“There’s opportunity in poker. … If Horace Greeley were alive today, his advice wouldn’t be ‘Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.’ Instead, he’d point to that deck of cards on the table and say, ‘Shuffle up and deal.’”

– Lou Krieger, professional poker player and best-selling author on poker strategy

Did you hear the one about the pizza guy who cleaned up after placing an “all in” bet in a factory version of draw poker?

The guy is sitting with a strong hand, by all accounts – trip Queens with an Ace-Nine kicker. Stand pat, and the odds say he’s got the pot. But with ice water in his veins, he tosses in the Ace-Nine and rakes in two fresh cards from the dealer. Twin deuces. Full house. He goes all in. He gets the call, and the chip pile grows. Flip ’em over … ka-ching.

“The smart approach may be ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, but that’s not what we’re all about. We’re about ‘it’s not broke, but let’s make it better,’” says Greg Wilkett, the “pizza guy” in this analogy, whose business card reads vice president of manufacturing at Jane’s Dough Foods, a pizza and dough producer in Columbus, Ohio, and the baking division of the Donatos family of pizza restaurants and retail/grocery brands.

“The data indicated that it would be better. It’s not blind faith. It’s a calculated move.”

Tom Krouse, Donatos’ president of expansion brands, chimes in: “You were more nervous than you were letting on.”

If so, that’s one heck of a bluff.

Wilkett had the cards falling his way when he ditched the petroleum-based lubricants at Jane’s Dough Foods’ 50,000-square-foot plant in the fall of 2009 in favor of synthetic lubes. Over a four-month period following the conversion, the advantages were apparent – a reduction in downtime and the elimination of catastrophic failures.

But he didn’t stand pat. In early 2010, he dumped the synthetics and wound up strengthening his hand with bio-based lubricants. As a result, the house is full. Record uptime is allowing the plant to fill an increasing number of orders and raise capacity utilization into uncharted territory. More than two million pizzas and nearly 15.5 million pounds of dough (both all-time highs) will be made this year.

Good move? You bet.

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