A KEP Success Story - Kent Elastomer Products

A KEP Success Story – Renée Onesti

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:


Renée worked to implement a safety program and 30 minutes of training per month for all KEP employees – designing 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 then eventually hourly employees began giving the training. Now, we’re proud to say that nearly all of our training is given by hourly employees. She also designed a safety observation program tailored to KEP and our needs, and trained and implemented a complete Lock-out/Tag-out system for our equipment. To audit our safety programs, Renée invited outside resources, including BWC, Kent FD, our insurance company, the sprinkler company, the alarm company, and other safety managers from nearby Kent businesses. Renée began attending Portage County Safety Council meetings and was asked to be part of the Steering Committee in 2009. She has been on the board since and has also been a speaker.

Maintenance Department

Under Renée’s direction, the maintenance 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

Renée worked towards a 20% reduction of electricity in both the Kent and Mogadore plants, water reduction of 56% in Kent and 84% in Mogadore and gas savings of 12% in Kent. She also put together teams and specialists to work on energy savings in natural gas, electric, and water usages, and held Kaizens focused on energy savings and sustainability. These savings allowed us to achieve the Summit of Sustainability and EPA E3 Gold Level awards.

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 make a KEP original system. Renée designed and detailed all equipment and PMs, and then built a system to track when each PM needed to be done and signed off as completed. In 2015, Renée 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 PMs were due each week of the year.

Projects & Improvements

Renée worked to implement a 6S system for maintenance which is still maintained today by the whole department. During her time with KEP, 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. She also coordinated roof replacements for our Mogadore and Winesburg facilities. Renée has been responsible for updating and replacing multiple chillers, boilers, HVAC units, and air compressor while maintaining production and processes. To help our facilities incorporate automation, Renée installed some automation over the most recent years, including our crimper and new slitter-cutter. Finally, Renée helped give KEP a clearer picture of maintenance spending by separating and planning general maintenance cost and large project expenses. She designed and implemented a cost tracking system, allowing maintenance employees to see exactly where we were in each month’s budget.

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