Curran Kaspari, 25
Quality Engineer, PTI Engineered Plastics Inc.
After watching the automotive industry struggle in the 2000s, Curran Kaspari said she wanted to work at a company that prioritized diversifying its customer base.
She was involved with a research and development co-op from 2015 to 2018 at Rust-Oleum in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., where she assisted in the R&D of aerosol coatings. She graduated from Kettering University in Flint, Mich., with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and joined Macomb, Mich.-based customer injection molder PTI Engineered Plastics Inc. in 2019 as a quality engineer.
"Working closely with customers from different industries has given me a wide range of experiences and helped me understand the difference in expectations and requirements between medical device, automotive, defense and electronics customers," she said.
At PTI, she works closely with customers to develop validation documents that meet customer and industry requirements, evaluates engineering drawings, supports day-to-day manufacturing quality issues, uses statistical software to analyze design of experiments and capability, and is part of a team working to transform PTI into an Industry 4.0 smart factory.
"Some of our recent initiatives include the implementation of robots, network-connected equipment and digitalization of legacy business practices. Historically, PTI printed out standardized record sheets for purposes of handwriting inspection data. After each run had been executed, the record was manually scanned into PTI's database," she said. "Digitizing this process allowed for the PTI team to save time, money, energy, paper and physical storage space. However, since we are still transitioning, we still experience many challenges related to an antiquated process. One of the biggest issues is the misplacement of physical work instructions. This causes significant manufacturing downtime and further drains our limited resources."
Kaspari's mother is a packaging engineer who has worked in the food industry for most of her career, and her younger brother is pursuing an electrical engineering degree.
Kaspari said she looks up to her boss, Steve VanderKooi, quality engineering manager.
"During my internship and my current job at PTI, I learned how much I value having a boss who does not micromanage their employees," she said. "There is never a task that is 'beneath' Steve; he is willing to help with everything from measuring parts to attending a meeting with a difficult customer. In my future, I hope to be a leader who is half as encouraging, helpful, understanding and reasonable as Steve is."
Q: What steps have you taken to advance in your career?
Kaspari: In order to jump-start my career, I chose to attend a college that offered a co-op program, which allowed me to graduate in four and a half years with a bachelor's degree and two years of work experience. Learning to apply my education on the job helped me determine what I did and did not want to do in my career. In my current role, I have taken on heavy workloads with critical customers. Although it can be difficult to keep up with the demanding and varying requirements, I have significantly broadened my knowledge of the plastics industry.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Kaspari: Kettering University requires the completion of a thesis project in order to graduate. During my time at the Rust-Oleum R&D laboratory, I traveled to SEMA with the R&D group focused on automotive applications. We saw many beautiful cars with colored-chrome finishes; this was achieved by applying a wrap to the car, a very expensive process. Upon my return to the lab, I did some research and found that the aerosol automotive aisles lacked chrome finishes. The aerosols I could find that achieved a chrome look were very difficult and required multiple application steps. (The user had to apply a basecoat, then a chrome coat and, in some cases, a top coat.) This expensive, complex process left a lot of room for errors. I set out to create a single-can, colored chrome, aerosol paint available for use by anyone at home in their garage. After months of research and hundreds of trial batches, I achieved what I set out to do and launched a line of single-can, colored chrome, aerosol paints. Custom Colored Chrome was commercialized and can be found at AutoZone, Walmart, Home Depot and other retailers.
Q: What has been the biggest impact/challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Kaspari: Due to the medical device industry that PTI supports, PTI was deemed essential at the start of the pandemic. I was assigned a high-priority project, working with a customer that produces ventilators. Although the unknown virus added stress and anxiety to an already demanding industry, I still had critical project deliverables to meet and customer expectations to exceed. My work during the pandemic taught me the impact that the plastics industry has on the well-being of the world.