What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
I first worked in HR at Sussex IM (then Rexam Sussex) as a high school summer job. My total immersion process began with my participation in employee-related programs, and I immediately understood the importance of the company’s people-first culture to our overall success. I helped plan the company picnic, blood drive, and wellness program over the summer. My father has worked at the company for almost 40 years, so I have been around the plastics industry my entire life. As a child, I remember him taking us to the local Walgreens and pointing out the cosmetic compacts that he helped design and were made in Sussex! He has always had such a passion & excitement for plastics and the Company in general, which made it so interesting for me.
My greatest achievement to date was earning my CPA. I started taking the exam during my last year of college & finished the summer before I started with PwC. I knew that once I started my full-time job, I would be traveling and working late nights, so I wanted to complete the exam over the summer. I took all four parts and passed. It took a lot of hard work and diligence to stick to my study schedule, but it was definitely worth it. This is our family’s work ethic, and it is reflected in our company’s culture as well.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
My biggest failure was when I was the President of my sorority in college and our check bounced when we were paying for an event. Our budgeted revenues for the year were completely overstated relative to our expenses and the Financial Vice President did not have a firm grasp on the financials. As an aspiring CPA, I was extremely embarrassed and had to step in and rectify the situation so that we could pay our vendor. It taught me that as the leader of an organization, you need to have your finger on the pulse at all times. I am generally a hands-off leader, but that is because I know I can trust the professionalism of our amazing team and its ability to get the job done.
What is your current challenge at work?
My current challenge is implementing real-time manufacturing on our plant floor & a fluid 2-week production schedule. The goal is to improve the efficiency of our scheduling process which will in turn provide more visibility to our supply chain team (purchasing, customer service, and warehousing). This visibility will allow us to have less inventory on hand, improve our OTIF, and plan shipments more efficiently. Real-Time production monitoring and scheduling go hand in hand, but this is a significant change to our operations, as we grow and evolve. By providing access to the schedule and real-time production monitoring to all employees, in the long-term we will be able to more closely track cycle time, scrap rates, and labor usage.
What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Sussex IM has an incredibly diverse product line & we serve many different markets. Right now, customization is very popular with many of our customers and we have achieved that through the use of In Mold Decorating technologies. We have been using in-mold labels and pre-forms for years and this is a great way to add customization and private labeling to many of our products. Through the evolving advancements in digital printing, we are providing high quality branding images in reduced lead times. We’re producing parts with digitally printed that contain watermarks which can be read by an app – taking the user directly to the brand’s web site or a custom URL for user engagement. IMD is also a way to decorate products without adding extra labor, because it’s molded into the part and doesn’t need to be handled more than once. We can also add value by packing product into retail packaging and shipping directly to stores or DCs, in effect becoming a complete 3PL contract manufacturing supply partner to our customers.
What about the plastics industry surprises you?
When I first started in the industry, I was surprised at the versatility of the molding machines. Our business is complex and constantly changing, but we have the personnel and equipment to run a 2 shot water bottle cap in the same press that runs components for a wall-mounted soap dispenser. This allows for great flexibility and quick response when our customers need product right away. My family’s plastics-industry orientation pairs well with my business management skills and allows me to make an impact. Much of my role here relates to optimizing the ERP system, which is extremely important, but has very little to do with shooting plastic per se.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The only bad ideas are the ones you don’t say out loud.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Be prepared to evolve with the industry & make changes. No matter how much experience you have in the industry, there are no bad ideas. I have come up with some of my best ideas just brainstorming in the hallway with co-workers, which is also fun!
What is your personal “mold” that you are breaking?
Personally, I am breaking the “mold” of women at an executive level in the plastics industry. This is a highly male dominated industry but with my financial background and experience with manufacturing, I am able to not only assist with optimizing operations on the plant floor but understand the financial impact as well. I believe that women bring a different perspective to manufacturing. We can adapt quickly to change and multi-task at the same time. I am also very passionate about preserving and continuing to develop our company culture and making sure that all employees feel valued and empowered. We are entering a new era where decision making is important and needs to filter effectively throughout all levels within the organization. I want to provide our managers with enough data to make informed decisions on a daily basis.
Associations you belong to or actively participate in:
I belong to APICS, but am most actively involved in the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce. I enjoy giving back to our local Sussex community and have been a board member for the Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce for the last 3 years. I assist with organizing our annual golf outing and volunteer at other chamber sponsored events. Sussex is a close-knit community and Sussex IM, as a company, likes to give back when we can.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
I would walk through the building & thank everyone for working at Sussex IM because without all of our employees, we wouldn’t be in business.
Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
I have had many formal & informal mentors throughout my life, but the person I look up to the most is my dad. He has worked at Sussex IM for almost 40 years. He started out as a set up technician on 2nd shift during college and is now the CEO. He has worked incredibly hard during his career, and I know that he genuinely cares about the employees of Sussex IM. We truly are a family. He is incredibly patient and always willing to share his wisdom.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I absolutely love my job right now, but if I’m going to shoot for the moon, I would be CEO someday.
Last Question: What do you do to relax?
Exercise & spend time with my family. I exercise early in the morning at least 5 days per week. It helps to clear my head for the day and focus on my career and my family. It might only be for 20 minutes, and I may have a toddler running around me, but I always make the time. Our family-oriented culture provides me with the ability to not only excel at work but spend valuable time with my family whenever necessary.