To Jennifer Perez, a member of the Plastics News Rising Stars class of 2017, NPE2018 was a family reunion.
That's because her dad, Charles A. Sholtis, and her grandfather, Charles E. Sholtis, was at the show, too.
Charles E. founded custom injection molder Plastic Molding Technology Inc. in 1973, and he never misses an NPE. Charles A. has been CEO of the El Paso, Texas company since 1998. Perez is the company's marketing communications specialist.
"PMT's founder, Charles E., attends every year and says it's like being a kid in a toy store," Perez said in an interview prior to NPE2018. "He says he wouldn't miss it and still makes the drive over to spend the week at NPE.
"I'm going to NPE this year to check out new technology, meet with suppliers, learn about industry trends and network with both young professionals and industry veterans," she said.
"This is my second NPE. The first time I went, it surpassed my understanding of what a trade show is. I thought it was incredible — so many opportunities to learn and absorb new information," Perez said.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted a career in plastics? What was appealing about it?
Perez: While I was in graduate school working part time for PMT, the advisory board suggested it was time for PMT to have a dedicated marketing person. One of my mentors had done some marketing consulting for the company, and he suggested I apply for the position. I was working on establishing a career path in technical writing, which ended up translating well into an industrial marketing position. I left school and joined the business. I enjoy applying my journalism background into marketing a highly technical company.
Q: What sort of prep work can you do for a trip/trade show like NPE?
Perez: Always plan and organize. I map out the booths I want to visit ahead of time so I can manage my time well. I also try to schedule booth visits around seminars or demonstrations I'd like to see. NPE's My Show Planner seems to be helpful, and you can print your agenda before the show so you don't miss anything.
Q: What are you looking for?
Perez: I want to gain a good understanding of the injection molding landscape in the future — the role of additive manufacturing and 3D printing, [internet of things], new software, etc., and how we can incorporate new ideas into our processes.
Q: What are you expecting?
Perez: I'm expecting a busy and eye-opening show with lots of opportunities for learning and networking.
Q: What do you think a typical day at the show will be like for you?
Perez: I will be walking the show, meeting with suppliers, attending in-booth events and trying to schedule in quick meetings with industry colleagues or material suppliers.
Q: What do you think will be the main talking points at NPE this year?
Perez: The hype around Industry 4.0 is now becoming reality for manufacturers in the U.S., so it's less of a buzzword now and more of, "How can we incorporate this into our plant floor?" I hope to see a lot of integrations and great ideas regarding [the internet of things]. Another thing at the forefront is plastics and sustainability, due to the focus on recycling issues with single-use plastics and the prevalence of bag bans in the U.S. and Europe. I hope to see some interesting takes on the benefits of plastics and how we can become solution-providers throughout the supply chain.
Q: What are you excited about seeing or participating in?
Perez: I like learning about industry trends and insights. This is something I think the Plastics Industry Association is especially good at putting together, whether it be the latest from experts or from their own staff.
Q: What's your strategy for networking at events? Do you enjoy it?
Perez: Networking was an acquired taste for me. I had to leave my comfort zone to network with people at the first NPE I attended. My advice for young professionals new to the industry is to attend events where networking is the goal — like Plastics FLiP & Sip — because they make it easy
Q: Do you do anything for fun at the show, or is it all work all the time?
Perez: It's work and fun — a major change of scenery from the office or factory floor. Plus, it's a tiny family reunion for me.
Plastic Molding Technology Inc. photo