Laurie Ford has been working in manufacturing for nearly 40 years, and 85 percent of her roles have been in the plastics industry.
"My first job in plastics was with C.R. Bard Inc., a medical device manufacturer specializing in catheters made with various plastic materials (PVC, PE, PU, etc.)," she said. "I became interested in manufacturing because that's what my mother did for a living, and she was very successful at it. I was especially attracted to the medical industry because of its strict standards and regulations — the same reason I joined the military."
Ford underwent rigorous and specialized training programs throughout her time in the military, advancing from private to sergeant within two years and graduating with high honors from the military's front-line leadership training program. She has also pursued various certifications and workshops, including Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Champion training, and basic Dairy Science and Sanitation Workshops at Cornell University.
"I was a candidate for Soldier of the Year and appeared before the review board. I am also the recipient of two Army Achievement Medals and Instructors Award. During my time as quality assurance lab supervisor, quality engineer with C.R. Bard, I was nominated for the company's Charles Russell Bard Award Medal and, for two consecutive years, its Stellar Performer Award," she said.
As the director of product safety for Chicago-based Charter Next Generation Inc., Ford manages the development, implementation and monitoring of the plastic film packaging maker's quality management system and product safety programs at all sites. This includes good manufacturing practices, customer audits, policies and procedures, document control, and certification programs for food contact qualifications such as ISO, IMS, BRCGS, halal and kosher.
"Over the past few years, I've spent countless hours helping many of our sites shift their QMS to the new CNG product safety programs while transitioning all our documents into one QMS. Through all these changes, we successfully passed all our BRCGS and ISO audits and achieved the highest possible rating for BRCGS … during the pandemic, when other companies' ratings dropped," Ford said. "All of this while our company was growing and adding plants, changing systems, bringing on new employees and transitioning plants to unannounced audits starting in 2022."
Reflecting on her journey, Ford said she realizes how lucky she is: "Witnessing the creation and transformation of raw materials into products that touch people's lives is so inspiring. It's a dynamic industry that constantly adapts to new technologies, processes and challenges, and being part of that evolution has been an amazing experience."