Applications engineering manager,
Barbara Arnold-Feret is the applications engineering manager for EngATech, a seller of 3-D printing machines. Working from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, she covers the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Arnold-Feret considers herself a “generalist” in plastics processing — she knows a little bit about a lot of technologies — and has published more than 40 papers and articles. Self-described as “ageless,” she worked in several processing areas in sales and also became the general manager of a molding plant. She led several plant turnarounds as an independent contractor and revamped sales for several firms as a channel manager.
She received a bachelor's degree from University of Missouri-Kansas City and did post-grad work at UMKC and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Arnold-Feret is active in the Society of Plastics Engineers, being honored as SPE Mold Designer of the Year in 2012, winning the SPE President's Cup in 2009 and the SPE Leadership Award in 2005. She also participates in SME events and is active in supporting secondary education and integrating more manufacturing-related courses into STEM programs in her school district.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Arnold-Feret: I made extrusion dies for my dad as a machinist as part of making some money in college to help pay for school. I got interested in the business side of plastics and found that I loved manufacturing work and the industry.
Q: What has been your greatest achievement professionally?
Arnold-Feret: Creating jobs for others by turning around three different facilities.
Q: What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Arnold-Feret: I took a position with a firm that entailed a move to another town and state. The day after my furniture arrived they closed the plant. The experience reinforced three valuable lessons: Don't ignore warning signs and ask questions when something feels amiss; always have a contingency plan; and never stop networking.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Arnold-Feret: Time management — being proactive and reactive at the same time for different situations. A tech problem, while more tactical, has to have immediate attention. Yet you also have to take care of strategic questions on where you want to be in the market, competitive positioning, etc. Another challenge is balancing all the demands of my work with the demands of family. I have wonderful husband and son; both have been to far too many plastics events over the years but they have never complained. (Well maybe my son did in the pre-teen years when he had to go to SPE board meetings, but he certainly had a leg up in high school when it came to design and materials!)
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Arnold-Feret: I am so glad to be in 3-D printing right now as it takes on more accepted use in tooling, design verification and shop floor applications such as jigs and fixtures.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Arnold-Feret: The large amount of “experience” knowledge that isn't written down. Plus, how we constantly relearn many of the basics of processing and material after our knowledge leaders and experts are retiring. And that we keep trying to apply endless metrics to previously undefined areas such as design, job changes out, material change outs and other factors when the managers setting the standard may not understand the basic of molding.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Arnold-Feret: Be an active listener when talking to someone; be engaged in the moment rather than trying too hard to plan what you are going to say in return. And relax; enjoy what you do and your clients will enjoy it too.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Arnold-Feret: Learn about different technologies and how each is different and each is similar. Learn about the fit between materials, design, processing and pricing and how each affects the other. And, finally, experiment and go after big projects in steps, and be persistent.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Arnold-Feret: Go to the shop floor and talk to as many people in as many different positions as possible. Technical materials, numbers, etc., can be learned by just about everyone, but people and what drives them takes connecting with them, finding out what drives them, learning about what they see every day and why they work with you at that firm. People and the soft skills are the most difficult thing to evaluate and learn about in a firm, so first impressions and the tone of the team have to set first.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Arnold-Feret: I am been fortunate to have several in my career, all of whom have influenced me as well as given me sage advice. Notables include Glenn and Patsy Beall regarding professionalism, plastics, rotomolding and contract manufacturing, Rick Noller on networking, Jordan Rotheiser on design and integrating design with manufacturing and tooling, Greg Krikorian and Tom Mueller on 3-D printing, Don Pellow when I first started out as a professional, Scott Peters for mold making and overseas sourcing, and too many others to count. Of course my father an mother were huge influences, Dad for his technical knowledge and common sense approach to manufacturing and my Mom for her unwavering approach to “doing the right thing” and work ethic.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Arnold-Feret: Running a small diversified contract manufacturing shop.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Arnold-Feret: Golf, read, travel and dance as part of an ethnic folk dance troupe in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. (i.e. balancing a sword, candle, or a water jug on my head while dancing as part of a large group.)