Joshua Long, 27
Project Manager, Comar LLC
Joshua Long's first plastics industry job was with Berry Global Group Inc. in 2015. At first, he said, the industry "doesn't seem like much" with plastic bottles or lids, but his interest grew once he dug into "the details and processes that are used to make everyday items."
"With an industry as broad as plastics, your career potential and ability to constantly learn new technology is endless," said the Lancaster, Pa.-based project manager for packaging, device and component molder Comar LLC.
Long lists designing, developing and patenting a way to reuse byproduct of synthetic gypsum from coal plants by pelletizing into a usable fertilizer in 2014; project managing and assisting sales in recovering and growing a large personal care account through an expedited quoting process with ISBM and EBM in 2016; successfully managing a multilocation, multiasset expansion of ISBM in 2018; aiding and collaborating in the design and integration of a new ISBM platform in 2018-20; and managing a multisite, multiasset expansion of EBM, IM and ISBM in 2020 as career highlights.
"Taking an ISBM process that has been in the industry for years and asking the question of how it can be improved, breaking down the intricacies to optimize a machine's throughput while eliminating the limiting factors, making a change in an industry that is small yet massive takes time and effort," Long said about his greatest achievement. "However, the result and collaborations can change the industry."
Long said the coronavirus pandemic has been a big challenge: "Everything from shipments to labor are impacted. The ability to adapt and be as proactive instead of reactive in an ever-changing pandemic can be tricky."
Project managers must be as proactive as possible for success, he said, having plans to execute as well as backup plans.
"With this pandemic, every day could change your scope, timing or cost," he said. "Learning to not only approach every day with several plans in the waiting, but to outline the potential redirections, has presented its own challenges."
Long participates in Project AWARE's Dive Against Debris program, which empowers divers to remove marine debris from the ocean and report data on the types, quantities and locations of material collected. He is married with a 2-month-old son and enjoys going fishing, archery hunting, diving and golfing.
Mike Ruggieri, CEO of Comar, nominated Long for Rising Stars.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Long: My main interest is around the efficiency monitoring and process improvement technology. Looking forward to seeing how it can be applied to drive from engineering through to operational excellence. Another key area would be in the electrification of predominantly hydraulic processes.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Long: The wealth of knowledge that surrounds you. This industry is extremely talented and well versed in the challenges it presents. With many different processes and platforms, you will always be able to learn something new.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Long: Join with a willingness to learn. It's a small, but rather large industry that will test your abilities. Ask questions even if you're afraid to. There are plenty of experts in the field that are more than willing to help you.
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Long: Talent retention and structured mentorships. Regardless of industry, but especially if it's in plastics. With the aging industry, the wealth of knowledge is on the exit. To capture that and develop the talent pool within is critical to company success. Unfortunately, being at a company like my dad was for 30-plus years doesn't happen anymore. Effecting that change has the potential to have a ripple effect on employee morale and long-term growth.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Long: I have always looked up to my dad. His work ethic and attention to detail has made me who I am today. The sacrifices he would make running from work to my baseball games or golf tournaments. I never understood as a child, but now with a son of my own, I fully understand just exactly how much effort he was putting in. He would always tell me to apply myself and to make a name for myself. I can't thank him enough for helping me become who I am today.