Meet the 2023 On the Rise Award Winners
PMMI and the Emerging Leaders Committee are proud to present this year’s On the Rise Award winners. Now in its sixth year, this annual award goes to 10 young professionals who have demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to advancing in the packaging and processing industry.
Award winners were honored at PMMI’s Annual Meeting on Oct. 16, in Stone Mountain, Ga. and received free airfare, event registration, and hotel stay. The winter issue of OEM Magazine, the official publication of PMMI, will feature profiles of the winners.
Learn more about this year’s winners below.
Andrew Bates has demonstrated meticulous attention to detail and technical aptitude. He wrote a custom routine to automate 60% of JLS’ 2D CAD Robot Height Analysis. He generated multiple two-hour-plus training courses about JLS core software technology. Andy also has an incredible aptitude for training. He volunteered as a mentor for an associate systems engineer, leading to the associate’s promotion to a full-fledged systems engineer. Andy was recently named as the primary systems engineer for the Integrated Systems Business Segment. These systems require integration with various other equipment suppliers, further broadening his knowledge of the industry.
FANUC America Corporation
Stacey Harimoto helped create simulations, demonstrations, and proofs of concept to show robotic capabilities to the customer, resulting in a large win of several robots. She participates in activities to promote the growth and hiring of young engineers by volunteering at college career fairs. Stacey is working toward obtaining her MBA at Penn State University and recently received her Project Management Certificate.
Senior Controls Engineer
Applied Manufacturing Technologies (AMT)
Michael Horth is a consummate professional, skilled in controls and robotics automation and integration. He was instrumental in the development of company standards including the creation of software used to generate pallet patterns from the HMI screen. His thoughtful approach to system integration encourages users to grow in their skills, knowledge, and understanding of the efficiency gains realized through automation. Mike’s largest impact can be felt through his mentorship of other employees. He is patient and dedicated to seeing the team succeed. He has developed documentation and tips/tricks that the team can use to efficiently complete projects.
General Industry Applications, FANUC America Corporation
Jessica Juhasz has significantly contributed to the growth and development of the high-speed picking and packaging market for FANUC robots and automation. She became the high-speed picking application expert and led training initiatives for regional engineers and integrators to expand knowledge nationally. She developed several robotic demos to showcase new robotic products, software, key technologies, and emerging applications at key trade shows. Jessica served on a steering committee to help start FANUC America’s first employee resource group for women. She contributes to the employee growth of FANUC America by being a mentor to new hires/interns along with strong leadership in both Product and Engineering Management.
Senior Marketing Coordinator
Since starting as marketing coordinator, Becky Jurvis quickly demonstrated incredible leadership qualities managing interns, vendors, consultants, and agencies, as well as collaborating with internal stakeholders during the company’s first experience at PACK EXPO International. Within a year, she was promoted to senior marketing coordinator because of her amazing project management capabilities, work ethic, attitude, and contagious energy. Becky added a fresh design and brand perspective that increased organic traffic by 80%, conversions by 50%, and generated over $15M in new business revenue. She helped increase JHFOSTER’s database from 60k contacts to over 120k in less than two years. She played an instrumental part in boosting morale throughout the company through her positive energy and kind gestures.
Naveen Nagarajan has been an asset to HSAUSA and has significantly contributed to the growth of the company in many ways. He increased customer satisfaction and efficiency of the machine manufacturing process by over 80% through the implementation of several new systems he designed. This resulted in a significant reduction in costs and an increase in productivity. He developed an internal program for all sales team members to get trained in packaging/inkjet machinery and how to integrate them into a process in production facilities across the U.S. Naveen built a library of more than 5,000 parts that continues to be a platform for the development of HSAUSA’s core machinery. He is on track to become an engineering project manager soon and will have his own team of engineers to manage.
Vision Engineering Manager & Marketing Coordinator
Kyle Seitel displays exceptional adaptability and leadership qualities. He seamlessly assumed the role of department manager, taking charge of operations and overseeing multiple projects concurrently. He initiated and guided the creation of a product line, the Norwalt Vue, which revolutionized the vision inspection industry. He led the successful development and execution of a dynamic LinkedIn campaign, collaborating closely with Norwalt’s website coding company to create a new logo and implement cutting-edge SEO techniques. Kyle actively pursues training in the latest 2D, 3D, and AI-based vision systems.
Ryan Swanson began his career as a design engineer, transitioning to applications engineering approximately three years ago. Since that time, Ryan has advanced the capabilities of applications in the following ways. He developed specific templates with standardized option costing, risk and inflation costing, as well as improving their usability and future referencing. He created a process and tool for reviewing and responding to customer machine specification documents. Ryan volunteers as a high school robotics team coach and offers summer enrichment programs to inspire kids to become interested in STEM.
Regional Sales Executive
Alex Torda has helped develop channel partner relationships with key integrators, automation companies, and engineering firms. These relationships have allowed other customers to bring opportunities to Accraply, despite not interacting with the end user. The growth within this network has allowed Alex’s territory to bring more business to Accraply. He took over a historically low-revenue territory and over the last two years, grew revenue by 35% year over year. He netted the highest quote-to-close ratio on the Accraply team.
Packaging Engineer Manager
PPC Flexible PAckaging
Jacob Wall excels at his partnership with PPC’s sales team and customers. He leverages his extensive technical knowledge base and translates this for customers in an easy-to-digest and actionable way. Jacob plays a critical role in PPC’s trialing process related to sustainability. He guides customers about potential sustainable solutions and navigates the features and benefits of each. Jacob leads a team of four packaging engineers, has a quiet, yet confident demeanor, and is excellent at working cross-functionally within the internal network. He is a Certified Solidworks Associate (CSWA) and is completing the Project Management Professional Certification.
Senior Product Manager
Alison Zitzke’s most recent achievement has been spearheading the development and launch of ORBIS’ flagship 40x48 pallet, the Odyssey, bringing ORBIS’ pallet portfolio into new manufacturing technologies, applications, and markets within the reusable packaging space. Alison is no stranger to breaking barriers as she continues to challenge the status quo in the industry to support the continued conversion from wood pallets prevalent in the marketplace to a sustainable, reusable plastic pallet solution. Alison is passionate about promoting the circular economy and experimenting with incorporating post-consumer and post-industrial recycled materials back into manufacturing of new products.
Business Development Manager
Morrison Container Handling Solutions
Allison Wagner grew the Morrison Communications Manager role into a full-fledged marketing department in just six months. Aligning with sales, Allison helped Morrison achieve over 20% year-over-year growth for three consecutive years. She cultivated Morrison’s brand’s story, “Innovative Container Handling, Expert Design, and Support Built-In,” bringing the customer’s needs front and center. This transcended through a completely new 2,000-square-foot trade show booth, which gave Morrison record-breaking qualified leads for PACK EXPO Las Vegas in 2019 and beyond. When COVID-19 hit, Allison took it upon herself to transform the company digitally by overhauling the SEO and social media. This led to an average improvement of website traffic over 120% per website product page and lead generation form fills going up 200% annually.
Service Project Manager
Caitlin Eargood helped transform the Project Management role into a more efficient, structured process to better support the Field Service team and improve the customer experience while simultaneously maintaining the required data for KPIs. Caitlin thoroughly tested the installation performance & acceptance (IPAC) sign off criteria, along with new tools for enhanced visibility, accountability, and overall customer experience. She was instrumental in the development of new software tools to professionalize and harmonize the XR process. On top of being a new mother, Caitlin is currently enrolled in college to obtain her master's degree having just completed PMP certification in March 2022.
Delkor Systems, Inc.
Eric Andersen is a pace-setting, performance-driven team player. He is a fearless change agent who is unafraid to disrupt the status quo and continuously exceeds expectations. Eric is a leader of Delkor’s brand strategy and has focused on implementing a branding campaign that ensures each interaction with Delkor provides a consistent experience. Eric’s marketing leadership has delivered some of the most successful sales years in recent company history. He partnered with executive leadership, sales, and engineering teams to create and execute significant sales strategies to help grow and diversify the customer base. Eric has continued his education by taking an assortment of advanced classes in videography, which has ushered in a new era for Delkor and significantly advances the company’s marketing capabilities.
Nancy Garza – Castaneda
Nancy Garza – Castaneda performs the accounting and procurement functions for Formers International. She is unbelievably resourceful and has streamlined the process for securing consumable gases used in Formers International’s manufacturing process. Nancy established providers of telemetry services that have dropped changeover times by 30% and have reduced costs by 72%, which resulted in over $100k in savings annually. Additionally, she played a huge role in the implementation of ISO 9001:2015 in late 2021. She obtained an internal auditor certification and was a primary member of the team that increased on-time delivery by 63% over a span of 12 months. Nancy is currently pursuing a business degree and enjoyed networking at the PMMI Young Professionals Conference in 2022.
Controls Engineering Manager
ID Technology / ProMach, Inc.
Ravi Patel was promoted to Controls Engineering Manager in 2021 based on his strong technical and leadership skills. His extraordinary efforts and ingenuity have enabled ID Technology / ProMach, Inc. to keep up with customer demands, including complex overseas installations. Ravi’s leadership and communication abilities also help attract, retain, and develop new engineers and technicians. He has also introduced improved documentation processes and procedures, which have reduced six hours of work for each project. Ravi is currently working toward his Certified Automation Professional (CAP) certification through the International Society of Automation and is also a Six Sigma White Belt.
Mechanical Design Engineer
Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery
Samantha Hoover’s initiatives within the applications team have led to advancements in Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery’s processes and designs for even the most complex product properties. This work has included in-depth interviews with known product specialists and documentation of findings, expansion of product testing, and data utilization and evaluation. The trait that has impressed the team the most about Samantha has been her ability to get things done quickly, efficiently, and with a high-level of quality assurance. Samantha is also passionate about education and has led Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery’s “Pack Challenge” initiative. To further expand her knowledge, continually improve her education, and share that information with others she maintains multiple positions with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Content Marketing Senior Specialist
Barry-Wehmiller Packaging Systems
Taz Lombardo developed the “Packed with Expertise” blog, which elevates Barry-Wehmiller Packaging Systems team members’ voices around the world on topics ranging from packaging sustainability to calculating total cost of ownership (TCO). By taking a collaborative, listen-first approach, Taz utilizes his time to fully understand these topics before helping the subject matter experts (SME) write about them. Due to the engaging and informative nature of the blog, many of these stories have also been featured in trade publications. Taz also led a project to develop the new BW Packaging Systems website, which helps customers connect with the five divisions faster by allowing them to browse a portfolio of solutions by market, equipment, or packaging type. Taz displays a true commitment to personal and professional development by taking advantage of various conferences, workshops, and lectures throughout the year.
Director of Engineering
Tom Lex is a process improvement wizard and has completely revamped the engineering department at TechniBlend into a finely tuned, process-oriented, and streamlined team. He has opened communications among all engineers and implemented accountability and procedural standards, which has the team delivering on time with error-free results. Tom managed a value-stream-mapping project called "quote to cash" which led to TechniBlend’s productivity and manufacturing efficiency reaching new levels. He is currently on a career track to become the COO and is a steadfast representative of the company. To further his corporate development, Tom has been invited to attend classes and speak at local tech colleges.
Director of Engineering
William Reese’s attention to detail and excellent communication skills launched him into a sales position where he managed Garvey’s central territory. After several successful years in sales, management recognized that his experience would make him the perfect person to manage the proposals department, where he would maximize communication and teamwork between management, engineering, sales, and production. In his management role, William reduced the time to prepare detailed proposals by 75% and increased overall pricing accuracy. He also worked with the marketing group to promote the latest innovations and design advertisements, as well as trade show displays. William’s hard work and dedication have earned him a seat on Garvey’s steering committee, where he plays a key role in Garvey’s major decisions and long-term strategic planning.
Senior Marketing Specialist
Bringing leads and the sales team together, Stacie Eberly focuses on finding, reviewing, and delivering valid warm leads to Ossid’s sales team. This allows the sales team to engage in a more targeted and personal way with prospective customers. Since Stacie’s arrival she has been one of the go-to people when colleagues need to understand new markets, or how a market is changing. She works effectively to create targeted marketing pieces to her customers, providing them with the knowledge they need to understand Ossid's products. Recently, she began managing Ossid’s tradeshows. Stacie was recently accepted into the Clemson MBA program, where she will gain greater understanding of customer marketing behaviors and how to better strategize what she learns into executable plans for Ossid and the other brands in ProMach Flexibles & Trays business line.
Bevco Sales International
Kevin Fortier co-manages Bevco’s engineering department and is heavily relied upon by the engineering team for direction and support. As a Production Engineer, Kevin creates a variety of documents for production purposes, including shop drawings, BOMs, Scopes of Work, purchase requisitions, CNC programs, fiber laser programs, etc. – all while coordinating with customers, integrators, and other OEMs to design and integrate packaging line layouts. He also trained to become Bevco’s resident expert on their new laser machine, allowing Bevco to make a $500,000 investment in the machine. Kevin is beginning the process to become registered as a Professional Engineer with Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia.
BluePrint Automation, Inc.
Alexandra Francis created the Revenue Pipeline for BPA which allows the company visibility on sales opportunities for their service, spare parts and aftermarket business monthly. By taking the lead on aftermarket project management, she grew the upgrade sales in VA by $600,000 and in CO by $100,000 for the first half of 2021. She has been able to achieve this by continuously quoting, entering orders, driving shipments on time and coordinating between departments to get orders out the door.
In addition, Alexandra grew spare part sales in VA by $300,000 and in CO by $500,000 for the first half of 2021 by taking lead or spare parts orders and driving accountability to get them out on time. Alexandra finished her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from ECPI in 2021 with a 4.0 GPA all while working 50-60 hours per week.
Xavier Gonzalez has demonstrated leadership skills at a very young age. As the youngest member of Formers International’s management team, he wrote a 200+ page quality manual that was “made from scratch” to move the company in a direction to prepare for ISO 9001 compliance and approval. In addition to being Quality Manager, Xavier possesses fantastic design and engineering skills. He is responsible for the design of former storage racks which supplement Formers International’s core business. His new design utilizes a modular removable and adjustable shelf that can adapt to multiple rack configurations and former types. The success of this design has resulted in a staggering 1,500% increase in former rack sales in 18 months.
Xavier has also been the primary advocate for safety trainings through the company’s risk assessment analysis by consistently completing safety trainings through ThinkHR, often scoring highest on these trainings.
Manufacturing Operations Coordinator
Kolinahr Systems, Inc.
Shannon Leiter wears multiple hats within the organization and is fearless when it comes to taking on any project. Shannon crosses all boundaries from marketing and website development to operations and building equipment. She takes on the responsibility to order parts and make out the equipment build and delivery schedules as well as maintain valuable vendor relations. From a marketing perspective, she taught herself how to redesign the website, make videos and edit them, and create brochures for equipment. Shannon's dedication and service is what helps drive Kolinahr Systems to be successful.
Aftermarket Sales and Service Manager
Morrison Container Handling Solutions
Seth Licke accepted the challenge of Project Manager and was instrumental in Morrison Container Handling Solution’s Thermo Fisher COVID-19 Test Kit Project success. Thermo Fisher initially requested 16 lines to increase their production of COVID-19 test kits. This request was quickly followed by another 15 lines bringing the total to 31. Seth, along with the team, worked around the clock to begin delivering the first 16 requested lines within three months!
Due to Seth’s determination, talent and hard work, Morrison Container Handling Solutions measured a significant and major increase in the inside sales revenue. Within the first year of Seth taking on this newly created position of Inside Sales Manager, there was a 663% increase in sales from the previous year.
In his short tenure at Polypack, Aum Patel is already training new engineers on Polypack's design philosophy. Aum's ability to learn quickly does not only benefit him, but others who he often supervises.
While designing projects for existing customers, Aum is also involved in developing new R&D projects which ensures a continuous improvement program. Aum spends significant time improving the communication between engineering and manufacturing – he streamlines how cut sheets are issued and always makes sure that virgin materials are manufactured with zero waste. Aum is currently pursuing a master's in Engineering Management, which will help him become one of the youngest engineering managers.
Vice President of Business Operations
Meredith Perry developed and led Spec Engineering’s sales application department and helped create the system to have a more accurate and efficient quoting process. As part of this new department, Meredith also developed the customer service department within our company, identifying customer surveys and better communication with customers.
Meredith has completed a marketing certificate program at DePaul University as she developed the marketing department at Spec. From that certificate, Meredith was well-equipped to build and implement a company marketing plan. She also has taken courses in business writing, human resources and Excel.
Alycia Swayze just accepted a recent promotion from Customer Service to Account Manager which is an incredibly dynamic and challenging role within Intralox. Her volunteer proactive outbound work, furthering technical education, training of her peers, self-managed activity, increased sales and contact base, and exceptional job performance are all reasons why she was offered the role.
During Alycia’s two years in customer service, she has needed little to no supervision. She has an innate ability to identify problems, formulate a plan, assemble the right team members, and execute on solving that problem without needing to ask permission. Alycia lives a self-managed role day to day and has earned the trust and respect of peers because of it.
Marketing & Sales Specialist
Anthony Zapata enhanced Hiberbaric’s sales operations, data analysis and lead management practices with the implementation of Salesforce and new email automation using Pardot. Anthony helped efficiently segment the company’s database and set up email nurturing campaigns, using content marketing, to qualify leads for the sales team. Anthony was able to maximize a $1M marketing budget to generate over 1,700 leads and $80M in marketing sourced opportunities, which allowed Hiperbaric to close $22M in new HPP machinery business. Anthony took the company’s marketing initiatives to new heights by building a professional marketing infrastructure from scratch.
Anthony recently became SalesForce and Pardot certified. In addition, he is currently taking Google Academy courses, to become certified in Google Analytics and AdWords. Anthony has also taken the initiative to become fully fluent in Spanish, which is the primary language spoken at Hiperbaric.
2021 Honorable Mentions