Melissa Grant is a production manager at Jet Label, western Canada’s largest label manufacturer and printer. She manages a 24-hour facility with more than 40 production employees.
What eventually grew to be Melissa Grant’s 17-year love story with print, didn’t initially start out that way. To hear Grant explain how she got started in the label industry, she says frankly: ‘I needed a job.’
She started in the rewind department at a small label company in Ontario before relocating as a young military wife across the country. Her job search consisted of Googling ‘print companies in Edmonton [Canada],’ and Jet Label was the first hit.
‘It was kismet,’ she says, laughing. ‘They must have known a good thing when they saw it, because I began the next day. I spent the next few years eager and determined to run and learn every machine in the building.
‘My initial knowledge of the industry was learned by following pressmen around, asking annoying questions, offering to clean a million ink trays and lugging matrix to the garbage. I knew I wanted to learn more.’
Grant, 38, is now a production manager at Jet Label, a 20 million CAD (14.6m USD) company and the largest label manufacturer and printer in Western Canada. Jet Label is headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, and has satellite locations in Vancouver, Prince George, Kelowna, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
‘At first, it was just a job,’ Grant says. ‘Jet Label isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s family. I chose printing because I needed a paycheck, but I stayed in printing because I love what I do.’
Grant continued to advance at Jet Label, and today manages a 24-hour production facility that’s staffed with more than 40 production employees. She’s responsible for material resource planning, purchasing, scheduling, staffing, production process and workflow. More than that, she’s a positive leader for the employees she manages.
‘Success to me is not a definitive time in the future set by monetary gains or status,’ she says. ‘It’s the people and the relationships we encounter every day. It’s laying my head on my pillow at night feeling good about the people we employ, the customers we serve and the suppliers we rely on. For me, it’s about being a good steward in life. Labels just happen to be the platform we use.’
Not only is Grant a young leader at a relatively young company (Jet Label started in 1998), but she embodies a demographic that’s often underrepresented in manufacturing; the label industry is no exception. Grant admits that as a female in a male-dominated industry it can sometimes be difficult to be taken seriously.
‘It’s a male-dominated culture for sure,’ she says. ‘There are many career niches like this. It’s a tricky time for anyone waging the war on equality in the workplace, whether it be gender, race or age based. I think the key obviously is to keep in mind a person’s skill set and aptitude, rather than the former.’
Of the 42 employees who report to Grant, 16 are female.
‘We haven’t specifically set out to employ female press operators, but have more than most,’ she said. ‘I would tell you I’m happy to be a part of that, but it’s only an effect of being open minded and looking for the right traits, not the right gender.’
Jet Label produces on both digital and flexo technology. It has 12 flexo presses, two HP Indigo WS6800 digital presses, and Jet’s most recent purchase was a Delta Mod Tech finishing unit installed in 2016. As part of her role, Grant keeps an eye on the future of label technology.
‘Everyone wants to run faster with lower costs and less waste,’ she says. ‘We’ve had the evolution of hybrid print platforms that I think will continue to grow as well. Automation and streamlined workflows are becoming ubiquitous in the workplace with multiple solutions to customize your workflow.
‘I think the most important decision I can make as a leader is to remember that I don’t know what I don’t know. And to always have an open head and heart to learn more. Not to undermine the importance of the advancement of technology, but it need not be to the detriment of the human nature. In an age where conversations have been traded for pings, snaps and tweets, it’s important to slow down. Spend time engaging in healthy conversations. Build trust and relationships. Lead from the bottom up and empower teammates to make good decisions.’
Read this article in L&L issue 3, 2017 here