Renée Onesti began working with KEP in 2007 as the Manager of Plant Engineering and Maintenance and was promoted to Director in 2009 and Sr. Director in 2019.

Renée has been in the manufacturing field for over 20 years and is passionate about American Manufacturing. “There are so many hard working women and men making amazing products right here in our own backyard,” said Renée. “I’m proud to be one of them; and I’m proud to make these jobs easier and more advanced as we implement safety, energy savings and advanced technologies.”

Renée completed her MBA in 2019 from Malone University, is a 6 Sigma Black Belt (2012) and holds a Certificate in Applied Project Management, Lean Mastery and Leadership Essentials.

“When I asked Renée what her ultimate goal was, she said to ‘have my job’ – VP of Operations! It was probably the best answer I have ever had at an interview.” said Bob Oborn, KEP President. “She has done a wonderful job of maturing into the Director’s role and we are now grooming her to be the head of operations along with her position. She is a great success story at KEP!”

Renée has tackled many important areas and department improvements with the help of our team at KEP – here are just a few highlights from each:


• Worked to implement a safety program and 30 minutes of safety training per month for all KEP employees.
• Designed safety training requirements for each plant for monthly safety training. (In the beginning, Renée did all the training on all the shifts. After a few years, supervisors and eventually hourly employees began giving the training. Now, we’re proud to say that nearly all of our training is given by hourly employees.)
• Built and implemented a plant competition.
• Designed a safety observation program tailored to KEP and our needs.
• Made bulletin boards and posters to support the program.
• Invited outside resources to audit our safety programs: BWC, Kent FD, insurance company, sprinkler company, alarm company, and other safety managers from nearby companies.
• Began attending Portage County Safety Council meetings and was asked to be part of the Steering Committee in 2009. Renée has been on the board since and has also been a speaker.
• Lowered KEP’s accident rate and reduced our worker’s comp costs significantly from 2007 to present.
• Designed, trained, and implemented a complete Lock-out/Tag-out system for every piece of equipment.

Maintenance Department

• Set expectations of excellence and teamwork
• Fix it right the first time! The department switched focus from performing a quick fix (that would likely need to be repaired again later) to taking time to make permanent repairs and solving root causes.

Energy Savings

• Worked towards a 20% reduction of electricity in both Kent and Mogadore plants, water reduction of 56% in Kent and 84% in Mogadore and gas saving of 12% in Kent.
• Put together teams and specialists to work on energy savings in natural gas, electric, and water usages.
• Held Kaizens focused on energy savings and sustainability. These savings also aided in being awarded Summit of Sustainability and EPA E3 Gold Level awards.
• Has been invited to speak as an expert in the energy savings field at the annual Energy Management Conference in both Columbus and Akron several times.

Preventive Maintenance

• When Renée arrived, there was a single page PM system that required a few pieces of equipment were checked at different intervals; however, the maintenance department was constantly fighting fires (literally and figuratively) and working hard to keep things running. It was common for orders to be late because lines were not running due to breakdowns.
• Using her previous experience building a PM system, Renée helped us make a KEP original system.
• Working with the maintenance team, we listed every single piece of equipment in all three plants.
• Then we listed all the tasks that needed to be completed to keep that machine in the best condition.
• Built a PM system to track when each PM needed to be done and sign off that it was completed.
• Continued to revise this system as equipment improved, breakdowns became less frequent, and machines were fixed more permanently.
• In 2015, held a Kaizen with the maintenance department and Bev Kiglics to transform the handwritten forms into an Excel database. This new system was better for audits and made it easier to track which PM’s were due each week of the year.

Projects & Improvements

• 6S of maintenance: Still maintained today by the whole department.
• Facility additions: We’ve added on to both the Kent and Winesburg plants, and Reneé was the coordinator for both. Each project was different and had new challenges to overcome.
• Roof replacements for Mogadore and Winesburg
• Equipment: Updating and replacing multiple chillers, boilers, HVAC units, and air compressor while maintaining production and processes. Improving or replacing machines, including our chlorinator, evaporator, color roller in compounding, mix stations, lighting, heat sealer, ovens, and brominator. Also, rebuilding machines to be standardized – utilizing the best features of each of the other machines.
• Automation: Designing and installing some automation over the most recent years, including our crimper and new slitter-cutter.
• Process improvements: From our Kaizen to improve packaging to another to improve cutting processes, each improvement project yields steps toward making our company better.
• Budgeting: Helped give KEP a clearer picture of maintenance spending by separating and planning general maintenance cost and large project expenses. Also, designing and implementing a cost tracking system, allowing maintenance employees to see exactly where we were in each month’s budget.

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