By Laurie Barcaskey
When people ask me what I do to earn a living and respond that I sell industrial identification systems (aka marking); people often give me a puzzled look and ask “What is that?”
Most folks do not realize that marking surrounds them just about everywhere: from food packaging to appliances and cars. Marking guides us all day long — consider wayfinding signage on the roadways and in stores.
If people still look surprised by the role of marking in their lives, I ask if they know how recalls on food and automobiles are managed. The traceable identification applied to food products and automotive components have date codes, lot numbers and other identifying elements such as bar codes. These marks help manufacturers identify the range of items impacted by product failure or other criteria for return.
The construction industry uses marking to show the connection points for a building’s structure, utility supply lines and the directional flow of things like gas, water and sewage. These marks allow for a building to be erected correctly and support ongoing maintenance.
How those marks get applied differs based on the component, the substrate it is made of, the environment it will be exposed to, the cycle time required to apply the mark and, ultimately, the amount a company is able to budget for investment the equipment or solution.
Having been in the industry for almost 40 years and being one of the few women in this specialty, I enjoy explaining how I got started. I am the third generation of a marking family whose involvement began when my grandfather purchased a marking company in 1928. I grew up cutting my teeth on steel hand stamps and direct-part marking. To say the least, I have graduated from the “School of Hard Knocks” as anyone from a family business can attest. Currently, I am the only family member remaining in the field of marking.
After our family business was sold in 2002, I joined a small industrial distributor in Pittsburgh. This company focused on providing solutions to electrical and mechanical contractors specifically for pipe and valve labels, and wires and panel identification. This broadened my knowledge of marking to include technologies such as thermal transfer and a variety of ink marking applications. It also introduced me to the construction industry.
It is my appreciation for how buildings are constructed, and how things are made that piques my interest for providing marking solutions. It is not unusual that one day of field calls will take me from a machine shop producing automotive, aerospace or medical instruments; to food producers; metal refineries; and then onto a construction jobsite.
Knowing my customers and becoming their partner for business needs includes understanding the challenges they face every day and finding solutions. Leading Marks “Boss Buddy” package was created specifically for the sand-casting industry. This tailored set of accessories allows foundries to upgrade their pattern labeling process as current solutions become obsolete and improve a very cumbersome process. There is also a package that can emboss metal tags that get applied to product post casting or for rugged environments.
From my work with customers, I have seen how difficult it is for manufacturing and construction to find and keep qualified technical staff. The focus on college degrees has left all the trades in short supply of skilled staff to produce items we all rely on. Recognizing that I can make a difference, I have chosen to be involved in the SW BotsIQ program. This career-development program is coordinated through the National Tooling & Machining Association.
Everyone in the program gains something whether they are a student or working in the field. It is so encouraging to interact with these high school students. Their enthusiasm to plan and build something and then compete with other high schools at the annual Bots Tournament in southwestern PA is exciting and fun. The mechanical and life skills the students gain is critical to setting them up for success as they look for jobs, attend trade school, or seek degrees. The suppliers and manufacturers who support them gain direct insight to future employees and the local educational systems and networking opportunities with other professionals. It is a win-win for everyone.
Becoming Women Business Enterprise certified opens the doors to opportunities with government and large corporations who value diverse suppliers. This certification also enables me to encourage young women involved in the SW Bots program or just starting their careers within manufacturing and construction. While these industries are inviting more women to be a part of their organizations, there are still many more efforts needed to diversify and level the playing field.
Now that you know all of this about me and a bit of the background of Leading Marks, what is the solution we can help you with? Visit www.leadingmarks.com to learn more.
Laurie Barcaskey is president of Leading Marks LLC.
Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.