Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director
Lou Kren Lou Kren
Senior Editor

2021 Women of Excellence in Metal Forming & Fabricating

November 30, 2021

Uncertainty abounds in North American manufacturing. The pandemic, fractured supply chains, the skills gap, raw-material costs and availability, general employment shortage…the list goes on and on. But despite so many obstacles, the companies and individuals who make things continue to innovate and continue to succeed—striving and driving toward a better future for us all. As 2021 comes to a close, we should take a breath and celebrate our diverse and dependable workforce. 

We’re going to do just that. 

WiM Mission Supports and Advances Women, and Men, in Industry
The Women in Manufacturing Association (WiM), with nearly 10,000 members located in 48 states and 35 countries, is the only trade association dedicated year-round to supporting, promoting and inspiring women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. The group encourages the engagement of women who want to share perspectives, gain cutting-edge manufacturing information, improve leadership and communication skills, participate in sponsoring programs, and network with peers. WiM encompasses manufacturers of all types and welcomes individuals from every job function—from production to the C-suite—and is inclusive to men. Members benefit from exclusive access to regional and national programming, networking opportunities, formal leadership development certificate programs, professional-development webinars, a customized employment tool called WiMWorks, virtual career fairs, the monthly IMPACT e-newsletter, and a robust searchable directory. 

For more, visit

MetalForming magazine, in conjunction with the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) and with the support of the Women in Manufacturing Association (WiM), presents its Sixth Annual Women of Excellence Awards, honoring the accomplishments and commitments of women in metal forming and fabricating. In 2021, we recognize 35 winners and 13 honorable-mention recipients—women in leadership positions or on the shop floor, those who represent dedication to their company and the industry, and demonstrate excellence day in and day out. 

Each year, the percentage of women in the manufacturing workforce continues to grow, encompassing all job duties, from the shop floor to the top floor. Press operators, welders, engineers, sales professionals, accountants and presidents populate the 2021 list of winners, gleaned from a thick stack of impressive nominations. We thank all who were nominated, and those who nominated them. 

“While women make up less than one-third of the U.S. manufacturing industry workforce, for many companies they fill a variety of critical roles,” says Brad Kuvin, MetalForming editorial director, “from working on the production line to running their own manufacturing businesses. Consider this: A recent McKinsey study finds that companies with women well-represented in leadership positions are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers.

“With that as a backdrop,” Kuvin continues, “in this issue of MetalForming we explore the role of women in metal forming and fabricating facilities and recognize their achievement, through our Sixth Annual Women of Excellence awards program. The 2021 class represents the best of the best and provides excellent examples and inspiration for those who may follow in their footsteps.”

PMA, MetalForming’s parent organization, strives to increase manufacturing opportunities for women while recognizing their skills, as does WiM, an organization that grew out of PMA’s commitment to these efforts. 

“We are so impressed and inspired by the 2021 class of MetalForming magazine’s Women of Excellence winners, who exemplify the ingenuity, grit and passion held by so many women in industry,” says Allison Grealis, WiM president and founder. “We are happy to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s group of honorees, and we hope that their stories inspire future women to pursue careers in this industry and current women in industry to aspire to great things.”

The following pages recognize our 2021 Women of Excellence honorees, with each recipient providing a quote on why manufacturing has been a rewarding career choice, and why it can be just as rewarding for those considering this path.

Maria Alves

Logistics and Customer Service Supervisor, Clover Tool Mfg. Ltd., Concord, Ontario, Canada

Maria AlvesMaria started working in the automotive industry at the age of 20, and has been with Clover Tool since 2017, starting at a very tumultuous time at Clover. “We were in an overhaul of our materials and purchasing team and she joined us as a scheduler,” writes her nominator. “From the first day she gave all of her personal time and effort to recreate a department which had a very bad reputation. In less than a year we were recognized by all of our customers for having great customer satisfaction. Our delivery score cards went to 100 percent, and this has been maintained ever since. Maria went from a scheduler to lead hand and now to supervisor of the department.

“Maria exemplifies the company culture of patience and respect,” her nominator continues. “She has spent considerable time developing the new customer service reps, who all came from entry-level roles on the floor. The team’s retention since she became a leader in the department has been 100 percent. During this current time with shortages and shutdowns with the OEMs, she has helped to create a schedule to keep our team members working without having to resort to layoffs and awkward start and stops.”

“I started working in manufacturing at the age of 20—at this early age I was intimated at first. However, over the years I gained confidence and a great deal of experience. Women add diversity in a male-dominated industry and bring additional perspectives and strengths. Manufacturing is challenging and rewarding all at the same time. I would recommend the industry to women—allowing them to share their ideas and to become successful.”

Katie Barry

Quality Manager, Marion Mfg. Co., Cheshire, CT

Katie BarryDuring her 7-yr. tenure at Marion Mfg., Katie has been promoted from operator to quality inspector to head of the shipping and receiving department to quality manager.  “She represents leadership in our industry each and every day,” her nominator writes. “She is willing and happy to do anything needed—from cleaning windows to dining with customers. There isn't a job too big, or too small for Katie! 

“Katie started working at Marion Mfg. as an operator,” the nominator continues. “This was her first experience in the manufacturing community. She was promoted to quality inspector about 1 yr. later, where she completed floor and incoming inspections, ISO/IATF training, and internal audits. Proving herself to be an organized, invaluable member of our team, Katie was promoted to head of the shipping and receiving department. Striving to be the best, Katie was promoted once again to quality manager. In addition to her manager position, we often find Katie giving tours of Marion Mfg., helping co-workers, volunteering in the community, representing the company at recruiting events and enjoying industry-related organizations such as PMA, the Smaller Manufacturers Association and United Way of Greater Waterbury.  Katie proves to be a role model for those following in her footsteps by paving the way to a more promising future for women in manufacturing.”

“Manufacturing is a breeding ground for innovation, problem solving and career advancement. In a male-dominant industry, women offer a unique perspective that encourages thought-provoking solutions to complex matters. I believe that women have a variety of inherently distinctive skillsets including multi-tasking, creative thinking and leadership, which results in a more diverse labor force. A career in manufacturing is enriching, empowering and gratifying.”

Erica ‘Coy’ Belt 

Production Manager, Pennant, Inc., Lebanon, TN

Eric 'Coy' BeltCoy began at Pennant as a tool and die maker with an eagerness to learn and limitless energy, quickly making her a candidate for the production manager position.

“Coy is the go-to for everything here at Pennant Lebanon,” her nominator writes. “Her mechanical knowledge of the presses and all equipment in the building is very impressive. She can look at a part and almost immediately tell you what needs to be fixed on the tooling. 

“When I interview new candidates for employment,” her nominator continues, “one of the first things they tell me they look for in a manager is someone who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty, and someone who can train them on their job. Coy can do all that and more. 

“Everyone at Pennant looks up to her,” Coy’s nominator concludes, “not because she is a woman in her position, but because of her knowledge of every aspect of the industry. She can run a machine more efficiently and quickly than anyone, fix just about anything on the dies, and give professional responses to our customers and corporate team. Coy is an all-around rounded individual and takes ownership in everything she does.”

“Manufacturing is intriguing, very rewarding, and there’s always an opportunity to learn and improve. As women in the industry, we have a unique skill set that can be utilized in a variety of roles. The possibilities are endless as long as you’re willing to put forth the time and effort!” 

Michelle Copp

Primary Press Setup/Operator, Southco, Honeoye Falls, NY

Michelle CoppIn the metal forming industry and with Southco for 28 yr., Michelle joined Southco working in assembly and has served as a secondary press operator and Windscreen technician before moving into her current position as a primary setup press operator.

“Possessing solid technical, parts and set-up knowledge, Michelle is a consistent contributor to the business,” writes her nominator, “and over the years has made numerous positive contributions by sharing her technical expertise and press troubleshooting skills with new associates. Her peers recognize her for her dedication not only to the job at hand, but to all of the people she works with. Michelle stands out in her role with an outstanding work ethic and well-rounded skill set. Michelle never steps down from an opportunity to learn something new, and accepts every challenge, from increased demands on her time to helping order and prioritize materials from offsite locations.”

“Manufacturing provides women with countless opportunities in all aspects of the business. There tends to be plenty of room to grow and advance within a company. I have enjoyed every aspect of my career over the past 28 years. I feel a great sense of pride knowing that the products I help make are making a difference in people’s lives.”

Heather DeLuca

Lead Welder, Sheet Metal Products, Mentor, OH

Heather DeLucaHeather started with Sheet Metal Products as an entry-level welder right out of school, 7 yr. ago, and was promoted to lead welder in 2020.  Among her responsibilities:

  • Scheduling jobs to meet their required due date
  • Inventory control of welding hardware and supplies
  • Dispersing of hardware and supplies required for jobs
  • Helping to ensure that the welding department is achieving production goals.

“Heather is great at going above and beyond her typical daily tasks, as she always has an eye on how things can be done better,” her nominator writes. “If she notices a problem, she always tries to get to the root cause of it and fix it so that the problem doesn't recur. She also works very well with the less-experienced welders to make them better, and is always willing to share her knowledge. In turn, that helps them become better welders. Heather is a prime example that if you have the desire, a woman can excel in welding/fabricating and tackle even some of the bigger and more complex jobs that we perform.”

“I would recommend welding (manufacturing) to women because of the confidence and stability it has given me. I probably will work in manufacturing/welding the rest of my work life. Also, being able to be creative with new skills and mediums has made my crafting dreams come true. I love what I do, and I love that I continue to learn new things every day.”

Nicole Domres

Planner, Miller Fabrication Solutions, Brookville, PA

Nicole DomresIn only 8 yr. at Miller Fabrication Solutions, Nicole has been promoted four times. Starting as a janitor in the maintenance department, she moved up to receiving clerk, and then to crew leader with increasing oversight and line-management requirements. Along the way, she learned to run a forklift, handle distribution, monitor inventory, and cover for her foremen and fellow crew in multiple departments.
Nicole now serves as a planner, where she schedules production for four global OEM customers, and has been instrumental in training a new planning-department employee.

“As a crew leader, she was recognized with an honorable mention for her contributions to helping a global OEM overcome supply-chain challenges,” her nominator writes. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a pivotal player in the planning department, cross-training with other employees so that she could step into other planner positions, as well as scheduler and clerical roles, when co-workers were ill.”

Nicole completed Miller’s foreman-leadership training and has been identified as a strong prospect for long-term leadership at the company.

“Manufacturing is an evolving industry that offers opportunity and reward for women looking to establish a career. The variety of positions available allow one to explore both a physical and intellectual challenge while overcoming obstacles and gaining a wealth of knowledge. The last eight years have been a pleasant and gratifying experience for me.”

G. Christine Dowding-Metts

Chief Executive Officer, Dowding Industries, Inc., Eaton Rapids, MI

Christine Dowding MettsChris has been the CEO of her family business, Dowding Industries, Inc., since 2007.  She began her career at Dowding in 1982 and worked her way through the accounting and sales departments, then into customer account management before being promoted to CEO.  During this time, she and her teams have grown the company from annual sales of $7 million to $39 million, and to a projected $50 million in 2022.

Dowding Industries celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.   Since 2016, her team was on its way to seeing 100-percent growth over a 4-yr. period, however when COVID-19 hit, the focus moved to creating and maintaining a safe work environment while meeting customer demands for products in key essential areas such as power generation, trucking and agriculture.

Chris is active on several boards, had the honor of being asked to join the Lansing (MI) CEO Roundtable in 2019, and was named a MichBusiness 2021 Women Leadership in the Workplace Honoree.  This award is given annually to women leaders who make significant contributions to their fields and the community, and is bestowed on women who are change-makers and thought leaders in the workplace.

“Chris was taught under the entrepreneurial spirit of her father, Skip Dowding,” writes her nominator, “who started the company as a tool and die shop out of his garage back in 1965.  This pioneering spirit drove Chris to keep pursuing new manufacturing challenges and opportunities for decades to come.  As they built the business, they quickly realized that to truly be successful, they had to build people, not just parts.  Chris’s passion for caring for the employees, customers and community are brought forth in the vision and mission that she and her team developed for the company many years ago: ‘Making an Impact and Leaving a Legacy.’

“Today, Chris and her 200 team members,” her nominator continues, “aren't in the pursuit of happiness, they are helping to build it—piece by piece for the organizations that they serve.”

“If you are a woman that likes to build and create things while making an impact, manufacturing is for you!  Nearly everything we touch is manufactured.  Helping American manufacturing run, changing lives through opportunity and strengthening the backbone of this great country makes me feel as if I’m contributing to the greater good.  Being a part of America’s sustainability is very rewarding.”

Missy Grimes

Procurement Director, HVACR Technologies, Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions, Sidney, OH

Missy Grimes“I was a supplier to Emerson while working for Bettcher Mfg.,” writes Missy’s nominator, “and what impressed me most was that she put herself through college, moved into procurement there, and worked her way up the ranks while also being a wife, a mom and raising two children.”

Missy started at Emerson, immediately after completing a 2-yr. college program, in the finance department, and 9 months later was offered an opportunity in procurement. During the last 5 years, as people retired from Emerson, Missy has moved into different positions, and ultimately to director of procurement. During her career she has spent much of her time working through steel shortages, material consolidations, working to develop suppliers that supported the firm’s regional Mexico supply-chain initiatives, and worked to develop a regional supply-chain team.

“I have truly enjoyed being a part of the manufacturing supply chain world. Every day has its challenges, but at the end of the day it brings along many rewards. It has given me an opportunity not only to provide for my family, but the opportunity to travel the world, meet wonderful people, and to see how products are manufactured.”

Jeanne He

President, Forming Simulation Technologies Inc., Northville, MI

Jeanne HeDr. Jeanne He has been working on forming/stamping simulation technology since the mid-1990s. She has pioneered the use of 3D finite-element methods for helping companies with their tooling design. “By doing so, she has helped those companies stay competitive and cost effective in meeting tougher challenges from OEMs as well as from foreign competitors,” her nominator says.

Dr. He launched Forming Simulation Technologies in 1999, bring forming simulation technology to OEMs and the tool and die industry, and offering marketing and training support. In 2017, the company began distributing LS-dyna software and providing consulting/engineering services.  

“Her expertise and reputation quickly won her many customers in just few years,” her nominator adds. “Jeanne has dedicated herself to this industry for 26 years, is well respected by her customers, and has contributed greatly to advancing the adoption of forming-simulation technology. She is a clear role model for other women joining this important, cornerstone industry.”

“Manufacturing is the muscle of a nation. Currently, we are going through significant digital transformation like many other industries—its transformation will make us more agile, smart, efficient and competitive. Women have an equal opportunity to participate, innovate, reach personal potential and enjoy the achievement of personal contribution to this world. ”

Staci Herman

Electrical Engineer, Aida-America Corp., Dayton, OH

Staci HermanA 2010 graduate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Dayton, Staci has worked for Aida-America for 9 yr. and worked her way up from initially supporting development of smaller gap-frame flywheel presses to where she now supports larger and more complicated servo/transfer presses. She received the company’s New Product, System Development Award in 2017; participated on the Company Optimization Committee in 2019; and was appointed a member of the Continuous Improvement Committee in 2020. 

“She now is able to lead, teach and train younger engineers coming up through the ranks,” says her nominator. 

“A career in the field of metal forming and fabrication is rewarding for those who love a challenge, are excited to continue to learn and ready to push the boundaries. Every component of manufacturing has its unique idiosyncrasies, and it is exciting to persevere through the obstacles in order to produce a constructive, viable solution for a customer.”

Shelia Hester

Customer Service Coordinator, New Deal Tool and Die, Portland, TN

Sheila HesterShelia has worked at New Deal Tool and Die for 34 years. “When she started,” says her nominator, “she studied the processes of our system to ensure accuracy, as she handled a handful of customer accounts at the time. As technology advanced, she worked with us to get our systems online, managing orders and inventory in a new way. We often find her calling around to different freightliners and/or shipping brokers to get the best rate quotes for our customers. As a small company, we take pride in her dedication to our business and are incredibly grateful to have Shelia as a part of our team!

“Sheila has become a leader for our organization,” her nominator adds. “She handles many moving parts but ensures that customer happiness is always top priority. And she trains our team members to believe the same thing and uphold it as a company value in our day-to-day operations. It is evident that Shelia’s professionalism and approachable nature has had an impact on other team members, and that some view her as a role model within the organization.”

Cindy Jay

Plant Manager, Seastrom Mfg. Co., Twin Falls, ID

Cindy JayCindy started her career at Seastrom Mfg. in 2000 as a receptionist and has served the company in a variety of roles including as a customer service manager, sales associate, purchasing manager, shipping manager and, beginning in May 2021, as plant manager. Her team consistently produces 30-percent more, with the same number of people—helping to generate higher profits for the company and better wages for her team. 

“Cindy is a positive, caring and driven individual,” her nominator writes.  “She leads by example by:

  • Being first in and last to leave
  • Always being available to help anyone
  • Always being happy and full of energy.”

“Manufacturing is more than just a job. It has so much to offer and is an exciting and rewarding life. We are shaping what people purchase and how they see the world with the products that we make. What woman would not want to be a part of such an influence in this world? Every day you can go home with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of knowing that you are keeping the industry moving forward.”

Jan Jones

Chief Human Resources Officer, Phoenix Specialty Mfg. Co., Bamberg, SC

Jan JonesJan has been with Phoenix Specialty for more than 42 years, and since being hired as an accounting clerk as a teenager has taken on several different roles within the company. In 2015 she became the company’s chief financial officer while still performing various human resources duties. In 2020, Phoenix Specialty needed additional human resources staff members to help the company navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of Jan’s dedication and commitment, she stepped in where she was needed and transitioned into her current role as chief human resources officer.

“Jan is one of the most hardworking employees at Phoenix Specialty,” offers her nominator. “She is incredibly dedicated and dependable, and is a steady example of what a leader should be. She continually leads by example, and constantly strives to do what’s best for the company. 

“With her bright, cheerful and caring personality, Jan always is quick to offer a smile and is eager to lend a helping hand when needed,” her nominator continues. “Because of Jan’s incredible leadership over the years, she has helped shape Phoenix Specialty into the company that it is today.

“My job at Phoenix Specialty grants me the ability to make change and to work with people who possess unique talents and gifts. I would like to thank my high school guidance counselor, Mrs. Benton.  She set me on my path at Phoenix Specialty.  I encourage other guidance counselors to promote manufacturing careers, where there always is room to grow.”

Shannon Jones

Inside Sales Manager, Domestic, Acme Monaco Corp., New Britain, CT

Shannon JonesShannon has worked in manufacturing and at Acme Monaco for 18 yr. She has been a volunteer first responder and member of the firm’s safety committee for several years. She also devotes time to fundraise for local charities that the company supports. 
“Shannon finds the right balance in today's challenging times to provide her customers with the best customer service while fulfilling the needs of the company,” her nominator writes.  “She leads her staff with pride and enthusiasm, which serves as a good example for her team.”

“Manufacturing opens several doors for growth and opportunity. The manufacturing industry is a platform for continuous learning. Moreover, you could be a part of life-changing and/or lifesaving projects. It is a fast-paced career that can hold a lot of excitement and change.”

Kathleen Kane

Global Vice President—Quality, Kirchhoff Automotive, Troy, MI

Kathleen KaneKathleen Kane joined Kirchhoff Automotive as director of quality/North America in 2017, and in 2020 was promoted to global vice president of quality.

“Kathleen is very a professional leader that many people look up to,” her nominator writes, “especially women. She is the only woman in a global VP role and that is because of her relationship-building skills, problem-solving abilities, her years of experience and her reliability. She takes many employees under her wing to help with their growth and development, and she is not afraid to be honest with her thoughts and opinions. She has worked her way up the ladder and has turned around our quality performance while gaining the respect of her peers.”

“As we look at the opportunities a woman has in building business acumen, manufacturing provides a dynamic environment to master skills woven into her role as a leader, coach and mentor. Manufacturing embraces a complex ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders that generates iterative learning, knowledge sharing and growth from multi-generational cultures. Manufacturing provides a powerful opportunity for a woman’s lens—her values and beliefs—to influence, impact and change a single person’s life on the shop floor, and impact the company’s senior leadership strategy.”

Sokhom Khea

Customer Service Specialist, Premier Wire Die, Fort Wayne, IN

Sokhom KheaIn 1994, Sokhom began her manufacturing career on the plant floor building draw tools. A fire put that company out of business, but Sokhom’s manager, recognizing her talent and capabilities, brought her with him to his start-up, Premier Wire Die. Within a few years, Sokhom was managing the plant, and later would move to Fort Wayne, IN, with her young son in tow, to manage that location.

“To this day, 6 yr. later, Sokhom is the true heart of the operation,” writes her nominator. “Sokhom has customer history in her head that proves extremely valuable when manufacturing custom-made tools.  On numerous occasions, she will have me confirm seemingly innocuous details of a tool design only to find out that the customer provided the wrong specs.  Her actions have saved our company more money than we know, as well as lost time for customers in doing a remakes. What's even better is her fun-loving personality that comes without an ego.”

Concludes her nominator: “When it comes to finding your Woman of Excellence, you won't find a more deserving woman in manufacturing than Sokhom Khea.  She is the true MVP of Premier Wire Die, just ask our customers.  She makes not only my job easier, but also the president of Premier Wire Die and on down--and she does it with a smile!

“Thank you Premier Wire Die for your continuous support throughout my professional career—I am proud to be part of the family. Fabrication/manufacturing is a challenging and rewarding field. There are many opportunities here to develop new skill sets. Women with strong attention to detail can thrive in this profession.”

Nancy Lesinski

Owner/Partner, Lesinski & Associates, Troy, MI

Nancy LesinskiNancy has worked to support the manufacturing industry for 27 yr., and in 2005 launched her business-to-business marketing-communications company, for companies within the industrial and manufacturing sectors. She was the first female manager, and then vice president, at the industrial marketing agency she joined in 2000. And, while she has not changed any processes on the shop floor, she does hope that she has helped to change some minds about women’s roles in manufacturing and has helped spread the word to get more young people into this field.

“Nancy has worked with dozens, possibly more than 100 companies, to promote their people, capabilities, processes and companies,” writes her nominator. “Her activities include helping companies strategize and align their business objectives with their promotional activities. She helps drive revenue opportunities for these companies and many, without her help, would have no idea how to achieve the right mix of promotional activities to push their company forward.”

“A career in manufacturing means that you will be continually learning, so it’s perfect for a curious mind. You get to be around people who are problem-solvers, and it is exciting to experience the advances that constantly are being made on the manufacturing floor. Being a part of the industry that makes all the things we use every day allows you to look at the products we use in our lives differently, and more appreciatively. From a female perspective, I think that we bring a unique mindset to this industry that is valuable to the way that the collective whole views a situation. And, in general, I have found manufacturing personnel to be great people to work with as compared to some other industries. Even though technologies evolve, things always will need to be made somehow!”

Vanessa Li

Process Leader, Novelis, Terre Haute, IN

Vanessa LiVanessa began her career in manufacturing 15 yr. ago and has spent the last 6 yr. at Novelis where she is a process leader. In this role, she oversees lab activities, leads product-development efforts, provides technical customer support, and drives production, quality and continuous-improvement initiatives.

“Her commitment to excellence compels her to continually examine the status quo for improvement opportunities,” writes her nominator. “As she challenges herself to grow professionally, she readily shares her knowledge and experience to develop others around her.”

As a site champion of the women’s employee resource group, Women in Novelis, Li has helped develop programs that support women in the workplace, piloting a mentoring program and leading outreach events for local colleges and K-12 schools.

“Li understands the impact of mentorship, having come to the United States from Hong Kong alone at the age of 16,” her nominator adds. “She hosted weekend homestay for international students, and she mentors young professionals and returning college students via multiple programs.”

“One person can only generate a few ideas. A team of people can generate numerous ideas. Without a diverse team, there will be limited innovations and improvements. Therefore, it is important to have more women in manufacturing careers.”

Patricia Loughman

Sr. Accountant, Okay Industries, Berlin, CT

Patricia LoughmanPatricia has been in the industry for 37 yr., having spent her entire career with Okay Industries, initially as an accountant and elevated to senior account and Plex (ERP) system champion.

“When we talk about teamwork, Patti's name comes to the top of the list,” her nominator writes. “She has been instrumental in the continued growth of Okay Industries, working in the finance team and understanding the cost drivers for the company.  She served on the project team for the implementation of Okay's first ERP system (Plex).

“Her knowledge not just on the financial side of the business but how it relates to the manufacturing operations helps drive good decision making for the organization,” the nominator continues. “She continues to build the use of automation within our ERP system. And when we talk about Women of Excellence, it's not necessarily the awards and accolades but recognizing those who may sit more in silence or behind the scenes working diligently to drive success in others and in the company where they work. That describes Patti. Her value to the organization is unmeasurable and we have been grateful over her many years of service to have the benefit of her knowledge, quality of work, team spirit and general good nature. She feels her success is measured by the success of her team and the company.”

“I am totally surprised and grateful. I have never been one to talk about my accomplishments, but always try to do the best I can with whatever project I am involved in.”

Laura Luft

Material and Information Technologies Manager, Wisconsin Metal Tech, Richfield, WI

Having spent 20 of her 21 yr. in manufacturing at Wisconsin Metal Tech, Laura started as an administrative assistant, progressed into the role of production control manager, and then as an Inventory specialist and IT systems manager.  

“The executive team here constantly recognizes her as a key team member capable of taking on more and more responsibility,” her nominator writes.  “In 2019 she played a key role in selecting and implementing a state-of-the-art ERP system in which she took the lead role, and now is recognized as a "power user.

“Laura is a prime example of someone who constantly excels in her current position,” her nominator adds, “seeking new opportunities and challenges, and putting herself in a position for leadership. She has a knack for moving towards Industry 4.0 business practices in a fast=moving manufacturing environment. These include implementing the latest lean principles and efficient processes.”

Virginia Martinez 

Vice President of Operations, Technical Employment Training, Inc., San Bernardino, CA

Virginia MartinezVirginia has worked in manufacturing for 20 yr., the last 10 of which have been at Technical Employment Training where she serves as vice president of operations.  Among her accomplishments, according to her nominator: Enabling the trade school to become recognized by the Private Post Secondary Association, and federally accredited by the National ACCET Board in Washington, D.C.

“As a young Hispanic leader, she is working on her Business degree while running Technical Employment Training, Inc.,” her nominator writes. “As a leader she has forged forward to help the unemployed, homeless and others in great need of skills in the local community. Her focus always is on the people who need the skills to go back into the workforce. She is a great example of leadership in a nonprofit organization focused on helping individuals succeed in the manufacturing trades. During the pandemic, she focused on the needs of all of her employees by pursuing grants and work to ensure that people kept their jobs.”

“My advice to woman seeking a career in manufacturing would be “Go for it!” Manufacturing has reinvented itself with the use of technology and is on the cutting edge of the latest technology. This technology has departed into many industries, whether your passion is medical, aerospace, military or automotive. Each area of manufacturing needs skilled talent and especially women. I not only recommend this career to women, but I encourage it."

Jennifer McIntosh

ERP/Information Technologies Manager, Lear Corp., Grand Rapids, MI

Jennifer McIntoshJennifer has worked in manufacturing for 20 yr., the last year of which spent at Lear Corp.  Among her notable achievements:

  • 2019 PowerPlex Women in Manufacturing and Technology guest panelist
  • 2021 STEP Ahead Award
  • 2019 Plex Impact Award.

“Jennifer is a rock star in manufacturing and her community,” her nominator offers. “She started in manufacturing cleaning machines and worked her way through college attaining a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  She was promoted to IT manager at Lear Corp. earlier this year.

“Being the IT manager was not enough for Jennifer,” her nominator continues, “she also is a security awareness ambassador and regularly liaisons between many business units.  She is on the board of directors for several user groups, and she volunteers for the First Robotics Competition as a judge along with actively promoting STEM academics at every opportunity. Because of her drive and nonstop support of manufacturing, I believe that Jennifer should be nominated for the Women of Excellence Award.”

“A career in manufacturing offers opportunities for women from engineering, robotics and design, to marketing, finance and international travel. Every day in the industry is filled with exciting collaboration and immediate impacts alongside great teams. Manufacturing is the future!”

Sara McMurray

Director of Sales and Marketing, Premier Thermal Solutions, Lansing, MI

Sara McMurraySara started her career in 1999 as a recruiter for engineering professionals.  She joined the heat treating industry as an account manager in 2003 with Bodycote Thermal Processing and moved to Specialty Heat Treating as sales manager in 2007.  After a 5-yr. stint in the plastics industry, she returned to the heat treating industry and joined Premier Thermal Solutions as director of sales in marketing in 2018.  

Sara is responsible for strategic planning; developing and executing market strategies; analyzing and assessing emerging markets for growth, diversification and risk; and leading and coaching the sales, marketing and estimating teams.  She was unanimously appointed to the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan Board of Directors in 2021 and is actively involved in Women in Manufacturing.

“Sara McMurray is a leader,” her nominator exclaims. “She is a great boss who wants the absolute best for her team. She has immense drive and devotion to customer satisfaction. What sets her apart from others in leadership positions: She encourages and supports her team members to continue to learn and grow, to expand into other opportunities rather than trying to keep them tied down.”

“Manufacturing isn’t always dirty!  Ladies, you can still wear heels to the office if you want (just not on the plant floor).  There are many career paths you can have in manufacturing, and you certainly are not pigeonholed into one path.  The products and services we manufacture and provide positively impact people’s lives every day.”

Lynette Nadeau

President, Southington Tool & Mfg. Corp., Plantsville, CT

Lynette NadeauBeginning her career on the shop floor packaging parts and making shipments, in 35 yr. Lynette has worked her way up from an entry-level position to become company president. In 2011, she and four others purchased Southington Tool & Mfg. from the previous owner, with her partners electing her president due to her extensive experience running the business.

Lynette is the past president of the New England Spring and Metal Stamping Association, and also served two terms as vice president for the organization—the first woman to serve in those positions. She also is a past recipient of the Employee of the Year Award from the Southington, CT, Chamber of Commerce.

“Bright, articulate, and treating everyone equally regardless of position, Lynette loves the industry and advocates for young people,” her nominator writes. “She participates on the education committee that helps to drive curriculum at the local technical college and at technical high schools—Lynette is a role model that every young woman should have.”

“Succeeding in a male-dominated sector has its challenges, but having a strong team at work and at home certainly has helped me turn those events into opportunity. I am fortunate that those around me recognized hard work, persistence and dedication. I find that there is no substitution for being prepared—to succeed you must understand the organization and your role in that organization. I strongly encourage anyone interested in a career in manufacturing to visit manufacturing organizations’ websites, talk to education counselors or contact a local manufacturer to see what the industry is all about. We need more people in our field, especially women.”

Karen Norheim

President, American Crane & Equipment Corp., Douglassville, PA

Karen NorheimKaren has devoted all of her 19 yr. working in manufacturing to American Crane & Equipment, becoming the company’s president in December 2019.  Karen also is the current president of the Crane Manufacturers Association of America, Inc. and a past chairperson for the National Board of Women in Manufacturing (WiM). Among recognition she has received:  Thomasnet Industry Champion, 2020 Manufacturing Leadership Award, 2020 YWCA Tribute to Women of Excellence Nominee, 2020 STEP Ahead Awards Honoree, and the 2020 Vistage Impact Award Finalist.

“Karen is passionate about all things manufacturing,” writes her nominator. “As the second generation coming into the leadership role for her family’s company, Karen has sought to solidify the founder’s legacy while putting her own stamp on the company culture and its mantra–GRIT Matters: Perseverance, Heart & Integrity.

“Karen is a true spokesperson for the great jobs and quality of life that the industry can provide,” her nominator continues, “and she is a dynamic force when it comes to the immense technology and digital innovations occurring in manufacturing at a rapid rate. Karen is an advocate for encouraging young people to consider a career in manufacturing, particularly women.”

“Manufacturing is an orchestra of different people and skills coming together to create an end product. It’s fantastic. Manufacturing offers well-paying jobs with work that is both fun and rewarding. I love to see our products go from concept to creation. It’s amazing!”

Marilena Pop

Vice President of Operations, Storch Products Co., Inc., Livonia, MI

Marilena PopMarilena has been on a fast track for advancement in her 3 yr. at Storch Products Co. As a former public accounting CPA, Marilena was hired as controller at Storch Products and its four main product divisions. 

“Marilena successfully led an effort to bring our company up to today’s standards for everything from processes to high-level finance,” her nominator shares. “She is very well organized and has proven to be a consistent leader. One year ago, she was offered a role as vice president of operations, which she accepted in stride, and has made a measurable impact on our production, working directly with our staff throughout the manufacturing plant. She singlehandedly has improved our shop efficiency and our processes. 

“True leadership that is worth following comes from consistent accountability,” her nominator continues. “Marilena expects it from our employees and sets the standard by serving as a great example for our entire staff to follow. It has been amazing to see an individual that had never stepped foot inside of a manufacturing facility learn so much about the operations and the process flow for various product lines in such a short period of time.”

“Women are proven to be effective and successful leaders in any industry, and metal forming and fabrication are no exception. Overseeing hands-on fabrication combined with managing other aspects of business operations in a male-dominated industry makes for a fun and rewarding career for women who are looking to build a truly remarkable future for themselves.”

Sarah Randolph

Stamping Operations Group Leader, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Huntsville, AL

Sarah RandolphSarah’s manufacturing career began as a press operator, and she has gained experience with progressive, tandem and transfer presses ranging from 60 to 5000 tons. Over her 20 yr. in the industry, she has worked as a team leader, supervisor and group at several Tier One suppliers; she joined Mazda Toyota Mfg. 2 yr. ago.  

“Sarah has a safety-first mindset and leads by example in all aspects of safety, including lockout/tagout, safety kaizens, and overall care for her team members, peers and superiors,” her nominator writes. “She also has outstanding technical ability troubleshooting dies, transfer systems and programs, tooling adjustments, and die-data finetuning to increase overall production efficiency. 

“Sarah also has written training curriculums for two 5000-ton, dual-cushion servo presses at Mazda Toyota Mfg.,” her nominator adds. “She created a detailed versatility chart that shows the current level of training and experience for each team member and uses this data to continue their development and training.  Sarah is an excellent communicator and leads by example working with the American and Japanese workforce.  During our 2-yr. startup, Sarah traveled to other Toyota plants in Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Japan to learn the Toyota Production System, and she traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, for 3 months of training with Mazda Japan.  Her continued role as a leader will enable us to successfully launch our Mazda SUV in January 2022.”

“I strongly recommend a career in manufacturing for several reasons. The field is so dynamic that the opportunities for growth are numerous. I personally feel that the profession has tested and sharpened every professional skill that I possess. I would encourage all women to test the manufacturing waters and really allow your comfort zones to be stretched. This will provide every woman a true opportunity to grow professionally.” 

Haley Reid

Senior Research and Development Chemist, Kyzen, Nashville, TN

Haley ReidHaley has worked for Kyzen for 9 yr., working in the analytical lab to conduct analytical and development work on new cleaning products for critical cleaning applications in a variety of industries including aerospace, medical, military, defense and telecommunications.  She was promoted to senior R&D chemist in 2018.

“Haley took the initiative to learn the chemical reactions and effects on critical cleaning applications to meet our customers’ expectations,” writes her nominator. “She works closely with impact companies that require assurance of performance. Failure is not an option for some of these devices. She also has trained new employees to understand the importance of certifiable analysis. 

“Haley always contributes time and effort to ensure the best possible evaluation and development of new products,” her nominator continues, “to assist our formulation personnel in a quality-driven world. Her dedication to her job and the self-satisfaction of achievement is well recognized by the entire team at Kyzen. We have received many compliments on her diligence, work ethic and professional actions from our clients who place a high value on the end results that we provide. She is a role model for new employees, and I am always confident when I introduce my clients to her, knowing they will be impressed with her professional conduct and expertise.”

“Working in manufacturing brings a unique and fun set of challenges. It is rewarding to be a part of an industry that makes such a difference in our world. This problem-solving, detail-oriented industry is a great place for many women to contribute and thrive in a career that is consistently making a difference.” 

Janet Roberts

Operations Manager, American Tank & Fabricating, Cleveland, OH

Janet RobertsAlready with 25-plus yr. in the industry, Janet joined American Tank & Fabricating (ATF) in 2020 as master scheduler of the commercial business unit, and has since earned two promotions. She consistently has demonstrated the ability to be the driving force in managing the production floor and improving financial performance of her assigned business units.

Family-owned ATF, in business for 80 yr., boasts metal fabrications that can be found on aircraft carriers, cranes, rail cars, submarines, mining equipment and in a wide array of other industrial applications. In an environment featuring technologies and expertise that reside at the forefront of metal fabrication, Janet as taken the lead in transforming business units. 

For example, “In a business unit that lacked a formal master schedule, Janet transformed the operations by creating a detailed schedule incorporating all facets of the plant—cutting, forming and welding—to drive on-time delivery (OTD) to greater than 95 percent and reduce past-due backlog from $900,000+ to $25,000 within 5 mo.,” writes her nominator. She delivered similar OTD gains in a defense-production-related unit.

Now, leading day-to-day plant operations, supply chains and logistics for the company’s commercial metal fabrication business unit, Janet oversees more than 40 team members responsible for $16 million-plus annual revenue.  

“Successful operations help ATF develop great relationships with our customers, partners, vendors and team members alike,” Janet’s nominator concludes. “For her contributions to ATF and her career commitment to the metal fabrication industry, I nominate Janet as a role model for leadership in the metal fabrication industry.”

“There are multiple opportunities for women working in manufacturing that offer growth and stability. The manufacturing industry provides several career paths to choose from that are interesting as well as rewarding. Working within a manufacturing team to develop parts from a print to the finished product is a rewarding journey.” 

Maria Sampson

Operations Coordinator, Metalwerks, Kennett Square, PA

Maria SampsonMaria has worked in manufacturing for 15 yr., the last five 5 of which have been at Metalwerks.

“While Maria was brought into the company to handle the coordination of operations, she also has stepped up to project manager on several jobs as needed,” writes her nominator. “Maria has excelled in her position since day one, and even more so during the pandemic, where materials and supplies are limited.

“Maria has been on top of allocating and procuring all materials and supplies as needed for each project,” her nominator continues, “even going above and beyond with ordering months in advance to ensure the shop never runs out of materials to help meet our customers’ deadlines. A key part of that is developing solid relationships with vendors and keeping on top of the trends in the supply chain for our industry. Knowing what the market is doing helps you to act rather than react, and Maria is really good at staying on top of that.”

“Manufacturing is made up of teams of people with varying skill sets, backgrounds, experience and personalities, and women excel and thrive in this type of environment.  In my experience, women are more organized, creative, flexible and have the ability to work very well within different group dynamics.  In a traditionally male-dominated industry, women bring balance, and this is extremely important to the success of any company.  Besides, at the end of the day you helped to create something amazing and that in itself is very rewarding.”

Holly Siwinski

Engineer, Principal Mfg., Broadview, IL

Holly SiwinskiIn 2013, Holly began her engineering internship at Principal Mfg. while working toward her degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, Chicago campus. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies in 2015, she joined Principal as a mechanical design engineer, and quickly joined an engineering team specializing in design of fineblanking tools. 

“Holly has been on the forefront of continued efforts to streamline and improve engineering systems, quotation accuracy, and tool and fixture design,” her nominator writes, “as well as implementing Solidworks/Logopress into fineblanking tool design. In addition to design of tools, gauges and machining fixtures, Holly effortlessly acquired skills in robotic and vision-systems programming, essential in the current manufacturing environment. Holly also is fully trained in the APQP and related automotive standards. 

“The fineblanking industry is a niche segment of the stamping industry,” Holly’s nominator adds, “and she recognized the need for specialized expertise in that area. She has become a leader in this and related areas of mechanical design, and is well-positioned to succeed in a rapidly changing economy and industry that will require driven leaders.”

“Manufacturing is a male-dominated field in need of diversity and new perspectives as technology advances. There are endless opportunities for women to utilize and expand their leadership, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in this industry. Being able to use these skills daily and seeing the results of your hard work is extremely rewarding.”

Tammy (McCann) Snider

Procurement/Production Planning Specialist, Vulcan Spring & Mfg. Co., Telford, PA

Tammy McCann Snider“Tammy has spent much of her 11-yr. career in the manufacturing industry and has incredible passion for what she does,” her nominator says. “She works tirelessly with vendors to ensure that everything is on track and creates alternate plans when something isn’t. As a primary liaison between the office and the shop floor, Tammy works with a diverse group of people that sometimes have competing priorities. She repeatedly is recognized by her peers in the office and on the shop floor with the Vulcan Value Recognition program for consistently modeling the company’s values of passion, teamwork, loyalty and more.”
Tammy joined Vulcan Spring & Mfg. in 2019 as a purchaser and now manages purchasing and scheduling for the entire plant. She is on track for another promotion where she will become responsible for scheduling and production management. 

“From the moment I joined the ranks of the manufacturing community, I knew I had found my home! To be a part of the process that takes raw material and produces something beyond useful, makes me want to jump out of bed to go to work. One day is never like the day before; I truly have found my passion.”

Carrie Strobel

Vice President Human Resources, Greenheck Group, Schofield, WI

Carrie StrobelHaving spent the past 16 yr. of her 25-yr. manufacturing career with Greenheck Group, Carrie joined the company as a scheduler and, “due to her drive and ability to quickly learn, she was quickly promoted to systems manager, then product manager, general manager, HR director, and then vice president of human resources,” writer her nominator.  “With each promotion she moved into an area she was not familiar with and was quickly able to learn, manage and grow that portion of the business.

“Carrie undoubtedly is a role model,” her nominator continues. “She has taken on new challenges, pushes her teams to be open to new approaches, keeps in mind the company and the people in her decision making, and has trust in her teams. In her current role for just one year, she already has moved the needle.  One notable accomplishment: formalizing a diversity, equity and inclusion focus, appointing a female into a newly created role of director of culture and engagement, and hiring three HR directors (two female and one male) of an ethnicity different than the Caucasian makeup of the majority of our company leadership. 

“Carrie is an individual who does not demand respect, rather she earns it.”

“For me, a career in manufacturing has meant opportunity—opportunity to learn, grow and advance in a long-term career where my expertise and contributions are valued. I started in manufacturing right out of high school, and while I have experienced being the only female on a shift or in a department, I am thrilled to see more women taking advantage of the robust career opportunities available in our industry.”

Amber Thomas

Team Lead, MacLean Power Systems, Trenton, TN

Amber ThomasWith 8 yr. in the industry and 4 yr. at MacLean Power Systems, Amber leads a team of approximately 20 metal formers and fabricators, showing her skills on a daily basis in meeting goals and developing the team. She also works with the toolroom and maintenance teams to make improvements and repair machinery, while organizing die sharpening and preventive maintenance/changeovers within production schedules.

Starting at MacLean Power Systems as a welder, Amber has been promoted to a group lead position where she has participated in winning awards with her kaizen teams. Recently accepting the position of weld process technician, she seeks to continue fostering improvement and develop the welding skills of her teammates.

“I would recommend a career in manufacturing/fabrication to all women because it’s challenging and enjoyable at the same time.  Women shouldn’t be afraid to join a male-dominant workforce because the pay and benefits are great and they may turn out to love it, like I do.  As a child, my parents always told me that I could do anything I want, and to push through the gender stereotypes.  Now is the perfect time as a woman to go into manufacturing/fabrication; it’s a growing field and needs skilled labor.”

Susan White

Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Stamping and Manufacturing Corp., Newington, CT

Since joining Atlas Stamping and Manufacturing 4 yr. ago working with accounts payable and receivable, Susan White quickly moved into the role of CFO and operating manager. Last year she bought the company.

“Susan has completely transformed the company,” says her nominator. Among her accomplishments: 

  • 100-percent adjusted on-time delivery rate, “up from about 60 percent,” her nominator says.
  • Increased sales. “For many years before her tenure, Atlas hovered at the same revenue levels. Through leadership and development of sales have increased revenue 30%ercent year over year.”
  • Strategic plan. “By partnering with our major customers, White created a strategic growth plan—including new equipment purchases and new employee hires—which will expand our capabilities and increase revenue.

“Overall, Susan White has built a new foundation that will launch Atlas Stamping to stratospheric heights,” her nominator adds.

2021 Women of Excellence Honorable Mention

Jaime Bartholomai, Inside Sales and Marketing Manager, Simpac, Troy, MI

Kim Bentley, Marketing and Brand Manager, Voestalpine Roll Forming Corp., Shelbyville, KY

Paula Burkett, Order Entry Coordinator, J.V. Mfg. Co., Natrona Heights, PA

Alicia DiDominzio, Human Resources Manager, Specialty Cable Corp., Wallingford, CT

Christa Filipovic, Materials Planner, Truform Mfg. LLC, Dickson, TN

Daphne Floyd, Small Press Blanking Lead, Wrico Stamping NC, Pineville, NC

Courtney Kern, Press Operator, JV Mfg. Co., Natrona Heights, PA

Autumn Kilgore, Apprentice Tool Maker-Four Year, Feintool Cincinnati, Inc., Cincinnati, OH

Heather Malone, Director of Operations, Target Steel, Flat Rock, MI

MaryJo Padilla, Office Manager, Padilla Designs, Kihei, HI

Mary Shannon, Administrative Assistant, Columbia Machine Works, Inc., Columbia, TN

Alexa Warford, Purchasing and Marketing Coordinator, Almetals, Inc., Wixom, MI

Abby Weber, Quality Inspector, J.V. Mfg. Co. Inc., Natrona Heights, PA

Industry-Related Terms: Bed, Blanking, Die, Draw, Edge, Fixture, Forming, Grit, Hardware, Lines, Model, NC, Roll Forming, Run, Transfer
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Feintool US Operations, Inc., Almetals, Inc., voestalpine Roll Forming Corporation, Storch Magnetics, Aida-America Corp.

Technologies: Management


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