The world marks International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 – a global day recognizing the contributions and achievements of women in their communities and businesses. At ARCH Rhode Island, in Smithfield Rhode Island, Susan Mulcahy is an example of the spirit that IWD celebrates.
Susan, who joined ARCH Rhode Island five years ago, is officially an Etching and Packaging Operator. But her title belies the responsibilities and expertise her role requires.
ARCH Rhode Island is a manufacturer of custom new and re-worked solid carbide and carbide-tipped cutting tools for the medical, automotive, firearms and general industrial markets. Susan plays a critical role in the manufacturing process – managing through-put between production and shipment to customers. She is the Lead Operator of a high-tech Beamer Laser System. When finished products come to her department, she performs the critical etching necessary and packages the products for shipping.
“Sometimes, I’m etching a few pieces at a time, sometimes it’s hundreds at a time,” Susan says. “The technology is flexible and efficient, so I’m able to manage the work flow and enhance our through-put.”
In her role, she plays a key part in maintaining the production schedule.
“As the tools come to me, I have to be aware of the production and delivery schedules,” she added. “I prioritize based on due date. Some projects require just-in-time delivery, some are even rush delivery, so I have to adjust workflow appropriately.”
How did she prepare for this tech-oriented career in manufacturing, operating one of the industry’s most high-tech pieces of equipment? Not the way you might think.
“Five years ago, I was looking for a part-time job and a friend referred me here,” said Susan. “It wasn’t long before the part-time job evolved into a full-time position, and the opportunity to operate the Beamer Laser System.”
With previous work experience as a waitress and a customer service representative for a cable TV provider, Susan didn’t bring a technical background to her full-time role. But she did bring confidence.
“At first I thought, ‘oh my gosh’ but as I trained, I gained confidence,” she said. “I used online Beamer Laser Systems training, had some conference calls with them; and I benefitted from a lot of on-site expertise here in the plant, co-workers with experience helped me. A lot of it was ‘learn as you go’.”
She learned well, according to Craig Hundertmark, General Manager ARCH Rhode Island.
“Susan goes out of her way in everything she does,” he said. “She takes pride in what she does and she’s a significant contributor to managing our overall workflow and maintaining through-put.”
And, he notes, Susan excels in another area – attendance.
“We can always count on her to be here,” Craig said. “She wins ‘Perfect Attendance’ every quarter.”
Perfect attendance seems to indicate a genuine love of her job. What does Susan find most rewarding about her work?
“So many things,” she says. “I work with great people. I enjoy the independence of my role too. I know what I have to do and even if it involves multi-tasking, I get it done. There’s a lot of variety, and there’s always help from my co-workers, if I need it.”
Coming to this role later in her career, and with a non-manufacturing and non-technical background, did anything surprise her?
“I didn’t realize the precision involved in tools when I started,” Susan said. “But I work with such experienced people – current and former tool makers – who are so professional, that I first gained an awareness and now I have a high-level understanding of the business.”
That’s something to celebrate – any day of the year.