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Building Resilient Teams: AmSty’s Hector Bedoya

Hector-Bedoya

When Hector Bedoya was promoted to plant manager at AmSty's Torrance, California, polystyrene plant his priority was the people.

He promptly scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of the 33 employees, listening intently to understand who they are, their areas of expertise, and where they saw challenges and opportunities.

"As a manager, you must look at the data, but there is data behind the data and that's learning what the employees think," said the Colombia native who first came to AmSty in 2014 as an Improvement and Reliability Engineer at the Cartagena plant.

Hector was then promoted in 2017 to AmSty headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas, where he served as a Reliability Specialist – supporting the company's six plants and traveling extensively to each – listening, observing and learning.

It's an approach he leveraged at Torrance that "gave me a good picture about what areas needed focus," Hector said.

What he discovered was there was a great deal of expertise on the team and he took action to implement a strategy that made good use of it.

'I tell people that at a plant we need the 'know' and the 'know-how,'' he said. "An engineer may have the 'know,' but 'know-how' is a technician with 30 years of experience. While there was a great group of engineers and a senior group of technicians at Torrance when I started, there was an opportunity to add a Technical Advisor role."

Hector first created the Technical Advisor position to fill that void, promoting an employee who had served in many roles at the plant. He then promoted other senior employees into the open roles of Logistics Coordinator and Training Coordinator.

"They had earned these titles long before they got the titles," he said. "These are people with a lot of ownership who truly care about their co-workers and the plant's success. Anytime there is an issue, they are the last ones to leave. I have to tell them, 'It's time to go home.'"

Morale has also improved.

"Morale increases when people are rewarded for their contributions," said Hector. "There was a lot of experience here, I simply allowed these people to shine and deliver their best in their areas of expertise."

Hector's management style has not gone unnoticed by colleagues and AmSty leadership.

"When we had numerous positions that needed to be filled, Hector knew how to put the right people in the right jobs, adding to an already strong team," said Lori McKell, AmSty Human Resources Manager. "He gained the trust of the Torrance team quickly and they work well together."

Fostering a family atmosphere is one of the reasons, said Hector.

"Treating people like family is something I encourage," he said. "We spend more time here than at home so we need to make sure that we get along, enjoy each other's company and love seeing each other – and we do."

Since Hector stepped into the plant manager role, Torrance has seen a great deal of turnover due to retirements. The new leaders have been part of the interview and training process and that has made a big difference.

"We have a lot of new people, but we've been able to continue running reliably and safely because these senior technical experts and engineers are mentoring and training the new hires," he said. "There's a lot of respect, friendship and trust."

In the end, Hector prides himself on doing everything in his power to ensure everyone at the Torrance plant is successful – coaching, listening, providing feedback and being authentic.

"I do it because I want to, not because I have to," he said. "I do it from my heart." 

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