What a Career in Manufacturing Has Meant to Me

Posted by IMEC on Nov 5, 2021 12:04:34 PM

IMEC-1Top Leaders Explore the Intangibles of a Manufacturing Career

Oprah Winfrey once described passion as energy. When it comes to a manufacturing career, that passion manifests into new solutions, greater efficiency, and measurable progress. We see it every day in many of the products we depend on.

As the fourth largest manufacturing state in the nation,  Illinois has many bold men and women who have devoted their careers to making incredible innovations. While the products themselves may be tangible, IMEC ventured to explore the other side of a manufacturing career. 

Here, ten Illinois manufacturing leaders explore the intangibles of a manufacturing career. In some cases, these points of inspiration were passed down from the previous generation. Others discovered a passion for what they do as they entered the industry as a second career. One thing connects all of their commentary: manufacturing is amazing, and they wouldn’t trade it for anything.



Chris Blumhoff, Chief Operating Officer of F.N. Smith Corporation

Oregon, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

Great question; to me, a career in manufacturing is very rewarding. Throughout my career I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with new products that are being used in aerospace applications, medical devices, food industry, and the automotive markets. Everyday I’m involved with the development and manufacturing of goods that impacts peoples lives throughout the world.


Craig Freedman 

Craig Freedman, CEO of Freedman Seating

Chicago, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

It means anything and everything as we can make a difference for our community and our valued employees, customers, and vendors.



Tara Hanson, Program Manager for Phibro Animal Health

Quincy, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

A career in manufacturing means to me the ability to look behind the curtain and see where the magic happens. The magic consists of all the people, efforts, and resources that go into making product each and every day. In manufacturing, the product is truly made by floor-level employees, but it takes a village behind them to make everything come together when it does!



Rod Michels, President/CEO of MAC Plastics Manufacturing Inc.

Olney, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . .  

A career in manufacturing has been very rewarding in so many ways. Ultimately, utilizing specialized machinery to produce customer specific products in various markets around the world is exciting and challenging. If you are not up for a challenge, manufacturing probably isn’t for you. But the reward that comes out of taking an idea and turning it into full-blown production, providing the customer with what they require makes it all worthwhile. Building relationships with our team members, our customers, and our vendors is so very important. Being in the industry for over 26 years I have met a lot of very knowledgeable and valuable allies along the way. These are relationships that will last a lifetime. Learning new processes and being innovative is also an exciting part of the job. To be competitive and to give your company the best chance to succeed is a challenge, but always rewarding at the end of the day. I didn’t choose manufacturing, it chose me, but I would not have had it any other way.



Aneesa Muthana, CEO/President/Owner of Pioneer Service, Inc.

Addison, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

A s manufacturers, we touch lives. The methods, tools, and products may evolve over time, but this goal never changes. I’ve dedicated nearly three decades to this industry, and although I’ve made some mistakes along the way, I have no regrets! My business and team are only part of a greater whole, even more so during this pandemic, when competitors collaborated to deliver essential parts to the medical community. Last but certainly not least, this industry allows me to honor the legacy of my parents, who instilled in me the knowledge and passion necessary to push through obstacles and make a difference.



Jean Pitzo, CEO of Ace Metal Crafts Company

Bensenville, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

Here goes: In my 39-year career in metal machining and fabrication I have seen the most amazing things made. I have seen innovative critical thinkers solve complicated problems and felt the exhilaration of their sense of accomplishment. I have been in a trust-based culture that shows kindness to each and every team member that comes into the facility. The camaraderie of a shared goal attained has been incredibly fulfilling. I would not trade my life in manufacturing for any other option. I love every second of it.



Brian Schmidt, Chief Operations Officer of Deep Coat Industries LLC

Sugar Grove, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

A career in manufacturing means making a living solving problems and making things. Every day in the manufacturing environment I get to work with my team to find things we could be doing better, faster, safer, and with fewer errors. The efforts we put into those investigations empower us to be better stewards for our customers and help them make important products. From medical devices used in operating rooms, to wearable electronics that keep our soldiers safe, to the agriculture devices that empower our farmers to do more with less, I’m really proud to be a part of a team that makes important things.



Kurt Sundberg, President of Simplex System Controls, Inc.

Elmhurst, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

The opportunity to promote the importance of manufacturing in the USA for our economy, security, and middle class. I spent the majority of my career (my first 24 years) in large 70,000-people corporations in a service function. I did not understand the value and importance of manufacturing to our future. Manufacturing workers in the USA are hard-working and skilled at what they do.



Tom Welge, President of Gilster-Mary Lee Corp.

Chester, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

We’ve always felt, as a private label or store brands food manufacturer, we made people’s lives better by providing them high quality, high value food products that they enjoy. Over the past 18 months, our work became critical, as people turned to packaged, reliable food products more frequently to feed all members of their families as our nation and world stayed at home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a manufacturer, I was given the opportunity to be a part of this important task. 


 Logo Bryce

Bryce Zerkle, Safety and Continuous Improvement for Total Printing Systems

Newton, Illinois

A career in manufacturing means . . . 

Creating products that engage and thrill our customers is fulfilling. It gives meaning to your work, to build in quality to your craftsmanship and look at the finished product and say, “Hey, I helped to make this...”  To be part of a team that learns, creates, innovates, evolves, and overcomes obstacles yields success. It is also job security. If you can be a manufacturer and create, you will always have a career. That’s peace of mind. 

What does a career in manufacturing mean to you?

As you can see, there is more to a job than the job itself. Concepts like teamwork, making a difference, helping others, turning ideas into products, breaking new ground, serving a global audience, and solving problems inspire many people to pursue a career in manufacturing.

How about you? Are you a maker? We invite you to share the benefits, opportunities, and differentiators as you see it in your manufacturing career.

The source on this data point is: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Media/PressReleases/Pages/PR20181001.aspx. I want make sure you don’t have a more recent one. Mine is from 2018 and is based on output.


Written by IMEC

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