Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director
Lou Kren Lou Kren
Senior Editor
Kate Bachman Kate Bachman
Contributing Editor

8th Annual Women of Excellence in Metal Forming & Fabricating

November 28, 2023

Four million manufacturing jobs must be filled in this decade, according to the Manufacturers Alliance. An aging workforce, competition from other industries and a stubbornly residual negative perception of industry have contributed to the labor shortage—especially skilled labor. 

About the Women in Manufacturing Association

Women in ManufacturingThe Women in Manufacturing Association (WiM) is a national and global trade association dedicated to supporting, promoting and inspiring women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. It provides year-round support to more than 23,000 individual members representing more than 2800 manufacturing companies from all 50 U.S. states and 50 countries. WiM encompasses manufacturers of all types and welcomes individuals from every job function—from production to the C-suite.  Membership is available to anyone working within or with the manufacturing sector. For more, visit

Metal forming and fabricating companies nationwide report vacancies in their staffs and the need to fill them to meet production goals. Many manufacturers have had great success filling these roles by hiring women, and find that gender diversity has had a positive result in their companies.

Women represent a significant part of the U.S. manufacturing workforce, holding about a third of the nearly 13 million manufacturing segment jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are owners, plant managers, finance directors, human resources managers, welders, tool and die makers, department leaders, press and other machine operators, material handlers, buyers, and shipping clerks.  

MetalForming magazine and its parent organization the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) recognize the importance of women in manufacturing and present here 51 honorees, with various production, support and managerial titles, in our eighth annual Women of Excellence in Metal Forming and Fabricating presentation.

Women of Excellence“It’s clear, as we highlight this year’s Women of Excellence (WoE), that women increasingly are filling critical roles in metal forming and fabricating facilities,” says Brad Kuvin, MetalForming editorial director. “The women recognized here contribute mightily to their companies in a variety of roles, from the production line to the front office. In this issue of MetalForming we recognize the achievements of 51 women, all earning praise from their employers and colleagues. Along with PMA, we proudly produce the WoE program and publish the results every December. The 2023 winners showcase the very best traits of an excellent workforce and provide inspiration for those who may follow in their footsteps."

This awards program includes the support of Women in Manufacturing and its mission to support, promote and inspire women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry.

“I am thrilled to congratulate the 2023 class of Women of Excellence in Metal Forming and Fabricating,” says Allison Grealis, founder and president of Women in Manufacturing. “These courageous and inspiring women have broken through barriers to reach a level of excellence that serves as a model for all of us. It’s remarkable to witness the progress being made in the industry. We need to continue to work together to ensure that these trends continue and that more women are empowered to take on roles in metal forming and fabricating.”

We present the honorees in the following pages (one honoree, Julie R. from McAlpin Industries, otherwise preferred to remain anonymous), including their quotes on why women should pursue manufacturing careers. And, visit our expanded Women of Excellence coverage, which includes honorees’ biographical information. 

Michelle Acosta

Vice President of Operations, Acosta Sheet Metal Mfg., San Jose, CA

Michelle AcostaAn experienced industry leader, Michelle is vice president of operations at Acosta Sheet Metal Mfg., Inc., a family-owned sheet metal manufacturer where she has worked for the past 16 yr. Michelle was named as one of the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 2022 Women of Influence, as well as named the first Latina appointed to the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, Bay Area Chapter board of directors. 
Michelle has worked in every facet of the business, enabling her to know it inside and out. She leads her staff with a humble and empathetic spirit, according to her nominator, and works diligently as a mentor and thought leader. Michelle has served in several local manufacturing organizations in various capacities as well as being a champion for sustainability, working alongside 99Bridges, a sustainable data exchange company. In her spare time, she also serves as a marketing consultant, and volunteers with many organizations. 

“Less than two percent of manufacturing companies in the United States are female-led; Michelle is part of that two percent,” her nominator says. “Michelle has led Acosta Sheet Metal Manufacturing through several major transitions already, having guided her team through the Covid-19 pandemic, expansive business growth, extreme difficulties meeting consumer demand due to delays in the manufacturing supply chain, and becoming the first female head of the company. Under Michelle’s leadership, the company has developed several key technologies that sets it apart from its competition. Having taken on her role with strength and poise, Michelle brings a new layer of humanity to her industry as she leads Acosta Sheet Metal Mfg. into a new era.” 

“The manufacturing industry offers a wide range of opportunities. It welcomes those who want to work with their hands and equally welcomes those who love the science behind it all. The industry may not be seen as creative by everyone, but it truly is. Manufacturing is “making.” This is an industry where women have an opportunity to make their own path and be fulfilled in every facet of their career and life.” 

Christine Belancik

Customer Relations Manager, Connecticut Spring & Stamping, Farmington, CT

Christine BelancikMore than 18 yr. ago, Christine Belancik started at Connecticut Spring & Stamping (CSS) as the main lobby receptionist. She quickly became a tremendous asset and was promoted to customer service representative (CSR). As a CSR, Christine has taken the initiative to think out of the box and propose several ways to streamline and improve our order processing, her nominator says. Most recently she was promoted to customer relations manager and has continued to shine as a true leader. 

One of Christine’s most notable achievements is her ability to effectively lead complex projects, highlighted by her leading the implementation of a new ERP system and process for handling sales orders. Her exceptional process knowledge, combined with strong problem-solving skills, has allowed her to overcome various challenges and deliver outstanding results.

“Christine has consistently exhibited excellence in her work. Her dedication, expertise and unwavering commitment to quality have improved the overall quality of our products,” her nominator adds, “and significantly contributes to the success of our organization. She has become a needed resource in most, if not all project teams. She has played a pivotal role in ensuring that the organization remains at the forefront of customer satisfaction—as evidenced by the 95-percent customer satisfaction rating CSS has received.

“Christine’s exceptional skills, leadership, and innovation-as well as her advocacy for inclusivity and diversity within the workplace—are why she serves as a role model for both her colleagues and aspiring professionals in the industry.”

“I would recommend a career in manufacturing to women because there are so many amazing opportunities for growth and advancement. It is rewarding to be part of such an important and diverse industry. Gender diversity is essential to a successful workplace. Working in manufacturing provides the opportunity to learn a multitude of skills.”

Beth Bivins

Global Key Account Manager; Solvents, Kyzen, Jacksonville, FL

Beth BivinsThroughout her 30-yr. career, Beth continually has progressed and been promoted to upper-level positions of responsibility. Hired to bolster the Kyzen solvent technical team, Beth is acknowledged by her industry peers as a technical cleaning expert, even holding a patent for a chemical cleaning process. Her chemical expertise has proven valuable for interfacing with clients, her nominator says, providing expert guidance in selecting the right type of cleaning chemistry to meet the end user’s requirements. 

“Beth has consistently imparted her knowledge to clients and prospects in a manner that instills confidence and meets their project demands,” her nominator says. “Her willingness to help everyone is a valuable trait that is much appreciated. Her exemplary work ethic and deep expertise are a credit to her gender as a modern woman in metal forming manufacturing.

“We are fortunate that Beth is now part of our team.”

“Manufacturing is a fast-paced industry where you are able—and encouraged—to use a variety of skills, including science/engineering, creative problem solving and interpersonal skills.And, you can see the end products out in the world!”

Arlene Bourgoin

Manufacturer Manager, Acme Monaco Corp., Presque Isle, ME

Arlene BourgoinArlene began her career at Acme Monaco as a production planner 9 yr. ago and has elevated herself to more challenging positions since, such as value stream manager. She now is the manufacturing manager in Acme Monaco’s Presque Isle, ME, facility.  Arlene is a quick study who has learned about the company from the ground up. She has been continually promoted because of her highly communicative and effective planning, and was recognized by senior management as employee of the month in January 2022. 

Arlene is an asset to Acme Monaco as a proven leader with an incredibly strong work ethic.  She understands all aspects of human resources and supply-chain management, and the importance of putting customers first.  A resilient leader, Arlene drives the workforce fairly to produce quality parts efficiently under tight timelines, leaving no doubt that she always has Acme Monaco’s best interest at heart.

“Arlene is one of the hardest-working women I know; her value cannot be overstated,” her nominator says. “She truly loves manufacturing and the role she plays. Acme Monaco benefits greatly from having an employee like Arlene.”

“Manufacturing is a challenging and rewarding career. Women have played an important part in the manufacturing industry for years. We need to continue this legacy for future generations. Encourage your daughters and granddaughters to take up the challenge to bring manufacturing back to the USA in all its glory. I believe every woman can be a Woman of Excellence!”

Erica Butler

Director of Production and Material Control, Daifuku Wynright Corp., Hobart, IN

Erica ButlerA 27-yr. industry veteran, Erica began with Wynright 12 yr. ago as inventory/assembly manager. Within about 6 mo. she was promoted to plant manufacturing manager where, as Erica recalls, she led an amazing production team that supported company growth by doubling the output volume. After several years in this position she transitioned to a manufacturing engineering/business analyst role, where she could identify and implement continuous-improvement initiatives that leaned operations and drove down costs. This role also afforded the opportunity to expand Erica’s knowledge of business operations outside of production. 

After becoming part of Daifuku Corp., business continued to grow and Erica assumed the position of director of production and material control. In this role, she continued project-management duties, which included leading the merger of two manufacturing operations into one facility, partnering with manufacturing to move all operations to a new manufacturing plant and leading the business through a significant ERP upgrade. Even with such accomplishments, “what makes me the most proud over my 12 years with the company,” Erica says, “is the team that I helped build and develop.”

“A manufacturing career has helped me gain experience from across a variety of industries and disciplines. I’ve enjoyed being in an environment that allows me to continuously improve and solve complex problems, driving innovation forward. In these multifaceted-systems, where technology and human capital merge, the flexibility and unconventional thinking that women bring to manufacturing are vital for the industry’s future.”

Penny Camire

Lead Estimator, Component Engineers Inc., Wallingford, CT

Penny CamirePenny grew up learning the small-precision-parts-manufacturing trade while working in her father’s business, Elks Mfg. She started off on the shop floor as an operator, then advanced to setup, then to purchasing/planning/HR, and eventually became principal owner. Penny has dedicated 37 yr. of her life to the trade, learning not only the technical side but also the business side. In 2008, Component Engineers Inc. (CEI) acquired Elks Mfg., and Penny has been with CEI for 15 years as lead estimator.

Penny is dedicated and hard-working, and when faced with challenges, doesn’t take no for an answer. She helps guide, assist and empower all employees—especially female CEI team members, according to her nominator, who further states that Penny never has a ‘that’s not my job” attitude. 

“Early on, it was not easy for women to get into manufacturing, let alone to learn all facets of the business,” her nominator says. “Not only has Penny overcome obstacles she faced as a woman in manufacturing, she has excelled. She plays a critical role within CEI, and we are lucky to have her.” 

“I have had a great ride in manufacturing, and I am still learning something new every day! I hope that this inspires new generations to get involved and put their ideas in motion. I want everyone to enter the trade! It is challenging and thought-provoking; the results are something to be very proud of. Being part of making something from raw materials that becomes an essential component in any market is just magic. Don’t ever be afraid to get your hands dirty.”

Natalie Caudle

North American General Manager, Human Resources and Safety, Topre America, Cullman, AL

Natalie CaudleNatalie started at Topre America as a temporary press associate 17 yr. ago and has held many titles at Topre since then. First, she became a press team leader over a large transfer press and achieved the highest SPM and efficiency in the company. She then took the role as safety coordinator and led the company to its best safety record ever. After that, Natalie relocated several times to help Topre start several new plants across North America. In her current role as NA General Manager, HR & Safety, Natalie has helped the company grow from 100 people to more than 3000.

“Natalie has taken the time to understand the metal stamping process. Even in her role in HR, she stays connected with the engineering and manufacturing teams so that she can properly support them,” her nominator says. “She shows the character and integrity it takes to be a long-term leader in today’s industry. 

“Many times, I have seen her take the time to work on the shop floor to help solve problems, or train newcomers on how to operate the press and explain how dies work. Natalie is absolutely a key pillar in Topre’s organization.”

“Manufacturing today is not your grandfather’s factory job. New technologies, materials and widening skill sets have changed the idea that manufacturing is only ‘men’s work.’  I would encourage any woman to investigate careers in manufacturing. There are jobs to fit nearly everyone. Many companies also train and promote from within. These practices provide career opportunities not always found in other industries.”

Angel Chamberlin

Assistant General Manager, O’Neal Mfg. Services, Cedar Falls, IA

Angel ChamberlinAngel began her career with O’Neal Steel in Waterloo, IA, in 2006 as an executive assistant. She quickly was promoted to an inside sales representative. In 2013, Angel transferred to O’Neal Manufacturing Services in Cedar Falls as inside sales representative, serving hundreds of different customers. From there, she was promoted to account manager and lead customer service, then to production control manager. 

In June 2023, she became assistant general manager. In her new role, she is responsible for the customer service, production scheduling, engineering, quality, materials and logistics departments.

Angel’s organizational skills, attention to detail and focus benefit the company and its customers tremendously. Her efforts helped OMS Cedar Falls grow its customer base.  Angel fostered continuous improvements in OMS’ production processes, developing valuable scheduling tools that are used in the day-to-day production scheduling. She made sure that employees were recognized and rewarded for their continuous-improvement ideas. She was instrumental in OMS Cedar Falls meeting customers’ needs during the difficulties created by the pandemic.

“It cannot be overstated how important Angel has been.,” her nominator says. “She is the standard by which others could be measured for this award. With every new role that Angel has taken on, she has excelled and been a catalyst for O’Neal to improve and grow as a leader in advanced manufacturing in the metal fabrication arena.” 

“I would recommend a career in manufacturing to anyone—men or women. Manufacturing has opportunities for workers from all backgrounds, from trades to graduate degrees. I work for a company that allows me to foster my skills, creativity and intellectual bravery. I am proud of my success in the industry and would encourage everyone to consider it as a career.”

Valentina Ciotto

Engineering Project Manager, Tsugami America, Windsor, CT

Valentina CiottoIn the 6 yr. that Valentina has worked at Tsugami America, she has been promoted  numerous times. She started as a sales and marketing coordinator, then moved to engineering coordinator and finally to engineering project manager. In addition, Valentina is mentoring a coordinator to support the engineering team. She recently received her project-management professional certification. Additionally, she is certified in SolidWorks and participated in a multiple-day Dale Carnegie leadership-development program.

Valentina represents everything right in people in the manufacturing industry. When she began, she worked hard to get exposure to different roles and responsibilities. Her favorite part of manufacturing is working with customers. Seeing that they have a positive experience is what fuels her day to day. Although she did not have a background in the technical aspects, that did not stop her from immersing herself in engineering and working on the floor with the application engineers to gain a thorough understanding of the ins and outs of the equipment. 

Fast forward to her current role. She is managing critically important and highly technical engineering cells with robots, special workholding devices and detailed measuring equipment for high-end customers. A person doesn’t ascend into such roles without a strong work ethic, attention to detail and an ability to get things done on time, her nominator stresses.

“Honestly, I can’t imagine working in any other industry! A career in manufacturing offers women opportunities to break gender stereotypes, pursue diverse roles in a growing industry and contribute to innovation every day. Women can play a crucial role in shaping the future of manufacturing and nothing brings me more joy or passion than to spread awareness to this industry to future generations

Katherine Dominguez

Inside Sales, Estimating Group Leader, Walker Mfg., Inc., Ontario, CA

Katherine DominguezKatie started at Walker Mfg. 8 yr. ago as a customer service representative and excelled at making customers feel comfortable and well cared for. Katie’s employment expanded into a program manager role as she grew her relationships with customers, internal teams and the production department, and volunteered to help others outside of her department. She has pushed herself to expand her manufacturing knowledge by taking courses in MRP, blueprint reading and programming, and has acquired master’s degree in Business Administration.

Katie set a shining example from day one through her professionalism, friendliness, outstanding service and great work ethic, according to her nominator, who  notes that she always has a smile on her face and a wide-open door to anyone who needs help. 

“Katie is a dedicated employee who always steps up to fill in roles when needed, including inside sales manager, production control, estimating, outside sales, accounting and procurement,” her nominator says. “She has helped on the floor to help make, review and pack parts. And, she’s willing to deal with tough issues. Her managers and co-workers know that they can count her every day. Katie is highly valuable to the company—and would be to any organization.”

“Manufacturing is an exciting industry where you can be challenged and can continuously grow if you are willing to put in the hard work and dedication. Every day is different and offers new opportunities for women to improve the industry with their knowledge and perspectives. It is empowering to know that women make a difference in the world of manufacturing!”

Bethany Dowell

Safety Manager, O’Neal Mfg. Services, Indianapolis, IN

Bethany DowellBethany started her career with O’Neal Manufacturing Services 20 yr. ago on the shop floor in the parts cleaning department where her work ethic caught the attention of management. She then trained to run the plasma cutting machine, and then moved to the shipping and receiving department.  

Her diligence in this position opened the opportunity to advance to an inventory specialist, and then to her first role in management. She became the supervisor for the machining, lasers and welding departments. She took it upon herself to learn how to weld and became certified. Bethany started improvement and safety projects, which increased productivity and boosted morale. People trust Bethany’s leadership. 

After that, Bethany was given the responsibility of the assembly area. She worked with the team to streamline the process. As a result, she elevated on-time delivery from 67 to 100 percent.

Throughout her career, Bethany pursued higher education. She earned her associate’s degree in Business, a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Logistics and Production, and then a master’s in Business Administration. 

As safety manager Bethany has excelled. She has created all the processes to keep the team safe.  She makes sure that everyone is properly trained, and that the processes and machines are purchased with the required safety features. This year, the company’s Indianapolis team was awarded a rising star safety award by the Indiana governor.  This prestigious achievement demonstrates the leadership and impact Bethany has had on the organization.

“I recommend manufacturing to women because it offers so many opportunities to learn and grow. Having started at an entry level and developed into my current role, I have learned that metal manufacturing challenges your mind in ways that other industries cannot. The skills that you learn can be applied in every industry. The real joy of being in manufacturing is the people. The relationships that you build with people are priceless.””

Erika Draper

Production Coordinator, New Standard Corp., Emigsville, PA

Erika DraperErika’s 13-yr. journey at New Standard is a shining example of growth opportunities that are available for someone who works hard, embodies the core values and creates good relationships with everyone. She started in 2011 as a production associate. From there, she was promoted to a press setup tech, heavy assembly tech, press tech 3, team leader and then production coordinator in 2019. This growth path is the result of Erika’s hard work and determination. She’s constantly striving to improve and drives herself and her teams to be the best that they can be.

Throughout the ups and downs of business and life, Erika has stayed focused and dedicated to her team. Her ability to stay positive during challenging times has had a huge impact on those around her. She consistently puts the needs of others above hers and acts as a servant leader.
As a production coordinator, Erika has as many as 30 direct reports at any given time.  Her area of responsibility accounted for around half of the total sales for New Standard in 2022. 

“I believe that her success, mindset, and leadership are all areas in which she serves as a role model for associates to follow in her footsteps,” her nominator says. 

“The challenges and rewards of working in the manufacturing industry are numerous. I have daily opportunities to learn new things and use my imagination to find solutions. Every day I face a challenge in my job, which requires me to adapt to a constantly shifting environment. With our innate talents to pay attention to details, strive to do better, multitask and innovate in a fast-paced atmosphere, women can thrive in manufacturing.  It has been rewarding for me to work with a very knowledgeable group of people who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise, which has allowed me to advance within my organization.”

Jennifer Dutko

Supply Chain Manager, Leonhardt Mfg. Co., Hanover, PA

Jennifer DutkoJennifer began her journey at Leonhardt Mfg. as a supply chain planner/buyer in December 2020. In a short span, she demonstrated exceptional skills and dedication, leading to her promotion to the role of supply chain manager in 2022.

In 2 yr., Jennfer has implemented a forecasting schedule for service suppliers, developed a standard operating procedure to move receiving to the dock team, implemented handheld computers for easy transactions with enterprise resource planning and implemented a supplier scorecard. With certifications in SAP, ASCM CSCP and ASCM CPIM, Jennifer applied her expertise and led the ERP implementation of barcoding and inventory control for materials and workorder tracking and processing, and navigated new supplier sourcing related to supply-chain disruptions during the pandemic.

“Jennifer stands as a distinguished figure in the metal forming and fabricating industries, embodying exemplary leadership and accomplishments,” her nominator says. “Through her progressive career trajectory and impactful contributions, she has showcased a depth of expertise that sets her apart as a role model for aspiring professionals in this sector. Jennifer epitomizes the qualities and achievements that define leadership in these industries, making her a source of inspiration for those aiming to achieve similar heights.”

Jennifer’s commitment to professional development also is reflected in her community involvement and leadership capabilities.

“I strongly recommend a career in manufacturing to women due to the industry’s increasing commitment to gender equality, financial stability, skill development, and opportunities for innovation and leadership. Women in manufacturing can contribute diverse perspectives, collaboration skills and a sense of pride in creating tangible products while challenging traditional gender stereotypes and advocating for inclusivity, making this field a rewarding and empowering choice.”

Janna Findley

Program Manager for Nissan North America, Steel Technologies, Murfreesboro, TN

Janna FindleyAs Steel Technologies’ program manager for Nissan North America’s direct-buy steel program for two assembly facilities, Janna manages inventory to make sure that Nissan receives steel coils and blanks JIT (literally just hours before it is used) to keep their blanking and stamping operations running smoothly. She coordinates with several steel mills in multiple locations. She manages the flat roll for Nissan’s supplying mills, coordinating forecasting, delivery and inventory levels for new model launches, existing model phase outs, trials and special projects. 

With an engineer’s mindset and strong initiative, Janna leads the way in the Nissan steel supply chain, her nominator states, noting that Janna’s leadership and initiative, along with 26 yr. of experience in manufacturing, have helped Nissan keep the plant running and customers happy. 

“Janna works ahead to locate and schedule processing for special projects,” says her nominator, "and she supports all departments from purchasing to engineering. Janna takes it upon herself to figure out blank utilization for coil optimization, sometimes doubling the number of blanks that her customer can obtain from a coil. She manages steel suppliers to make sure they provide the right material at the right time with accurate technical data to specification to keep production flowing. Currently, she is helping to develop others at Steel Technologies to be great program managers for Nissan as well.”  

“As a youth, I never imagined myself in a manufacturing career—in my previous career I was a high school English teacher with a master’s degree in English—but I was short-sighted. I have found that the female propensities to be excellent multi-taskers, problem-solvers and communicators make women valuable assets in the manufacturing workplace. I encourage any woman to view manufacturing as a wide-open career path for her talents and voice.”

Amy Garceau

Accounting Manager, Stewart EFI, Charlotte, NC

Amy GarceauAmy joined the Stewart EFI team in February of 2011 as a part-time accounts-payable specialist. She quickly took on additional challenges that utilized her Accounting degree. As a result of her hard work and dedication, Amy transitioned to a full-time role of assistant controller in 2015.  After working part-time remotely in 2017 because of a family relocation, Amy returned to a full-time position in late 2019 as accounting manager.

Amy has been an exemplary professional, surpassing expectations and setting new standards of excellence. One of Amy’s standout qualities is her ability to lead by example. She has fostered a work environment that encourages collaboration, innovation and continuous learning. Amy’s colleagues admire her for her mentorship and guidance, which have played a pivotal role in their professional development. In addition, she has championed diversity and inclusion in the workplace, making it a more welcoming and equitable environment for all.

Amy’s remarkable leadership and outstanding contributions have left an indelible mark on her colleagues and her organization. Her unwavering commitment to her role and her ability to adapt to changing financial landscapes have significantly contributed to the company’s growth and success.
“By her accomplishments and character, Amy epitomizes the essence of excellence that this award seeks to honor,” her nominator says. 

“Women in Manufacturing are all about progress, diversity and being part of a rewarding experience. Manufacturing is part of our history, and it is just as integral to America’s future. It is witnessing innovation first-hand. The best part is that at Stewart EFI, women have an impactful role in all aspects of a part—from start to finish—from operating the machines to making parts, verifying specs, packaging and shipping them, to invoicing those parts and reporting on their financial impacts. Manufacturing affords women numerous opportunities.” 

Joanna Ginyard

Press Department Assistant Manager, LGE, Clarksville, TN

Joanna GinyardLGE was a new company in Clarksville, TN, and Joanna was hired as a lead in the press department.  Within 5 yr., Joanna went from press lead to injection section leader to press section leader to press assistant manager.   

LGE is a Korean-based company, and bridging cultural differences can be critical as a leader. Joanna hosted Korean/American Christmas parties and regularly hosts multicultural team dinners so that everyone learns and respects each other’s differences so as to be a united work family. Her hard work, drive, determination, leadership and professionalism gradually starting turning heads. Everyone came to realize that not only could she handle each and every one of the positions she held, but she could excel at them, raising the expectation bar even higher.

Even with all her promotions, Joanna never forgot her most important asset: her team. She goes out of her way to take care of her employees by holding various team building activities, pot luck lunches, and Halloween and Christmas decorating.  She holds holiday parties with prize giveaways, and birthday recognition. She plans to host a murder mystery dinner is the future. “Joanna is an amazing mother, friend and boss,” he nominator says. 

“I was first introduced to presses in 2008 and fell in love with the art of metal forming. I have always loved being able to show that I can weld, operate a forklift, run a press and troubleshoot on my own. The growth opportunities are endless at LGE and I am a living testimony to that.”

Tausha Gray

Welding Assistant Manager, Takumi Stamping, Fairfield, OH

Tausha GraySince starting at Takumi Stamping 15 yr. ago as a machine operator, Tausha has been promoted and consistently more responsibility. She has held positions as line support, team leader, group leader, senior group leader and then welding assistant manager. She continues to showcase her skills and abilities by continually improving the areas that she manages.

Tausha sets an amazing example for her leaders and up-and-coming team members. Her drive and passion radiate throughout the organization. Her knowledge, candor and experience are very clear and tangible. Her ideas make her department stand out; it is easy to see her leadership in action with a walk through her area. Tausha represents the people that she supports. She never forgets that she rose from the shop floor. Her team is a reflection of her, her skills and her attitude.

Tausha continues to be a rising star in the organization, according to her nominator. She serves as a role model because she doesn’t accept the status quo. Tausha is not afraid to push against the grain and step up to the plate. She has left her mark of standard and the direction for improvement in the areas she manages. 

“Tausha is an asset and we would be lost without her,” her nominator says. 

“I highly recommend any woman who has an interest in manufacturing to jump in and give it a try. It may seem intimidating, but once you jump in you will find that there are many rewarding aspects. Every day is challenging and filled with obstacles that women can offer a unique perspective to solving. While working with a diverse team you can learn something new every day, and the opportunity for growth is endless.”

Christina Hagle

Owner, Jim James Enterprises, Chatsworth, CA

Christina HagleChristina’s journey from dedicated employee to proud owner of a thriving sheet metal forming and fabrication manufacturing company is a testament to her unwavering commitment. Over 27 yr., she not only has preserved her family’s legacy but catapulted it to unparalleled heights, according to her nominator, who calls her deeply inspiring and a trailblazing figure in the metal forming and fabricating industries. 

Christina has won supplier-excellence awards from Raytheon, SBA Administrators, Honeywell, Canoga Perkins and others.

“Her visionary leadership, unmatched expertise, and unyielding work ethic have set a standard for excellence, making her an exemplary role model for all aspiring women in manufacturing,” says her nominator. “Christina is living proof that with passion, dedication, and determination, any obstacle can be overcome, and any height can be scaled. Her accomplishments resonate as a beacon of empowerment and serve as a guiding light for generations to come.”

“Being a small-manufacturing-business owner allows you to provide a way of life for individuals and their families.  A career in manufacturing is very unique in that you actually have a tangible objective at the end of the day. It’s exciting to see where your parts actually end up or who they benefit. Whether it be a part on an airplane, something that might help an American war fighter or just a personal device that enhances everyday living…manufacturing gives you the opportunity to contribute to society and its progression and well-being. There is always a constant challenge of being a women in a very male-dominated world. As a result, being successful in your endeavors gives you an extra bit of satisfaction.” 

Diane Hartman

Inventory Supervisor, BCN Technical Services, Hastings, MI 

Diane HartmanIn her 30 yr. at BCN Technical Services, Diane has served as receiving clerk, inspector, timekeeper, production control assistant, production control supervisor, shipping supervisor and purchasing agent. She now serves as inventory supervisor.

“Diane has a deep technical knowledge of our products,” her nominator says. “She excels in her management abilities, fostering team building and the technical abilities of team members. She is knowledgeable in all inter-company processes and procedures, and she uses that knowledge to expedite repair parts to our customers to keep their presses running. She is always willing to help wherever needed. In her current role, she trains new employees in the shipping and receiving department.”

“Manufacturing is a wonderful career for women. There are so many opportunities, from inventory control to purchasing, sales, engineering, inspection and much more. All fields are challenging and exciting. You will learn something new every day.”

Bridget Hendrickson

Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer,  Co-Owner, Hub Mfg. Co. , Minneapolis, MN

Bridget HendricksonAs one of the owners of Minnesota Metal Fabrication overseeing two DBAs, Benson Metals and Hub Mfg., Bridget has navigated the complexities of financial management, overseeing high-level activities with ease, according to her nominator, who notes having “witnessed Bridget turn seemingly insurmountable tasks into achievable milestones, inspiring and motivating everyone around her.”

Bridget’s expertise extends beyond finance and accounting, and includes proficiency in acquisitions, enterprise resource planning systems, and various other aspects of general and high-level accounting Her multifaceted skills have not only elevated the manufacturer’s office environment but also have contributed to the broader metal forming industry.

Despite having limited knowledge of metal fabrication initially, Bridget embraced this manufacturing opportunity wholeheartedly, authoring a fabrication shop’s rebirth and expansion. Through her leadership, Minnesota Metal Fabrication, Benson Metals and Hub Mfg. have become flourishing enterprises, contributing significantly to the local community by creating numerous jobs.

“Bridget’s story is not just a tale of success; it’s a testament to resilience and innovation,” offers her nominator. “Her ability to navigate the complexities of the metal forming industry; revive failing businesses; and create a harmonious, thriving environment within her companies showcases her exceptional leadership qualities. Moreover, Bridget’s willingness to learn, adapt and venture into the unknown is truly inspiring. She represents a beacon of hope for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women, in the metal fabrication industry. Her story serves as a shining example of what determination, vision and hard work can achieve.” 

“Metal Forming is an exciting industry because you get access to such a variety of customers and products. It’s fun to see your hard work out in the world in finished goods! Here at Hub Manufacturing we also are looking for the future of manufacturing in our youth.  I believe that there are many avenues for success, and we need to encourage our children to look beyond the traditional classroom to apprenticeship and hand-on training opportunities.”

Morgan Jarrett

Chief Operating Officer, H&H Metal Fabrication, Saint Louis, MO

Morgan JarrettMorgan joined H&H Metal Fabrication in 2019 as chief operating officer, bringing her experience as a division engineer at the Grain Processing Corp. and in technical sales at Parker Hanifan. As COO at H&H, she is introducing new capabilities and has grand plans of continued growth and opportunity for all.

Morgan is a bright rising star in the manufacturing industry as she leads a team of experienced craftspeople out in the shop and the office staff as well.  In simple terms, her leadership style is very “roll up your sleeves and get it done.” She is the first to get out in the shop and get dirty. She manages all employees with an emphasis on integrity and empathy.

Morgan encourages all members of the team to contribute and collaborate on ideas and projects. Regardless of title or tenure, everyone has a seat at the table and can bring their best self to work each day. Morgan also is working hard to recruit a diverse workforce. H&H Metal Fabrication has been proudly certified by WBENC as woman-owned-and-operated business under Morgan’s leadership. 

“In my experience, one of the greatest contributors to innovation is a unique perspective. Any industry (or company,  project or team) could benefit from someone looking at how ‘things have always been done’ with a fresh set of eyes. Women historically have been under-represented in manufacturing, so there is nothing but room for us to raise our creative voices.”

Kelli Lang

Inside Sales Manager, Formtek-Maine, a Mestek Company, Clinton, ME

Kelli LangKelli began working at Formtek-Maine as an administrative assistant 8 yr. ago, and immediately showed her potential as a sales engineer. She very quickly learned the company’s product line and applications for the equipment. She was promoted to sales manager this past May.

“Kelli is the first woman to pursue a career as a sales engineer at the facility and the first female department head at Formtek-Maine,” says her nominator. “She started at the lowest position in the department and worked her way up, so she understands every position to a great degree and the unique responsibilities required of each. She is proof-positive that with hard work, the desire to learn and grow, and a positive attitude, anyone can accomplish their goals at Formtek-Maine. Kelli has become a huge asset to us.”

“Working in manufacturing for the past 25 years, and specific to metal forming for the last 8, I have held positions in production, administrative, sales and management. My personal motivation is to contribute to the continuation of manufacturing in the United States for our future generations. Equally rewarding are the many career options that manufacturing has to offer.”

Danielle LaValla

Supply Chain Manager, H&T Waterbury, Waterbury, CT

Danielle LaVallaDanielle joined H&T Waterbury as a quality engineer in 2017 after graduating from Central Connecticut State University in 2015 and working in the industry as an industrial engineer. Quickly learning the manufacturer’s systems and processes, she became a major contributor to its ISO 9001 recertification. In 2020, Danielle took over the roles of purchasing and planning, then completed her master’s of Business Administration and, in 2021, became supply chain manager, gaining more responsibilities and direct reports.

“Danielle has impressed with her ability to quickly pick up concepts and understand a wide range of processes,” writes her nominator. “She is able to communicate throughout all levels of our organization as well as with both customers and suppliers. In the last few years, she has accelerated her growth by taking on supply-chain-management responsibility. In this role, Danielle successfully balances all of the different constraints of delivery, quality and cost. With the quickly changing landscape of manufacturing, she effectively develops and communicates plans to give us the best opportunity for success.”

“The manufacturing sector offers diverse roles, from engineering to management. This sector involves a lot of innovation ideas, problem solving, and collaboration with internal and external partners. Manufacturing can be quite challenging, but the most rewarding part is being able to contribute to a product or part being made. I would highly recommend manufacturing to women that are looking for promising career growth!”

Stephanie Leigh

Materials and Finishing Manager, Dekalb Tool & Die/Wall Control, Tucker, GA

Stephanie LeighStephanie has raced down an unconventional path toward excellence in the metalworking industry, and is a product of her passion to learn, her need to work with both her mind and her hands, her boundless creativity, and an unwavering positive attitude. With a formal education in the arts, she came to the company 3 yr. ago during a time of very limited job opportunity due to the pandemic. The 50-yr.-old metalworking business had made a decision to add powder coating to its list of services, but no one within the business had experience or knowledge related to setting up and managing an automated paint line so outside help was sought. Stephanie responded to that job opening. 

Her “get it done” attitude and passion to engage her mind and hands into the making of an actual product trumped a lack of specific knowledge and experience with such technology.

“When I come in the facility I don’t know if I will see her 12 ft. in the air greasing bearings on a blower motor, covered in powder troubleshooting a spray-gun issue, mixing chemicals for the wash tank, changing plumbing fittings on a 500,000 BTU boiler, or sitting at her desk planning a month’s worth of raw-material flow through the building,” he nominator says. “Her impact upon our day-to-day operations has been nothing less than amazing, but it has not just been in these four walls. For someone to come into the industry with no prior experience or formal training and within 2 yr. be recognized by Products Finishing magazine as one of its “40 Under 40” speaks volumes. Her professional peers recognize her accomplishments.”

Bringing a youthful energy to manufacturing, Stephanie does the same in other endeavors. For example, she was selected as a cast member on “Renovation Hunters,” a television show on The Outdoor Channel.

“In my mind, Stephanie represents a very refreshing and needed change in manufacturing,” her nominator offers. “We are in desperate need of young, dynamic, creative and hard-working people who have a passion to create something tangible with their hands. Give Stephanie a torque wrench, a multimeter, a pH meter, a spreadsheet or a digital micrometer, and it makes no difference—she is able to do all of it. These are not skills and abilities she learned while earning an arts degree. They were self-taught out of a passion to know and understand every facet of the manufacturing world. It is easy for people such as Stephanie to get lost in an industry that is full of corporate giants. You don’t make parts on paper, you make them with people—and Stephanie is one of the best.”

“For most of history, the majority of products have been designed and produced by men. While the gender gap is closing in a lot of professional areas, women are still underrepresented in science, engineering, product design and manufacturing. Women make more than 80 percent of the purchases, but only design and build a fraction of those products. As women in the workforce, especially in the trades, we often struggle to find products that are made for us or suit our needs.  What better way to change that statistic than making yourself part of the solution?”

Laurie Levesque

Human Resource Manager, Corporate Secretary, Truelove & Maclean, Inc., Watertown, CT

Laurie LevesqueHired as part of the office support staff at Truelove & Maclean, Inc. (T&M) in 1996, Laurie since has increased steadily her knowledge of the company’s products, business processes and responsibilities, leading to her promotion to office manager in 2007.   After a long period of consistent business growth at T&M, and a sizeable increase in the workforce, Laurie was promoted to manager of human resources in 2019. Her responsibilities include working with the state government and surrounding-area vocational high schools to attract and retain apprentices, and working with the apprentices to ensure a solid learning experience while employed at T&M.   She also is responsible for the manufacturer’s employee benefit programs, advising as to plan design and ensuring its effective administration and has served on T&M’s safety committee.

In March 2020, T&M was acquired by the SFS Group AG, a Swiss publicly held industrial company, and Laurie was given the officer position of corporate secretary. She was instrumental in the successful transition of the &M workforce into the SFS Group, including a full onboarding to the SFS employee-benefits structure.

“Laurie embodies the leadership culture at T&M and its parent company SFS Group AG in understanding that the company’s success is the result of putting its employees’ wellbeing first, in terms of safety, employee benefits, fair pay and employment policies,” writes her nominator. “Her contribution to the company’s growth and success of the past 20-plus yr. cannot be overstated. And, Laurie’s long history of collaboration with local vocational schools and collaboratively developing training programs have contributed immeasurably to the local manufacturing community and further demonstrate her dedication to the industry.”

“To me, a career in manufacturing has meant opportunity, stability and flexibility—critical to a mother who balances work and family. Manufacturers employ individuals with different skills, backgrounds, experiences and personalities—an environment where women succeed due to their unique perspective and attention to detail. I encourage women interested in a manufacturing career to research the variety of opportunities. Manufacturing is rewarding and our future!”

Marissa Luethi

Quality Engineer, Paragon Medical, Southington, CT

Marissa LuethiMarissa, in her role as quality engineer at Paragon Medical, has numerous accomplishments under her belt. These include leading and overseeing multiple customer and regulatory audits with no major findings, developing KPIs for nonconforming products, and leading all corrective-and-preventive-action meetings to develop robust corrective-action items. And, Marissa was instrumental in implementing a new statistical-process-control software throughout the plant to improve in process inspections in all work centers and optimize process capability. 

For her all-around efforts, Marissa was presented with the Paragon Extra Mile Award twice within the same month.

“Marissa has been working in the metal forming industry for the past 5 yr. and has demonstrated diligent and resolute engineering acumen for Paragon Medical in metal forming over the last 2 yr.,” says her nominator. “She has demonstrated true leadership by taking responsibility for quality function on a number of occasions and is being considered for future leadership roles.”

“There are so many possibilities when it comes to manufacturing, from the products, to the process, to the roles. You can diversify your position to what fits you best, whether it’s getting your hands dirty or aiding from a desk. It’s the kind of industry that never has a dull moment and always leaves room for growth.”

Susette Maldonado

Supervisor, Logistics and Secondary Operations, Click Bond Inc., Watertown, CT

Susette MaldonadoSusette joined Click Bond in 2008 as a quality assurance inspector. She held that position for many years, becoming a senior level inspector until applying for the supervisor, logistics and secondary operations position in June 2023. Since moving into that position, she has been “knocking it out of the park” since day one, leading a team of five.

When Susette applied for her current position, she took a risk in stepping out of her comfort zone in the quality assurance department. She knew that accepting the position would mean new responsibilities and learning a new role, but much more. She would need to adjust to a new schedule, learn new software, policies and procedures, and commit to leadership training to become the people leader she wanted to be. 

“Susette exemplifies the qualities of a true people leader in the way she guides the people on her team, helps them recognize the value that they add to the organization, and supports them in developing their own skills and abilities, while learning and developing herself,” her nominator says. 

“The women today set the example of the women tomorrow. Manufacturing is a great career option for women. There are many benefits to having more women in the manufacturing workforce, suchas good pay, variety of positions, opportunity for leadership, work/life balance, positive work culture, etc. Also, women have many possibilities in manufacturing.”

Morgan McCaw

Laser Welder 2,  Superior Joining Technologies, Inc., Machesney Park, IL

Morgan McCawIn only two years since she began working at Superior Joining Technologies, Morgan has stepped into every challenge presented to her with enthusiasm. When she arrived at the company, she had welding experience, but was not certified to AWS D17.1. She practiced so she could pass that test, and then worked on additional projects to improve. Her workmanship is excellent. 

Morgan is willing to be trained, and to train others. She performs welds under NAPCAP and AWS Specifications programs, and communicates with the quoting department to estimated times for new jobs. She now also runs the laser marker, the CO2 laser, and was promoted to the laser welding area. Morgan also is currently learning 3D metal printing, and is taking CAD classes at night to grow in her understanding of the Industry.  

This last year Morgan has taken on a lot of extra responsibility, and is able to clearly communicate with customers and the shop floor. 

“She has shown real drive in her work and in learning,” her nominator says. “Morgan not only excels in her skills on a daily basis, she represents the highest level of industry performance.” 

“I recommend a career in manufacturing to woman because the work never gets old. You constantly are growing and innovating. In my 4 short years in the manufacturing field I have been not only able to grow in gas-tungsten-arc welding, but also in metal 3D printing, laser welding, CAD and R&D . So many manufacturing companies love to see their employees grow and, therefore, are willing to assist with any educational funds.”

Robin McElwee

Chief Executive Officer, Universal Tools & Mfg. Co., Springfield, NJ

Robin McElweeUniversal Tools & Mfg. is a woman-owned family business, founded in New Jersey more than 75 yr. ago. As a high-school student Robin worked alongside her German immigrant grandfather and company owner Opa, hoping to lead the organization one day. Shortly after graduating college, Robin worked alongside her mother from the ground up, and eventually became Universal’s CEO. 

Robin demonstrates on a daily basis that she is an adept leader in the production of deep-drawn metal stamped parts. Despite how difficult the pandemic was for the manufacturing industry, through her leadership, Universal was recognized as an essential supplier. She has led the company through many battles and many obstacles over her 40 yr. with the company—never wanting any special attention. She leads Universal with humility.
Robin continues to lead and innovate the company for the future with the hope of passing it on to the next generation. Currently the fourth generation is active in daily operations and the fifth generation’s little feet are in the offices. 

Robin is very humble and not one to seek attention. Her dedication and work ethic are admirable and worthy of recognition, her nominator notes.

“Manufacturing is not a ‘man’s world.’ At Universal I am surrounded by many strong and amazing woman that excel both in the office and on the production floor. Every day, I see a woman’s perspective in problem solving being an asset to getting our job done. I believe there is more than enough room in manufacturing for a woman’s know-how.”

Kasey Mills

Tech Center Production Supervisor, SafeRack, Andrews, SC

Kasey MillsBeginning her career at SafeRack as a multi-machine operator in 2019 and with more than two decades of manufacturing experience under her belt, Kasey has been promoted several times to positions including expeditor, tech center team lead and her current role of tech center production supervisor. Testament to her success in these roles, Kasey received SafeRack’s inaugural Employee of the Month award in 2022.

“Kasey’s roles primarily have been in the day-to-day operations of SafeRack’s Tech Center and she has excelled due to her ability to learn, operate and guide others on a variety of sheet and tube bending and cutting equipment,” says one of her six nominators (a record for number of nominators in this awards program). “Kasey also took it upon herself to become involved with coworkers outside of her department and is involved with the raw-material-unloading (supplier) and weld departments (internal customers). She works across the organization including involvement with environmental health and safety and quality, where she commonly points out opportunities for improvement and is first to respond when an observation is made in the Tech Center. Kasey holds herself and her team accountable and this has allowed her department to consistently achieve production goals.”

Says another nominator: “Kasey is a role model for her colleagues in our organization and for those considering entering the metal forming industry. Each and every day she demonstrates diligence, takes on responsibilities and makes things happen. She teaches others the value of continuous learning and taking responsibility in one’s role. Kasey’s ethics and diligence are unquestioned and she demonstrates what you can accomplish through hard work. Others can and do learn from her example that hard work and a willingness to take on responsibility will lead to career growth and opportunities. In four short years she has become a formal leader and a force in our organization.”

“Thank you to Saferack for your support and opportunities. It has recognized my hard work and dedication. I love being a part of a team in manufacturing. I continuously am learning and it offers work that is very rewarding. I strongly recommend a career in manufacturing to all women. We bring a unique perspective to all aspects of day-to-day operations.”

Nancy Murphy

Controller, Eagle Metals, Leesport, PA

Nancy MurphyNancy has been with Eagle Metals for 11 yr. and currently is controller, running the accounting department of a large metal re-roll mill.  She has been fearless in jumping into this new role, learning and solving problems as they come up. Nancy cares deeply about the organization, the people and customers. She works tirelessly to keep it all going while juggling duties as a grandmother, mother, wife, daughter and sister.

Nancy went from being an elementary school educator to being an administrative assistant in metal manufacturing. She is an example of someone jumping head first into something she knew nothing about and really mastering it.  She now does all the accounting functions of a facility that now has 90 employees across two locations.  

Not many people could make the transition later in their careers from education to manufacturing but Nancy was fearless. She not only switched industries, she switched roles entirely.

“Nancy has made everyone at Eagle Metals proud by setting an example for other women and men as to what is possible,” her nominator says. 

“Working in manufacturing is inspiring, knowing that our industry uses innovative technologies that constantly evolve. I enjoy the job stability, access to career advancement and taking pride in what we are producing. Manufacturing has provided me with an exciting career.”

Tiffany Parks

Press Business Unit Manager, Martinrea, Clarksville, TN

Tiffany ParksAs a teen mom, Tiffany quickly realized that she needed to work hard at a well-paying job to support her family. She seized an opportunity to work for the Martinrea Springfield plant as a temporary employee in November of 2012. Within two months, she was hired on full-time. With perseverance, drive and dedication, Tiffany advanced through numerous roles at Martinrea—as quality tech, production team leader and shift supervisor. She then advanced to press supervisor at the Hopkinsville plant before being promoted to her current position as business unit leader of the press department—becoming the youngest and first female manager there. 

“Tiffany learned each new job and took her responsibilities seriously,” her nominator says. “She uses her previous skills as a base to continue to grow. With support of the leadership team, Tiffany has thrived, developing her own very direct but warm and fun management style. She loves to coach, listen and support her staff and drives them toward the same goals. Tiffany continues to acquire new leadership skills and grow as a manager.

“Tiffany takes extra time to dig into problems, find root causes and make appropriate changes to procedure. She has streamlined processes and developed a seamless transition between shifts. A big believer in the importance of employee engagement, she often pushes her team to solve problems.”

“I knew I had no other choice than to be successful. This career in manufacturing helps me better provide financially for my family and pushes me to the next level. I am overjoyed to have this opportunity, proud of my accomplishments and am able to show my kids that, with a relentless drive and determination, they, too, can be successful in life.” 

Amelia Poulin

Key Account Manager, Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, Minneapolis, MN

Amelia PoulinAmelia has been with Ajax for 6 yr., starting as an account manager, and then was promoted to key account manager. Her primary duties include assuring prompt delivery of parts, quality compliance, working with secondary operations, inventory management and quoting. Amelia is forklift-certified and has operated multiple machines on the plant floor, including CNC turret punch presses, press brakes and deburring machinery.  

As key account manager, she is the designated trainer for new account team members. She has the ideal combination of upbeat personality, can-do attitude and patience to get things done through people—and keep Ajax customers happy.  

Amelia earned her Professional Project Manager, Six Sigma Green Belt, and Continuous Improvement certifications, as well as the Highest Award for Achievement from the Dale Carnegie Institute.  

In a complementary role, Amelia has served as the Precision Metalforming Association Twin Cities District administrator for 4 yr., educating high school and college students about manufacturing learning opportunities. 

“Amelia is an absolutely pivotal member of the Ajax account management team, and a tireless advocate of metal forming best practices,” her nominator says. “Amelia has demonstrated significant natural leadership abilities. People come to her with questions, and project advice. She’s relentless in pursuit of solutions. 

“More than ever, manufacturers offer careers that pay well, provide good benefits and offer paid learning that leads to advancement. Women can excel in manufacturing, but they must get past manufacturing’s unfortunate and inaccurate reputation of being a hot, dirty workplace with male-dominated management. I encourage women to join a great manufacturing team, work hard and enjoy a great career!”

Robin Quick

Production Manager, Elite Welding & Fabrication, Galesburg, MI

Robin QuickBeginning her career working nights 4 yr. ago at Elite Welding & Fabrication while holding down a day job, Robin learned to weld from the company’s two owners. After many nights of practice and training, she was able to quit the day job and begin welding at Elite full time. She quickly became a lead fabricator and now serves as production manager. 

In her role as production manager, she is the first person the team goes to with questions about a project. She is helpful, professional and patient.

Robin can be given almost any fabrication project and can complete it with a high skill level.

She enjoys welding so much that in her free time, she often does artistic, creative projects, with some of them winning competitions.

“Robin is one of the hardest workers in the shop,” her nominator says. “She also helps everywhere she can. She can always be counted on to stay later or come in early to help meet a deadline—and she will do it with a smile on her face. She has spent many hours making training booklets to help make each job easier for the rest of our team members. She pays attention to every detail to help the next person learn and make the task for them smoother.”

“There are many rewarding opportunities in manufacturing for anyone willing to put in the effort and work for it. There is a great sense of pride and accomplishment when starting a project, coming up with solutions and taking it to the finish line with your team.”

Sue Resch

Focus Factory Manager, Jagemann Stamping Co., Manitowoc, WI

Sue ReschEmployed by Jagemann Stamping in a variety of roles for more than 26 yr., Sue currently oversees the manufacturer’s core stamping area as a focus factory manager. She started out running presses, and today is just as willing to jump in and help with a setup.  Sue has worked her way up holding various positions throughout the years, including working flexible hours to help in any way she could.

“Sue truly is a great representative of the stamping community,” offers her nominator. “She has a great combination of technical ability, willingness to help and leadership qualities that her team can rely on. Sue still comes to work each day with the passion to make Jagemann Stamping Co. the best that it can be, and has built relationships working here that will last a lifetime.”

“I highly recommend that women go into the field of manufacturing. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s amazing to think of all of the products that are made from metal. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t learn something new—it keeps you on your toes. Jagemann Stamping is a great place to work!”

Laura (Nicki) Saputo

Quality Manager, Nissan North America, Smyrna, TN

Laura (Nicki) SaputoLaura (Nicki) started her manufacturing career at Nissan in 2012as a production supervisor in the trim and chassis department. She was then promoted to quality supervisor where she became the lead ISO 9001:2015 auditor for the entire facility. In 2023 she was promoted to her current role as quality manager for the body shop department, where she leads a team tasked with ensuring weld, dimensional and surface-quality compliance for all Nissan products.

Nikki has successfully led three external audits, and was a key trim and chassis contributor to warranty and IQS task-force activities that resulted in J.D. Power awards for the Nissan Altima and Maxima.

Says Nikki’s nominator: “She is an inspiration by fairly and diligently enforcing rules and regulations for the entire body shop department, including new and efficient procedures. She takes the time to listen to all ideas and acts on them appropriately. Her manner of management is an inspiration.”

“Manufacturing’s fast-paced, ever-changing environment provides the opportunity to thrive, grow and advance in a career that is impactful and fulfilling. Technological advancements and a continuous-improvement culture offer vast opportunities to make a positive difference in people’s professional and personal lives. It is challenging, competitive and so incredibly rewarding. The career possibilities are endless.”

Robin Schlatter

Engineer, Toyota North America, Georgetown, KY

Robin SchlatterRobin started her career at Toyota Motor North America in 2020 as a robot automation technician, the only woman in the department out of 130 technicians. Prior to working at Toyota, Robin was a master welding technician for Wabash National for 7 yr. where she worked to coach new welders in transitioning from training to production welding. 

In 2022, Robin was promoted to an engineer in the Body Production Engineering (Battery Electric Vehicle (EV)) department, specializing in electric-battery-case production. She now leads a project with two other engineers at the Toyota Assembly Plant for EV battery-case development on an EV scheduled for production in the fall of 2025. As project leader, she oversees the planning, equipment specification, quality standards and production trials. This project is the first in North America for Toyota. 

“Robin serves a role model for young engineers who recently joined the company,” her nominator says. “Recently she led a session at a female STEM internship program for high school students where she encouraged them to pursue a STEM or manufacturing career.  The students voted her session as the best.”

Robin also is involved with Women in Manufacturing (WiM) and attended the October WiM Summit in San Diego.

“Manufacturing offers such a broad spectrum of opportunities that most young people are not exposed to. Through my manufacturing journey, I have discovered some of my greatest passions in life, and a space for my insatiable curiosity about how the world works. Every day, new doors to career paths are opened to me that I never knew existed.”

Catherine Schoaff

Accounting, Pascal Engineering Inc., Arlington Heights, IL

Catherine SchoaffPascal Engineering is commemorating Catherine’s 5-yr. tenure with the organization, during which she has successfully undertaken an online accounting-certification program to enhance her proficiency in accounting terminology and responsibilities. She also has completed a Japanese language course.

Catherine consistently demonstrates a positive attitude and a strong willingness to assist in locating necessary records or reports. And she demonstrated her compassionate side when a colleague’s spouse recently fell ill by assuming additional responsibilities and assisting with some of their tasks.  “She always exhibits a proactive approach to task execution,” her nominator says, “often taking the initiative without the need for explicit direction. Her unwavering commitment to aiding colleagues and customers has significantly contributed to the ongoing success of Pascal Engineering.”

“I absolutely love my job, and I love learning about the manufacturing world.  I think that more women should look at the different jobs in this field. There are so many opportunities once you put a foot in! I have met many wonderful people and have learned so much about how things operate.”

Tammy Schuelke

Office Manager, Federal Tool and Engineering, LLC, West Bend, WI

Tammy SchuelkeTammy has taken on multiple roles within Federal Tool and Engineering over the last 15 yr. She started with the company as a part-time accountant/bookkeeper, and at one time or another, assisted every department—from human resources to running parts on the production floor—before being promoted to office manager. Tammy’s versatility has enabled her to be the go-to person for many departments. 

Tammy’s dedication and love for manufacturing shows every day in the way she works with customers and employees. Customer satisfaction is her number-one priority. She works with all leadership to make sure that the company is meeting or exceeding customer needs and making excellent parts. Tammy is considered “the voice of the customer” because of her ability to listen to what others need and understand what can be done about it.

“Tammy leads by example,” he nominator says. “There is not one thing that she will ask an employee to do that she is not willing to do herself. She always puts others first. She listens more than talks. One of her employees said recently that no matter how busy Tammy is, she always stops to make sure that questions are answered and never makes it seem that they are bothering her. Tammy has excellent follow through, which has built trust among employees and customers. 

“My career in manufacturing has spanned a period of 20 yr.  It began in accounting/customer service and began my desire and passion to learn all aspects including processes, machines, capabilities and technology.  Today I continue to pursue every opportunity for growth and would strongly advise other women to follow a similar path.  I believe that women add great value in the industry by showcasing leadership, knowledge and diversity.”

Melanie See

Customer Service Supervisor, ARaymond, Logansport, IN

Melanie SeeWith ARaymond-Logansport for nearly 9 yr., and with 35 yr. in the industry, Melanie certainly has made her presence felt. She has participated in many continuous-improvement teams, for example, which included helping to improve many areas within the customer-service and shipping/receiving departments, leading to greater efficiencies.

Melanie began with the company as a customer-service representative, bringing her prior experience in automotive-industry information technology, and moved into the customer-service supervisor position less than 2 yr. later. Melanie’s drive, knowledge and experience played a big role in helping to launch the firm’s new SAP ERP system. 

“Melanie is a very effective and caring customer-service supervisor,” says her nominator. “She has built a strong relationship with her team, all her colleagues in the ARaymond network and her customers. She loves to motivate others, mentor and share her knowledge.”

“The manufacturing world is a very rewarding place to work. The process of manufacturing provides many jobs, offering opportunities for individuals to develop and leverage their skills. It is a world where there is potential for introducing new technologies, as well as opportunities for innovation and change.”

Peggy Shackleton

Account Manager, RE:Build Manufacturing, Avon, OH

Peggy ShackletonPeggy has been with Cutting Dynamics for 28 yr. as an account manager. As the primary point of customer contact, Peggy handles some of the firm’s most demanding customers—in terms of expectations for responsiveness, lead times and order complexityy.  In addition to reviewing customer orders, analyzing their requirements, and entering production work orders, she interfaces with other internal departments to support the customer. 

“Peggy’s role requires a diverse skillset—interpersonal skills, analytical skills, good judgment, and the ability to maintain composure under sometimes tense circumstances,” her nominator says. “Over the years she has managed growth in responsibilities and leadership. Peggy possesses a top-notch work ethic and dedication to her role.  

“As Cutting Dynamics recently transitioned to become part of Re:Build Manufacturing, Peggy has demonstrated remarkable flexibility in embracing that change. In fact, she was a key contributor to facilitating the transition, including adopting lean principles, and contributing to continuous improvement initiatives.”

“When I began in manufacturing it was the start of an evolution from a predominantly male industry to one that offers tremendous opportunities for women. Manufacturing offers roles in the growth of industry worldwide. Career paths in demand include engineering, machining, estimating, planning, procurement, ERP, IT, lean initiatives and account management. I would encourage women to explore these careers.”

Deborah Smith

President, Edrich Products, Fraser, MI

Deborah SmithWith 35 yr. at Edrich Products under her belt, Deborah has led a small company through continued growth, including leading its product-development team into making some top-notch products that can compete anywhere in the industry, according to her nominator. Never shying from a challenge, Deborah recently worked with an Edrich team to develop a chemical-management product and process to help improve a metal forming application that involved making aluminum fins for automotive heat exchangers. She and the team combined unique chemistry with quite a bit of politics to navigate the process and develop a product that offered better performance, less smoke, better surface finish, easier workpiece management, faster processing times and less cost.  Without her encouragement and persistence, the project  may never have succeeded.

Deborah selflessly promotes other people to do their best, with her nominator offering a personal example. “I am developing a unique chemical control system for metal working fluid,” the nominator says. “It was difficult and I became discouraged and derailed a few times. “Deborah’s pep talks, support and gentle nudging has helped me get through the tough times and make something very cool and useful.  She then took it to another level by promoting my work, without asking and without receiving a benefit—a true leader.”  

Deborah is known for listening, offering great advice and alternate options, and is empathetic to others and their situations. An honest and transparent businesswoman that continues to enable the best in people, she constantly deals with formidable competition, challenging and constantly evolving technology and other nonstop challenges. Through it all she works hard and perseveres.

“Deborah’s company competes with a ton of other companies that are much bigger, financially stronger and more resource-rich,” her nominator says. “A small, woman-owned company encounters unique hurdles, and hard work, honesty and integrity—traits that are key for a leader—keep her moving and succeeding. She stands up for what is right, tells the truth, works hard, backs up and promotes her team, and has a track record of fighting for the right thing.”

“Manufacturing jobs involve addressing complex challenges and developing innovative solutions. Women’s unique perspectives and problem-solving approaches can make a significant difference in addressing industry issues. Women should consider manufacturing careers because of the diverse opportunities, potential for career growth, competitive compensation and the chance to shape the future of the industry.”

Lori Smith

Sales Manager, Ace Machine and Metal Fabrication Co., Nashville, TN 

Lori SmithLori was first hired as a salesperson with Ace Machine and Metal Fabrication. Working for a smaller job shop has required her to wear many hats during her 17 yr. with the company, including bookkeeping, shipping, receiving, customer service, quality control and sales. 

“In her current role as sales manager, Lori works closely with the customers on all quotes to the final sale,” her nominator says. “In that capacity, she also works with other company departments, including engineering, quality control, purchasing and plant operations. She has a great relationship with others in all aspects of the company. Lori also has volunteered her time for the PMA Tennessee District. 

“She is a great role model for women in manufacturing. In fact, Lori has proven herself to be a leader for our company and the entire industry.”

“I’d play ‘name that car’ on road trips with my dad. I’ve always enjoyed seeing how things are made. It’s fascinating to me that metal will arrive at Ace and be transformed into something entirely different. How cool is that! Women add different perspectives and solutions. We’re great multi-taskers in complicated business. I love being a part of this industry and I encourage all women to join in on the fun!”

Julie Snyder

Human Resource Manager, Principal Mfg. Corp., Broadview, IL

Julie SnyderJulie has been with Principal Manufacturing for 8 yr.. In her role as human resource manager, she has completely rebuilt the firm’s apprenticeship program, growing from having just one apprentice in the toolroom to now having 15 apprentices, and graduating three to four apprentices each year. Julie has started DOL-registered apprenticeship programs for mechanical maintenance and CNC as well. In addition, she is heavily involved in the industrial tech programs at six high schools.

“Julie is a leader in our industry, promoting the skilled trades,” her nominator shares. “She works her network to recruit high school-aged kids who are interested in our industry, and shows them a path to a long, well-paying career. Julie is highly respected by her peers, teachers of industrial tech at high schools, and the teachers in our apprenticeship program.”

“Opportunities for women in manufacturing are exciting and rewarding, whether they are on the shop floor or in the office. It is exciting to watch raw materials being transformed into useful products, and very inspiring to know that you are a part of this transformation. I have had the privilege of supporting the creation and growth of our apprenticeship programs, which provide a path for young people to learn about the skilled trades. It is very fulfilling to see our apprentices become journeymen; it is exciting and rewarding to know that I am making a difference.”

Krishna Soni

Controls Programmer, Linear Automation, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Krishna SoniShortly after starting at Linear Automation as a junior controls/programmer, Krishna was recognized for her exceptional prowess and has swiftly risen to prominence as a senior programmer and technical resource. With an insatiable appetite for learning and her enthusiasm for embracing new systems and technologies. Krishna’s technical skills set her apart. She has proven proficiency in more than a dozen controls platforms, robotic systems and IO systems, including Allen Bradley, Omron and Bosch Rexroth.

“Krishna’s calmness under pressure, logical thinking, and a continuous pursuit of knowledge make her an exceptional, formidable leader,” her nominator says. “In the fast-paced and often stressful environment of industrial automation with uncompromising deadlines, Krishna’s remarkable ability to remain calm and level-headed under pressure is invaluable. When challenges arise and tension mounts, Krishna’s composure serves as a beacon of stability. 

“Krishna’s logical thinking is another trait that makes her an exceptional leader. She approaches problems with a systematic mindset, breaking them down into manageable components and analyzing each aspect methodically. The way she actively seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge and skillset motivates her colleagues to do the same. She is an inspirational figure for everyone in the organization.  She is a true role model for team members and for all women in the workplace. She inspires us all to strive for excellence in our careers.”

“It is very rewarding to break gender stereotypes and see yourself succeed every day. I think that a career in manufacturing presents an empowering path for women to showcase their skills. Working in this industry has taught me a lot, while I enjoy growth and stability.  I encourage every woman who wants to join this industry to do so. I promise that you won’t regret it.”

Michelle Stith

Vice President of Corporate Development, Treasurer, Steel Technologies, LLC, Louisville, KY

Michelle StithMichelle is regarded as a strong leader and tremendous asset for Steel Technologies. Hired into the company in 2007 as director of corporate development and finance, after spending several years in leadership roles in the beverage industry, she was promoted to vice president of corporate development and treasurer at Steel Technologies in 2015. She brings her strong knowledge and background in finance, treasury, and mergers and acquisitions to bear in many ways, her nominator reports. 

“Michelle takes talent development seriously and personally,” says her nominator. “She continues to help teammates grow and develop in their positions and achieve their personal goals, doing this through the way she leads and her example of open communication, dedication and approachability. She takes an active interest in others through listening and genuine care, and is a true positive role model, not just for other women in our company and industry, but for all who work with her. She takes an active role in recruiting other women into Steel Technologies and more broadly across our industry.”

“Growth opportunities for women in manufacturing are limitless. Success no longer is gender-based; what matters is performing well in your job. There are multiple career paths available—operations, engineering, sales, purchasing, human resources, accounting, finance, etc. Success is determined by passion, ambition, innovation, critical thinking and a team-first mentality.”

Melissa Vecchi

Vice President, JV Mfg. Co. Inc., Natrona Heights, PA

Melissa VecchiSince starting at JV Mfg., Melissa has held the positions of human resources (HR) manager, executive director and now vice president, having continuously gained responsibility within the organization and now currently overseeing many administrative and manufacturing areas.

Melissa also is highly involved in other industry organizations, including serving as the chair for Women In Manufacturing-South West Pennsylvania region.  She also sits on the board of directors of Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh, PA, nonprofit that assists small manufacturers with the goal of boosting revenue, growth and productivity. She speaks at different summits and training events throughout the year, focusing on manufacturing, training and leadership practices, and also speaks on encouraging diversity in manufacturing. And she serves as a mentor for female university students and works to encourage those in high schools to enter manufacturing.

Starting at JV Mfg. in a temporary HR position, Melissa assumed the HR manager position upon the unexpected passing of the then HR manager, according to her nominator, who notes that Melissa immediately dove in to bring herself up to speed.

“During this time, it was easy to recognize the ambition and skills that Melissa possesses,” her nominator says. “Now in her role as vice president, much of production and manufacturing reports to Melissa. She works with the leaders in those areas, teaching, leading and guiding them to success—not just holding them accountable in their positions, but fully investing in their success.”

“I think that it is time for women to have a seat at the table on the countless innovations that steer our local and global communities. Diversity within a team brings additional capabilities that lead to success. Women working in manufacturing gain the satisfaction of knowing they are valued, contributing members to a wide range of products globally.” 

Amanda Wood

General Manager, O’Neal Mfg. Services, Greensboro, NC

Amanda WoodAmanda, recently promoted to general manager for O’Neal Mfg. Services’ Greensboro, NC, operation, previously held the positions of assistant general manager, materials manager, supply chain specialist and product specialist. In her nearly 10 yr. in manufacturing, including nearly seven with O’Neal Mfg. Services, she has become very active with Women in Manufacturing, and has held several positions in other trade organizations.

“I have been awarded the opportunity to work with Amanda in multiple capacities, most recently as her direct supervisor,” her nominator reports. “She is one of the most driven and professional people that I have worked with, with a never-ending work ethic and an appetite to learn. Amanda truly is a leader and a role model for many of us here—she leads by example on every level.”

“Manufacturing has been so rewarding and fulfilling. It’s more than just a job, it’s a tangible career. You can see your hard work all around you. There’s a new challenge every day and it’s fun to meet that challenge and succeed. Let’s keep empowering those looking up to us. We are shaping the future of the industry!”

Mabel Yeboah

Team Leader-Assembly, Accurate Machine and Tool Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Mabel YeboahMabel started with Accurate Machine and Tool in 2002 as an assembly worker. With her brilliant insight and resourceful judgment, as her nominator offers, Mabel always comes up with extraordinary suggestions and innovative ideas to improve production. As a fast learner, Mabel adapted to her role very quickly, and within a short time was promoted to assembly team lead. From managing a small team, she now successfully manages a team of 10 employees.

Mabel has been integral in the organization’s implementation of a new ERP system, adapting to the new process promptly and helping to train others. She automated processes that led the assembly line to achieve 90-percent efficiency and reduce assembly time by 35 percent. And, Mabel’s visual testing ability allows her to determine if there is any problem in any part. 

“Mabel’s skills, work judgment, and ability to comprehend problems and provide solutions to them make her the perfect team lead for our assembly line,” says her nominator. “She works hard and tries to implement continuous learning and process upgrades. As a supervisor, Mabel manages her team effortlessly. Starting from work distribution, and coordinating with material handlers and the setup team to ensuring part specifications, she has outperformed in every aspect. Throughout any challenge her positive attitude permeates across the shop floor. We are lucky to have her energy in the field and it attracts other employees to stay with the industry and build their careers within the company and within the metal forming industry.”

“There are many opportunities for women in the manufacturing sector. It is all about opening your heart and thoughts to more opportunities and taking up any challenges that fall in the path. I started as a manufacturing worker—I learned, developed and have grown with the process, and am now a successful team leader. My team of 10 employees are mostly women, and I am proud to lead them. I believe that once we decide anything, we can accomplish it.”

Susanne Ysasi

Plant Manager, Kirchhoff Automotive, Lansing, MI

Susanne YsasiSusanne joined Kirchoff Automotive in Lansing, MI, as operations manager 4 yr. ago, bringing with her two decades of knowledge in operations and engineering. She jumped right into her role and started learning the metal welding and assembly processes.  Very quickly, she was able to identify areas of improvement.  In January 2023 she was promoted to plant manager, where she leads 150 associates. 

As plant manager, Suzanne managed a significant launch at the plant with outstanding results, according to her nominator. Successfully managing the buildout of a product that has been in production for more than 10 yr. is as important as a launch. 

“In addition to the launch and buildout activities, Susanne successfully negotiated a win-win solution with our UAW associates,” her nominator says, “that passed through the membership on the first vote.  Her collaborative approach has yielded some of the best KPIs in the area. Susanne also works on the budget process and is developiång three new managers.  She is a driver of Kirchoff’s formal mentorship program.

“Susanne’s experience and training in lean manufacturing has earned her certificates as a lean champion and in problem-solving and decision-making, and also has yielded efficiencies on the floor. She walks the talk and the plant results show that.”

Suzanne also has been recognized outside of the company, having received the Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award, and she was invited to be a special guest speaker for the Michigan Lean Consortium.

“My love for manufacturing started at an early age, when it was common for the dinner-table conversation to be around how various products were made—from milk cartons to utensils.  In high school, I worked assembling printed circuit boards, and I have been in manufacturing ever since. I believe that women in manufacturing add strength to their teams by helping to round out perspectives. There is a spot in manufacturing for all women, and I encourage everyone to join this rewarding industry.”


Industry-Related Terms: Bending, Blank, Blanking, CAD, Center, CNC, Core, Die, Forming, Laser Welding, LASER, Layer, Model, NC, Plate, Point, Powder Coating, Press Section, Run, Spectrum, Surface, Torque, Transfer, Turret
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Formtek-ME, Eagle Metals Inc., Linear Transfer Automation Inc., Pascal Engineering Inc., Steel Technologies Inc. - Mishawaka

Technologies: Management


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