Cooley Group’s Dwight remains steadfast and willing to change to different climates

RESILIENT WORKFORCE: Daniel Dwight, left, CEO and president of Cooley Group in Pawtucket, speaks with machine operator ­Henry DaSilva. Dwight says his core motivation is to inspire his team to maintain optimism in the face of an ever-changing environment.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
RESILIENT WORKFORCE: Daniel Dwight, left, CEO and president of Cooley Group in Pawtucket, speaks with machine operator ­Henry DaSilva. Dwight says his core motivation is to inspire his team to maintain optimism in the face of an ever-changing environment.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

PBN Manufacturing Awards 2022
STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP AWARD WINNER:
Daniel Dwight, CEO and president, Cooley Group


Pawtucket-based Cooley Group has thrived under the watchful eye of CEO and President Daniel Dwight, who has tirelessly worked not only to strengthen Cooley but also the state’s manufacturing sector.

Dwight says he has always been passionate about building things. In manufacturing, he says, makers are always faced with an endless series of challenges that require constant adaptation.

“You cannot digitize a 100-year-old textile process, build a zero-waste production line, break down functional silos and empower your team members without the willingness to continually change,” Dwight said.

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For Dwight, building a company culture where change is the only constant demands an open-minded leadership style. He says his core motivation is to develop and inspire his team to maintain self-confidence and optimism in the face of an ever-changing economic and manufacturing environment.

Dwight’s desire to lead by example came early in his career when he was starting out with General Electric Co., first working with his grandfather Ralph, an operations leader at GE, and later with late CEO Jack Welch. Both men, Dwight said, were adamant about rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.

“They didn’t dictate from on-high; they got into the details and led by collaborating with their teams,” Dwight said.

Dwight described Cooley as “organizationally flat,” operating with as little hierarchy as possible in a team-of-teams model. Over the past couple years, despite operating in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dwight has led the company to continued growth.

Cooley entered the health care market in 2020 with a new Healthcare Solutions business unit centered around health care devices that will represent more than 20% of Cooley’s portfolio by 2023.

The company also acquired and fully integrated an operation in Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada, which included more than 100 highly trained but underutilized new team members, along with access to increased production capacity. Dwight says the collaboration has not only increased Cooley’s innovation and new product opportunities, but also expanded its access to cross-facility synergies and best-practice sharing.

Hayley Dwight, Cooley’s director of business architecture and change management, said Daniel Dwight manages in a true lead-by-example manner, regularly getting to work when it’s still dark outside to spend the early hours of the morning thinking about conversations he had the day before or reading industry articles and sending them to people on his team he thinks will appreciate or learn from them.

“Dan understands that a collaborative culture demands a baseline of respect for all of our colleagues, regardless of level, and that every single role is critical to our entire team’s success,” Hayley Dwight said. “He walks the manufacturing floor at all of our facilities to chat with everyone, get a sense of team morale and, importantly, learn about what we could change to improve performance. These small but incredibly thoughtful tasks he performs regularly add up over time to establish a collaborative culture from the top down and the bottom up.”

As a further example of Daniel Dwight’s dedication, Hayley Dwight said when he first took over the CEO role, he learned that salary discrepancies existed between men and women at the company and he promptly changed that.

“He immediately, without question and without waiting for the typical annual salary bump time frame, increased employees’ salaries and continued to go out of his way to ensure women were sponsored and supported within the organization,” Hayley Dwight said.

Since joining the Rhode Island business community, Daniel Dwight has committed to both Cooley’s sustainable growth and the development of the Rhode Island manufacturing community. He currently serves as a board member for both the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and Family Service of Rhode Island.

Daniel Dwight says Cooley’s future will continue to evolve around its commitment to the three pillars of sustainable growth: economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

“The quality of our environment and the strength of our local communities are imperative to creating long-term stakeholder value,” he said.

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