Georgia Manufacturing Alliance Summit Agenda Speaks Volumes about Manufacturing Success in State

John Tabellione

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Georgia Manufacturing Alliance (GMA) Founder and CEO, Jason Moss, punctuated the success of the state’s manufacturing segment at its fifth annual Summit with an agenda that recognized employer successes, hosted top tier keynoters and panelists, and spoke volumes about the organization itself. 

The theme of the Summit—“Manufacturing Success in Georgia”—is soon to become the name of a book commissioned by GMA to spotlight the state’s manufacturing past and present as it looks toward a bright future. 

Moss welcomed upwards of 800 attendees from across the Southeast to the Summit on October 9th at the Cobb Galleria Convention Center in metro Atlanta to discuss the issues most important to them. Business leaders had the unique opportunity to network with their peers, share their insights, and learn from experts.

He went on to invoke what he called “the significance of ‘one’,” be it one connection made; one idea shared; or, one moment of clarity. The classic example of one repurposed idea he used was the modern assembly line made famous by Henry Ford. Its little-known origins are based upon the visit of a Ford employee who had witnessed a so-called “disassembly line” at the Swift and Company’s slaughter house in Chicago where carcasses moved along a conveyor to be butchered. Seeing a butcher standing in place removing the same piece efficiently over and over again, then applying that one idea and relaying it to the head of Ford’s production—that is the power of “one,” noted Moss.

According to Moss, GMA “provides the premiere platform for manufacturing professionals to form strategic alliances. We connect, educate and promote best practices. Speakers selected for the Georgia Manufacturing Summit focus on addressing key topics, insights, and top tips to make our member companies more successful.” He noted GMA’s record of 120 plant tours, educational workshops and networking events over the past year for its 350 company-strong membership.

Moss pointed out, “With over 10,000 manufacturers in Georgia, employing over 444,000 employees, this sector of the economy represents about ten per cent of the state’s gross domestic product.” 

He concluded by saying, “The challenge today is up to you. I want you to think about different ways for you to implement different ideas you’re going to see today. It’s up to you to make take action. It’s up to you to make that decision. The challenge is I want you to have that one moment. What is your ‘one?’”

Breakfast Keynote Speaker:  Werhner Washington, Plant Manager (retired), Procter and Gamble

Werhner Washington, recently retired plant manager for the Procter and Gamble plant in Albany, Georgia, after having spent 35 years with the consumer products giant, gave the Breakfast Keynote speech: “Transforming Your Culture to Win in Manufacturing.” Washington, in addressing the Albany P& G plant winning the “Manufacturer of the Year” award, said, “Having the right culture is the key to success.”

Culture, he explained is “how the organization really operates” versus how it would like to operate. “Culture is what happens every single day.” The key elements include peer-to-peer accountability, employee ownership of the core operation, continued learning from other industry leaders, rewarding results instead of activities, and creating a servant-leadership structural model. 

Washington referenced how he viewed the “playbook” of the New England Patriots professional football team as another example of expressing culture. The Pats’ record speaks for itself in terms of rewarding “role” players; signing self-motivated personnel; having more people come to training camp in shape ready to play; and, defining the franchise’s success as planning to win the Super Bowl each year versus a goal of just making the playoffs and winning a game.

Jason Moss presented Washington a Lifetime Achievement Award for his 35 years of service at Procter and Gamble.

Lunch Keynote Speaker: Stuart Countess COO, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia

In a similar vein, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) COO, Stuart Countess spoke of “The Kia Way 2.0” as an evolution of Kia’s original winning strategy of manufacturing success. The Kia Way finds ways for the U.S. and Japanese cultures of how to work together, how to have confidence and trust in one another, and support each other. Countess said, “It’s been a fantastic ride,” but that the challenge for the next ten years is how to retain that culture, make it great and safe, and from a production perspective, “how to be consistent every time.”

Countess reviewed the 10-year history of the Kia Motors Manufacturing plant in Georgia, noting that the West Point, Georgia area did not have a workforce with automotive manufacturing experience. They didn’t, however, lack for applicants. Approximately 43,000 people applied for the initial 1,000 jobs – but Kia had to get their workforce trained.

“It takes partnerships,” he said, citing the Georgia Quick Start program. KMMG worked with the community to create workforce education programs that begin in the elementary schools, up through high school and technical colleges.

Likewise, the THINC College & Career Academy in LaGrange, Georgia shapes students to be “work savvy” when entering the workforce or college, making them very desirable to businesses and colleges for their technical and career-specific skills, as well as having a 30 per cent emphasis on the soft skills of business – a firm handshake, a strong work ethic and critical thinking skills. Countess noted that KMMG has contributed $3.5 million to THINC. 

KMMG weathered the recession that began soon after they rolled out the first cars in 2008, and since then the plant has produced three million vehicles as of September of this year. KMMG has the capacity to manufacture 330,000 cars a year by virtue of having added two additional shifts, but it’s not just about output quantity. Kia has also enjoyed the honor of being the No. 1 mass-market brand for the past five consecutive years.

Furthermore, in February of 2019, Kia began production on the 8-seat, high technology Telluride, its first vehicle designed for the U.S. consumer and its first vehicle to be exported overseas. Customers currently have to wait five months for delivery of a Telluride. 

“Kia has completely rebranded and changed its image,” said Countess. “People who had never built a car and came from other industries are now building the number one product. It’s quite an accomplishment for Georgia.”

Jason Moss, CEO and Founder of GMA presented COO Stuart Countess of KMMG an Outstanding Achievement Award.

Educational Breakout Sessions

Over 30 experts participated in eight unique panel discussions on the agenda. Interactive educational sessions at the 2019 GMA Summit included: 

• Manufacturing A Better Bottom Line 
Moderator - Richard Warner

• Trends To Track in Supply Chain 
Moderator - Scott Luton

• Workforce Development
Moderator - Jamey Jackson

• Safety
Moderator - Kate Badey

• Operational Excellence
Moderator - Beau Groover

• Sales and Marketing Secrets for Manufacturers
Moderator - Danny Gonzales

• International Manufacturing 
Building Domestic Growth and a Competitive Edge Through Exports 
Moderator - Albert Sorto

• Smart Factory
Moderator - Richard Phillip

“The People of Manufacturing” Awards Program 

“The People of Manufacturing” Awards are designed to bring exposure and recognition to Georgia manufacturers and their employees. GMA honors the people of manufacturing in the state who exhibit excellence on a day-in, day-out basis. As part of the 2019 Georgia Manufacturing Alliance Summit agenda, the program recognized the following individuals and companies for their achievements.

“We are pleased to recognize the top people in manufacturing,” said Moss. “Georgia’s manufacturing sector is strong and its contributions to Georgia’s economy are well known. It is the people who work in this industry that make manufacturing so successful and they deserve the recognition.”

Front Line Leadership:
Lori Whiting 
Ranger MFG
Gainesville, GA

Plant Manager of the Year:
Jonathan Hardesty

Superior Recreational Products
Carrollton, GA

Team Safety
OFS of Carrollton
Carrollton, GA

Team Operational Excellence
Scientific Games
Alpharetta, GA


The Georgia Manufacturing Alliance, founded in 2008, is the most active industry association in the state that focuses on supporting Georgia’s manufacturing community. Year-to-date, it has promoted 120 events for the state’s manufacturing managers, such as plant visits and educational meetings, as well as eight additional, special training sessions for attendees at the Summit. 

About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.