Russ Klein Balances Quality and Efficiency

In its December issue, HousingWire published an article authored by Safeguard’s Russ Klein, AVP of quality assurance and training, titled Balancing Quality and Efficiency.

Balancing quality and efficiency

INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING was once thought of as something only applied to processes in factories and production lines. But now more office-based businesses are embracing the concepts to increase quality and set production standards, creating and managing systems that integrate people and processes in productive ways.

Field service companies and their internal staffs can benefit from these applications. Safeguard Properties, the leader in the property preservation industry, is using the principles of industrial engineering to set expectations of its employees, balance speed versus quality, select the right candidates for each job function, and evolve training techniques based on production standards.

Many companies make the mistake of taking a “cookie cutter” approach to setting standards. Rather, standards need to be established through a scientific process that is specific to the organization, independent, and averaged over time.

For example, a company could set a production standard of nine minutes to complete an order. But unless this number has been tested with multiple employees and properly analyzed, it may be too much or too little time. Multiple variables come into play that will affect order completion times, such as the order type, the number of photos that need reviewed, client rules, and loan type. These need to be factored into any studies or analysis of production standards.

Because quality and production go hand-in-hand, every production unit can benefit from industrial engineering to some degree. It is important to understand what employees do at the most basic levels to develop appropriate labor standards and training opportunities. This can be achieved through time and motion studies.

Time and motion studies analyze the time spent on each function of a job or series of jobs to evaluate performance. These studies are used to create production standards and check the efficiency of workers. It also is a good way to identify best practices. In the time and motion studies, job functions can be measured to fractions of a second.

For example, in the offices at Safeguard, employees can be measured on how long it takes to answer a phone call, update an order, review photos, or respond to an email. Safeguard employees are also evaluated on quality scores.

To get an accurate assessment, companies need to study a group of diverse employees completing these various functions with differing variables to help determine what standards will produce the best quality in the end. Once the study is complete the results can be analyzed and business standards established for all job functions.

A few common misconceptions in business are that there is always a trade-off between speed and quality and that having employees complete their work at a slower pace will improve scores. Safeguard recently completed a study asking some of its employees to slow down to boost job performance.

The results showed that some of the fastest employees actually had the best quality scores. Knowing that speed and quality can co-exist helped Safeguard adjust its production standards.

Although speed and quality can co-exist, it is important that companies find the trade-off point — or the point at which speed impacts quality — to effectively set production standards. The data collected in the time and motion studies as well as quality control reviews can help companies accurately determine the trade-off point and set realistic expectations for employees.

A critical component to improving quality in any business is selecting the right people to do the job. This includes consistency in the interviewing process and applicant testing.

While selecting applicants, companies must have their interviewers ask a uniform set of questions. This enables all of the interviewers to compare answers and collaborate on hiring decisions. The interviews also should focus on a specific job and pre-determined skill set necessary to be successful in that role.

Applicants lacking those skills should be disqualified for the job.

Another way to establish if an applicant is a good fit for the job is to create a test. Questions about specific behaviors, scenarios, personality, and skills can help predict on-the-job performance and help companies choose the right employees.

Training is another critical component in boosting quality scores while maintaining efficiency. Studies have shown that adult learners thrive on a blended learning model — a mix of classroom and on-the-job training. Adults also learn easier if the training is interactive, especially in the classroom setting. This can be accomplished through alternatives like e-learning and online simulations.

Training depends on quality and production standards. Once those standards have been set, it is important for companies to evaluate their training needs through a job-task analysis. This can be done by identifying all of the tasks performed by each position and creating a comprehensive list of all of the company’s training resources. Comparing those job tasks to the list of available training materials can identify any gaps or conflicts.

Training content then can be designed to fill those gaps and enhance the existing training materials.

Also, it is critical for companies to create a standard leader’s guide for each course for members of their training staff. Every session must have the same delivery, content, and order. It is equally as important to have a mix of professional trainers on staff and utilize the company’s subject matter experts for training new employees.

Along those same lines, companies need to create common training content that departments or service lines can modify to fit their needs. The company only needs to create this common content once so it is easier to update, reduces time trying to find the correct presentation, and provides a consistent appearance for the company.

Finding the perfect balance between quality and speed requires a little industrial engineering even in businesses that are office-based like the internal operations at property preservation companies. With proper production standards, interviewing processes and training, all employees know the company’s expectations and can succeed in achieving the standards set by the company.

Russ Klein is the AVP of quality assurance and training at Safeguard Properties, the largest mortgage field service company in the U.S.

Please click here to view the article in PDF.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders,  and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally. Website:



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.