vice President of External Affairs. “Our people don’t just work here. We live in Saginaw and Midland counties and our friends and families do too. So, it’s essential that we give back.”
The dam breaches in Midland County last May illustrate this culture. Employees raised $4,500 to help coworkers affected by the flood. Hemlock donated PPE to local hospitals and nursing homes and equipment to local non-profits. They also purchased gift cards to help inject money back into local stores and restaurants.
Communities win with manufacturers like Hemlock Semiconductor.
John G. Thodis Michigan Small Tier Manufacturer of the Year
DeWys Manufacturing Inc., Marne
DeWys provides complete metal solutions: cutting, shaping, powder coating, product development and more. Though they do business on a global scale, contributions to their local West Michigan community are a top focus.
CEO Jon DeWys’ pride is obvious when sharing how his company handled 2020’s challenges by adapting to the pandemic and contributing to the fight by developing innovative and life-saving products.
Within days, DeWys designed and produced a hands-free sanitizer station and door opener that they’ve been selling direct to businesses.
During the early days of the pandemic, they worked 24-7 to keep their business going; including fabricating beds for local hospitals while doing everything they could to help communities. And that’s worth celebrating.
John G. Thodis Michigan Large Tier Manufacturer of the Year
Landscape Forms, Inc., Kalamazoo
Landscape Forms creates beautiful, functional site furniture, LED lighting and structural products that enhance the experience of outdoor spaces. “It’s all about creating a sense of place in the outdoors,” says Margie Simmons, CEO.
It’s a timely objective as more indoor activities move outside in the age of COVID-19. When the pandemic first hit, design-led Landscape Forms kept paying its employees during the state’s mandated shutdown, while putting their expertise to work building beds for local hospitals.
The firm has come back stronger than ever, partially because all 400 employees – including executives, engineers and managers – have been on the floor helping to catch up. This is what Michigan manufacturing is all about – building quality in-demand products while supporting the community.
MFG Woman of the Year
Honor Sheard, Environmental Safety & Security Manager
Marathon Petroleum | Michigan Refining Division, Detroit
Honor Sheard ensures her Marathon refinery complies with all rules and regulations while also guaranteeing that everyone on site has the resources to work safely.
She’s excelling in a position historically dominated by men and making a big impact with her unique ability to engage with those around her. “People follow her because they know she cares about them and their concerns. It’s what makes her such a great leader,” says General Manager David Leaver.
Sheard is role model and mentor for other women in manufacturing. “If females are 50 percent of the population, we should have 50 percent of the seats at the table,” says Sheard.
With champions like her, that shouldn’t be difficult.
MFG Lifetime Achievement
Ron Beebe, Chairman and CEO of Euclid Industries
Ronald Beebe had the opportunity of a lifetime for any businessperson — to retire at 50. However, he soon learned that he was miserable as an early retiree.
After helping launch the company in 1978, Beebe came out of retirement to buy Euclid Industries in 2002. As owner and CEO of five Michigan-based companies with more than 100 mergers and acquisitions under his belt, Beebe is a mentor to many in the Great Lakes Bay region.
In addition to his business acumen, Beebe drives important philanthropic efforts in the region, including the creation of the Children’s Dyslexia Center, a passion project for Beebe and Gaye, his wife of 46 years.
“To be a successful person, you have to do more with your life than just be in business,” says Beebe. “I think it’s wonderful that we have a business that allows us to economically do those kinds of things. That’s part of real success.”
We couldn’t agree more.