The secret behind employee engagement

CEOs and presidents share their leadership principles of people-centric leadership
Wednesday, Oct. 26 Location Code
2:15pm-3:15pm Houston Ballroom A, 3rd floor SIS/12

Learn the behaviors and cultural elements that make up people-centric organizations. Hear innovative approaches that leaders have embraced in their organizations. Gain an understanding of how the true focus and emphasis on people coupled with enterprise excellence drives real engagement and results.


Continuous improvement (CI) is critically important, but CI coupled with people-centric leadership (PCL) is the secret fuel to success. Share, learn and grow by hearing from leading CEOs and presidents who do not run good or even great companies – they lead extraordinary ones. Hear directly from Gallup how engagement scores are down and dropping, then hear from CEOs and presidents who are working to change this. Learn how these leaders are working every day to ensure that their award-winning manufacturing facilities are among the best places to work. These exemplary leaders will share the message of what people-centric organizations look like, what it means to intentionally focus on people and the power and benefits of PCL. In this highly interactive session, the CEOs will share their respective PCL values, strategies, tools and practices, and attendees will have plenty of opportunity to ask questions. AME has made a commitment to helping the lean community understand the value of PCL. For the past four years, it has worked with CEOs and business leaders who understand how culture and leadership influence CI and drive business results. Many of the leaders who have been involved in this initiative will participate in this session.


Ron Harper, P.Eng., is president of Cogent Power Inc., in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. He has worked in manufacturing for 25 years, mostly in senior leadership positions in marketing, engineering, operations and general management and has been with Cogent since 1995. The organization has been on its lean journey since 2004, and Harper has taken a highly personal role in leading the company and its teams to create a self-propelling lean organization and culture. Harper is a member of the AME executive committee and the Canadian regional board. He is also a highly active board member of The Centre for Skills Development and Training, in Canada, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), and regularly advises on local government policies and initiatives with Next Generation Manufacturing. As part of the AME board of directors, Harper is a leading member of the strategic initiative for People-Centric Leadership. This movement is intended to educate leaders to engage and lead teams in a manner to maximize job satisfaction and fulfillment, while creating significant value in business.

Chuck DiLaura began his career at Neptune in December 1976 as customer service manager and sales trainee in Glen Rock, New Jersey. As Neptune grew and ownership changed, he remained focused on its customers and his responsibilities grew. After several sales and marketing management positions, he rose through the ranks to become vice president of technical services division; vice president and general manager of Canada; vice president of manufacturing; vice president and general manager of Water and Gas North America; vice president of sales, water, gas and electricity; and vice president of personnel NAM. In 2001, DiLaura and the management team from the water division of Schlumberger teamed with a private equity firm and purchased the company. DiLaura became president and CEO of Neptune Technology Group Inc. DiLaura has a BBA in marketing and management from Iona College and attended the Program for Management Development (PMD) at Harvard Business School.

Jeffrey Gafner is the senior vice president of engineering and service for BW Papersystems, a combination of 12 companies acquired by Barry-Wehmiller over the past 16 years. BW Papersystems operates this collection of companies under one umbrella that encompasses globally known brand names that are aligned together to provide technology and services to the paper process industries. Gafner's responsibilities include leadership of product management, product development, R&D and field service. Throughout his 25-year career, Gafner has demonstrated the ability to lead teams in developing products that have created significant value for customers and growth for the organization. He has also been a leader in implementing lean product development processes and tools globally. Gafner has a BS in mechanical engineering and an MS in engineering with an emphasis in control systems, both from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Steve Hollis is the co-owner and chairman of PPI, a diversified company that provides more than 600 jobs in Georgia and North Carolina. The company produces a variety of products and services, earning many awards. Hollis is an expert on lean manufacturing and work culture. His focus is on creating a collaborative culture that brings together people, process and technology to sustain a high level of innovation. He is focused on growing PPI by acquiring new companies to embrace PPI core values and encouraging the development of new products and services that add value to the corporate family of businesses.

Gary Peterson has worked for the O.C. Tanner Company for 29 years. His current assignment is executive vice president, supply chain & production. Prior to his current role, Peterson held an impressively diverse set of jobs with O.C. Tanner, including manager of market research, manufacturing change facilitator (where he was instrumental in moving the operation from batch to lean, resulting in the company receiving the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing), vice president of manufacturing, marketing vice president of award development and vice president of research and professional services. Peterson serves on the executive advisory board for the Shingo Institute and is a Shingo Examiner. In 2015, he was inducted into the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Hall of Fame. His experience with lean enterprise sends him around the globe helping others improve their operations. He holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in statistics from Brigham Young University.