On the Rise: Dale Vaughn
Quality Engineer | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 30
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was with Cooper. I started in December 2010 as an industrial engineer. I recently moved to the role of quality engineer and work closely with the departments I serviced in my previous role with a more hands-on approach to problem solving and process improvement.
What attracted you to the industry?
I enjoy the critical thinking and teamwork involved in the manufacturing environment.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
The biggest challenge has been trying to continuously improve every day in order to stay competitive in the industry. We must always be looking at what we do and how we do it in order to bring constant improvement.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
The biggest influence on my career has undoubtedly come from the great team that I’m surrounded by each day. I’ve also been fortunate to work with great management that has helped me to learn, grow and continually advance.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
My biggest accomplishment has been taking part in the growth of Cooper’s Serbia operations. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Serbia and take part in evaluating new equipment, racks, aisles and all aspects of ergonomics that had to be taken into consideration for the layout of the plant. I greatly enjoyed working with the Serbian team and making an impact on the success of this project.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your work day?
My current position is as a quality engineer for material preparation and tire assembly. My job responsibilities include ensuring we are producing the highest quality tire material components, and building tires that meet our quality specifications in the tire assembly area for our customers. My day is usually spent between meeting with team members, working on the floor with operators, and helping to improve the production processes.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
In 20 years from now, I could see myself in a management role in quality, continuous improvement, or production operations.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?
I think the biggest issue is that competition continues to grow, globally and in North America, so we have to improve every day in order to gain a competitive advantage and provide a superior product.
What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?
Keep an open mind set as there is always a better way to do something, even if it has been done the same way for 100 years.
What class(es) do you wish you had paid more attention to in high school?
All math classes because I use it every day.
What’s the worst cliché or generalization made about your generation?
I think some people have a negative view about the millennial generation, especially when it comes to work. As times change, so do the people, but change can be good. There is less manual labor required now because of computers, automation, and more efficient ways to do things. The same amount of work can be done with less manual labor, but in a safer and more efficient environment. The millennial generation has to learn to work smarter and harder now.
Tell us about your family.
I’m not married yet, so I do not have any kids. I have a chocolate lab that I have had since college, and two horses that I have had for about five years.
What’s your favorite weekend activity?
Anything outdoors when the weather is nice: fishing, kayaking, camping, and cooking on the grill are some of my favorites.
What keeps you up at night?
Late workouts, so I try to avoid those!
How do you encourage others to enter the industry?
I encourage the youth through the Cooper Manufacturing Experience that we have each year with the local schools. I’m part of Cooper’s Dream Team, which is a group of younger employees that works with youth in the community to encourage them to pursue roles in manufacturing, and we help lead the Manufacturing Experience event and really showcase what a career in manufacturing can mean today.
Tell us something about yourself others might not know.
I am currently working on getting my private pilot’s license.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I have a sweet tooth so any kind of dessert, especially ice cream.
Name a talent you wish you had.
I wish I had a photographic memory so I could see something and remember it. It would make life much easier.
What’s your favorite food?
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Sam Walton. I read his autobiography in college, and have always been intrigued by his entrepreneurial mindset as he started with a five-and-dime store and helped build Walmart into the company it is today.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
I played a lot of sports growing up, so probably the Saturdays spent on the baseball field are among the top.
If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?
It may actually be nice to not have it! I would survive until I needed to go out of town, then it would be worth the ransom.
Other than your cell phone, what’s a tool you must have to get through a work day?
Tape measure or calculator. There is something that always needs to be measured or calculated in production.