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Our Esteemed Judges.

Our judging panel is made up of both outside industry experts and executive leaders from Seraph’s management team. Learn more about each of our judges and why they’re excited to participate below.


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Searph Operational Excellence Awards 2023

Industry Experts

John Dunn

President — Fleet Vehicles and Services, The Shyft Group

John, an industry veteran, has extensive experience in manufacturing growth, operational improvement, customer relations, and full product development. In his current role, he works closely with the senior leadership team at The Shyft Group to guide the strategic vision of the Fleet Vehicles and Services business unit and oversees its implementation. Mr. Dunn previously served on the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA) Board, the General Motors Supplier Council and the Nissan Supplier Council. He is a board member for the Focus: HOPE organization of Detroit. The charity John has chosen to support is Focus : HOPE.

Jim Barbaretta

General Manager, Brose Tuscaloosa

With over 30 years of industry experience, Jim is a well-known leader in manufacturing operations and quality. In his current role, Jim oversees operations at Brose Tuscaloosa, where they manufacture door systems, cooling fan modules, and seat adjusters for some of the world’s largest OEM’s. Under Jim’s leadership, Brose Tuscaloosa has been named Assembly Magazine's 2022 Assembly Plant of the Year, along with other notable awards including AAMA Outstanding Automotive Supplier Award. While Mr. Barbaretta now calls Alabama home, he is a graduate of the University of Michigan - Flint. The charity Jim has chosen to support is American Red Cross.

Michael Fahy

CEO Region Americas, DB Schenker

In his current role Mr. Fahy has full responsibilities for all P&L aspects across the Americas for DB Schenker including more than 10,000 employees in 123 locations providing over 27 million sq. ft. of distribution operations to its clients. DB Schenker’s Americas presence includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, United States, and Venezuela. Before his time at DB Schenker, he served as COO for an oil & gas distribution company owned by Simon Group Holdings and CEO of their technology companies. The charity Michael has chosen to support is the Micah 6 Community.

Chris Grabmiller

CEO, StaffBright

Mr. Grabmiller is a staffing leader with a proven track record of success in high-demand results-driven environments. He currently serves as the president and CEO of StaffBright, a metro Detroit-based recruiting firm. Chris leads his team in managing a diverse portfolio of companies to align their talent acquisition strategy with their overall business strategy. Chris and his team have witnessed firsthand the incredible challenges the automotive industry has experienced with labor shortages over these past few years and learned how to best support their clients through these changes. The charity Chris has chosen to support is the Special Olympics of Michigan.

Gloria Blanchard

HR Director, Brose

With over 20 years of experience working in human resources, Gloria has expansive knowledge across a wide variety of diverse projects. Gloria has developed training programs that resulted in increased employee performance uniformity, employee retention, talent and resource consolidation of cross-functional teams. Ms. Blanchard has global experience after serving in Corporate Performance Management in Germany. As the Human Resources Director at Brose, Gloria plans, directs, develops policy, and coordinates human resources activities for their operations. The charity Gloria has chosen to support is The Institute of Cultural Affairs.

Kerry Curvey

HR Vice President, Purem

Kerry Curvey has spent over 25 years leading human resources in the automotive industry. Her extensive experience in global senior-level roles provides her with a strong view of how the industry and this role have changed over time. Kerry is currently the VP Human Resources for Purem, a global automotive manufacturer specializing in emission control systems and acoustic solutions. In her role, Kerry plans, directs, develops policy, and coordinates human resources activities for corporate headquarters and supports plant locations. The charity Kerry has chosen to support is the New Day Foundation.

Seraph Team Members

Thomas Kowal

President — North America

Thomas leads the Seraph team with extraordinary depth and breadth of experience, with former Chief Operating Officers, Plant Managers, VPs of Operations, and other leaders and specialists. Thomas has two decades of extensive management and sales operations experience in the automotive industry. Prior to joining Seraph in 2019, during his time as a Plant Manager at Brose, he doubled the size of the operation and launched multiple plants before moving on to become NA Sales Director for Automotive Lighting and then TI Automotive, achieving the introduction of new customers and product technology.

Wade Phillips

President — Europe

Wade Phillips leads Seraph's European operations and brings more than 25 years of experience in the automotive and manufacturing space. Wade has extensive P&L responsibility at Tier 1 automotive suppliers and a proven track record of developing and scaling new business. Prior to joining Seraph, Wade was VP of Operations for Spartan Motors and COO of Detroit Manufacturing Systems, where he led transformative initiatives to improve underperforming operations to achieve best-in-class performance.

Richard Payne

Managing Director

Richard brings more than 25 years of leadership and expertise in automotive and manufacturing operations across the United States and Europe. He leads client efforts in restructuring, turnaround, and operational improvement initiatives. He also provides coaching and mentoring for executive and plant operational leaders. He is a passionate student and teacher of lean manufacturing with a precise understanding of the fundamentals required to build strong foundations for operational excellence.

Jay Butler

Managing Director

Jay brings more than 20 years of experience in automotive, industrial, and consumer product design; manufacturing; and quality control. Prior to joining Seraph, Jay held senior management positions at Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and the Brose Group. He oversees management and leadership training, quality improvement, strategic planning, and product development efforts.

Let our judges know about your extraordinary contributions to the automotive industry!

Online Applications Due March 17, 2023