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FLiP’s New Vice Chair: Max Preston

“I got started in the industry from an engagement party.”

Max Preston isn’t lying. FLiP’s new vice chair attended a course on business marketing, dated a classmate, proposed to her (she said yes), and met a man at his fiance’s sister’s house during an engagement party named (Perry Rizzo) He owned a company that supplied automotive plastic parts to original equipment manufacturers.

Max was beyond intrigued.

“I’m a huge car guy. That’s my biggest passion in life. I think I could say the word ‘Ferrari’ before I could say the word ‘mom,’” he said. “He ended up calling me in for an interview and from that interview forward I was hired on to Axiom Group under marketing and product strategy.”

Max didn’t know a lot about plastics at the time. He had no idea how much went into a car’s construction. But eventually he got the hang of it, and went out to solve problems on his own.

“Right around the time I got hired was around the time they were creating this system that would tell their managers about the status of their injection molding machines—are they running or are they not? If they are running, when was the last shut down and how long did it occur for? What’s their running rate on the entire day, week, month?” he asked. “We wanted to be able to know what exactly was going on remotely, in real-time before we entered the front door every morning.”

That’s how Max landed at Smart Attend, a services company for whom he now serves as general manager. The time he’s spent in the plastics industry might not be as long as others, but in that time he’s made an impact and gotten the lay of the land when it comes to industry’s challenges—quickly, as he did when he first arrived at Axiom Group.

“For me, with the skills gap, there are older professionals leaving the industry and then younger people entering and then exiting and then entering and exiting the industry and so on and so forth,” he said. “There’s not much in between, and its impact is becoming more obvious every single day.”

Filling in that stress fracture, as Max called it, is a two-fold process.

“The older generation struggles to understand how to best manage the younger generation coming in,” he said. “But they need to have the tools to be able to make that happen and turn those workers into lifelong employees, and eventually leaders.”

Secondly, “the negative perception [of plastics] that we’re seeing is taking a toll,” said Max. “We really have to buckle down on this. FLiP has to continuously be creating a new approach—educating, mentoring and reaching out to companies looking for advice about how to attract new talent and change the way people think about our industry.”

PLASTICS and FLiP provide the venues to accomplish Max’s vision for the future of the plastics industry.

“I believe in collaboration,” he said. “The moment I saw FLiP, I knew this was a major opportunity to drive even more traffic to this industry, and to change the way we treat manufacturing on this continent.”

“Globalization and the skills gap are not making anything easier for any of us, but groups like FLiP exist to help provide the younger generation a chance to learn leadership skills. That focus on young professionals and giving them a chance falls directly in line with what Perry did for me, and my own personal goals as a leader of a organization. I can’t wait to see how FLiP has positively affected the plastics industry 20 years from now and I’m very proud to be apart of it all."

 

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 with Max Preston, general manager of Smart Attend.