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Putting People First: Getting to know Memphis Plant Manager Randy Lewis

When Randy Lewis arrives at our Memphis facility each day, the first thing he does in his role as Plant Manager is walk the floor. Before his morning meeting, he spends time with the people doing the work — those on his team that receive our 100% recycled parent rolls and convert them into quality towel and tissue products. He loves engaging with the team members (he won’t use the word employees), and it’s what has motivated him most in his five months at von Drehle. The floor walk is something he looks forward to on the drive to work each day.

What’s so motivating about the team? Randy points to the true family dynamic they’ve developed. “There’s a lot of care and concern for one another. When you talk about what von Drehle means to the employees in Memphis, you can hear the confidence and pride that what we’re doing matters. It’s more than just turning a profit, it’s about the greater good.” 

That sense of family doesn’t just end with his team; it extends to the entire von Drehle company. Randy came to us with a resume detailing experience at very large corporations, but he loves the mom and pop feel von Drehle has maintained since our founding in 1974. He heard about the plant manager opening from our current director of converting, whom he’d worked with years ago. “You hear stories before you join a company and you think ‘Wow, it sounds almost too good to be true,’” Randy explains, “but then you get immersed into the environment and it’s truly that way.” Randy, who admits he isn’t good at “blowing smoke,” describes the environment here as very compassionate and empathetic, from the top down. At von Drehle, “they say people are the most important thing, and they prove that with their actions.” 

That dynamic is refreshing for Randy, who has experienced workplaces that claim they want to grow but lay off employees at the same time. Randyknows that lack of integrity isn’t good for a business because he has spent time studying great leaders. He sees in von Drehle what great businesses have done throughout history — they put the people first. According to Randy, “that’s what it’s really all about.” 

Understanding the great leaders of the past reveals another common thread — they know that success comes from working as a team and celebrating what you can do together. When asked what he’s most proud of so far in his time at von Drehle, Randy is quick to divert the spotlight, saying “I can’t take credit for anything. It’s a team effort,” before describing Memphis’s employee recognition program. The HR director came up with the acronym VIP (Value, Initiative, Problem Solving), and Randy tasked his team with coming up with an employee engagement process that brings awareness to the ability they have to make positive changes at the job. The first VIP winner, Nick McVay, developed the idea of exchanging the brushes on paper tape dispensers to sponges, saving both time and resources. In August, the VIP winner was Joe Hudson, whose idea of painting the rewind table black made it much easier for our operators to see the quality of the perforations and embossing on rolls being produced. These are just some of the ways the program empowers our employees to work with their leaders to develop solutions and implement changes. 

For Randy, the biggest challenge of the job is remaining patient. Our Memphis plant is bursting with potential, and Randy wants to realize it all right now, but knows it takes time. We look forward to seeing what else Randy and his team have in store for us, and to getting there as a family.