Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient Henry Retamal discusses how he has driven operational improvement at Wastequip and what we can expect in 2020.

Cristina Commendatore, Former Senior Editor

December 2, 2019

6 Min Read
Getting to Know Wastequip’s "Operational Wizard"

Before settling into the waste and recycling industry, Henry Retamal, now the president of operations for Wastequip, spent many years working in the automotive world. In that sector, he focused primarily on developing manufacturing strategies, managing operations and on research and development (R&D).

In 2013, he took on a new challenge as a director of operational management at Wastequip. He progressed from that position and eventually moved up to his current role as president of the company’s operations.

We recently sat down with the 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient to discuss how he has been able to drive operational improvement at Wastequip, the company’s acquisition of Amrep and what we can expect from Wastequip in 2020.           

Waste360: What brought you to the waste and recycling industry?

Henry Retamal: I spent many years in the automotive industry, primarily in developing manufacturing strategies and managing operations and R&D. As a person who always seeks out new and exciting challenges, I happened upon Wastequip. After conversations with the executive team, I saw where I could bring immediate value to the table and decided to be brave, make the move to Charlotte, N.C., and start a new career.

Waste360: Please discuss your role as president of operations, as well as your prior roles at Wastequip.

Henry Retamal: I started in 2013. I first came in as a director of operational management and did an assessment of the business to see what needed to be improved on the manufacturing side as well as working on orders all the way through to delivery for the customer. From that, I progressed into the vice president of operational excellence, and in October 2015, I took over one of the company’s divisions that was experiencing some operational difficulties. Today, I run all operations for Wastequip.

Coming from the automotive industry, my focus was on incorporating best practices across the organization to increase overall profitability and efficiency. I began by identifying areas of possible operational improvement within each business unit, implementing programs and establishing key performance indicators to track efficiency gains and cost savings. I also restructured purchasing, sourcing and freight functions to streamline operations and consolidate functions across Wastequip’s multiple brand lines (Toter, Galbreath, Mountain Tarp, Pioneer, Cusco, Accurate and Go To Parts) to achieve greater economies of scale.

Waste360: How were you able to help drive efficiency and a reduction in customer lead times at Wastequip’s steel division plant in Tennessee?

Henry Retamal: I am a very data-driven person, so I measured the radius of 300 miles of our steel division plant in Tennessee and defined what you always need to have as far as raw materials and what you need to have for quick turnaround for the customer.

When our hauler customers get a new account and they need new containers and trash cans, or they need a new truck immediately, we have to make sure we have that fast turnaround for our customers, as the customer is key to everything we do.

Waste360: How have you worked with senior leadership to identify areas of operational improvement within business units, implement programs and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track efficiency gains and cost savings?

Henry Retamal: Wastequip always works within a five-year plan with well-defined key performance indicators. Every year, around the end of Q3, we set up the budget and plan for next year using those key performance indicators. We refine our five-year plan based on what is happening in the market right now or on any big projects and market trends that could change for that next year.

It really helps us define what is important and the key indicators that really drive the business and align the end goal for this company. Wastequip has a long-term strategic plan in place that incorporates well-defined key performance indicators. This plan is always evolving based on market conditions and trends, as well as customer needs. Having this roadmap in place helps us focus on those areas that are important to the market and helps us align the business objectives to meet those needs.

Waste360: Please discuss the purpose of the “war room” that you and your team created and how you have been able to implement cultural change within the company.

Henry Retamal: The war room is a place where we mutually change the culture by having meetings to discuss our real-deal KPIs, which include safety, quality, efficiency, delivery for the customer and cost of the product. People walk into the meeting, identify the problem and then address how we can work to adjust it. This process changes the culture, so that people aren’t always relying on their computer; the information board is right there and available for them. It’s something that I learned from my previous experience where we can all sit down as a team, look at the task at hand and make a decision together before implementing the action.

Waste360: What we can expect to see from Wastequip in 2020?

Henry Retamal: I think with the acquisition of Amrep, a truck body manufacturer, we have taken another step in our goal to become a one-stop equipment shop for the waste industry. We can now offer solutions that address the needs of the various segments of the waste industry. The acquisition aligns with the value that we are generating for the market and helps position us as an industry leader.

Next year’s WasteExpo will be the first that we have Amrep under our umbrella. This year, they are already part of the family, but at next year’s show, we will have everybody together and we will be able to present value-driven solutions that help our customers achieve their objectives.

We have also recently hired a new Vice President of Research and Waste Stream Sustainability, Kristin Kinder, so it’s safe to say we will be working on taking our existing sustainability initiatives to the next level and working to encourage positive changes across the entire industry.

Waste360: What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome throughout your career?

Henry Retamal: Everything I knew since I got out of college was automotive. It’s a constant learning experience. Every day, I acquire new knowledge, since it’s not only about serving customer by customer, but it’s by region and by application. We have many industry veterans here at Wastequip, and I draw upon their knowledge daily.

Waste360: What advice can you give people looking to start their career in the industry?

Henry Retamal: Don’t take this industry for granted. I think there is a lot to learn. People have to learn as much as possible because this industry is one of the keys to our future. This industry has made great strides over the past several years, but, given the important role we play in our economy and environment, there is always more to be done. We generate trash every day, and we have to manage it well and continue to find good solutions. It’s a challenging field where there is an opportunity to have a very positive impact on the world around us. As an innovative and progressive thinking company, Wastequip is well-equipped to take on the challenges that the industry poses.

Waste360: What do you like to do in your free time?

Henry Retamal: I love to hang out with my kids and watch movies. I like to ride my bike with my kids, and I love to cook. I have a nice outdoor kitchen, where I cook and spend a lot of time with my family.

About the Author(s)

Cristina Commendatore

Former Senior Editor, Waste360

Cristina Commendatore is the former Senior Editor for Waste360. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Connecticut. Before joining the Waste360 team, Cristina spent several years covering the trucking and transportation industry.

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