Almost everyone has an emotional response to seeing a carton of crayons. For most of us, it's about a favorite color. For Mike Hagan, it's about the carton. "I now notice every crayon carton because I built the machine that packages them," he said. "I look at how square the carton is, how well the flap is tucked, whether there's any damage to the carton and how appealing the package is."
MGS Machine designs and manufactures custom equipment that packages not only crayons but also provides innovative packaging solutions to 17 out of the 20 top pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company has fielded 14,000 machines in 27 countries. It also provides solutions for products such as nail polish, ammunition and food, to name a few. "You might think about the company who produces the product, but you rarely think 'somebody created a machine just to package these products'," Hagan said.
"People in this industry are by nature innovative types because of unique packaging needs. People like me enjoy the challenge, they like solving the problems."
How did you get into the packaging industry?
I stumbled into it. I was looking for a job after graduating from Hennepin Technical College. I went to the HTC website and found three interesting jobs. I applied to the top two. When I toured the shop floor at MGS during my second interview, I was really fascinated by the things I saw. I feel lucky to have an opportunity to work here.
What has your career path been so far?
I was hired at MGS as a mechanical assembler. I started doing smaller task work on the machines, working with an experienced assembler. Not long after being hired I was asked to assist in field service, doing a retool on a fielded machine. Later, I became a backup lead. I was given more responsibility on smaller machines, then on larger machines. I spent a couple of years traveling around the world to repair machines I had built. I spent a couple of years as a machine lead -- orchestrating the project on the assembly floor from start to finish.
What are you doing now?
I have moved into engineering, I am a CAD technician. I create assembly drawings that show what parts the machine consists of and where they go. If there's a problem, customers can use the drawings as a road map of the machine or to order the replacement parts. Another portion of my job is machine follow-up. Our machines are engineered to order. We take our core technologies and modify them to meet the customer's needs. I work with assemblers and engineers to see changes through. I make sure documentation is complete so the customer's drawings are a true reflection of the actual machine. The software I use is SolidWorks, a 3D engineering software program. To learn to use SolidWorks I needed to go back to school; the company provided complete reimbursement.
What's the next step in your career path?
I'm leaning in the direction of actual machine design and I am taking more design and engineering courses.
What's the best part about the job?
Seeing how things work, designing them, watching them all work together. Seeing them in completion -- it is a bit like being an artist.