thought-leadership Thought Leadership

December 20, 2022 / 4 minute read

Operational Excellence Begins with People

Written by Scott Barbour, President and CEO

One of the many things that brought me to ADS just over five years ago was the tremendous potential that I could see in this company with such a rich 50-year history and legacy. I also saw an opportunity to transform our operations to better prepare ADS for the future.  

Potential is unlocked through people when an organization is built around individuals, teams and their collective talents. When we are all aligned on executing our strategies and day-to-day operational responsibilities, we see growth in sales, profitability and cash flow generation, and new opportunities are created for our employees at ADS and Infiltrator Water Technologies.   

These past five years, we’ve put in place solid continuous improvement techniques and new operational strategies in planning, scheduling, manufacturing, and logistics that have lifted our pipe production by more than 30% and almost doubled Allied Product sales. Year to year, we’ve seen capital spending nearly double at both ADS and Infiltrator, which has enabled us to improve safety, grow capacity and introduce new manufacturing technologies.

Ultimately though, this is all done by people, and I am excited and proud about the many career advancements and new talents that we’ve added to the company. 

To ensure that everyone has opportunity for growth, we also increased our focus on training and development opportunities for many plant and line supervisors, managers and operators at ADS manufacturing facilities, Infiltrator and ADS Recycling. With this initiative in FY2023, ADS teams throughout the organization spent nearly 70,000 training hours across management and leadership development, safety and operations, as well as legal and compliance training, helping our employees grow their careers while improving ADS’ operational excellence. They deserve much praise for pursuing these new opportunities.

ADS and Diverse Perspectives

Another way we can improve as an organization is by embracing diverse perspectives, which can lead to new ideas, better processes and improved company performance. Yes, it’s good for business, but it’s simply the right thing to do. We’ve launched two internal groups that provide leadership for our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) activities, which also presents those employees an opportunity for career growth.

In November, the ADS Women’s Network brought many of our female employees together to network and share their career journeys. Having these kinds of events can lift up our team, allow employees to learn from one another and grow their careers. I was honored to attend and share our organizational development plans and our capacity to explore every part of our society and our company to find those who can help us reach our goals.

At the event, I was asked about my own career journey. I shared some advice from an incredibly important woman in my life, my mother:

Do a great job on the job you are given: If you do a poor job executing the job you are given, you will never be given greater responsibility.

Use good judgment, and recognize the difference between right and wrong: I think most of us know the correct decisions to make and the difference between a good decision and a bad one. I encourage everyone to think about each decision you are making –– no matter how small –– and make the right one. Especially when it involves the safety of yourself or a co-worker.

Treat everyone with respect: Every individual deserves to be treated with respect and each job in the company contributes to our success. This does not mean we always agree on everything, or that we aren’t accountable. It does mean we respectfully listen to one another and use collective insights and knowledge to make the right decisions. 

Also in November, ADS held the inaugural meeting of our new Culture Exchange Council, which brought together more than 20 employees from across the organization to help guide our DE&I initiatives. These employees are from a variety of racial, ethnic, and societal backgrounds and experiences, helping to grow and promote a culture of belonging­­­.

By creating an event and space that allows our employees to candidly share feedback with senior leaders about the ADS climate and culture, we are more capable of shaping and assessing our DE&I program progress. The conversation was organic and open, so I learned quite a lot from this group about the work we can still accomplish for all of our employees.

It is admittedly early in our DE&I journey, but I’m excited about how groups such as these can lead us to improved performance and a stronger culture.

To me, a strong culture means an engaged team. And an engaged team can turn our potential into reality and increase our company performance. Most importantly, we accomplish those goals by welcoming all perspectives and moving forward together.  

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