DeAnn Springer was studying to be an architect when her uncle, who owned a mold shop, needed a designer. She knew computer-aided design, or CAD, so she joined him.
Springer's first mold design was for a 4-foot pallet mold, on the board, "because he didn't have AutoCAD yet."
"The design was a challenge, but he took me to the molder so I could learn about the details, see what happens after the mold ships," she said. "It was exciting, and I grew to run the boring mill and other machines in the shop working off of the prints that I had created. I was hooked."
Springer studied engineering at the College of Lake County and manufacturing technology at Harper College in Illinois. She is now director of product management at Wauconda, Ill.-based Progressive Components, a global supplier to the tooling and molding industry.
She is responsible for new product development, including design, sourcing and inspections; product conformance and analysis; supplier and subcontractor management; and technical materials, such as catalogs and training materials.
Springer's career highlights include designing third-party software for AutoCAD to assist mold designers and supporting the development and release of the first free AutoCAD/CADKEY components library, PC/MOLD, for mold designers.
"There are so many positives and great accomplishments at Progressive, but I moved back to product management/engineering in 2018 with the focus of releasing new products," she said. "In 2020, we released a total of 2,000 new line items into our system, which was a record."
Springer said her uncle, Art Lorence of AptarGroup Inc., worked hard and instilled his work ethic in her when she worked at his shop.
"Thirty years ago, there weren't any women that I could look up to — now there are many," Springer said. "So, I don't think I'm breaking any 'mold' specifically, but want to be a change agent and lead by example in all I do."
Springer was nominated by Glenn Starkey, owner and president of Progressive Components.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Springer: That kids in high school or college don't know about plastics unless they have a relative in the industry already that guides them. I know there are several groups that promote new interest in the next generation, but I feel we should do more — and feel we should have done a lot more 10 years or so ago, as we feel it now when we recruit.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Springer: Speed bumps are a way to slow down a car. Recognize when life gives you a speed bump and learn from it.
Q: What has been the biggest impact or challenge on your career from the coronavirus pandemic?
Springer: Working at home. Engineers are a quiet group and can work very independently, but our team had fun at the office in Wauconda. Zoom/Teams just isn't the same and I find myself working more hours now that the drive is saved each day — and I know that's a pretty common occurrence in our industry. The company itself did everything right to prepare for and support the employees when at home, but we have a very social culture at Progressive and that interaction is missed.