Can Lines Engineering has been in Connor Koplien’s family for four generations. Koplien grew up knowing he wanted to have a career in packaging so he started from the bottom working in the fabrication shop, and eventually, he worked his way up to becoming a mechanical designer. But Koplien has his sights set on leading the company one day.
What is a unique aspect of your background that you don’t see often in the industry?
I didn’t go to school for engineering, like a lot of my peers. I’m fortunate that here at CLE, whether in our Fab shop or in Engineering, we have some of the best of the best. So any skills or knowledge I have today was learned right here at CLE working alongside our seasoned employees. Whether it be fabrication skills or learning CAD the experience of those around me has been invaluable.
What are some industry trends on your mind?
I see a mix of the older generation and newer generation coming together in both workforce and in new customers. You will always have your core businesses like big beverage or food companies, but we are also seeing more micro, independent businesses taking up a larger part of the market. Things like health beverages and micro craft beer have become increasingly popular, so that’s a market I would like to see us be able to service. They have different needs, demands and resources than bigger businesses, so adapting to suit those needs will be key to expanding into that particular market. A big thing we here at CLE are actively working on developing is our CAD customization/automation. We’ve always been a “custom/built to order” conveyor company and always will be. But if we can utilize the technology available to us to provide a more viable product to a larger customer base that is the goal. Another interesting thing to me is that a lot of these micro companies that started within the past 5-15 years, they aren’t so micro anymore. So if we can build from the ground floor with them now, and start that relationship in the early stages, then hopefully we can be a part of them growing and expanding their business.
What advice do you have for others looking to break into this industry or the younger generation just entering the industry?
The biggest advice is to never stop learning. No matter who you are dealing with always think about what that person can teach you. It doesn’t matter what degree or certifications you have, there will always be someone out there with more knowledge and experience and it’s in your best interest to soak as much as you can in. I always remind myself that the market, as a whole, is changing, and there will always need to be adjustments. The upcoming generation needs to understand that the guys who have been working in the industry for the past 20 years know what they are talking about, there’s no better teacher then experience. But at the same time, the younger generation may have a unique idea and they may be more in touch with what the industry is experiencing in the moment. It’s about taking the two viewpoints, balancing them and providing the best service you can.
As a way to recognize young talent making their mark on the packaging and processing industries, PMMI set out to find 10 rising stars. OEM Magazine spoke with each On the Rise Award winner to find out where they think the industry is heading, how they have overcome obstacles in their careers and how the industry can better accommodate incoming generations to bridge the skills gap. Learn more about PMMI’s On the Rise Awards, and see the other winners.