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H.B. Fuller Houston Plant Manager, Jesse Owens.

Celebrating Exceptional Service During COVID-19 Complications

Posted 02/22/2021 by George DeRitter, Director of Operations

COVID-19 has profoundly changed businesses everywhere, forcing change for better and for worse. Jesse Owens, an operations facility leader, went above and beyond to ensure that disinfectant needs could keep up with the demands of the pandemic.

Jesse Owens has been with H.B. Fuller for over three and a half years. He’s a celebrated leader with over 20 years of background in automotive, beverage, medical device, marker, and tool manufacturing industries. In his personal life, he’s the proud father of three now-grown men and married to Dawn, an author of poetry.

COVID brought no small amount of stress, uncertainty and personal loss to Jesse’s team, in addition to the accompanying drop in business happening to companies around the world. Although regular business was slowing, he had to rapidly and significantly scale up production of H.B. Fuller’s Foster® 40-80 disinfectant, including expanding operations to six days a week across two shifts. And, it was through the efforts of Jesse and his team that we were able to provide Foster™ 40-80 First Defense® disinfectant to hospitals, airports, schools, manufacturing facilities, fire stations and so many more essential places during the pandemic.

Jesse explains this intensive process in detail: “With the technical and operational ability of our leaders, we were able to create a plan that ensured our infrastructure could handle the increased volumes. This included maximizing our mixing tank and removing the constraints of waterflow and generation used to make the product. Rebekah Reyna, our planner, was instrumental in ensuring we had tankers of DI (deionized) water available to make the batches. The production team of Ben and Ryan, provided additional staffing so we could keep producing batch after batch.”

He also mentions the hard work of his maintenance staff, Alvaro Villarreal and Miguel Villarreal, who took on the challenge of facilitating plumbing and setting up mock-up stations that allowed for the expansion of multiple workstations and container sizing for products. The final piece of the puzzle was getting everything out the door, which was lead by Chris Baker and his team who loaded and shipped product out by the truckload.

Under Jesse’s leadership, his whole team worked together and ramped-up production of 300 gallons per week to 30,000 gallons per week within a 2 week period. Jesse remains proud of what his team accomplished, saying, “This was an opportunity you could tell your children and grandchildren about. We were able to scale up by understanding our true roles and what would help us become successful, and rallied around a vision that provided much greater purpose than we could have imagined. We helped flatten the curve [slow the spread of COVID-19].”

The impact of Jesse’s team, who maintained 97% SIFOT (supply in full on time), had a direct and positive impact on our customers. A big thanks to Neel Patel, Kevin Brandt, Cheryl Thomas, Sam Ghaly, Trung Dinh, Ben Smith, Ryan Hudson, Chris Baker, Tropaze Walker, Edwin, Senaido, and every individual who helped make this success story happen. These are the individuals whose efforts illustrate the essence of courage we highlight annually with our highest employee recognition, the Essence Award. Jesse and several members of the Foster team were honored with a 2020 Essence Award for their efforts.

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