Alaina Martin, who has a bachelor's degree from Ohio University in industrial and systems engineering, worked at a Tier 2 automotive supplier, then moved to Ply Gem, the construction products extruder, working in a plant in Jasper, Tenn.
"Being on the floor was 95 percent of my job," she said. "I was rarely behind a desk, only if I was pulling data. But I was always on my feet." She had a managerial role with the Ply Gem factory's compounding department. That was Martin's first plastics job.
"I was interested in the fast-paced extrusion environment, so being an engineer on the plant floor was very appealing to me. I love being in on the action and seeing real-time results for production through process changes," she said.
After about two years at Ply Gem, Martin, 28, returned to Ohio to become quality engineer at Engineered Profiles LLC in Columbus. The pace also is fast, but Martin said the business is different at a custom extruder like Engineered Profiles.
Ply Gem extrudes vinyl windows, siding and other high-volume products, pumping out the pounds of plastic. Custom extrusion is more focused on many customers and smaller volumes, she said.
But Martin's job now has more desk work, which took an adjustment for the always-on-the-go Martin. "I have learned to discipline myself and become well-rounded," she said.
Her greatest achievement? Improving color change by using technology. She worked with her team to develop the ability to identify the color of plastic in the adapter of an extruder with a color photospectometer before it exited the die.
Color plays into her biggest failure as well: approving a shipment with color that did not meet customer specifications.
"The sample passed all internal inspections, but when it was later exposed to direct sunlight, the color changed. That experience taught me to rely on more than just my instruments," Martin said.
Her mentor at work is Matt Sayers, the process lead. "He has years of experience, which makes him great to bounce around ideas with. Matt is a real asset with the experience to help me with personal growth towards my goals," Martin said.
Martin's husband, Troy, quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad to their 18-month old son Myer. Her favorite thing to relax is dancing with Myer. "He's got some pretty sweet dance moves," she said.