The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals who are active in PLASTICS' Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For this FLiP File, we spoke to Stephen – Steve – Kutys, sales engineer at Maguire Products in Aston, PA. The company designs and manufactures auxiliary equipment for the plastics industry – think: blender, feeder, dryer, etc. Basically, anything that prepares the materials before they’re processed.

How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?

I studied industrial and manufacturing engineering at Penn State (go Nittany Lions!) and found a summer internship at Maguire after my junior year. I loved it so much that I interned there the following summer and was lucky enough to land a job in engineering once I graduated.

After some time, I was pulled into sales side of the business. It has been a great transition for me because I get the best of both worlds – I get to talk to our customers and – thanks to my background – I can speak the engineering language.

Has anyone in the industry mentored you?

My greatest mentor within the industry has been Frank Kavanagh – the vice president of global sales and marketing at Maguire. Frank took me under his wing and introduced me to PLASTICS and the industry and encouraged me to get involved. He is helping me to not only grow within Maguire, but across the industry as a whole. Thanks Frank!

Describe what you do on an average day.

This is a tricky one – one of the things that is great about Maguire is that we’re a lean company and I have the opportunity to wear many hats.  Day-to-day I manage quotes and order processing – the types of tasks you’d imagine a sales person to do. Beyond those responsibilities, you might see me completing regional sales management, project management and applications engineering roles.

What do you like most about working in the plastics industry?

I’ve always been interested in processes and engineering so it’s rewarding and inspiring to see the innovation in plastics manufacturing. Pair that with my role that involves interacting with lots of different people and problem solving and you have my idea of a great career!

What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics?

Working in plastics has opened my eyes to see how prominent and important they are in my life – from the car I drive to the phone I talk on – plastics make modern day life possible. 

Most recently, as stories about banning plastic products like straws and bags occupy headlines, my experience working in plastics and knowledge about the material has given me the opportunity to offer insights to friends and family who might not be aware of the power of plastics.

What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them?

The biggest challenge I see is combatting anti-plastics sentiments and bringing positive messages about plastics to light, as opposed to campaigns backed by celebrities that promise to “save the sea turtles by banning straws.” PLASTICS has done a great job of combatting these messages with facts about the positive aspects of plastics, such as their integral role in food preservation and health care.

I think the first step is to convince consumers that proper disposal is the best way to combat litter – personal responsibility is key!

Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics?

Automation and Industry 4.0 have revolutionized the manufacturing industry and opened a new realm of possibility for the next generation of workers. Do you like the show How It’s Made, computers, technology, working with your hands and solving problems? Work in manufacturing!

I may be biased, but plastics is an incredible route to take if you do get into manufacturing. The industry is constantly evolving and changing and best of all – it isn’t going anywhere! The plastics industry will be thriving and evolving for decades so it’s a reliable career path for young people.

What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

Knowing that plastics touch everything in my life – from the minute I wake up and check my phone (plastic) to when I hop in my car (plastic) and wind down watching TV (plastic) at the end of my day – this is the hardest question of all! If I had to choose one, I’d say my glasses. I have to be able to see.