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Niki Lohmeier

Women Changing the Manufacturing Industry

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While it may be true that manufacturing hasn’t always been a female-friendly career path, many strides have been made to ensure this industry is inclusive for everyone and encourages women to consider manufacturing as a career. Organizations like Women in Manufacturing (WiM) work to help push equality within the industry. According to a recent WiM survey, 50% of women agreed that manufacturing is a leading industry for job growth. Following are some women who have paved the way into a successful career in manufacturing.

Niki Lohmeier, Production Manager at Tempel

Lohmeier explains that even at a young age, she always enjoyed hands-on building. “When I was younger, I played with LEGOs and K’Nex. I was good at math and my father, an electrical engineer, recommended engineering.” During her time in the industry, she became the first female production manager at Tempel while also being a part of a Lean Six Sigma project. She helped lead lean manufacturing initiatives, including improvements that reduced setup time. The result helped eliminate people walking around trying to find things, which then helped increase company efficiency. While she recognizes the differences between men and women in the industry, she believes they should be celebrated and brought together to help lead the industry into the future. “Women bring a different approach and perspective to manufacturing. It allows us to bring more ideas and skills,” said Lohmeier. She further explains, “Having both perspectives brings the best ideas together.” These different perspectives grow success for manufacturing.

Rebekah Skinner, Field Service Engineer at Mazak Optonics

“Since I was a kid, I liked to take things apart and see how they worked. I would put them back together and see if they still worked or see if I fixed them,” Skinner said. With her ability to work hands-on, she took an interest in technical school and attended a camp at Ryerson University in Toronto that delved into a variety of engineering topics. It was here that she learned of the different pathways she could take with machinery and engineering, even if it wasn’t always the “orthodox way” for a woman. “People think of machines as big, heavy and dirty. And women don’t ‘get dirty’. It’s a mindset that is hard to overcome for other people,” Skinner said.

Vee Hassane, President of Afendi Manufacturing

While many may find themselves in manufacturing after receiving a degree in that industry, there are others like Hassane who find their way there via more winding paths. “My field of study was marketing and most of my past positions were visual merchandising in the retail sector, but I ended up somewhere completely different. I had to let go of what I thought I had pictured for myself and embrace my new role and responsibilities.” Being a part of manufacturing does not necessarily require a technical degree. There are many different ways to be a part of the manufacturing and fabrication industry. No matter which path is taken, it can lead to a successful career. During her time as president of her own company, Hassane had the opportunity to work on impactful projects such as helping replace the steel components damaged from Hurricane Sandy. Hassane’s company had the latest laser-cutting machinery that was needed during this time to help people back into their homes as quickly as possible. “It’s incredible to have material my firm has produced becoming permanent structures to these buildings and slowly helping people get back to their homes after such devastation,” she said.

As more women make their way into the manufacturing industry, the gender gap is slowly decreasing, which helps pave the way toward equality for all. Lohmeier advises all women to keep their options open. “Try as many roles as you can in any company or industry where you can gain the most from the experience. And always apply for a job even if you don’t think you are qualified. The experience of interviewing will help you in many ways that you might not even be aware of.”

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