This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Werhner’s Video
‘I was taught to be grateful and to always be the best I could be.’
Growing up as the middle child of five siblings has great advantages. Werhner Washington and his four sisters and brothers stuck together, enjoyed life, and learned from each other’s mistakes. They were raised with values centered on hard work and the importance of being grateful for everything they had. Washington describes this sense of gratitude as the foundation of his upbringing and the basis of the philosophy he lives by today.
‘I couldn’t tell who were the managers and who were the technicians and that really appealed to me.’
On a cold winter day in upstate New York, Washington was shoveling two feet deep of snow off his driveway. He called his brother, who was attending college in Alabama, and casually asked him what he was doing. His brother’s response: “It’s 75 degrees outside. We’re playing basketball.” It was then and there that Washington made the decision to go south. He applied and was accepted into Tuskegee University.
During his senior year in college he went on a recruiting trip to the Procter & Gamble (P&G) plant in Albany, Georgia. He remembers participating in one of the daily P&G meetings and was impressed by the inclusion of every team member. “I was amazed that I couldn’t tell who the managers were and who the technicians were,” Washington said. A few months later, he took a job as a process engineer at the P&G plant and moved to Albany – where he would launch his career and start his own family.
‘Moving to corporate opened my eyes.’
Eleven years after getting his start in Albany, he was offered the opportunity to work in another P&G plant in Pennsylvania. As Washington was making this decision to move on in the company, he predicted he would return to Albany. “We’ll be back in Albany one day,” he said, recounting a conversation he had with his wife. “I plan to be the plant manager here.”
One of the leading consumer product companies in the world, P&G has manufacturing plants across the country. Each plant manufactures a variety of products and is known within the P&G community to be leaders in different skill sets. For Washington, having the ability to move around to multiple facilities in the Northeast and Midwest allowed him to learn from and leverage strengths of the different plants.
As he moved up within the company, he was offered the chance to transfer to P&G’s corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Knowing the manufacturing portion was one piece in the puzzle to providing superior products to consumers, Washington and his family decided to make the move. In the corporate office, he was able to work on teams across the organization. He learned about consumer markets and how to understand trends, the needs, and wants of the people purchasing products. Washington discovered how the research and development teams took what they learned from consumers to develop products. He also worked with the supply chain group to learn how products were warehoused, stored, and transferred to distribution centers and stores worldwide. By diversifying his skill set and being exposed to different areas in the company, Washington gained the knowledge that was so crucial in helping him understand the big picture of the organization.
‘When I first arrived at the Albany plant, the plant manager job looked so large. When I left 11 years later, I dreamed I would one day have that job.’
Washington was grateful for the opportunity to mature in his career and create opportunities for himself within the company, but he yearned for the day that he could eventually return home.
Thirty years after first walking into the plant and 19 years after deciding to leave Albany to pursue other jobs within P&G, Washington finally got the offer to return to Albany to take the job that had once only been a dream.
‘I lead by example. I believe in strong collaboration and cultivating a culture of ownership.’
As the new plant manager in the Albany location, Washington is inheriting a plant that is one of the largest in the company, both in employee size and physical space. Throughout his career he has always valued teamwork and has a track record of building winning teams — whether he was managing two production lines or a product line operation. “I work with amazing people who do a fantastic job. It is great to see the different thinking styles, points of view, and skills come together to support the plant’s vision of world class excellence,” Washington said. Since Washington has experience working in so many different areas of the company, he is able to help his team understand its role and importance within the bigger picture of the organization. “I’m excited to benchmark our facility against others, helping us to continuously improve and become more visible within the organization and within Albany,” he said.
‘I didn’t realize how much I missed Albany until I came back.’
When Washington worked at P&G’s Baltimore plant, he and his team volunteered with the United Way and even received the “Spirit of Community” award for their level of support. This experience had a profound effect on Washington and inspired him to bring the same zeal for improving the community upon his return home to Albany. He uses the decisions that he makes within the plant and the outreach of the employees and organization to effect change in the Albany community and the local and state economies each day.
“It’s humbling to be part of the largest manufacturer in the county. Our team is aware that for every one P&G job at this plant; three to four other jobs have been created within the state of Georgia,” Washington said. “That’s a tremendous responsibility to have and I take it on my shoulders as the leader to keep this plant strong for the team and for the community.”
It’s also important to Washington that he partner with other area organizations focused on the region’s economic improvement. He currently sits on the boards of Albany Technical College and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. He recognizes the efforts the area is putting toward attracting more industry and talent and is excited about the prospect of helping local schools educate future members of his team.
‘I believe I was born to do manufacturing.’
For Washington, manufacturing is his passion. He loves the cool technology within the industry that requires thinking, problem solving, and process controls. He sees manufacturing as a way to leverage one’s mind and solve problems through creative thinking and critical analysis. As his kids have gotten older, he advises them to find what they love and go after it. As Washington reflects over his life, he says, “It’s this passion and day-to-day appreciation for the opportunities that I’ve had that has kept me happy all of these years and provided me the chance to come back home. And for that — I will forever be grateful.”
About Procter & Gamble
P&G is one of the world’s largest and most profitable consumer products companies. The internationally recognized P&G brands serve nearly 5 billion of the more than 7 billion people on the planet. The company focuses on five key strengths — consumer understanding, efficiency related to consumer value, go-to-market capabilities, brand building, and innovation. The Albany plant employs more than 700 and is part of the company’s paper manufacturing arm. It produces Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper. The company recently announced its plans to develop a biomass plant of up to 50-megawatts at the Albany facility. This will significantly increase P&G’s use of renewable energy and help move the company closer to its 2020 goal of obtaining 30 percent of its total energy from renewable sources.