As the Manager for Learning and Organizational Development for Corrugated Packaging, RockTenn’s (now WestRock) Jay Kaplan knows a thing or two about how to maximize leadership opportunities in box plants and paper mills. Yet, it took him awhile to take full personal advantage of what he considers to be the industry’s best resource for technical support and information on emerging technologies and cutting edge science aimed at helping professionals succeed, including the SuperCorrExpo®, the largest tradeshow in the Western hemisphere catering to the corrugated industry.
Back in 1994, while working for Stone Container and living in the Chicago area, Jay was invited by the Chicago TAPPI chapter to make a presentation on “The Role of a User in a Computer System Project.” Through the ensuing years, and in various roles with different employers, Jay continued his peripheral relationship with TAPPI until a change in job responsibilities underscored the necessity of membership.
“When I was named Manager of Manufacturing Services for Smurfit-Stone in 2006, it became clear to me that I needed the resources TAPPI offered in more than just a casual way,” Jay said. “I am confident my membership, and the benefits it brings with it, have been an integral part of my professional growth ever since. It has been a great way to see the world of packaging outside of my own company.”
In his current role, Jay is part of a team that supports 120-plus facilities that employ approximately 15,000 people. He helps create and direct programs in leadership development, training, project management, IT systems support, and more. And while his primary focus is box plants and paper mills, he also works with sister businesses in recycling, merchandising/display and consumer packaging when opportunities arise. Jay contends that the knowledge and personal relationships he has maintained throughout his involvement with TAPPI have played a major role in deepening and broadening his industry knowledge.
Now a strong proponent of membership, he recently brought a group of new and future RockTenn production managers to TAPPI’s headquarters in Norcross, Georgia for a tour and an afternoon of learning about what TAPPI has to offer new and existing members. “I believe they left feeling a lot more informed about what our industry has to offer,” he explained, “as well as a clear idea of how much value they can derive from participation as an active member.”
Q. Why did you decide to join TAPPI?
I have been exposed to TAPPI since I relocated from Philadelphia to Chicago in 1994. Long-time Stone Container leaders such as John Knecht, Pete Dages and Jerry Suiter led Stone’s Manufacturing Group and Dave Carlson was an early mentor when I was a plant and regional quality manager. TAPPI was an influence due to their involvement and support of the organization. A shift in responsibilities and reporting structure led me to Fred Rossi, another longtime TAPPI supporter. I became Manager, Manufacturing Services for Smurfit-Stone and it opened up the world of TAPPI to me at a more direct level. I became a member in 2006.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI over the years.
I made a presentation to the Chicago TAPPI chapter on “The Role of a User in a Computer System Project.” In my office I proudly display the octagon crystal award they sent me as a thank you for my presentation. I’ve attended many meetings and shows at both the local and national level over the years.
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
Prior to my current role with RockTenn, I managed several projects that were directly connected to our vendors. The relationships formed and nurtured through TAPPI events helped drive sustainable business improvements that may not have been achieved as quickly or at all without the common ground and opportunity that TAPPI provides.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life. Photography and cooking are hobbies; golf is a passion (Jay is pictured here playing at Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, WI) .
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
My favorite parts of working are related but appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. I love to learn; I’m intellectually curious and I love to influence others. Somewhere in between I like to think I have good common sense and an understanding of how to do the right things.
Combining my strength of organization and planning skills with my passion for golf … I can plan a fantastic golf trip!
Q. Closing sentiments?
TAPPI has been a great way to see the world of packaging outside of my own company. I believe exposure to emerging technologies, technical expertise and experts from outside my own company make TAPPI an integral part of my growth. The website, library, technical support, and industry news are important to staying at the leading edge of my job.
This week I brought a group of new or future RockTenn production managers for an afternoon at the TAPPI offices. I believe they left feeling a lot more informed about what our industry has to offer, as well as an opportunity to expand their knowledge through TAPPI events and membership.