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PMMI On the Rise Awards Winner 2023 - Ryan Swanson

The application engineer and robotics role model.

Ryan Swanson

PMMI has, once again, recognized 10 individuals who are quickly advancing in the industry in its sixth annual PMMI ON THE RISE AWARDS 2023 developed by the Emerging Leaders Committee. The winners were honored in October 2023 at PMMI’s Annual Meeting in Stone Mountain, Georgia. But there’s a lot to learn about these forward-thinking problem-solvers. So, OEM took some time to get to know these outstanding rising stars. Here are their stories.

If anyone is wondering whether or not the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) actually gets high school students excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields—it does. Just ask Ryan Swanson, who first developed an interest in engineering while on an FRC team.  He took that experience with him to North Dakota State University (NDSU) where he started a collegiate robotics organization called Bison Robotics—growing it to over 150 members during his four years at NDSU.

After college, Swanson applied for a job at packaging OEM Massman Automation Designs and was hired as a mechanical design engineer. It’s five years later and the rest, as they say, is history. “I fell in love with the industry because of the unlimited potential for creativity and the endless new engineering challenges that are available,” Swanson said.

In his current role as an applications engineer, Swanson works as a conduit between sales and engineering to assess and develop technical solutions and pricing models for new applications.

According to company executives, Swanson has been instrumental in the development of a process and tool for reviewing and responding to customer machine specification documents.  The list of requirements in these documents can be extensive, but the process that Ryan has developed enables subject matter experts within the organization to identify line items within a customer spec for rapid response. In addition, he assumed the role of product line manager for an acquired product line, focusing his efforts on converting, updating and organizing the CAD models, part drawings, BOMs and other design documentation to enable faster and more efficient production of these machines.  The end result is a set of controlled documents defining standardized machine designs that are readily available templates for the organization to use when these machine orders are received.

Swanson credits the company’s holistic approach to business with helping him to grow professionally. “I lead a weekly cross functional meeting with all of our department leads in which we discuss how upcoming applications would impact their departments, while reviewing budgeted hours and machine cost with each stakeholder,” he said, not to mention he had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks on the assembly floor getting a new perspective on how our engineering documentation gets utilized.

The development of a strong business acumen in five short years is impressive. But perhaps biggest accomplishment to date is his involvement in STEM education for students. He volunteers his time as the head coach for a high school FIRST Robotics team, and he is an entrepreneur—having started his own company, COR Robotics, to provide educational summer STEM enrichment programs across the Upper Midwest.

“I can’t understate the amount that I’ve learned through my involvement as both a student and coach in the FIRST Robotics program,” Swanson said. “As a student, I had the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals and learn things that just aren’t possible to teach in a traditional classroom setting. Now, as a head coach of my local team, I get to be the industry professional inspiring students to follow the same path that I did.”        

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