Investing in the Future Through Training

Marc Resseman joined Sonderen Packaging as a glue feeder in June 2018.  Marc was eager to work with his hands and learn more about the company, so when opportunity to be a machine operator in the die cutting department opened up, he immediately applied. Just two months after being hired, he was promoted to running press 25.

“It’s just me and my machine all day. I get to create goals and get the press to run smooth and fast. You want to make sure there are no issues when customers receive their cartons, but you want to see what you can get out of your machine.” – Marc Resseman

Sonderen Packaging

We strive to have a culture of continuous improvement where employees are participating in their growth and the company’s growth. About seven months after starting as a die cutter, Marc was fully signed off on his machine, but that’s not where training ends for most positions at Sonderen. Marc recently participated in a Kaizen event facilitated by the Clearwater Paper Converting Solutions Team. Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning improvement that has been adopted by companies that participate in lean production—the main concept is to reduce waste.  In this Kaizen, the goal was to reduce the time it takes to set up a machine using a pit crew-style make-ready. We also had several new operators on the team that received additional training by being a part of this Kaizen. The Kaizen team was composed of 7 folks from the various shifts and skill levels in the cutting department as well as three Clearwater Paper employees. The Clearwater facilitators filmed and watched the operators every move and the team drew a spaghetti diagram to show  how many times she walked around the press. When she conducted the same make-ready a second time with a partner, they were 30% more efficient, cutting an hour out of the make-ready process.

kaizen diagram
kaizen diagram

Sonderen Packaging is dedicated to providing ongoing support to our employees. It’s important to us to encourage our employees to stretch out of their comfort zone, expand their skill set, and grow their confidence. We attempt to do this by encouraging our employees to cross-train between teams, attend technical conferences and educational training sessions, and go to site visits at other Independent Carton Group (ICG) companies. The industry is changing, so we need to stay on the cutting edge, and training and exposure to industry experts and new technology is how you do that. It’s one of the many ways that we show our employees that we value them: by staying at Sonderen Packaging, motivated people have an opportunity to enjoy an interesting, challenging, and fulfilling career.

“When customers come in for a tour, we introduce them to different employees who have the opportunity to explain their job to customers. The pride in their craft really shows, and, from a customer’s perspective, good training equals a high level of expertise which goes hand in hand with good quality.” – Keva Sonderen

An additional approach to keeping great employees is by training great leaders. Matt Thurman started at Sonderen Packaging when he was 22 as a packer and inspector in the finishing department. After two months, he decided that being a packer wasn’t the right job for him. Always motivated to learn something new, he started asking questions about operating the machines. Eventually he had his own set of tools and was helping to set up the machines. After eight months, a machine operator position opened up, so Matt applied and got the position. He came to Sonderen Packaging looking for a steady job and found an awesome career.

A few years into Matt’s career, he was asked to go to a conference of the ICG in both Chicago and Denver, where he joined others from the industry to discuss their processes and best practices. He has been applying the things he learned to make improvements at Sonderen. His initiative helped show his boss that he was ready to train new hires as well as job shadow and cross-train to cover for his boss when needed. The goal is to give him more responsibility so that he can gain experience managing people and confidence to manage an entire department.

Matt’s leadership training in Spokane includes Gonzaga’s three-day Authentic Leadership Program where he learned about his communication and leadership style with the help of the 360 Review and Emotional Intelligence profiles. He also recently attended a three-day class called Leadworker Effectiveness, through Archbright. Both programs have given him tools to help him interact with his coworkers in a positive way and give constructive feedback with a high level of self-awareness and confidence.

“I’m very grateful for all of the opportunities that Sonderen Packaging has created for me. Sonderen Packaging has allowed me to better myself and my skills as a machine operator and leader. I was allowed to make mistakes and even break a few things, with encouragement and support. I will always be grateful for the patience and faith that has been given to my development as an employee, but more importantly as a person.” – Matt Thurman

Because of our employees’ successes at conferences and in leadership training, our goal is to start an internal Lead Training Program conducted by the co-owners of Sonderen to expand leadership development to all of our people in current and future leadership roles. This commitment to leadership growth will create stronger individual leaders and, as a result, a stronger company committed to remaining fiercely independent and family-owned.

Marc Resseman is coming up on his first anniversary at Sonderen Packaging. He has been mentored by two of his co-workers, Nick and Phil, who taught him different positions. They helped Marc learn how our processes work as well as why those processes work. His manager, Dan, has also been highly involved in his growth and success.

“We’re the last independently owned carton manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest, family-owned. I want to be a lead and manager someday, so it gives me confidence that they invest in their team. As for manufacturing as a career path, I tell people to apply because people are treated well here and I look forward to going to work. If you stick to it, you can move up and learn new skills at Sonderen; you’ll be really happy. I know I am.” – Marc Resseman