Through this blog series we will introduce you to local manufacturing workers and explore their career paths and how manufacturing has positively impacted their lives. We want to show the community how manufacturing allows individuals to have a career they are proud of and enjoy.
We would like to introduce you to Sam Cassell, Plant Manager at Utility Trailer Manufacturing in Glade Spring, Virginia, manufacturer of Dry Van trailers. Manufacturing has provided Sam with a rewarding and beneficial career for 30 years. We sat down with Sam to talk about the progression of his career and why he has stayed in manufacturing for such a long time.
What led you to pursue a career in manufacturing?
It started when I was a young boy, a child wanting to play and tinker with little pieces of motors that used to come in toys, to tear them apart whether they would break accidentally or on purpose. Again, as a young kid I was just intrigued with how they worked and how we could take them apart and make other things with them. It just grew from there. Now that I look back on it, it was from childhood that got me interested and it continued on through school.
Tell us about your start in manufacturing.
I got started in my manufacturing career with Utility Trailer back in 1989 when the Atkins facility was opening up. I started there on the line and actually built the front wall on the third trailer that went down the production line. From there I had planned to just stay six months and move on to something else, but I found it very interesting, very challenging and neat that we were building something as large as a trailer. From there I had some opportunity within the company to move into different areas and gain a vast knowledge of the product. I have held the positions of Quality Inspector, Production Supervisor, Order Planning Supervisor, Quality Manager, and Plant Superintendent. Eventually I was given the opportunity to move into my current position as Plant Manager.
What education or training did you have before you started your job?
What is now referred to as a Carrier Center was once called Trade School. In Trade School I studied Drafting and blueprint reading. Back then it was the old green tables, nothing like you see today, but it was mechanical drafting. We got into drawing parts, both small and large, and we could see how they would work and come together. I found that very interesting, just being able to draw something from scratch, really just imaginary and how they could be put together and made to do different things. I got into blueprint reading and did a lot of that back in my high school days. When I graduated I went to college for a little bit, but I don’t know if I wasn’t ready for college or college wasn’t ready for me, it could go both ways. I didn’t finish college at that time. I went into the military for awhile. I went into the Army and got into working on tank systems. After the military I went to work for Utility Trailer. Then I finished my education and received my degree in business at age fifty. I personally found finishing my degree at an older age to be a benefit. I had a much better understanding of how to apply that education on the job and how to apply my years of experience in the class room. I have found that my business and drafting/blue printing education are equally important. I use each every day.
Tell us about your education/training throughout your career.
I have had on the job everyday training as manufacturing and our product continues to evolve for the customer needs. We’re faced with something new quite often. Training continues today. Over the years I have received training in areas such as computer, heavy equipment brake systems, welding, and electrical painting, There is a lot that goes into building a trailer, it changes all the time so training is continuous. Utility Trailer values training so a lot of time is devoted to this area. All employees begin training on day one. We not only train on how to build trailers and operating tools, time is spent on safety, a lot of time on safety including proper lifting, wearing of personal protection equipment (PPE), classes on blue print reading, use of measuring equipment, we have several on site with first aid / CPR training. I’m sure I will continue to go to trainings for the rest of my career.
Tell us about the progression of your career.
It started early on, I didn’t even know it. I got into my job and found I was liking it and learning. I was a lot younger then, and it was kind of cool to see we were building something with our hands and we could actually see the end product. We could see it out on the interstate each and every day and know that we had a part in doing that. There was a manager of mine early on, he didn’t tell me at that time, but it was shared with me many years later, and I asked him how I got where I am. He said to me, “Sam, we saw early on that you had something that we could use here. You had some work ethic, you had a good character and some knowledge, and the ability to do more and to learn.” Has it been easy? No. Some of the jobs and opportunities have been tough. Have all of them been a success? No, some of them have failed. But, to be honest, I think I’ve learned more from those failures than I ever have on the successes. I think it’s made me stronger and more hard headed to see current and future projects through to the end.
What has this career meant to you?
Those people that we work with each and every day, it doesn’t just stop here. When we go home and people clock out our relationship doesn’t just stop. We see many of the people out in the community that we see here each day. Many times we’ll find ourselves out on the fence at a Little League game talking about what we just did today. I’ll get stories about the good, the bad, and the ugly about the job. When we’re out there together, outside of these walls, we share a lot. It’s not just me and the individuals who work here, it’s our families as well.
Watch the video below to find out why Sam has stayed in manufacturing for thirty years.