Orlando, Fla. — Before he graduated from Rushden Boys School in England, Jamie Pace thought he had his career path figured out when he decided to study electronics.
"I was already heart set and accepted to college when a career adviser who interviewed every student and their family told us of these opportunities for apprenticeships," Pace, 47, recalled at the sprawling booth for Nissei ASB Machine Co. Ltd. at NPE2018 in Orlando.
With encouragement from his mother, Pace, then 17, interviewed for a position that would divide his time between college classes and workplace training at the plastic packaging firm RPC Containers, now RPC Group plc.
After Pace was offered the apprenticeship, he saw his options a little differently.
"I had a choice of having debt or being paid," Pace said.
He took the apprenticeship, and about four years, later he took a leadership role in the RPC maintenance department, which had more than 60 machines and five maintenance engineers.
"Then, RPC bought two ASB machines for PET," Pace said. "Every machine needs a daddy, and those machines became my baby. I got to know them inside out. Then, ASB in the U.K. offered me a position as a service engineer, so I joined."
The apprenticeship put Pace on track to his new role as president and CEO of Nissei ASB Co., a wholly owned subsidiary based in Smyrna, Ga., that serves the U.S. and Canada. The global company saw sales of about $300 million last year, with the U.S.-based operation making up about a third of that.
Three years after taking the U.K. job with ASB, Pace transferred to Japan, where he worked nine years and got to know Daiichi Aoki, the CEO and founder of the company. Aoki became an important mentor, teaching Pace everything from Japanese to leadership style.
"We were the first to have single-step [injection stretch blow molding], and Mr. Aoki has driven it to what our market range and capabilities are today," Pace said. "It was his drive for research and development and investment in searching for the best way to make the best container for every application. He doesn't say no to anything. He's always up for a challenge, which is exciting."
Pace said he eventually moved into a position as technical coordinator for Europe and that turned into a sales role. Then, in 2006, he was assigned to the U.S. and Canada as a vice president and general manager of Nissei ASB Co. Just before he moved to the U.S. with his wife, Helen, ASB introduced the 150DP machine.
"That evolved to replace the SB650 series, and I was heavily involved with that," Pace said, adding that he has seen major advancements in machine efficiency, diversity and range during his 25 years with ASB, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
"Today we have the large majority of market share in single-step injection blow molding worldwide — probably about two-thirds globally," Pace said.
In April, he was selected by the board of directors to replace the retiring Norihiko Adachi as president and CEO of U.S. operations.
"My goal is to strengthen the team with leadership and provide unquestionable customer satisfaction in a nutshell," Pace said. "A lot goes into that and customer satisfaction is No. 1."
Pace expects to hire eight employees, with two in sales and six on the technical side. The site has about 30 employees currently.
"There will be some changes from a quiet Japanese method to a more Western team attitude," Pace said. "That's my desire: to have an empowered team that makes decisions based on customer satisfaction. It will happen. I value the team very much, and I expect the best that everyone can give, and I know that everyone isn't the same."