SME Touts Keller's Efforts

June 22, 2008
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The Society of Manufacturing Engineers recently recognized Cascade Engineering Chairman, CEO and founder Fred P. Keller with the Donald C. Burnham Manufacturing Management Award. The award honors exceptional success in integrating manufacturing infrastructure and processes in business and is one of seven honors conferred each year at the SME International Awards Gala.

Held earlier this month in Detroit, the gala was part of the “A Passion for Manufacturing: 2008 SME Annual Meeting & Interactive ‘UnConference.’" The evening celebrated the achievements of business leaders such as Keller, and awarded scholarships of up to $50,000 to promising engineering students.

Keller, upon accepting his award, spoke of maintaining what he calls the "triple bottom line of financial, social and environmental capital." As a strong advocate of these sustainable business practices, Keller further emphasized valuing the individual contributions of employees.

More than 35 years ago, he combined his experience as a metallurgist with a keen sense of business to launch Cascade Engineering with just six employees. Cascade is now a $280 million a year enterprise with more than 1,000 employees and 11 facilities worldwide.

Keller doesn’t take his success for granted. "I never think of anything as successful because it is always in the process of becoming that way. My objective is to have a business that is good for employees, the environment and consumers," he said.

For his leadership, Keller has also received such industry recognition as Chrysler's Technology Role Model Award, the White House's Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership, and the National Governors Association's Distinguished Service Award. The U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Advisory Council also named him chair of its Energy Committee.

Keller currently serves on several corporate and philanthropic boards, which extend his vision of business sustainability to community affairs.

"SME is pleased to recognize Mr. Keller's contributions to the manufacturing community and for his ongoing dedication to the business world and the communities he serves. We are honored to have him among our distinguished awardees," said Neil A. Duffie, president of SME.

  • Grand Rapids hits the big screen — in a sexy way. Kindel Furniture’s Dorothy Draper Bunching Chests made a cameo appearance in the recently released “Sex and the City.” An original Dorothy Draper Bunching Chest is rumored to be somewhere in the offices of Vogue Magazine, which the movie emulates with a refurbished model.

Kindel ReNew — a service offered by the company to refinish any of its old products for customers — got its start last year.

“We bring in older Kindel furniture, refurnish it and bring it to current standards,” said Jon Smith, president and CEO of Kindel. “Our real goal was not so much to make that, by itself, an active business, but … to re-establish ourselves with some people who had Kindel furniture and let them know what Kindel is doing today. … They might have bought a piece 30 years ago or it might have been handed down through the family.”

So far the program has refurbished more than 110 pieces.

  • This issue’s Inside Track personality is Jim Haveman, a Grand Rapids native who spent a year with the Coalition Provisional Authority trying to glue together the pieces of Iraq’s war-weary health care system. While he was living in Baghdad’s Green Zone, he traveled to places such as Basra, Fallujah and Kurdistan.

“I think the only way Iraq is going to be stabilized is economic development, and quite honestly, there’s so much money in the Middle East, the investors of the world are ready to come into Iraq and rebuild as soon as it gets stabilized,” Haveman says. But stabilization may take longer than many hope, he cautions.

“It’s going to take that region, it’s going to take all the countries surrounding Iraq to get together and resolve it. It is going to take us getting our relationship back with Syria. It’s going to take solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is the genesis of everything that happens over there. … It’s going to take more than one generation to stabilize. We lose perspective: After World War II, in both Germany and Japan, the government didn’t assume ownership for seven to 11 years. … We’ve moved quickly for democracy in Iraq. Democracy takes transparency, it takes accountability, it takes infrastructure, it takes trust. Did that move too fast? History will tell us. But we’re still in Japan, we’re still in Korea, we’re still in Germany, we’re in Kuwait, we’re still in Bahrain.

“Quite honestly, a lot of middle-eastern folks might say one thing, but they don’t really want us to leave, either, because they’re afraid of what might happen. It’s a challenging work. It’s going to be interesting — whether it’s Obama or McCain — how they get the U.S. back as participants on the world stage.”

  • James Kratsas, deputy director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum, said the museum is planning another update/addition to the interactive exhibits, including a rotating picture display. The staff seems pretty excited "because there is much more we can use" as a result of (President Ford’s) death.”

The big news, however, is that Kratsas, a big baseball fan, is adding an exhibit in August displaying the top players in every/any position/team of Major League baseball. How did he pick ’em? He's a studious guy, he did his research, but he's likely to be disputed, especially by the Al Kaline contingent.

Anyway, local sports talk radio hotshot Bill Simonson has already scheduled a date to argue with Kratsas live, on air. Kratsas retorted that "all baseball fans like to argue … so do the players."

He anticipates Huge will schedule the broadcast around the same date the Ford Museum sponsors a Whitecaps game.

Kratsas made his comments while "acting as a potted plant" enlisted to assist security at last week’s World Affairs Council of Western Michigan event. The council brought in the top Army official in the country, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.  He talked to Council members and guests about "Meeting the Challenges of Persistent Conflict in the 21st Century."

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