When COVID-19 disrupted supply chains at home and abroad in March 2020, ILRie John Frinzi, MPS ’21 found himself at the center of the upheaval. As an executive vice president for the Kenan Advantage Group, his division is responsible for supplying essential industrial and medical gases. He was instrumental in responding to increased volatility in demand, reduced access to customer sites and enhanced COVID-19 protocols.
Luckily for Frinzi, he was also in the middle of obtaining his MPS degree from ILR.
At the onset of COVID-19, his company saw a 300% increase in medical oxygen shipments to hospitals and a subsequent ramp-up in usage of liquid carbon dioxide to dry ice plants as they prepared to help with vaccine storage. Frinzi revamped his workforce to respond to the crisis by creating flexibility in driver resources and in converting nitrogen trailers into oxygen trailers to maintain critical supply.
“In order to respond to the crisis, my entire organization needed to adapt quickly at every level,” Frinzi said. “We not only had to provide functional solutions to supply product, but we also had to enact change management protocols, adjust workforce practices and modify HR policies. The MPS program provided invaluable insight on how to provide the proper governance and support to my workforce to meet the demands of the crisis.”
Frinzi, who obtained an MBA from Penn State in 2015, said he always felt that while an MBA program provided a business framework, it was still “missing something,” and that something turned out to be a specific focus on labor relations. As a result, he enrolled in the MPS program.
“When I looked at my role and my responsibilities, I wanted to implement an effective labor strategy,” he said. “And that's really what ILR offered for me. Having a live actual centralized project to work on with world class faculty is what ultimately sold me on the program. ILR just brought everything together and offered me the opportunity to develop and implement that labor strategy for my organization.”
Frinzi had received a promotion into executive leadership while attending the program and found “immediate value,” thanks to the course “Designing, Managing and Changing Organizations.”
“I was able to make a direct application of my learnings at the very onset of the program. The first class had a focus on organizational change and design, which was extremely timely in my new role. I was able to complete a dynamic assessment of my firm and implemented a matrix style organizational structure to add greater flexibility in my workforce. This proved to be an invaluable decision and was the critical factor in how my organization was able to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
For his capstone project – an in-depth study of a single organization, completed through a series of modules running in parallel with the core MPS curriculum that gives students an opportunity to create a blueprint for how to bring the subject areas of each course to bear in the workplace – Frinzi chose Kenan Advantage Group.
“The MPS capstone was the most robust and complete project I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “I truly gained a diverse perspective by having each individual course tie into the central capstone project and was therefore able to develop a multifaceted approach to the labor issues within my industry.”
“Through the project, I completed an in-depth statistical analysis of the workforce while conducting varied financial assessments of my firm. At the same time, I was able to blend in how decision making of my leadership team affected the culture and performance of my organization. Capturing both the art and science of labor relations through the capstone project proved to be an invaluable experience.”