Dan Chase, 27
Title: Senior supplier quality engineer
Location: Braintree, Mass.
Birthplace: Clinton, Mass.
Social media: Facebook
Education: Bachelor's degree in archaeology and African studies, University of Massachusetts, 2010.
Career highlights: NP Medical (Nypro), engineering intern, 2003-06; Radius Product Development (Nypro), quality intern, 2006-10; SpineFrontier Inc. (non-plastics), quality engineer, 2010; SMC Ltd., quality engineer, 2010-12; Haemonetics, senior supplier quality engineer, 2012-15.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Chase: Growing up in Clinton, on my way home from school, I used to walk down the street to Nypro to watch the machines run through the windows. In a first-grade essay about what I want to be when I grow up, I wrote I wanted to be a plastics engineer. I've always wanted to work with plastics and I think part of that is from growing up in an area with significant plastics history.
I've always been immersed in it. I picked up a drafting contract at Nypro when I was 14, having learned to draft when I was very young. We communicated via email the whole time. So when I walked into the office to collect my check, the engineering manager couldn't believe it was a kid doing the work. He quickly tabulated the savings if he hired me as an intern, and he hired me on the spot.
Q: How did you wind up majoring in archaeology and African studies?
Chase: In college, I started out in control systems engineering (they didn't have plastics at UMass Amherst), but it was all book learning that didn't really correlate to job specific skills. So I transferred into archaeology because I knew how to draft and survey. I quickly started picking up cartography gigs for the state office of archaeology and found work very easily on digs all over the world – it wasn't glamorous but they'd pay my travel and cover my expenses on-site. I didn't make any money off of it, but I was a kid so it didn't matter. What's funny to me is my archaeology training is far more useful than any engineering degree on a daily basis at work.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Chase: $1.4 million cost savings last fiscal year.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Chase: Industry 4.0. The connected workplace excites me. Being able to monitor machines anywhere in the world in real time. Presses talking to automation intelligently. Automation that talks to operators intelligently.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Chase: The age of individuals. Most plastics engineers I've worked with are quite a bit older than I am. There doesn't seem to be an influx of young talent commensurate with the quality of many positions in plastics. These are good jobs with as much room to grow as the individual wants. Besides, you get to work with big machines and robots — what's not to love?
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Chase: Get a pig's-eye view. Start on the floor, work your way up. Starting as a white-collar is all well and good, but understanding the industry starts with understanding life at the machine/operator level. Grow organically from there.
Q: If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Chase: Look to reshore and pull in manufacturing via a captive molder.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Chase: Gordon Lankton. [As I was] growing up, Gordon and Nypro were all over Clinton. All of the ball fields, playgrounds and other enrichment activities I participated it were sponsored by Nypro. He impressed on me at a young, young age that a company can be a force for good in the local community. Most cities or towns wouldn't want a molder anchoring their downtown, but Clinton is Nypro and Nypro is Clinton.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Chase: Vice president of operations for a large medical device company.
Q: What do you do to relax?
Chase: I collect guitars, records and hi-fi gear. I also collect vintage industrial relics like reticles for semiconductor manufacturing, among other things. Industrial archaeological things.