Jennifer Ayers is the Executive Director for the Northwest High Performance Enterprise Consortium (NWHPEC) in Portland, OR. In this role, Jennifer is responsible for promoting the vision, mission, and purpose of the consortium, planning and organizing continuous improvement learning experiences, and coordinating benchmarking and sharing between consortium members. In this role, she also provides mentoring and coaching to individuals within the NWHPEC membership. Jennifer enjoys collaborating with others to develop a better understanding of the purpose and direction for their organization.
Her passion for lean and creating efficiency in everything she touched started at a young age. When she entered Oregon State University and found out she could create a career out of improving processes she immediately embarked on her journey to major in Manufacturing Engineering and Industrial Engineering. Throughout her career, she has held roles as a Manufacturing/Process Engineer, Engineering Design Manager, Project Manager, and Operational Excellence Manager. Jennifer enjoys being part of NWHPEC because of the far reaching influence it has on shaping the future of continuous improvement in the Northwest by giving members exposure to key resources, talent, and networking opportunities.
Board of Directors
Theresa Mills (NWHPEC President) is the General Manager of ESCO Business Systems at Weir ESCO in Portland, Oregon. The ESCO Business system is at the heart of the ESCO culture; it guides the behaviors and actions that drive strategic planning and deployment, connects improvement efforts to business priorities, and guides daily work.
Theresa has over 30 years of manufacturing experience in multiple industries serving primarily in Supply Chain and Continuous Improvement roles. At ESCO, Theresa was introduced to lean in the early 2000s. As a result, her work principles are guided by a passion for improvement and an ongoing desire to grow people. In her current role, Theresa drives the global strategic improvement process and activities that align the company from strategy to deployment.
Theresa is a graduate of Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; she also is a certified Six Sigma Black belt.
Cody Stavig (NWHPEC VP of Finance & Adminstration) is the Vice President of Operations for Stavig Group. He has served in various operational roles with the Stavig Group for the past 12 years, including finance and accounting, information systems and facility management. His current responsibilities include P&L management for Stavig Group’s entire network of factories nationwide consisting of 300+ team members as well as contributing at the board level to the strategic planning of the company.
Cody is a Pacific Northwest native and is passionate about learning more about continuous improvement methodologies. He holds a BBA and BA from the University of Texas, an MBA from the University of Oregon, and an MSc from the University of Oxford.
Rick Alvarado is VP of Operations for Woodfold Manufacturing. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing manufacturing, maintenance, facilities and leads the organization’s Continuous Improvement efforts.
Woodfold is one of the nation’s leading suppliers of custom-crafted Accordion Door, Rollup Door, and Hardwood Shutters for both residential and commercial installations. Woodfold is a 100% employee-owned company.
Rick has spent his whole 30+ year career in manufacturing and at Woodfold. He has held various positions within the company including, Packaging/Shipping Lead, Hardwoods Division Manager and Continuous Improvement Manager. Working his way up from the shop floor has allowed him to build relationships throughout the organization and better understand the needs of the employee owners he serves. He is passionate about change and strives for self-improvement and the development of others.
Kush Pathak is a Business Transformation executive with a track record of leading successful transformations in financial services and Insurance. Presently, Kush is AVP of Lean and RPA Center of Excellence for The Standard Insurance Company in Portland, Oregon. In his current role, Kush is responsible for Lean transformation, Robotic Process Automation and Transition management/Sourcing initiatives.
Previously, Kush served as Director, Business Consulting for Nationwide Insurance and VP Performance Consulting for JPMorgan Chase.
Kush is a graduate of The Ohio State University with an MBA and M.S. (Material Science and Engineering). Kush is passionate about driving operational excellence in companies that result in significant improvements in productivity, quality and timeliness while improving employee engagement.
Traci Rieckmann, PhD is currently VP of Health Systems at Synchrony. Traci has extensive experience partnering with executive and clinical leaders to foster operational excellence, galvanize innovation, and enhance market share and revenue growth. Areas of focus include the delivery of integrated, evidence-based medical and behavioral health services, as well as the coordination of psychiatric and biobehavioral health studies, and implementation science trials.
Prior to working at Synchrony and as the COO of GreenField Health, Traci was a professor of public health and psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) for 18 years. During that time, she directed national research teams investigating best practices for behavioral health treatment. Some of her most exciting work focused on delivering innovative treatments for substance use disorders, especially to historically under-served communities, including Oregon’s Native American residents. She has published 79 peer-reviewed journal articles as lead author and was a co-author on 41 more. It was during her time at OHSU that Traci became passionate about Lean continuous improvement work. Since that time she has pursued her interest in implementing and maintaining visual management, leading with a culture of all staff engagement, data-driven decision-making, completing workflow analysis and redesign, and increasing utilization of the EHR to document patient data, treatment plans, and clinical outcomes. We were excited to welcome her onto our board in 2019.
Traci Rieckmann holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Utah and a M.S. in Health Promotion and education. She completed her undergraduate studies at Oregon State University.
Frank Twardoch has been a NWHPEC board member since 2016 and is LECP certified through Impact Washington. Frank caught the Lean bug as a self-study student back in early 1990 when, as a set up tech, was frustrated in how long it took to change injection molds and found what he would describe as his “AHA” moment with the discovery of Shingo’s “A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System”. This book he credits with literally changing his outlook on manufacturing and his professional life. From there his thirst for Lean knowledge led him to continue his personal study of methods and the Toyota Production System philosophy. His next career path took him to an organization that employed former NUMMI employees in its CI department, and as a General Manager embraced the teachings and benefits it afforded his plant. Soon he was advocating for his plant to host the annual 8 Step Problem Solving convention, which led to a Best in the Company designation out of the 10 plants in the organization.
Frank is currently the Plant Manager at Elkhart Plastics, a division of Myers Industries, a rotational molder of plastic parts. He has a number of Lean Six Sigma Green Belts on staff and it’s exciting to hear the “Lean lingo” being used and practiced in the plant. He was the Sr. Director of Operations at Glen Dimplex Americas (Cadet Heat) for 17 years where he supported their lean transformation, with special emphasis on the use of SMED in changing dies in the Fabrication department as well as utilizing these tools in the production line changeover and the Paint department for color changes.
Frank lives in Gresham, OR with his wife Beth and Geddy, their Golden Retriever. They have two grown daughters, one a Registered Nurse and one a CPA, with both showing an understanding and appreciation for Lean in both the Healthcare industry as well as the financial auditing sector, having both been exposed to the power of 6S in the family kitchen. Where they once thought Dad was a bit over the top with the organization of the silverware drawer, both understand the value and benefit and both have bought into the use of the tool in their own lives. Lean has impacted Frank’s life in so many ways and he is passionate about the future of American manufacturing with a focus on waste elimination.