Chairman, President & CEO
Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.
Location: Bridgeville, PA
Industry: Specialty Metals Manufacturing
In 2008, Dennis Oates assembled a talented management team and initiated a program to position Universal Stainless in the aerospace industry. Through targeted investments in advanced manufacturing equipment, systems and processes, the company underwent a remarkable transformation. Despite facing challenges during the financial crisis of 2009, Oates’ leadership and commitment allowed Universal to achieve rapid sales growth, increased market share and expanded profit margins.
Oates also formulated an aggressive strategy to invest $150 million in a state-of-the-art greenfield facility. This facility introduced cutting-edge steel-making technologies, including vacuum induction melting and radial hydraulic forging, solidifying Universal’s position as a key supplier in the aerospace metals supply chain. The investment enabled the company to penetrate the high-end specialty metals market and expand its product portfolio.
Oates described his biggest business risk as building a “technologically advanced specialty metals manufacturing facility in the middle of the U.S. Rust Belt, competing against significantly larger global manufacturers in the very demanding aerospace arena.”
With Oates leading the way as chairman, president and CEO, the company has earned 54 aerospace approvals and successfully developed and commercialized 20 new products, with 19 more in the pipeline. These achievements, coupled with long-term contracts with renowned companies like Rolls Royce, have validated Universal’s capabilities and competitiveness in the industry.
Oates envisions rapid growth for Universal Stainless, with a focus on developing technologically advanced products and capturing additional global market share in underserved segments.
Oates was honored as the Stainless Steel Executive of the Year in 2018 at the Metal Bulletin and SMR Stainless & Special Steel Conference in Helsinki, Finland. He received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2012 for his excellence in industrial products and services. Oates has also served on the boards of various industry organizations and is the long-standing chairman of the Specialty Steel Industry of North America, representing the industry on trade, environmental and market development issues.
Oates has instilled a highly structured safety culture at Universal Stainless, resulting in an OSHA recordable rate of less than 1.
Oates described his checklist for addressing complex business problems: “Focus your best people closest to the perceived problem on a data-rich process to clearly identify, define, and quantify the problem. Solicit support from throughout the organization as required. Execute a measurable and speedy action plan. Check and validate actions are eliminating the problem [too many skip this step!]. Celebrate your success.”
Denny has been quoted many times saying If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as one of my Golden Retrievers. Lukens Steel began a 5K road race to raise money for charity and promote physical fitness among its employees. Since Denny never went anywhere without his Golden, Wally, they ran the race together. The organizers created a K-9 division with Wally taking first place. The following year about 30 new K-9 participants ran the race. Wally held his first-place status for several years while the K-9 division continued to grow.