For the last 12 years that Dymotek Corp. CEO Norm Forest has been involved with the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, one thing stands out: "[The Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference] is the all-time most inspirational and worthwhile conference of the year."
Forest has been with the Ellington, Conn.-based injection molding company for 20 years; he joined the company as a plant manager.
"I think it might have been right around the 2008-09 timeframe, but a board member from [MAPP] happened to be in the area and said, 'Norm, you should really go to this. You'll definitely find that it's worth every penny,'" recalled Forest, who is on the board of directors and vice president of MAPP. "But he was right; it took that personal call to get me there, and now I make the personal calls because I feel it adds such value."
Forest attends the conferences for the past decade, said the company goes because the presentations and breakout sessions can not only help the company prosper, but also help the employees on a personal level.
"The first time I went and was exposed to the personal and professional development that I was able to participate in, I felt it a crime not to have more of the company to participate," Forest said. "So, every year since, I have always invited more folks. I like to bring folks who have inspirational value; they're like the positive thinkers, the ones who are sending the message out for the organization."
David Hastillo, technical engineering manager at Dymotek, attended his first Benchmarking conference in 2014. The theme that year was "The Cadence."
"This topic and the speakers that supported it have had a great impact on my life," he said via email. "The cadence provides a heartbeat, something that can provide a rhythm for a person or a group to follow. It is a regular occurrence that can help define structure and create normalcy. Daily activities can often lead in many different directions. I have found that refocusing on the cadence helps me reset the compass and make sure that I don't get too far off course."
Training specialist Cindy Ryan, who attended her first Benchmarking conference in 2016, said Troy Nix, executive director of MAPP, was the most memorable speaker. She described him as "energetic and engaging."
"Last year, Troy related a fuel gauge to the amount of time we have left in our lives to make a difference," Ryan said in an email. "Some of us were a full tank and others, he noted, were approaching a [quarter] tank. After the conference, he sent us a coaster with the fuel gauge on it. I have it on my desk, and I am reminded every day that I need to do my part before my fuel gauge gets too low."
Frank Fasano, director of engineering and quality, echoed Ryan's opinion about Nix's fuel gauge presentation: "It was a fun and shocking metaphor for life and business."
Vice President of Operations Shelley Fasano has attended "at least" four of the conferences, she said in an email. She said one of her favorite speakers was Kindra Hall, who spoke on the importance of sharing your message through storytelling: "I now follow Kindra on all social media and continue to enjoy her message."
"MAPP works on providing opportunities to share information, benchmark best practices and problem-solve. At the conference, MAPP delivers a forum to network and collaborate with industry peers, giving us the chance to work together and find solutions," she said.
"The MAPP organization does an amazing job lining up world-class speakers," Fasano said.
The 2017 Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference will be held Oct. 11-13 in Indianapolis. This year's theme is "An Uncharted Journey," which the official conference website describes as "designed to inspire, motivate and educate processors on how to positively influence the people around them."
"[Being a MAPP member] has been a very positive impact for me," Forest said. "What's been very gratifying for me, being a member of MAPP, is the outreach of sharing of best technologies and best practices, rather, and being able to network and communicate with peers in our industry has been able to catapult us by following other folks' success in the industry."