In his own words: Dan Kulp, Manufacturing Manager, Pine Electronics
What or who fueled your interest in manufacturing?
My dad was a tinkerer and collector of odd parts. I always tried to build cool things with the parts; I doubt any of them worked. In high school, I went to vo-tech for Pre-Engineering and I was hooked by drafting and programming. While at Pitt for Mechanical Engineering I worked as a co-op for USAir and crawled around in aircraft with awe and curiosity at the workings of airplanes. These cool things did work.
What is your current role in manufacturing?
As the Manufacturing Manager at Pine Electronics, I oversee the shop so we keep producing assembled good for customers. It requires balancing incoming materials and schedules with personnel and capabilities to deliver assemblies for customer satisfaction. Mix in some new assemblies and design improvements too.
Describe your path to get to where you are today.
It has been a very twisty path from airlines (USAir and TWA) to robotics (Aethon, Pittsburgh) to some light construction (Habitat for Humanity) and then test equipment (Instron, Grove City) and steel mill capital equipment (Medart, Ellwood City). Moving into Pine Electronics, I took a step away from focusing on design and projects to juggling the demands for a manufacturing plant. I’ve been with Pine for 4 years.
What is your Superpower?
I bring ideas and get to decisions. Do that with good people and things get done. I’ve been able to be a part of teams and offer up ideas. Sometimes I have a good idea and sometimes not; but even offering the bad ideas lets us move towards a good one. I get the people in the room and force decisions to move forward. Fail fast (if needed) and get to a solution without needing to step on others or get stepped on yourself. If the team can set egos aside with the goal of solving the problem great things can happen.
Why is your role important to others – like to customers or end users?
I’m in a leadership role and my job is to set people up to do their job and then get out of the way. Part of this is to influence designs for optimal parts put together with quality and delivering value to the customer. How will this be machined?, How will these parts become an assembly?, Where will a customer put their hands to use this equipment?, What might break and what is the easiest way to replace it?
What do you think the future holds for your career or others you inspire?
I love my job. I love being a part of a team to create real things that matter. Manufacturing is a great field and isn’t going away. It may change with technology or volumes but it will always be around. Even a highly automated line will someone to design, build, install, operate and maintain a robotic line. Skilled people doing important things are needed at each of those stages for it to be successful.