Clabber Girl's plant guy

Ed Wilkins, executive director of plant operations for Clabber Girl Corp., Terre Haute, IN, has more than 25 years with the 155-year-old company.

Pw 11297 Qa Clabber Boy

PW: Tell us about your background.

Wilkins: I started in the machine maintenance department in 1978 as a tool and die maker for our can end presses. I advanced to lead maintenance in 1980 and in 1984 was promoted to plant manager. In 2004, I became director of plant operations, and this year was moved to executive director of plant operations.

PW: What changes have you seen in packaging machinery during that time?

Wilkins: Smaller machine footprints, the use of programmable logic controls, and no more relays. The best innovations are flexibility for different size packages. Built like tanks, most older equipment would last forever, but those did not offer much of a chance for upgrading package size changes–at least not easily.

PW: What about workforce changes?

Wilkins: Today’s workforce seems intelligent and literate with computers, which is huge, but very few are familiar with production operations of any kind. I would say trainability between the new generation and the older generation is equal since the former group understands the mechanics better and the other understands the technical aspects better. We then mix the expertise and cross-train accordingly.

PW: What about those ‘old school’ employees?

Wilkins: I have been fortunate in the fact that we have done so much cross-training that the more established group and the younger group share many attributes. The younger employees seem to possess a stronger vision of the company than the older group does. This doesn’t mean that one group is better, they just think differently. For both groups, the end result is the same–a positively motivated workforce.

PW: What’s the most interesting project you’ve had?

Wilkins: That was the automation of our finished product conveyors, which are all PLC-controlled for timing. Since we have such a small area and so much equipment, we added vertical spiral conveyors to elevate the cases to the overhead conveyors. —Rick Lingle

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