Creating the Roeslein Way
With over one million sq. ft. of fabrication space internationally, Roeslein & Associates has grown into a global leader of can making equipment, conveyancing and ancillary systems. Alex Fordham speaks to Roeslein’s manager of operational services, Robert Williamson, on how a positive work culture has enabled the company to thrive…
The past few years have seen largescale capacity expansion for many equipment suppliers within the global can making business, as the industry has had to adapt to a ‘perfect storm’ of sustainably-conscious consumers, an increase in demand due to the pandemic and a growing anti plastic sentiment globally. For Roeslein & Associates, this expansion is the continuation of a business model routed in a strong company culture, putting employers at the heart of its business ethos.
In 2021, the company completed 15 new can lines, which accounted for nearly 20 billion new cans in the industry. Back in 2021, The Metal Packager had the pleasure of interviewing company president and chief operating officer, Brian Sneed, on this achievement. Sneed outlined how the company had grown to over 1,000 employees and the company has nearly one million square feet of fabrication space across four continents, with the recent acquisition of its Roeslein, Michigan City location and expansions to current manufacturing facilities in Red Bud, IL, US, São Paulo, Brazil, Hollister, CA, US, Shanghai, China and Dębno, Poland.
A culture created over 30 years
This explosive growth at Roeslein wouldn’t have been possible without a dynamic workforce driving the company’s vision. Robert Williamson takes up the story.
“Roeslein’s a team environment,” explains Williamson. “The culture is truly amazing and it’s a company that fosters a positive work/life balance. You have that that sense of ownership you don’t see in a lot of other places.”
This is exemplified in ‘The Roselein Way’, a programme designed to ensure workers have a positive environment to benefit both their working and personal lives. This includes initiatives such as a Charitable Programme, where Roeslein offers a charitable gift matching programme to all employees who donate to a non-profit organisation. And likewise, the company’s Wellness Programme and Talent Development Programme encourages the positive mental and physical wellbeing of its employees. The programme has 6 pillars. Charitable Giving, Community Service, Continued Education, Diversity & Inclusion, Environmental Stewardship and Wellness.
The programme launched in 2020 prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The leadership wanted to table the programme launch, but employees were hungry to help those in need. Starting with fundraising for the victims of the earthquakes and flooding in Puerto Rico in January 2020 to supporting local businesses, hospitals, and first responders throughout the pandemic. In the first 2 years of the programme, it’s been able to give $1 million, donate 200,000 cans of CW4K, recycle 5k pounds of aluminium to protect the earth, and recognise over 1,200 employees for their continued education and support to the business, hosted multiple diversity and inclusion training, and started promoting mental health awareness.
This environment, says Williamson, has been fostered with a strong emphasis on mentoring throughout the organisation. “Our baseline way is mentoring and coaching,” he notes. “We employ ‘across sector’ training – finding out what and where people’s interests lie.
“To help coach people, even if it’s to a different department within the business is important, as they may have so much to offer in construction, building and engineering, and obviously operational services. Young people today have the opportunity to come into this company and grow. And I think we do a really good job of mentoring them through that process.
“There’s an art to commissioning a can processing line, and you don’t come out of school with this knowledge. You come out of school with the ability to learn, the fundamental backgrounds and the want and the drive to succeed. And those are the people that we really look for – the ones that are looking to get those experiences. It’s receiving that mentoring from people with experience who can help our apprentices and new employees to learn and thrive.
“We’ve built plants all over the world and we invite people from all over the world of any race, religion or culture – it doesn’t matter. It’s exciting to be part of such a diverse group, and a diverse culture.”
The challenges of recruitment and industry opportunities
The need for skilled workers is at an all-time high. With the increasing capacity expansion needed within the industry, and the retiring of the ‘boomer’ generation, it has created a challenging environment for Roeslein’s HR and Recruitment team. Many manufacturing plants have been running for 30 years and are faced with new challenges daily. And whether it’s process or equipment, there’s always new challenges, as Williamson explains.
“I think if you look at the industry today compared to what it was 15-20 years ago, the demand for those skilled resources is at an all-time high,” says Williamson. “So, do we have less skilled people in the industry at present? Of course we do – we have a lot more demand for certain skillsets. In addition to this, we have had a lot of retirees within those 15-20 years.
“So, you have a reduction in skilled resources, and you have an increased need because of all the multiple can lines and multiple components that have been created over that period. There’s a need – there’s a need to build the skillset and there’s nothing like hands on experience either.”
A varied workforce
As well as apprentices and recruitment via traditional channels, Roeslein is keen to create a skilled workforce from a variety of avenues – whether that’s experienced engineering professions looking for a change, partnerships with education bodies or can making personnel looking for a change, the company is looking to challenge the traditional status quo of recruitment to encourage a ‘skills hub’. For Roeslein, it’s not always the obvious option that is the best option when it comes to recruiting.
“Occasionally we find a person that’s at a point in their career where they’re looking for something different,” Williamson notes. “Perhaps they worked shift work at a plant for so many years and they’re really wanting to get out and travel and do different things, not just work on a decorator – getting the opportunity to do more. So we’re looking for those people if they’re out there and they’re wanting to break away from the status quo and expand their talents. This is the place for those types of opportunities.
“We’re working on programmes with local universities. We set up curriculums within the universities themselves that would encompass the experiences and the education in the areas that we feel that would help them be successful at a baseline level and in the can industry in general.”
When asked to sum up why the company is an attractive proposition for prospective employees, Williamson uses the word ‘teamship’ to describe what it’s like to work at Roeslein. Whether its staff working remotely, on the road or in a manufacturing facility, it’s that sense of working towards a common goal that is the secret behind the success.
“I think for me, it’s the sense of camaraderie, support and teamwork within Roeslein,” concludes Williamson. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re working remotely. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the office every day. The people at Roeslein care about their jobs. They care about the future of the company.
“I encourage anyone that’s thinking of changing their careers or looking for an opportunity to grow, Roeslein is a wonderful place to start. As I’ve said before, whether you come into our Lifecycles Group, whether you come into engineering, or whether you come into operational services, there’s so many opportunities within the company itself.
“As a team at Roeslein, we look for those opportunities and growth potentials in each person that’s here.”
Robert Williamson at a glance:
What attracted you to Roeslein?
You can’t find a better mentor than Rudi Roeslein to encourage you to grow and to be part of something that’s made life what it is for so many people. It’s an amazing company to be a part of.
Roeslein described in a phrase?
A shared sense of culture.
The biggest challenge for Roeslein?
Replacing employees retiring who have a great deal of specialist knowledge – it’s not easy to replace that level of expertise.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
We’re making a lot more cans at a higher rate of speed – that’s predominantly due to technology from the OEMs. The OEMs have all stepped up and done a wonderful job of making their equipment more efficient, making them faster.
And what about in terms of innovation?
Light-weighting programmes that have been introduced have allowed can makers to take money out of the can and still make a very sellable product.