Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Ghislaine (Gigi) Bailey, Ph.D.

gigibaileyThe FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For our next FLiP File, we spoke to Ghislaine (Gigi) Bailey, Ph.D., Senior Specialist, Product Regulations at NOVA Chemicals Corporation

-Where do you work and what’s your title?

I work at NOVA Chemicals as a member of our product integrity regulatory compliance team.

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

NOVA Chemicals is a multibillion-dollar company that produces plastics and chemicals, including resins for food packaging, automotive applications, caps and closures and many other everyday items.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

It was a chance encounter at a party. I am an organic chemist and studied polymers for my doctoral thesis. When my husband and I moved to Calgary in Alberta, Canada I knew virtually no one but met someone at a party who introduced me to NOVA Chemicals. I’ve had roles in R&D, product development and new business development, all of which led to my current role in product integrity.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

I have been very fortunate to have some key people help and mentor me, both unofficially and officially. Their advice and guidance has helped me to understand the industry and how NOVA Chemicals, the business, is run, which in turn has impacted how I approached my career at NOVA Chemicals.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

On a typical day I work on a broad range of tasks: respond to customer regulatory requests, track imports, monitor and respond to developing global regulations and provide our R&D teams with regulatory support for the latest technology or products they have developed.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

That it is both flexible and multi-layered.

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

I have a much greater appreciation for the broad and varied uses of plastics, and how integral they are to our quality of life.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

I am fortunate to live in a very “green” city, which means that I am often educating those around me on the value of plastics. The ramifications of abandoning plastics have generally not been carefully thought out, nor have the alternatives, which are not necessarily “greener.” The plastics industry needs to educate the general population on how environmentally friendly plastics can be and stress responsible end-of-life disposal. We hear a lot of news about the negatives of plastics and not enough about the positive impacts that plastics have on our lives, such as food preservation, food transportation, promoting good hygiene, etc. The plastics industry needs to highlight all the great and positive aspects of plastics.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

A career in plastics is an excellent choice. I would take that even further and encourage people to consider a career in regulatory compliance for the plastics industry. Without regulatory approval, plastic products cannot be sold. Given the speed at which governments are adopting and updating laws pertaining to transportation, manufacture, importation, exportation, food contact, etc., regulatory expertise within plastics companies is essential. In addition, there is always something new to learn, and just like the products we cover, this career is extremely flexible. It is satisfying to know that we are doing our part to keep plastics safe and contributing to an improved quality of life for those around us.

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

Plastic wrap and freezer bags. With two young kids, I don’t know how I would function without them.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Adrienne Remener


The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For our next FLiP File, we spoke to Adrienne Remener, Database Specialist, at SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.

-Where do you work and what’s your title?

I work at SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) as the database specialist.

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

SPI is the industry’s trade association, so we do all kinds of things here – everything from advocacy, regulation and education to running large trade shows, like NPE.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

It was totally by chance. I studied architectural engineering in college, and while applying for jobs in the field I started working as a temporary employee at SPI on database cleanup. While working here through a staffing agency, I had taken (and passed!) the fundamentals of engineering exam, which is a precursor to working toward becoming a licensed professional engineer – but I enjoyed SPI and the plastics industry so much that I accepted a full-time position here instead of continuing to pursue structural engineering work. I have certainly changed my career focus a bit from what I had previously expected to do, but it is undoubtedly a worthwhile experience for me.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

I work with SPI’s database. On any given day I’m writing SQL queries, helping set up event registrations, providing staff training on new system features, acting as liaison for any software integrations, or cleaning and managing data.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

I find plastics innovations and development so fascinating; working in the industry, attending events and networking with other industry members is a great way to keep abreast with what’s happening.

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

My recycling habits have definitely improved! I generally have always been conscious of my carbon footprint, but since working in the plastics industry and learning about the recyclability of different materials, particularly flexible film and bags, I have a whole new recycling routine at home.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge the plastics industry is faced with is misinformation. Proactive education is the best way to overcome this; including transparency on business practices and raising awareness on not only the recyclability of plastics but how to recycle certain types of materials.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

I think more young people should seriously consider studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs in school. Doing so opens a world of opportunities in many industries – including plastics, of course. Technology has come so far in recent years and I don’t think what has been developed up to this point is anywhere near the summit of our potential with plastics. I’m excited to see what the upcoming generation will create!

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

To me, the most important plastic products are my glasses and contact lenses – I would be lost without them!

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Manufacturing Day 2016: SPI Staff Reflections

After wrapping up yet another successful Manufacturing (MFG) Day, several SPI staff members who attended MFG Day events at plastics facilities across the nation shared their experience about what made this year’s events so special and the incredible things plastics companies had on tap for their events.

Kendra Martin, Senior Director, Industry Affairs – Brand Owners


I took my children – ages 11 and 13 – with me to spend Manufacturing Day 2016 at The Rodon Group in Hatfield, PA. Rodon hosted nearly 50 students from local tech schools, high schools and colleges. We began the visit with a presentation and several videos about the future of manufacturing and the variety of career opportunities it offers. We then took a tour of the factory (ours led by K’NEX creator Joel Glickman!), which gave us a chance to see the design, tooling and manufacturing processes in action, and watched Baxter, a collaborative manufacturing robot from Rethink Robotics, at work.

For the kids (and me), the most fun part of the day was seeing all the very cool robotics throughout the factory, such as machines making the K’NEX construction pieces and a bunch of amazing models and portraits made out of the interlocking toys. Oh, and seeing the pictures of when President Obama visited the plant in 2012. One of the Presidential helicopters landed in the open field next to Rodon’s facility!

David Palmer, Director, Industry Affairs – Equipment Council

For those of us who celebrated Manufacturing Day at Wittmann Battenfeld in Torrington, Connecticut, we were treated to three days of spectacular events, including the company’s Open House & Innovations Workshop and SPI’s Northeast Regional Plant Tour and Dinner.

More than 100 students from nearby Oliver Wolcott High School visited Wittmann Battenfeld on MFG Day and employees rolled out the maroon carpet for their guests. We were privileged to tour their facilities and sit in on various presentations and demonstrations of the company’s injection molding machines and auxiliary equipment: dryers, blenders and granulators.


For me, there were two memorable moments of the day. One was seeing the presentations by SPE’s PlastiVan program. Margie Weiner’s experiments were pure infotainment. One student who was so dazzled by a particular experiment involving polymers yelled out, “What?Is that magic?” Students learned a lot about the science of plasticsand the possibilities of doing pretty cool stuff in a plastics career. The other memorable moment was seeing Ronnie the BroBot moving about the building interacting with visitors. Amazing! That robot was so lifelike.


Katie Masterson, Senior Program Manager, Industry Affairs – Equipment Council


My day started off at Parkinson Technologies where I shadowed an “Introduction to Engineering” high school class. There were about 15 students in that tour, but Parkinson had over 50 students from local high schools tour their facility for MFG Day. Congressman David Cicilline also came and toured their facility. By the end of the tour, students could distinguish between different types of plastics machinery used for different types of plastics materials. They also had a better idea of the various types of jobs offered at a manufacturing facility.



I then made my way to Yushin America which opened their facility to their community and scheduled tours for every 15 minutes based on demand. They had about 140 people attend their event. I waslucky enough to shadow a tour with local high school students. This school attended previous Yushin MFG Days events and continues to bring their students on an annual basis because they understand the value of MFG Day. Yushin did a great job explaining the workforce shortage and all the various job opportunities at Yushin, and the required training and education. They noted that they’re always looking for employees who have interest, drive and ability.




Rachel Cervarich, Digital Marketing Specialist

Attending Wittmann Battenfeld’s MFG Day event was enlightening. Being new to the plastics industry, I had never been to a manufacturing facility before. Seeing a facility where equipment is made definitely created a thirst for knowledge about manufacturing. I’d love to see a processing facility next and learn how the machines I saw being built go on to create plastic products.

The students who toured the facility had similar reactions. Many of them commented on the cleanliness of the facility and the advanced technology of the machines. Every student I spoke to said they hadn’t imagined a career in plastics before MFG Day and now could picture themselves in plastics. They realized that you may start on the floor, but you can work your way to sales and even management positions. It was fantastic to hear such positive, impressed reactions from students.



Friday, September 9th, 2016

Tips for Hosting Your Own MFG Day Event

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman

Michael Stark, SPI FLiP Chairman

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association is once again sponsoring this year’s Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) on October 7 and is encouraging every company in the plastics industry to open their doors and host an event. This year, we’re following our own advice and hosting our first-ever Plastics Education & Career Fair. We’ll be promoting MFG Day participation through October. Here are some tips from Wittmann-Battenfeld’s Michael Stark, chairman of SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), for how to make the most of an event at your company.



Tips for Hosting Your Own MFG Day Event from SPI-FLiP Chairman Michael Stark


  • Make it interactive. If your plan is to host elementary/middle school children, make sure you have some fun activities related to your company for them to participate in. Focus on the “cool” things that you do. If able, offer giveaways.
  • Highlight the soft and hard skills the plastics industry seeks. If you are hosting high school students, broaden your scope of what you are talking about. Offer up information on all disciplines within your company such as accounting, marketing, sales, engineering, operations, etc. If college bound, the majority of these students may not realize that the degree they want to go to school for can be used in manufacturing. Most will assume it’s just a trade job on the floor, operating machinery. This is your chance to break that misconception.new-1
  • Engage in one-on-one conversations. For college level or trade school students, make sure you allow one-on-one time with your employees, and also focus on the different disciplines at your company. The students that are interested will want to learn more than you can offer in a short tour. You will want to be able to take advantage of this.
  • Work with local schools to promote your event. If you only want to invite schools, call local guidance counselors early and schedule the time. Plan to contact at least 2-3 times the number of schools you are willing to host on your list, as many will not break free for a field trip, or will be otherwise unavailable.


  • Promote, promote, promote. If you are inviting the public, the local newspaper is one of the best ways to get the word out. If you are willing to spend some money, then radio ads also work well. Most parents still read the newspaper and will catch the ad on the radio, and encourage their kids to go. Also, most newspapers include a posting of the ad on their webpage as part of the package.
  • Consider hosting on the weekends. If the general public is your main focus, then consider doing your event on a Saturday (you can still register it as an official Manufacturing Day event on the MFG Day website – www.mfgday.com). Consider doing it in the morning to avoid schedule conflicts with sporting events and other weekend activities that happen on weekdays.
  • Make flyers. Create a flyer to distribute to schools and the local newspaper. Make it flashy with one of the best photos of your company, the most attractive statistics you have about your company, and the opportunities your company and the industry has to offer.
  • Have fun! Lastly, don’t be afraid. Your first event will be a learning experience for you to find out what works and what doesn’t. After your first year, the event will become easier.tree

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Annina Donaldson

The FLiP Files: Annina Donaldson, President, Florida Operations at Maxi-Blast, Inc. and FLiP Vice Chair

Annina-Where do you work and what’s your title?

Maxi-Blast, Inc., president of Florida Operations.

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

Maxi-Blast is a full-service supplier of plastic blast media [plastic materials that are blasted at industrial equipment and other surfaces in order to clean them] and blast cabinets [large containers in which this type of cleaning is conducted]. We manufacture non-abrasive plastic blast media used for various applications, including, but not limited to, plastics and rubber deflashing, mold & die cleaning, paint stripping, cryogenic deflashing and extrusion screw cleaning. We are the alternative to chemical and by-hand cleaning. The cabinets we manufacture are tailored to specific applications, such as our patented mobile-screw cleaning cabinet for large feed screws. We carry a stock of spare parts and provide services such as setup or troubleshooting for our cabinets.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

I grew up in the plastics industry. My father started the business in 1979. Growing up, my siblings and I would visit him and ask to shred paper in the office or sweep the shop floor. In high school, I would do random projects filling sample bags or separating plastic. After graduate school and testing out other careers, my father asked me to interview for a full-time job working alongside him. That was 10 years ago.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

Two people actually: Gail Barker and my father, Robert Donaldson. All my life, I have watched my father striving to maintain his work ethic and grow his knowledge of the industry. Working alongside him is a daily mentorship program. Gail, however, was the first person to really take me under her wing. Gail was president of Maxi-Blast when I started in January 2006, and there were even fewer women in the industry then than there are today. Every day she gave me some piece of advice about leadership, being a woman in a male-dominated industry or how to manage working with family. Gail passed away in December 2006 but the year she mentored me was, and is still, the most invaluable of my career.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day.

Whatever is involved with achieving the goal of making sure the factory is running smoothly; we are making the best possible pellet on the market and handling the day-to-day operations of a business.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

That I learn something new about our industry every time I go to a trade show or go on a plant tour. I am in awe of how many different ways plastics are made or used. The industry is ever changing and reinventing itself, and I look forward to seeing what will be done next.

-What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

Choosing to work in the plastics industry meant working with family, thus blurring the line between personal and work life. Without the plastics industry, I wouldn’t have the chance to share a passion for a business that means so much to everyone in the family. Dinner conversations would be much different, and I wouldn’t get to see as much of my family as I do now.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

Getting the younger generations excited about a career in plastics manufacturing, and the misconceptions about plastics. As long as companies keep showcasing what they do and opening their doors, there is a greater chance that a millennial will be there and say, “Wow, this is for me!”

As for the misconceptions, it’s necessary to share facts with those who are not in the industry, and making sure government officials are educated before they vote on laws effecting plastics companies. Definitely a “the more you know” solution.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

It’s important to want to go to work everyday. A career in plastics can be lifelong and meaningful. This industry is exciting, full of potential and growing. There is also a sense of pride when you work for a company that manufactures a tangible product that you just can’t get in other industries.

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

My American Express Card.