“Growing up on a farm, I always enjoyed seeing how things were put together. When things broke, we figured out how to fix them… that’s how it worked on the farm,” said Donna Perry, who started working at Thermo King Hastings 24 years ago.
That way of thinking is becoming a lost art with younger generations who are accustomed to instant gratification and are more apt to discard and replace worn-out items. Donna believes that manufacturing is one area that can make an impact and instill some of that mindset again – in young people who are not sure what to do after high school or someone looking for a change.
“I think the greatest misconception around the manufacturing industry is that it is all about assembly line work. I don’t believe many people understand the broad spectrum of career opportunities that exist, or the growth potential involved. There are so many avenues to take – you just need the drive to learn, take chances and get out of your comfort zone. If you do, the sky is the limit in this field.”
That’s the message Donna has enjoyed passing along to area students who have come tour the Thermo King Hastings plant in the past. She likes to share her story – how working hard can earn a good wage and benefits and lead to advancements in many areas, including education opportunities that help you succeed.
After spending 11+ years for another manufacturing company and an ethanol plant, Donna applied at Thermo King for a day shift in 1996 and started assembling control boxes – soldering and crimping wires, and putting the boxes together for the large truck line. Several years later, Donna moved to forklift operator within the sheet metal and welding area. Next she went to the Tubing Department where she had various responsibilities before moving once again, this time to the Bus area as an operations technician. From there, she took an engineer technician job before moving into supervisor roles, first for the TriPac (auxiliary power unit) assembly line, then for the Feeder area and finally back to Bus line.
“I’ve been in my current role as OpEx change agent since April 2019 and although I loved the hands-on work of previous jobs, I really like seeing improvements throughout the plant and helping make things better.
“That what I like most about my days – seeing change happen that is good for the process and our people.”
To prepare for her advancements to supervisor, Donna took advantage of Thermo King’s tuition reimbursement program to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2017. “I wanted to continue moving up in my career and so I took the plunge to get that degree – it took work and was a challenge to balance work, life and school, but it was worth it.”
No doubt, that farm girl work ethic plays a role in all of Donna’s success and will continue to lead her as she travels down her manufacturing career path.
In honor of Manufacturing Day, meet Mike Calvert, an industrial engineer at Thermo King’s Minneapolis distribution center.