Jobs in Manufacturing: Good Pay and Benefits, Very Rewarding Work

2-5-18, by Michael Blakley, Development Specialist
James Wichert is a slender guy with a quick smile. Slightly North of 22-years old, he has the energy to match.

Interview   Working 

He’s a sander operator for our new member, Western Panel Products located in Eugene. Western Panel is a specialty producer of high-end and exotic hardwood veneers, creating architectural panels for commercial and interior application. And while technically referred to as “plywood,” they are actually artisan-crafted pieces involving a lot of hand-work and skill.

We visited with James at the plant to talk to him about how he found his way into plywood manufacturing. Here are parts of his story, the way he found this job and the satisfaction he gets out of his work: “My previous experience was in construction; my Dad is a contractor in Springfield. When I stopped working for him, I worked at another job for two years, but I wanted more steady work and a better paycheck. I found a temp agency and they got me a job here and it has been a great ride ever since.”

The First Days
I knew when I started working here, that I could enjoy this work and find a career path. I got married and started my family, we have a one-year old daughter now. I’ve been here 3-years and I knew after my first week I loved how we do things here, it all just gelled up. We are a great team and there are so many processes. It is amazing how much we can get produced and shipped.”

 The Manufacturing Process
“It’s about the process, we have huge glue spreaders and then the pressing of panels and then sanding them. To see the final product come through the sanders is very rewarding and the product has to be perfect before it goes out the door.”

A Big Event
“It was a Wednesday, our day to get our biggest shipments out and it was a scramble to get it all done and the teamwork that comes into play is amazing. Its go, go, go, and in 8 hours it’s done, kind of an adrenalin rush.”

The Surprise
“The teamwork and the quality of products day in and day out… it’s amazing. I program my sander to specific customer requirements so it is precision work; I am able to give my input around the processes and work with the press guys to assure all our panels meet our quality and veneer grade standards.”

“It blows my mind, seeing the veneer and thinking, wow, that came from a tree; walnut is my favorite, you can do so many different things with it.”

The Future
“There is great money in manufacturing, so to others, I say ‘do it.’ You learn a lot and the experience and knowledge is very satisfying. For me the sky’s the limit and I love the hustle.  
It may look like hard work at first, but once your body gets used to it, you go home knowing you’ve done a good day’s work.


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