Jeremy Kauffman, 29
Senior Injection Molding Process Engineer, Steris Endoscopy
When Jeremy Kauffman was touring colleges, the plastics engineering technology chair at Penn State Behrend said, "Look around you. What do you see that is made of plastic? This industry isn't going anywhere anytime soon." That stuck with Kauffman.
"We use plastic products every day, from bottles to phones to cars and even medical implants," he said. "Being in the industry, you have the ability to impact and better the life of many people; that is why I chose to pursue a plastics engineering degree."
He started in the industry with a process engineering role as an intern for a custom injection molding company.
"It was eye-opening to see the vast amount of products being molded and the different requirements each product had," he said. "Seeing the technology and automation abilities really sparked my interest."
Kauffman joined Steris Endoscopy as an injection molding process engineer in April 2019 and became senior injection molding process engineer in October 2021. Steris, of Mentor, Ohio, is a global provider of patient care products and services with an emphasis on infection prevention.
"As a process engineer, I am primarily responsible for validating new tools/equipment and assisting production with troubleshooting needs," he said. "I get the most satisfaction walking through process troubleshooting with technicians. The achievement is 'seeing the switch flip' when they start to understand the thought process and reasoning within the molding process. Rolling out an in-house training program for technicians has really helped them with their skill set related to their job duties.
"I take great pride in the processes I validate; the bigger process window I can give a specific tool/part ultimately results in less scrap/headaches for part handlers down the line," he added.
Working in the health care and medical space, Kauffman has dealt with many challenges throughout the pandemic.
"Global supply chain constants, specifically related to raw resins," Kauffman said about the biggest obstacles. "The inability to secure resins consistently has opened the door on creative scheduling of runs to ensure molding parts are not backordered."
Finding skilled, technician-level labor is a current hurdle.
"Without finding the people with experience, it forces the hiring of 'greener' personnel, which in turn forces more dedicated training, not only related to the company but also to injection molding," he said.
Kauffman is a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers, Penn State Alumni Association and the sustainability council at Steris.
"It is a big industry with a lot of opportunities and career paths," Kauffman said. "Don't settle, and continue to learn different aspects to further yourself both personally and professionally. Do not be afraid to take lateral career steps if it gets you closer to your ultimate goal."
Q: What is your philosophy related to plastics and sustainability? What steps have you taken to improve plastics' sustainability, either in work, your community or personal life?
Kauffman: It takes everyone collectively to make the biggest impact on sustainability and better the future of the environment/climate. It takes efforts from individuals to do their best reducing, reusing and recycling but also takes the efforts of companies to do that as well. We have to continuously improve to better protect the environment.
At work, I am a team member on the sustainability council, where we focus efforts/projects to become more sustainable — from implementing recycling programs and training employees to proper recycling practices, ensuring energy-efficient lighting is being used and reducing the amount of industrial waste we produce. Specifically, to my department, we have thorough meetings regarding plastic part design to ensure parts are modeled to best design practices to limit the amount of scrap we will potentially make. Additionally, we have deep discussions on the need of cold vs. hot runners in new molds to further reduce plastic material consumption/waste.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Kauffman: Automation, seeing robots complete demolding and secondary operations including assembling components always fascinates me! And now with cobots making a surge within the industry, seeing robots and humans working together, side by side, without guarding is really cool.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Kauffman: I would get intimate with the company, making sure I understand (to the best of my ability) each job function and the importance to the company. Once I had that understanding, I would develop a formal (company) training program with career ladders in effort to retain the talent and personnel within the company.