When Ray Attiyah, president of the business improvement firm MMS, returned from a trip last year, his office had shrunk. Sure, it was still in the same fourth floor suite of a Deerfield Township office tower. But MMS employees had decided that another one of the staff members needed the roomy corner office for client meetings.

So they gathered Attiyah’s furniture and personal effects and carted them to a smaller interior room down the hall. Problem solved.
At other companies, such a switch might not happen with anything less than an act of Congress. But at MMS, making decisions and nimbly implementing solutions is not only acceptable, but expected. Attityah runs his own company the way he wants to help others run theirs: By empowering all employees to be part of the company’s success — whether or not the boss is around.
“No one person can create a culture,” Attiyah says. With that in mind, MMS shows companies how to be efficient and poised for growth by focusing on the team: Training managers to solicit input and inspire others, and teaching employees to communicate, solve problems, and recreate success.

“Trust is the lubricant of the most efficient system,” he says.
Acronyms are popular at MMS. Attiyah’s business card says he’s president and Chief Remover of Obstacles — and he quips that MMS could mean Motivate My Supervisors or Maximize My Strengths. “We help our clients and teams remove obstacles,” he says.
With that goal and principles that incorporate Lean Enterprise, Six Sigma, and TQM, Attiyah’s company has worked with dozens of well-known companies in the region — including BAE, TimberTech, The G&G Manufacturing Co. and Nisbet Brower.
Attiyah is only 37, but his easy smile and dark hair make him look even younger. He’s laid back and casual, making jokes and small talk, until talk turns to the subject of business improvement. Then he sits forward in his office chair and speaks resolutely of lean simulation, improvement initiatives, leadership training.

“This is not work,” he says. “I get to live my passion.”
In 1996, Attiyah started the company as Midwest Manufacturing Solutions out of his home near downtown Cincinnati. He’d spent several years working for Johnson & Johnson and printer Johnson & Hardin, where he’d held operations positions that involved “going from department to department to revamp the way they were doing things.” By 2003, when Attiyah moved MMS to an office building in Deerfield Township, he had five employees. Today, the company has 30 people, and has added offices in Columbus and Indianapolis.
When hired by a company to solve a problem or improve operations, Attiyah’s approach involves immersing himself or one of his project managers in the work, becoming part of the client’s team for an extended time. The project manager works in every department and on the shop or manufacturing floor to learn the business and the process. “We’re hands-on with implementation,” Attiyah says. The goal is to quickly diagnose problems and introduce solutions — without mincing words.

“Ray is an upfront, factual guy,” says Gary Allen, president of the mobile security division of BAE Systems and one of MMS’ first customers. Back then, Allen was an executive at O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, a $15-million, privately owned vehicle armoring company in Fairfield. Allen liked Attiyah’s confidence, he says, and the fact that he didn’t use slick words and make unrealistic promises. “Manufacturing is hard, and if you don’t look at it in a hard way, I don’t think you’re going to be successful. Ray does that,” Allen says. “He’s not going to make everyone a Ph.D in lean manufacturing. He focuses on simple tools, improving the shop floor, key guys.”
Back then, Attiyah says, Allen hired him to help him improve on the 650 hours it took O’Gara to armor a vehicle. The goal was 400 hours. “We got it to 200,” Attiyah says, matter-of-factly.

He’s not surprised by the success. In fact, it’s what he expects. Before he took the O’Gara job, he spent a couple days of his own at the plant, immersing himself in the operation. Today, through growth and acquisitions, O’Gara is part of the $33 billion BAE Systems, which recently announced it will hire hundreds more employees. “Ray was instrumental in helping me get manufacturing and growth underway,” Allen says. MMS continues to work with Allen and more than one division in the company.
Of course, successful business owners know that building long-term relationships is critical to longevity. But in many ways, Attiyah eschews other business conventions: Clients don’t sign contracts and he doesn’t like the term consultant. “That starts off with a ‘con’ then ‘in-sult’ then ‘cha-ching’,” he smiles.

By all accounts, Attiyah is committed to employees and their families. Photos of his wife and three young children decorate his office, and he often talks about the inimitable value of personal integrity and a strong family foundation. MMS employees have a stipend for house cleaning — and they can’t choose to take the money instead. Each year, the company pays for a “Ladies Day Out” for female employees to be pampered. Employees and spouses are invited on an annual company trip.

“I find that if you take care of the team you have, they take care of the customer,” Attiyah remarks.  On Mother’s Day, MMS sends flowers to the mothers of employees. “It’s thanking them for creating and raising such a great person who is now part of our team.”
One of eight children himself, Attiyah credits his father, a schoolteacher for 35 years, with his approach to training and communication. “Early on, I noticed how he would teach me math,” Attiyah explains. “He would teach the concepts instead of teaching with tests.” By doing that in companies, Attiyah is able to find what’s going right and repeat it.

“Most companies focus on the negative, what’s not working, who’s the poor performer,” he notes. “Our philosophy is to point out the positive, too. We look at WWW. What went well.” Then they talk about it.

Driving such communication is one way MMS helped The G&G Manufacturing Co. in Cincinnati. The family-owned company has 60 employees, many with 20 years tenure. They know their jobs, but co-owner and vice president Jeff Gleich saw growth potential, and felt communication needed improvement. The company didn’t have any meetings or a real way to measure results.
“We did such a good job at fighting fires that our customers were happy,” Gleich explains.

MMS came in for a few months last year. “It’s now good, controlled, positive activity,” Gleich says. “We’re all responsible for our success.” Employees and managers meet often, discuss meaningful processes, and document solutions. They measure results, too.
MMS has seen results of its own. Over the years, the company has added seminars and workshops to its offerings, including multi-day executive events and lean manufacturing training that uses Lego building blocks for simulations. And it’s not just about manufacturing. The concepts that MMS employs work across the board, including the financial services and health care sectors, he says.

Those concepts must work at MMS, too. Attiyah wants his own operation to be proof positive that empowered employees are the backbone of efficient and effective operations, whether the work is taking place on the shop floor, in a cushy corner room, or the smaller office down the hall.