Darren Tee is production manager at Inteplast Group in Lolita, Texas. He was born in Malaysia and has bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Tee has been in the plastics industry since 2007. He says his greatest achievement is creating a sense of teamwork among the staff and challenging colleagues who were not performing up to par to make significant improvements.
"In the plastics industry, when it comes to our production staff, some people may not have attended college. But, with the right support, they come into the plant, straight from high school, and work their way up from winder to extrusion operator to supervisor, and even specialists."
What is your current challenge at work?: There are time constraints that sometimes make prioritizing the production schedule and activities difficult, but it must be done so that everything on that line goes smoothly.
Also, in this day and age of smartphone technology, some of our younger employees have a tough time parting with their cell phones, which they can't bring out on the floor. From Facebook to Twitter, we have to remind them that they can't have their phones on the floor, only in the breakroom — it's mostly with our younger Generation Z hires.
What emerging technology or market most interests you?: The innovation and the sustainability of packaging technology. I'm curious to see the developments of biodegradable products as we move into more sophisticated applications for plastic.
What is the best advice you have ever received?: To always remember to have a "Healthy Mind Platter." This consists of the seven daily essential mental activities one needs to optimize brain matter and create well-being. They are: focus time, play time, connecting time, physical time, time in, downtime and sleep time. It's true we all want to do a good job and work efficiently, but you can't stress yourself out. I was given this advice from a former plant supervisor in Malaysia early on in my career.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?: This can be a very challenging industry, but it is also equally rewarding. There are always opportunities for us to integrate continuous growth in many areas as new applications emerge.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?: Without hard-working employees, a good business simply will cease to exist. Everyone plays an important role in any company. Our colleagues that focus on the job at hand, who don't take shortcuts or safety risks, or who complete jobs in a timely manner, deserve to be acknowledged.
What job do you really want to have in the future?: Operations director. I'm drawn to the challenge and commitment of measurable performance and continuous improvement within production. Without being challenged, you won't be motivated to grow.
What do you do to relax?: I enjoy playing basketball with my friends at our community center. I also like reading industry trade magazines about converting. I especially enjoy time with my wife and 2-year-old daughter. I really like bike riding with my wife and daughter at the park. I also read books to my daughter in Mandarin, in order to make sure she is able to speak Mandarin like her mother and me.