Taking on future challenges

By Jeannie Reall
Correspondent

Published: August 12, 2014 1:45 pm ET
Updated: August 12, 2014 6:13 pm ET

Image By: Jessica Jordan Some of the future leaders of the plastics industry.

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Canada, Mexico, United States

Michael Lipton

Michael Lipton

37, Arizona Pacific Plastics LLC

Title: President

Location: Phoenix

Birthplace: New York

Education: Bachelor’s degree in international relations, Syracuse University, 1999.

Career highlights: Started in recycling in November 2010. Worked in the yard, moved to plant supervisor. Moved to plastics division in June 2011. Have taken the company from doing small amounts of plastics to 17 million pounds recycled annually and growing.

Q: Tell us about your family.

Lipton: Married, one daughter, age 1.

Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?

Lipton: Started in paper recycling, moved to plastics and was completely self-taught. Paper is large volumes with low profit margins; plastics is low volumes with high profit margins. This attracted me to plastics to grow this division for our parent company, Recycle 1.

Q: What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

Lipton: Getting burned on several loads of material for sale. Taught me to investigate who we work with and to be aggressive, yet conservative.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Lipton: We would like to make our own product — plastic bags, plastic pallets, corner board. We could truly close the loop if we could use our own materials to make products out of our recycled plastics.

Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?

Lipton: The secrecy. Companies hold everything close to the vest, don’t want to divulge anything. There’s enough business for us all. The more we are educated, the better we can be at what we do.

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Lipton: Run! Just kidding. Learn as much as you can, ask questions and overall, have a willingness to learn and get educated.

Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?

Lipton: The owner of our company, who built it from nothing to over $20 million in annual sales.

Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?

Lipton: Owner of this company.

Q: What do you do to relax?

Lipton: Play with my daughter. The minute I see her after a tough day at work, all of my stress melts away.

Edith Ramirez

Edith Ramirez

29, Xten Industries LLC

Title: Production planner, Lockport, Ill., facility

Location: Lockport

Birthplace: Tamazula de Gordiano, Mexico

Education: Bachelor’s degree in international business, Universidad de Guadalajara, 2005.

Career highlights: Worked for County Services, rural investment and project development, in Tamazula de Gordiano, 2005-06; state assessor in the Jalisco Farm/Country Produce Department, 2006-09. At XTen: Machine operator, April 2013 to July 2013; cell leader, July 2013 to August 2013; production planner, August 2013 to present.

Q: Tell us about your family.

Ramirez: I have been married since September 2009. I have lived in the United States for five years: three years in Florida, and almost two years here in Illinois.

Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?

Ramirez: My first plastics job was here at Xten as a machine operator, and now as a production planner, I discovered that we have a lot of opportunities to improve the production process to get customer demands covered on time, because every department in the company is a link of a cycle. If one of us fails in something, this affects the following link, like a domino game.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

Ramirez: Having our customer demands covered on time.

Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

Ramirez: Being late for a customer when we promised their product on time. I still have to work on this issue, but this failure taught me that I have to schedule more accurately and think of every little detail before acting.

Q: What is your current challenge at work?

Ramirez: Helping the production department to get the least possible down time of the presses, scheduling fewer setups per day.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Ramirez: Engineering and processing software.

Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?

Ramirez: Everything that you imagine, you can create it, see it and touch it.  

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Ramirez: Ask all the questions that you need to clear all the doubts in your mind.

Alan Clarke

Alan Clarke

31, Arlington Plastics Machinery Inc.

Title: Vice president

Location: Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Birthplace: Chicago

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, 2005.

Career highlights: Project manager at Icon Identity Solutions Inc. (plastic signage), 2005. At Arlington Plastics: sales associate, 2007; sales/purchasing manager, 2012; vice president, 2014.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

Clarke: We are trying to change the way used equipment is purchased. More of our company’s resources are used to build turnkey systems for our customers. In 2012, we helped a large, U.S.-based pipe company set up a South American plant with our refurbished, turnkey solutions. Our customer was able to get into an emerging market at 50 percent less than with new equipment.

Q: What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

Clarke: Thinking you can automate a relationship. Before, we used to buy and sell equipment with our website or by sending an email. So much is lost without personal contact. It takes more effort and time to make a personal connection, however, we feel it’s worth it.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Clarke: Recycling and bioplastics. We all have a social responsibility. Our used equipment lets start-up companies enter the reclaim market. We need to promote recycling as a positive element of our industry.   

Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?

Clarke: It’s the lack of young people in the industry. The plastics industry is huge and there isn’t a buzz about the opportunities available. In school, for example, no one was talking about getting into manufacturing.

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Clarke: Plastics manufacturing in the U.S. is very strong. Whether you are on the plant floor or in the office, there is plenty of opportunity for a great career.  

Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?

Clarke: David Pietig, He has been with Arlington for almost 20 years. He has taught me some of the most important skills dealing with people. This is something that takes years to learn.

R. Dru Laws

R. DRU LAWS

37,  SELJAN CO. INC.

Title: Vice president

Location: Lake Mills, Wis.

Birthplace: Monticello, Utah

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in mechanical engineering and math, 2003; master’s degree from Queen’s University Belfast, with honors, in polymer engineering, 2005

Career highlights: Mechanical engineer, Mity-Lite Inc., 1998-2005; engineering director, SimTek Fence, 2005-07; development director, Chroma Corp., 2007-10; operations director, Rotonics Manufacturing Inc., 2010-11; vice president, Seljan, November 2011 to present; Six inventions patented or patent-pending; ARM Charles D. Frederick Distinguished Service Award, 2012; ARM Global Product of the Year and Innovative State of the Art Award, 2004 and 2007; Conversion Product of the Year, 2004

Q: Tell us about your family.

Laws: I grew up in a large and close-knit family. I am the eighth of nine children. I have been married for 16 years to my high-school sweetheart. We are the proud parents of four beautiful children ages 4-13, including a son with Down syndrome.

Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?

Laws: After doing maintenance for a company that specialized in injection molding and thermoforming, I was hired as the research and development engineering assistant for a new project involving rotational molding. Within days I knew I wanted to be involved in plastics manufacturing for my entire career, more specifically rotational molding. That is the reason I pursued a graduate degree from the Queens University of Belfast in Northern Ireland — the program had a fantastic reputation within the rotomolding community.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

Laws: My greatest professional achievement is probably my repeated ability to take advantage of growth opportunities. I was always a bit more willing to take the risks that sometimes accompany change.

Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?

Laws: I have always been interested in automation. The recent 3-D printing boom has been very intriguing to me.

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?

Laws: Do it! It’s awesome, and you won’t regret it. It’s an ever-expanding discipline, and shouldn’t ever get boring.

Alicia Cloeren

ALICIA CLOEREN

31, Cloeren Inc.    

Title: Business development director

Location: Orange, Texas

Birthplace: Orange

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and art history from Louisiana State University, 2005.

Career highlights: In college, I worked as an intern in Washington, D.C., for then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-Texas). After college, I worked at our family camera store for a few months, then took a job working for the Art Institute of Houston as a sales representative. In July 2007, I started in Cloeren’s marketing department and held various roles. Now, through ambition and hard work, I am the marketing department. I am also on the Equipment Council for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and serve on the Nominations Committee, as well as the NPE Marketing Committee.  

Q: What is your greatest achievement?    

Cloeren: Being elected to the SPI Equipment Council. At the time, there were no other women or millennials in the “good ol’ boys club,” so I feel like a trailblazer. It was also an achievement outside of our family business. No one can say that being the boss’s kid is the reason I now make decisions at that table with the other industry leaders.

Q: What is your current challenge at work?

Cloeren: Being treated as an equal to the men in this industry. I have to work three times as hard to get the same recognition. Being the boss’s daughter is an additional hurdle. People tend to think things are handed to the boss’s kid, but not when Peter Cloeren is your boss.

Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?  

Cloeren: A college degree or any other degree does not give you respect. Respect has to be earned over time, especially in this industry. Also, the learning curve in the plastics industry is infinite.

Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?

Cloeren: Bob Weeks. I am lucky he came to work for Cloeren after his career at Gloucester Engineering. He taught me about process, but most importantly he coached me in industry politics. He gave me the confidence to work toward goals I did not think were achievable at the time. Now that he has retired, I strive to surround myself with a supportive network of mentors.

Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?  

Cloeren: If I did not work for our family business, I would want Bill Carteaux’s job — president of SPI and of industry networking.  

Q: What do you do to relax?  

Cloeren: I enjoy hiking, photography and travel. But at the end of the workday, I like to pour a glass of wine and take a hot bath with a good book while checking Instagram and WeChatting my friends and answering emails from Asia. That’s the type of simultaneous activities we Gen Xers do to relax.

Five more Rising Stars.

 


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Taking on future challenges

By Jeannie Reall
Correspondent

Published: August 12, 2014 1:45 pm ET
Updated: August 12, 2014 6:13 pm ET

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