Ralph Howard is President and CEO of Design Specialties - the market leader in custom glass fireplace doors and accessories. Previously, he was President of Ariens Specialty Brands. Prior to Ariens, he was General Manager of the Specialty Brands business and an Officer at W.W. Grainger. Here, he managed a portfolio comprised of 9 unique brands with customer focused product lines and services, all marketed independently, with annual sales of $450M. Some of the brands included Lab Safety Supply, Gempler's, Imperial Supplies and AW Direct. Prior to Grainger, he was the President of Canac Cabinets - a multi-national Kohler Company business with over 1,900 associates. Canac was the largest manufacturer of frameless kitchen cabinetry in North America. While at Kohler, he also ran the Sterling plumbing business and was VP of Sales for plumbing in the Americas.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Howard has worked for five blue-chip companies, beginning in 1985 with Pella Windows and Doors in Pella, Iowa. He also spent eight years in leadership positions with Master Lock Company. He is currently a director on the boards of two privately-held manufacturing companies, and he is the author of the renowned leadership development book titled “Control Alt Delete Leadership.” Academically, he holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and is a Harvard Business School alum as a graduate of the prestigious General Manager Program.
About the Presentation:
Design Specialties is a custom manufacturer of fireplace doors based in Milwaukee. Ralph will talk about the company business model and some of the nuances that are part and parcel in a business where products are engineered and it’s seldom that any two doors being built are exactly alike – no finished goods inventory! He will take you on a pictorial tour of the business and discuss key initiatives underway to advance lean and process improvements, an Epicor ERP upgrade, and how they interconnect with the company’s growth strategies.
Bringing the discussion up a level – he will also discuss what it has been like managing a business transitioning from being privately owned – to one owned by private equity. He will share some thoughts on the challenges of business transformation – losing long-term employees and the knowledge contained within their heads – the importance of finding and developing new leaders – and some techniques to help with leadership development.
***Retiree and Student PDM costs - now reduced to $15! Retirees are considered 62+ and an APICS Shoreline member for at least 5 years. Students must be full-time (12 credits)