For Nancy Barrie, compliance is about more than ticking the boxes; it's about making a business better.
This came into focus at her first plastics job as quality manager at a struggling automotive supplier. The company took on a project without analyzing how the process should work, she said, leading to high scrap and frequently rejected parts.
"They just did not have the facilities or the systems in place to support assessing whether they had the feasibility or capability to make the product that they were being asked to make," she said.
The supplier ultimately was forced to close, but Barrie was able to apply that experience to strengthening her own approach.
"It was definitely difficult, but it opened my eyes to the importance of that feasibility and the importance of understanding what you're getting yourself into," she said. "It drove my quality management career in a better direction because I gained that understanding."
In her role at PTI Engineered Plastics Inc., Barrie emphasizes making standards meaningful as a path to better business processes.
"I think we sometimes lose sight of why we're doing this — why do we have the ISO standards? Why do we have the TS standards?" she said. "And the purpose is to make your business stronger. It's not to nitpick.
"As soon as your company is better financially, better business-minded, has better processes in place, you become a better supplier."
She commended PTI and, in particular, owner Mark Rathbone for its eagerness to support that approach.
"That's why it's glorious to work there," she said. "They listen, they see, they look to the future. We're looking at our core competencies; we're trying to really understand our processes before we move on to something next, but it's got to be supported from the top down, and it's been a joy to work here because of that."
Barrie raises border collies and goats, enjoys gardening and is the president of her county hockey association. Her favorite advice is the often-repeated "measure twice, cut once," which she sees as applying everywhere; you should always double-check and verify facts before you speak.
The plastics industry, she notes, is quite young compared to metals and other manufacturing industries.
"It's new, and there's a lot of things that we still have yet to learn — about not only the medium that we're using to manufacture product, but the processes that can be utilized to make it, and to make it more accurate and more robust," she said. "The possibilities are still endless as far as what can be done with it and also how to manage it for recycling and reusability and durability."
Anyone looking to join the plastics industry should be prepared for the high rate of innovation this brings, she added: "Get ready to move because we are constantly changing."
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