Elizabeth Rich – OmniMax International
Up until last year, plant workers at OmniMax International manually typed in data from customer orders, which sometimes led to mistakes. As demand grew, the company’s new owners decided the process needed to be automated.
“The new leadership team is big into data,” says Elizabeth Rich, the director of IT for the Georgia-based manufacturer of building and transportation products.
The company uses a custom ordering system, which includes an online database for tracking and analyzing orders, for one of its 29 plants. When it’s fully implemented, OmniMax plans to do the same at the other plants. One of the challenges, Rich says, is that the system needs to be tailored to each plant because each facility manufactures products for a different brand.
Some brands manufacture roofing solutions, such as drainage systems and shade structures, while others produce metal for appliances and automotive parts. There are also brands that produce materials for decks, patio covers, fencing and more.
The type and amount of order data collected at each one varies, Rich says. The system tracks materials, such as aluminum or steel, as they come in and are made into products, and as they’re ordered by customers. She’s gone to the California plant four times to help workers adopt the new technology.
“A lot of people are used to the old ways of doing things,” Rich says. “Sometimes the biggest challenge is change management and getting these new ways to stick.”
Rich says she enjoys talking directly with the plant workers and seeing what they do because it better informs her work. She says they teach her as much as she teaches them.
One thing she’s learned is that they would benefit from better understanding, and being able to manage, their workloads. Workers now use software that analyzes orders coming in to determine if the workload is manageable for their shift or if they’re trying to do more work than is possible in the allotted time.
“This allows them to optimize their schedule and their workflow,” she says.
Rich says the new operations leadership taught her that the processes for receiving coils, and for accounting for coil inventory and scrap, needed to be improved. Currently, she says, production workers write the specifications of the coils by hand and attach a label to each one. Her team is working to establish a more formal procedure to digitally capture and log the data, which would be synched with a scale that would measure the coils and compare the specifications to ensure accuracy.
“I love making changes that positively affect people’s experience, and my hope is that this can save time and create a more seamless process,” Rich says.
Improving the customer experience
Rich helps make improvements for customers, too. For example, a few years ago, she built a website for placing online orders that allows customers to track their order status. In addition to helping OmniMax better understand its customers and their buying patterns, she says it improved the customer experience.
To build the website, as well as its system for tracking data and analytics, Rich worked closely with rSTAR Technologies. The Illinois-based company offers Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft solutions for utilities, manufacturers and construction companies.
“They really did the heavy lifting,” Rich says. “I told them what I wanted and they told me how they could do it. They call it ‘the art of the possible.’”
She hasn’t worked with rSTAR Technologies as closely since the website was completed, but she says OmniMax’s customer care team still works with the company as needed. However, if she were to have another project that would benefit from rSTAR’s expertise, “they’d be the first people I’d reach out to,” she says.
Building historical knowledge
Relationships like this, or like the ones established with plant workers, are crucial for Rich, she says.
Throughout her career, which started in the Air Force, she’s been driven by loyalty. After five and a half years as an officer, she took a job at Acuity Brands, an electrical and electronic manufacturer in Conyers, Georgia. During 14 years with the company, she worked her way up to senior IT manager, where she implemented new software and integrated 12 acquired companies. While working there, she earned her MBA in technology management.
The plan, Rich says, was to stay at Acuity until she retired, but a move to a new city changed that. She started at OmniMax in July 2016 and says her new plan is to stay as long as she can. She enjoys the challenge of the work and finding ways to support the company’s growth.
“I like to stay at a company and be the person with that historical knowledge,” Rich says. “I want to be the ‘go to’ person and know that I can help people.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2022 Edition here.
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