Person of the Week

Doug Smith

Plant Manager for the Production of Cups and Food Containers

Finish school – even if you are not going to college. We don’t need three hundred and twenty million police chiefs or doctors or lawyers. Somebody has got to make a cup because we need cups. Be the best cup maker you can be.

1.  What led you to the mission of being a plant manager for a company that produces food containers and cups?

I started my career coming out of college as a schoolteacher and coach. Facebook Doug SmithOver the years I migrated away from that. Part of the reason why I had to leave teaching was because in those days the health insurance for teachers was not very good. I was diagnosed with diabetes. I determined that it would be better if I could try and find something else that would better take care of me insurance wise.

In 1980 I was a teacher full time and coaching four sports. I made $15,000 a year. IMG_1559The health insurance cost was over $1000 a month at the school district where I worked. How do you do that? I couldn’t. That was almost all of my check – just to pay for the insurance. So I left. I would have loved to stay with teaching but it was something that I couldn’t do at that time financially. So I had to make the choice. It was the best choice for me to move on. Going into industry, I tripled my salary overnight and got full benefits. The money helped, but the benefits saved my life. I had to make that choice.

I went to several different places and spent many good years with Goodyear and made big tires in Topeka – the big earth moving truck tires. tireI rose to the ranks of management there. Since then I have had other jobs such as making dairy containers. I left there and this job was open. A part of the dairy container job was the actual printing of the cups. I know something about the print process. At that time, printing was a big part of this job at WinCup.

To learn more about WinCup, click here.  WinCup makes EPS (expandable polystyrene cups and containers). They have a new biodegradable product that is 84.3% after 1154 days, and takes less energy to make than similar paper products, fewer atmospheric emissions, and less energy to manufacture and transport.

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

IMG_1520I like this job because it is small town. I know every one of my employees. I know each of them personally. I make it a point to know each of them and that doesn’t happen in the city. This facility is here because it is in a small town and that was very attractive to me. I’m from western Kansas so I’m not a city boy by any means even though I live near Kansas City.

Where the plant is and what it is, made me want to work here. It’s hometown. It’s home grown. The people that work here are from around here. It’s personal.   It’s very easy to see that there is a person behind that problem that you are having. You make it a personal issue. You have to. Sometimes that is hard on you but that is the way it is and I choose to do that.

3.  What was your best day being a plant manager for a company that produces food containers and cups?

(Doug listens and there are no alert sounds going off in the production plant.) IMG_1523Do you hear anything going on now? No. That is a good thing. When those buzzers go off, that’s a bad day. Silence means things are going right out there. I can sit right here and tell what is going on in the plant because of the buzzers. When they go off, I have to get up and see what is going on.

The buzzers go off when there is a malformed cup or the cups get turned sideways in the tubes that carry them over to the next process. IMG_1512There is a sensor on both sides of that tube that senses, “Hey. Something is not moving right here.” Then you hear the waaa, waaa waaa of the buzzers that go off. There is also an air line that blows the cups into the machine that puts the film around it. If the cup doesn’t get all the way into where it needs to be, the jaws of the gripper will hit the cup and that makes it back off. Each line has a different tone of buzzer. You can tell which one is which.

4.  What was your worst day being a plant manager for a company that produces food containers and cups?

When you have an accident. Fortunately in the eight years that I have been here, we have set records for being safe. cupsHaving a major accident where somebody goes to the hospital is the worst. An accident in a plant could be something like someone falling. The machine will crush whatever is in there. It also can burn it severely. It is three hundred degrees. The machines can close and catch an arm or hand. Fingers can get hurt. It’s not good. Fortunately there are safety procedures in place and we go a long time without accidents.

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

Faith for sure and the belief that it will get better. Every negative, you have to make into a positive somehow. dougsmithprocessIt’s tough. The bad days are when we have an injury and when people have personal problems. I have people to help and my administrative assistant is here and is also able to help. I have a wonderful wife but I try not to take my work home with me.

People ask me how I can possibility drive an hour in both directions. But this gives me the opportunity to unload a lot in the car. I turn the music up and this gives me the opportunity to think it through.

6.  What advice do you have for someone who would like to have a mission to love?

Go to school. Finish school for sure – even if you are not going to college. You need the education. The whole goal-setting thing is important. IMG_1499When you ask a person, “What are your goals?” the answer might be all lofty like, “I want to be president of the company” or “I want to be the chief of police”. Be real. We don’t need three hundred and twenty million police chiefs or doctors or lawyers. Somebody has got to make a cup because we need cups. Be the best cup maker you can be.

Be the best student you can be right now. Whatever road you go down, you need to look ahead years, but ask yourself, “What’s my goal for this week?” Is it to pass the math test? Is it to read that book? Set that goal first. Accomplish that. Keep moving it out. You always need to have that long-term goal and have sight of it, but the goal today is the most important. Get experience in. Get time in. Keep moving forward.