Emerging Leader Alex Puff Focuses on Education
Entrepreneur-turned manufacturing engineer focuses on educating those around him.
Alex Puff has always enjoyed making and improving things and solving problems, even prior to his entry into his manufacturing career. That’s why it’s not hard to understand why he enjoys his job as a manufacturing engineer at PMPA active member company Micron Manufacturing Co. and excels at it. “What better place than manufacturing to be surrounded by taking chunks/bars of material and creating a usable product paired with endless opportunity for improvement?” Alex says.
Alex was hired at Micron in 2007 when he was 18 years old, making CAD part drawings, a skill he learned in high school at the local career technical center. By that time, he’d already had his own window cleaning business for two years. His entrepreneurial spirit carried over into manufacturing when, during the 2008/2009 manufacturing downturn, Alex created an LLC and found outside opportunities to use his growing CAD skills to draw for other local companies. In the meantime, Alex wanted to learn how to run the Swiss machines.
“It became apparent very quickly that Alex has amazing, inherent, practical engineering skills,” says his nominator, Dan Vermeesch, plant manager at Micron.
Within a few years, Alex enrolled in night classes at the community college and began a degree in engineering. Shortly after his 21st birthday, Alex was asked to become Micron’s estimator, and then his current position as manufacturing engineer followed a few years later.
He has been especially integral in the development of Micron’s in-house CAD and CAM training programs now used in the company’s apprenticeship program. Because of those two training programs, Micron no longer needs to send machinists to the local community college to complete these courses.
Alex uses the CAD training system to teach local high school FIRST Robotics team members how to draw custom robot parts. It has also been used to teach a local high school teacher the company’s CAD program so that he, as STEM coordinator, could implement that training for his students.
Alex with his nominator, Dan Vermeesch
After almost 12 years with Micron, Alex continues to learn, teach and grow. Last year, Alex was invited to join Micron’s management team, which is responsible for all strategic planning and the execution of those plans. He is also a “learner” and “coach” for the improvement kata and has learned the fundamentals of value stream mapping, which helps Micron employees understand how all of the company’s systems are tied together.
“His focus has been to impact every corner of Micron in a positive way so that everyone learns, has fun, and knows that they make a difference,” Mr. Vermeesch says.
Here are a couple additional questions Alex answered for me that we could not fit in the print version of this article:
PM: Tell me about a time when you had to think outside the box to complete a task. Were you successful?
AP: In my personal life I love to fish. Getting to the lake is a bit of a walk, especially with gear and a cooler, so I came up with solution of building a “cooler cart” to drive my equipment and beverages down to the lake. It was fun to make and served its purpose. At Micron, I’ve had to make fixed gaging that met a specific need for an ongoing material verification process. Both are examples of understanding the problem, or challenge at hand and providing the most specific solution to that problem—not anything fancy, simply something that works.
PM: Tell me about a time when something went wrong at Micron and you took control.
AP: I have a bad habit of volunteering for way too many tasks sometimes, but I find myself being drawn more and more often toward taking control of training and guiding growth. The most recent example is the training for our current engineer who we are preparing to put on second shift. We have seven months to be sure he can solve problems independently; not that something went wrong, but there was a void, and I never have a problem taking a project or task.
For more information about Alex and our other 2019 Emerging Leaders, read “Meet Production Machining’s 2019 Emerging Leaders.”
To nominate an Emerging Leader for our 2020 awards, visit our nomination page.
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