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workforce


injection molding machines each year to replace older machines so that we remain on the cutting edge of tech- nology. The vast majority of our presses are under seven years old,” Philip said. “Micro Mold has made two very large capital investments over the past two years in robot- ics and advanced manufacturing cells to increase our high-precision tooling and technical CNC capabilities and production efficiencies.” An underlying driver of this increase in expectations, they


agree, is the fact that most of the simple, lesser-quality work continues to get pushed out overseas.


yard, which has an excellent plastic engineering program, and just from Penn State alone we now have 12 plastics en- gineers on our team between Micro Mold and Plastikos, and another fi ve engineers—including a medical engineer, as well as Ryan and I—both Industrial engineers. As we’ve grown and brought on new customers, especially on the medical side, that knowledge, the formal training and education has been critical.” There’s an obvious component of self-interest when companies become benefactors to schools and training programs that will hopefully bring them more and better employees. But here the mission of bring- ing STEM education and knowledge of the manufacturing career path means more than just keeping jobs fi lled. Philip credits partner Rob Cooney as well as brother Ryan for mak- ing an impact on education and training inside and outside the companies’ doors. Cooney was one of the fi rst Penn State engineering grads to be hired and, according to the Katens, has been instrumental in fostering a benefi cial relationship between the university and the two companies.


Micro Mold and Plastikos both take pride in fi nding and keeping smart workers, and continuously increasing their knowledge and abilities.


The Workers


The rising expectations of customers (such as Tandem Diabetes Care—see sidebar) have caused Micro Mold and Plastikos to raise their level of expertise in recent years. “Our technical knowledge base and skill set have really gone through the roof compared to a decade ago when we had, I think, two degreed engineers,” Philip noted. “Investing in our people is the most important thing we’ve done, and that includes recruiting the best technical and engineering resources. That’s something we’ve really ramped up over the last 10 years—the number of degreed engineers as well as other technically trained people who may not all have a formal credential but who can go toe-to-toe with any engineer any day. We have Penn State-Erie here in our back


“Rob has close ties with Penn State,” Philip explained. “He’s on their advisory board for faculty and program development. A few years ago we donated a couple of used presses that were still in good shape to Penn State to sup- port their plastics processing lab. “And Ryan works with local technical skills centers and high-school programs. He led the effort to donate a used press to the Central Tech High School, which is revamping its tech-


nical education programs.” “It’s a challenge to get kids interested in engineering and STEM studies,” Ryan Katen said, “But even more so to get kids interested in the technical trades, including tool and die, which is critical for this industry. That’s why we’ve taken an aggressive approach at trying to help the local schools— down to the eighth-grade level.” Both companies have been called great places to work by industry watchers, and people at other companies ask the brothers what the trick is to fi nding and keeping qualifi ed workers.


“I think the bottom line is to truly care about your people,” Phil said. “Everything else is subsumed in that. A fair liv- ing wage, put bonus programs in place that recognize and


86 — Medical Manufacturing 2015


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