Mike Wolf, Research and Development Manager, Triangle Packaging Machinery Company

Mike WolfHow did you make your way into the packaging industry?
After studying mechanical engineering at MIT, I worked as an engineering consultant for the nuclear power industry for seven years. I moved to Chicago to be closer to family, and when I interviewed for a design engineer position at Triangle, I was immediately fascinated by the scope of mechanical and systems design challenges inherent to designing packaging machinery. The level of customization and development needed to keep up with consumer demands for new package styles brings a constant stream of new challenges, which are perfect for an engineer who likes variety in their work.

As an emerging leader, what were some obstacles you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
Early on I had the technical skills but failed to appreciate the importance of communication and team building when trying to achieve something new. Triangle sent me to participate in PMMI’s Leadership Development Program. This was a huge help as it enabled me to focus on understanding how my team was affected by my leadership style. It also showed me the small changes I could make to inspire more independent contributions and how I could change my communication style to ensure all stakeholders have an opportunity to know where we are going and why. I’ve been surprised at times how efficiently things can get done when everyone on the team buys into the vision. Also, my favorite aspect was understanding how emotions affect our lives at work and the quality of our interactions. This is something that is easy for an engineer to dismiss, but once you focus on it, you can achieve a lot more.

What are some industry trends you have been keeping your eye on?
I think automatic changeover and PLC assisted setup technologies are very interesting. There are many ways to implement these features while understanding that customer interaction is key. I think only companies with designers who are close to the plant floor will be successful.

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