Portrait of a Better World: Gene Cornelius

January 28, 2015
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller
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Barry-Wehmiller’s “Portraits of a Better World” video series features team members from across the organization sharing how Truly Human Leadership is alive in their corner of our global organization. Whether describing their leadership at work, their contributions within their communities or the indirect impact of our culture on their families, these short vignettes give voice to the many ways we are using the power of our business to build a better world.

Behind Gene Cornelius’ door in his office at BW Container Systems (now BW Integrated Systems) in Romeoville, IL, there are three long sheets of white paper.

The sheets are filled with frustrations and improvement ideas handwritten in marker by BWCS Global Supply Chain team members, of which Gene is the leader.  On the first two sheets, the items are all crossed off.

“It’s all about listening to your team,” Gene said. “That’s what leadership is in a nutshell.”

Like many Barry-Wehmiller companies, BW Container Systems’ products serve a number of industries. When you walk into the manufacturing area of our Romeoville plant – or BWCS’ other plants in Loveland, CO; Lynchburg, VA; or Doncaster, UK – you’ll see our associates assembling some of the most amazing machinery, much of which is built by hand. In fact, almost all of BWCS’ products are designed and built specifically for a company’s particular needs. Very few will be just alike. These machines play an important part in the packaging of a product before it’s on the shelf of a store.

The machines built by BWCS are used in the packaging assembly lines of a wide variety of companies who produce beer and beverages, wine and spirits, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and household products. For example, the conveyor machine that carries liquid laundry detergent containers along the line to be filled is something that BWCS would build and maintain for that company.  Or it could be a machine that sleeves and palletizes lids (or ends) for soft drink or peanut cans. That’s just a small example of the robotics or automated conveyance equipment BWCS produces.

Gene’s team is responsible for making sure the assemblers of these machines have all the commercial parts they need before they start a project. But when Gene thinks about his job, he doesn’t think about parts or production schedules, he thinks about people.

“If our friends in assembly don’t have the parts they need to do their job, they’re going to go home frustrated,” Gene said. “And we want them to go home fulfilled.”

Gene wants all his teammates to find their work meaningful. He wants them to go home at the end of the day feeling valued, that their contribution made a difference. And as a leader, he wants to help facilitate that feeling in his team. That’s why the sheets in his office are there, to give the team members he leads a voice in how their jobs can be more efficient, less frustrating and better for everyone involved – including their friends in the shop.

Gene also understands the importance of offering growth opportunities to the people he leads. That’s why he’s a strong advocate for cross-training – letting his team members train and work in other departments to learn new skills. Those associates get an opportunity to better understand what their teammates in other departments do and maybe pick up a skill they can use in their current area or find a different job they’d enjoy more.

“If I can be a leader and have everyone grow everyday by learning something new, I’m happy,” Gene said.

To see other Portraits of a Better World, click here.

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Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

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