Walking the Talk on Operations Leadership and Continuous Improvement


Meet Productiv’s COO, Marius Ailenei. Marius has a passion for continuous improvement and walks the talk on leading teams using servant leadership. His unique capabilities achieve outstanding results for clients, and have helped shape Productiv into the fast-growing company it is today.How did you get your start in the packaging and fulfillment business?Before I moved to the U.S. in 2003, I helped start several businesses and worked as a management consultant across various industries in Europe. During this time, I mainly focused on process improvement and how to save companies money. After a few years of consulting, I was hired by Productiv. During my 10 years here, the business has grown from three to 14 job sites in six states.You have a unique style with your production teams. How do you train and motivate people for long-term success? We have formal training for new team members, but I think most people learn best on the job. My style is fluid and I look for those everyday ‘in the moment’ coaching opportunities that can be so powerful. I give team members the independence they need, while holding them accountable without micromanaging. I value all the members of my team and involve them in solutions, so they can own the process and the outcomes. It builds pride and sustains their engagement. My principle is to identify and build new leaders who will help me take Productiv to the next level.How do you set up a project for success?No two projects are the same, but I do follow a pretty standard process when starting each project.

  • First, I gather all customer requirements, especially around quality.
  • Based on the skills needed for the project, I choose the team who will best lead and support the project.
  • We figure out the right process to achieve first piece quality while eliminating constraints.
  • Then we set up the project using a number of lean tools and train the team to maximize throughput and quality.

I find this general process works whether we’re kitting medical devices, subscription boxes, or putting a single item into a box.What unique challenges have you had to solve for?Our business is hand assembly and packaging of large and small items so almost every project presents some unique challenge. I like to use a combination of art and science to figure out the best way to maximize outcomes without incurring capex or unneeded expense. We achieve smooth flow and quality by simplifying the work for our people through ergonomics, and by using simple solutions such as jigs, scoops, funnels, color tabs, and visual samples.As an example, for one customer we had to assemble multiple galvanized hex wrenches into plastic pouches. The hex wrenches came to us in bulk, coated with oil so they didn’t rust in transit. The challenge was to not transfer the oil from the wrenches to the plastic pouch as they were being inserted. After some trial and error, we ended up sorting and placing the wrenches in garden shovels, and then scooping them into the pouch. Not only did this solve the oil transfer problem, but our throughput increased considerably. This is just one example…. I have dozens of others!Does the gainshare you offer employees motivate them?Yes, it does. Offering a gainshare gives our workers a sense of ownership in the process and the outcomes. When our workers achieve set KPIs, they see it in their paycheck. The gainshare has a powerful effect on the culture, too:

  • We have fewer call-offs
  • Workers arrive on time and are ready to work when their shift starts
  • They come back from breaks on time
  • They dislike downtime – it actually makes them restless
  • They are in tune with KPIs, especially quality
  • And, they identify under-performers and request they be re-assigned

We believe in the positive intentions of people to want to contribute, succeed and advance. With the gainshare and our culture of servant leadership, we give them the framework to do just that.What do you do for your own personal continuous improvement?The growth of our company and new leadership has allowed me to extend my impact on our company’s success. Here are some things I’ve been working on:

  • Invest in my team – More communications and helping them with personal and professional development. I like to be accessible and give them a voice.
  • Contribute to bigger picture initiatives such as sales growth, our Productiv Academy training platform, and various technology initiatives.
  • Walk the talk on work/life balance – Set an example for my teams that life is about more than work.

Marius sets the bar for ‘The Productiv Way’ – our operations excellence platform that combines lean principles, aligned incentives and servant leadership. Because of his creativity and expertise, we’re capable of serving clients in a wide range of industries, adding considerable value to their bottom line.Thank you, Marius!Have a project or program that needs operational improvement? Give Brendon McGann a call at (704) 559-9272. Brendon is Productiv’s SVP Supply Chain and works closely with Marius to consult on and design solutions for clients.


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