My name is Sarah Daly. I am the Face of Manufacturing.
This is My Story.

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‘I was told I desperately needed to be an engineer’

With an innate love of math and science and her engineer-dad who encouraged and inspired her, Daly, found her calling early. And as the youngest of three, she looked up to her older brothers and strived to be as resilient and fearless as they were. For a high school physics experiment, she and her teammates were handed a set of supplies and asked to make a catapult. “Our goal was to launch something as far as we could and attempt to hit the targets. No matter what we built, I kept wanting to fix it and make it better,” Daly said. “After class, my teacher stopped me and told me that I ’desperately need to be an engineer’.”

‘I wanted to be part of what my dad was doing’

That advice resonated with Daly, who grew up as the daughter of an engineer. “I’m 70 percent my dad. He likes to solve problems, too, but is also very laid back and easy going,” Daly said. She often accompanied her dad to work on her days off from school. “At the time, and as with most kids, I didn’t understand what manufacturing was. I just knew I wanted to be a part of what my dad was doing,” Daly said, adding on those site visits with him, she often thought she was “helping him” do his job. In her senior year, Daly applied and was accepted to the University of Kentucky, becoming her family’s third generation to attend.

“I chose to major in chemical engineering because my sister-in-law was a chemical engineer and I’d visit her at work and thought what she was doing in her manufacturing plant was extremely cool,” Daly recounted.

‘Showing appreciation in the form of food always proved to be effective in helping get things done’

In college, Daly was able to work as a co-operative student in a manufacturing plant. After graduation, she went on to receive her MBA and began searching for a job. What she discovered: nearly every type of engineering job that she was interested in pursuing, supported manufacturing in some way. She began interviewing, found a plant where the collaborative workplace culture was contagious, and quickly joined the team.

At the start of her career, Daly found her niche in capital projects (large-scale projects for process and product improvement) where she partnered with many different groups across the company, such as operations, engineering, maintenance, and safety. “I had great mentors at this company and they wanted me to get project management experience. On the first project I led, my team came in so far ahead of schedule and under budget, the entire project had to be re-estimated,” Daly said. Shortly after its completion, she was given the opportunity to move to the department with the largest and fastest paced debottlenecking projects in the company. Daly gives full credit to her team for the success. “I really got to know the guys in the field. They used their experience and taught me along the way.”

As similar as she is to her dad, Daly also shares traits with her mom. Daly smiled as she discussed how conscientious her mom is of others. Through her mom’s example as a mother and schoolteacher, Daly learned the importance of making others feel valued and appreciated. Her way of applying this was satisfying her team’s love of sweets. Daly admits, “I really tried to listen to my team and then show my appreciation for them. I love to cook and they enjoyed what I would bring in, so pretty much every week I’d be making someone their favorite cookies or desserts.”

‘I have had amazing mentors and they helped to lead me in this direction’

After moving around to different departments and new projects at her company, Daly’s path eventually led to Georgia. When her husband left the Army, they moved to Atlanta, his hometown, for new jobs and new experiences.

Daly took a position as a process engineer at FiberVisions, a fiber manufacturer, in Covington, Georgia, 35 miles east of Atlanta. Her successes continued, even with a new job at a new company. She began forming relationships with co-workers, earning their respect, and became known around the plant as someone who would get the job done and do it well. What’s more, her boss saw that she truly cared about the people, the company, and the products they were producing. After a year and a half at her new company, Daly was promoted to plant manager of the FiberVisions II plant where she would lead a team of 70 people, including 12 direct reports and four operating crews.

“I went from never managing anyone before to being responsible for 70 people and many of them had been working at the plant longer than I’d been alive.”

‘They recognized that I wanted to make a difference’

Although the promotion to plant manager was a huge honor for Daly and one for which her supervisors thought she was ready, she was nervous about taking on the challenge. “My initial thought was ‘I hope I don’t screw this up,’ so I called one of my old mentors whom I trusted completely and asked her how to take on this role and do this,” Daly said. She said to me, ‘This position is out of your comfort zone, but don’t stick with something just because you are comfortable with it. By staying on the same path, you may never learn where you can make the most difference.’ ”

Daly took that advice to heart. So far in her career, she had gained a lot of great experiences, worked with fantastic mentors, led high-dollar and high-return projects, and rallied her teams to accomplish their goals. These wins and her underlying personality traits of tenacity and empathy gave her the confidence and understanding to realize this new position could help her improve the trajectory of not only the plant, but also those individuals that she would be managing.

“It was most important for me to gain their respect,” she said. “I listened and learned and handled a situation that involved many of the plant employees in a way that allowed me to start winning them over.”

‘I want to be the voice for my team’

Once Daly began to demonstrate her value to the team, she was able to build a cohesive group across different functional units. “The people here are extremely talented and capable. There is so much I want to do for them, including getting them resources they need, being an advocate for continuing education, and just being their biggest supporter,” she said.

Daly added: “FiberVisions is well-respected in the community and we have multiple multi-generation families working at the plant, but in order to make sure we continue to grow our team, it’s important to understand their personal goals.” Daly’s goal is to work with her team to create performance plans for each person based on where they want to move next within the plant. By doing so she can gauge their individual interests, match them with mentors, and give them a sense of ownership in their careers and professional development. That not only has a long-term impact on the company, but also on each employee’s distinct career paths.

‘It’s important to continue to pay it forward’

Daly has been fortunate to have great mentors throughout her career and wants to do her part by paying it forward. In addition to helping advance the careers of those around her, she knows it’s essential to educate individuals coming out of school, entering the workforce, or others early on in their careers, especially those working in manufacturing. “I’ve received some great advice over the years and think it’s important to pass it on,” she said.

“Manufacturing is not a concrete concept to people. I think it’s crucial for people to shadow others and go see the plant. Once you are in manufacturing, spend as much time as you can on the plant floor. Get to know the systems, processes, and people. It will be a wealth of knowledge to you as you advance through your career,” Daly said, adding, “it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to speak up, even if it means making a fool of yourself. By sharing your ideas, even if they are not the solution, you may spark ideas in others that are more knowledgeable and experienced”.

Daly will say she was really lucky to end up in the right field for her. But more than luck, it is intelligence, resilience, experience, leadership abilities, and appreciation for her team that have truly served as the keys to her success.

About FiberVisions

Headquartered in Georgia, FiberVisions owns and operates five plants in the US, Europe and China. FiberVisions is the world’s largest producer of polypropylene staple fiber for nonwoven consumer and industrial products. Through its extensive product and market development efforts, FiberVisions has created many new applications for synthetic fibers, particularly for use in the fast-growing nonwovens hygiene fabric area for end use applications such as diapers and baby wipes. FiberVisions is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited.

Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL), listed in Thailand, is one of the world’s leading petrochemicals producers, with a global manufacturing footprint across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. IVL has over 14,000 employees worldwide.

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