Ellen Vermilya

Ellen Vermilya

Practitioner; Milliken & Co.

What was your first job?


What do you do in your current role?

Milliken is a global diversified manufacturing organization. I am a Safety and Process Improvement Practitioner who works for our Performance Solutions group. We help implement operational excellence processes at our acquisition sites within Milliken, as well as external clients and customers. I’ve worked in the textile, chemical, healthcare, pet food, and steel industries. We spend time implementing processes that are TPM based. The reason we are called “Practitioners” instead of consultants is because we’ve actually applied the knowledge and techniques to Milliken’s internal manufacturing facilities. I have worked with our chemical division, textile division, and healthcare division to implement safety improvements, equipment improvements, and work on waste, downtime, and yield projects that affect OEE. While Milliken is based in South Carolina – I live in Pittsburgh and travel to our sites and clients. We have a chemical plant in Franklin, PA so we do have a Pennsylvania footprint although most of our facilities are on the East Coast with a few of our sites being abroad in Europe and Asia.

How/why did you begin your career in manufacturing?

I started actually recruiting for machine operators, engineers, and technicians for a staffing company where my clients were manufacturing facilities. I then began recruiting for Milliken and was drawn to our manufacturing processes. I moved out of recruiting and into a truly boots on the ground manufacturing role and spent close to 3 years working on focused improvement projects within Milliken before going out and working with external clients.

What is your educational background?

Bachelors Degree

When you were in middle school/high school what sparked your interest in the manufacturing career pathway?

I actually wasn’t aware of manufacturing opportunities in middle school, high school, or college and it was a huge missed opportunity for me. I started realizing manufacturing was an opportunity during my first job as a recruiter. If I had known earlier, I would’ve entered it as a first option. My first job, I was a manufacturing staffing assistant so I was hiring for all the different types of manufacturing positions and learning their job responsibilities. This was one of the first encounters I had with all of the different opportunities within the industry and it’s what led me to find out more and actually make a change to work for a manufacturing company. I loved looking at the processes that it took to make something, watching raw material come in and then because of all the work the people in the facility did, leave as a finished good. I like getting my hands dirty and working with equipment so that helped peak my interest as well.

What do you like most about your current position and work you are doing in manufacturing? 

I love being able to take methodologies and ideas and implement them with the people that are closest to the process. We implement employee driven and led Safety Systems and Operational Excellence systems. Helping someone, working right next to them on the floor and leveraging their expertise and knowledge from working closest to the process to help troubleshoot and improve in a cross functional team and then see the results of their work to make things more efficient or safer – that’s the best part of my work. The results and the morale boost that comes from these improvements and just the ability to work on projects with a variety of different people – that’s what I like about my job.

What is the biggest thing that surprised you about manufacturing when you started working in the industry? 

How open the environment is for learning and teaching. I went from not knowing anything to running a rewinder and a lamination machine, to supervising cost saving projects, to helping maintenance techs organize their PM schedule. Sometimes it’s hard to break in but if you show you are eager to learn, there is someone there willing to teach you whatever it is you are wanting to learn.

What is your #1 piece of advice for young people to prepare for a successful future?

Communication. To be successful, you have to learn how to communicate clearly, consistently, early, and often. Learn how to communicate what you need, what you have to offer, expectations, etc. Communication is the biggest opportunity for improvement in most companies I visit. The most successful teams and individuals know how to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Why should someone consider a career in manufacturing?

The number of different career paths that manufacturing can take you – from individual contributor, to operations management, to supply chain, finance, HR. Manufacturing has it all and the opportunities are abundant. Being able to see products that you contributed to making out in the real world is the coolest thing in the world. “My company and the work that I do helped make that water bottle” or “I’ve seen the looms that make this carpet tile”. Even the pride of seeing our trucks out on the highway when I’m driving somewhere. Even if you don’t work out on the floor – you have a hand in helping create that product.

What is something you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love walking my dog, George at Ohio Pyle, Schenley, and Frick Park. I also love trying new local food spots and listening to live music.

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