Continuous Improvement: A Mindset at Olin Brass

Chris Litras, the new Director, Human Resources Olin Brass – Mill Products, likes to tell a story about an encounter he had in East Alton, Illinois shortly after joining the company in 2010.

“I was wearing an Olin Brass shirt, and a local guy I had just met pointed to it and said, ‘I see you work for Olin when are you moving to Mississippi.’ I laughed and said, ‘No, I work for the new company. The one that’s staying. Olin Brass.’”

The incident spoke volumes about the challenges that Chris and the Olin Brass team would encounter.  After all, it had been three years since Olin Corporation had sold Olin Brass to Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc. And while the historic Olin Brass Mill and Casting Facility remained East Alton’s largest single employer, it seemed like no one even knew who owned it.

Chris wasn’t discouraged or even surprised. In fact, he was used to it. In his 30+ year human resources career, he had played key roles in turning around several similar companies – mostly manufacturers, and mostly in metals. And he was well aware of the situation at Olin Brass before joining the company, having completed a successful consulting project for the Mill Products division in early 2010.

“Working as a consultant, I had the best interview process you could ask for,” he said of his introduction to Olin Brass. “I got to look under the sheets and saw a company ripe for change with a lot of opportunity.”

Once onboard, Chris became a part of the management team driving the change necessary for the Company’s success.  “We immediately began identifying areas for improvement and developing and implementing processes to achieve it,” he said. “Employee safety is a good example. We began to implement a comprehensive safety program to drive the evolution of a company-wide safety culture, which has been very effective.”

Improved communication has also been critical to the company’s success. “We’ve instituted an internal communication structure throughout the organization,” he said. “Today, our department managers and floor supervisors hold regular meetings with all their shift personnel, and we have a layered communication process that connects up to the executive level.”

The goal is to empower our employees to  develop a higher level of commitment and ownership for business performance”, he said. And so far, so good.

“I think things have changed dramatically over the past 3 years. When we looked at the business in 2010, we saw a business that was very stagnant. Today, we see one whose employees are getting engaged in what they do and excited about the future. Because they see that they’re making a difference and what we’re doing is working.”

“I’m excited about where Olin Brass is going, and proud to be part of it,” he said. “Continuous improvement is key to our success. And it’s great to work for an organization that is committed to this journey.”

A subsidiary of Global Brass and Copper Holdings, Inc., Olin Brass is a world leader in its own right, one of the oldest, most innovative and diverse producers of copper alloys and products in the world. With six domestic operating units and an international group serving Asia and the Pacific Rim, the organization is poised to maintain and expand its presence in copper markets worldwide.  For more information, please visit