Kerry Figiel
Professional Member
Cincinnati, OH

As a Senior Staff Engineer with International Paper (IP), TAPPI member Kerry Figiel operates as a Corporate Champion for Quality Control Systems. His responsibilities at IP align with the experiences he has gained during 17 active years as a Professional Member. His expansive educational background also serves him well in his professional career having earned an undergraduate degree in Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, as well as two Master’s Degrees -- one in Business Administration form Boston University and another in Industrial Engineering from Louisiana Tech University.

Since joining TAPPI in 1993, Kerry has made it a point to be actively engaged in committees and conferences. He recounts that one of the very first things he did after joining (literally at his first meeting) was to seek out and accept the job of Secretary to the Paper Machine Sensors and Controls Sub-Committee. He eventually went on to serve as that Committee’s Chairman. He is co-author with five other industry experts of a new TAPPI handbook, Paper Machine Quality Control Systems.

One of the greatest takeaways Kerry says he’s received from his long-term relationship with TAPPI is the discovery of new technologies and the knowledge necessary to apply them successfully in the workplace. In his spare time he applies those many engineering skills to a true passion – making a wide variety of homemade wines and creating a few new recipes along the way!

Q. Why Did You Decide To Join TAPPI?

My manager recommended that I utilize TAPPI for professional development. He wanted me to attend conferences, bring back information for use in the company and to get involved in Committees and TAPPI activities. I followed his guidance and sought out and accepted the job of Secretary to the Paper Machine Sensors and Controls Sub-Committee at my first TAPPI meeting. I eventually moved up to Chairman of this Sub-Committee. I applaud his guidance and support in getting me involved.

Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI over the years.

I have worked within the Process Control organization for about 12 years and was part of the team that reorganized into the Process Control Division. I was the first Chairman of this Division and have recently moved to the role of Past Chairman and Awards Chairman. I also serve on the TAPPI Leadership Council and the Steering Committee for PaperCon 2011. Most recently I was one of six co-authors of a handbook published by TAPPI, “Paper Machine Quality Control Systems – Vol 1: Measurement Systems and Product Variability.” The handbook covers the five most common QCS measurements (Basis Weight, Moisture, Caliper, Ash and Color Coverage) and includes physical principles involved in each measurement, sensor designs, various methods of implementation and influence factors. Ten additional sensors are also given somewhat lighter coverage. The handbook also covers information about sensor performance measurement and reporting, impact of scanning, filtering, scanner designs and construction, sensor calibration and correlation, product variability and assessing variability.

Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?

First and foremost, I have discovered new technologies and knowledge to apply in my job which has made me more valuable to my company. I find new ideas in each and every conference that I attend. However, the contacts that I have made are also extremely important and have served me well. Through TAPPI I have discovered who to call on in different companies and organizations. And since I have worked with these people in TAPPI, I call on friends and not strangers.

Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.

I always try to stay busy. When I am on the road I read and usually complete about 40-50 books a year. When I am at home, I am always making improvements and remodeling. I have installed hardwood flooring and crown molding in over half of my house and have plans to remodel the remainder of the house. Most recently I installed a water softener for the house and a reverse osmosis system for our drinking water and wine.

I make wines. Recently I bought a grape press to speed the process. Last year I made wine from red seedless grapes, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, strawberries and red raspberries. Currently, I am trying a batch of Vidal Blanc grapes that we got from a local Vineyard. I also started a batch of banana wine in December (it makes a great dessert wine). Perhaps, my most interesting wine was Jalapeno wine. It is great for marinades, but I wouldn’t drink it straight. It will melt your fillings.

Q. Closing sentiments?

I would highly recommend TAPPI to all professionals in the paper industry, but especially to engineers and scientist. There are many advances occurring all the time in the industry and it is extremely challenging to keep up with all of these changes. TAPPI provides a forum for all of these new ideas to be presented and enriches those that participate. But to gain the most out of TAPPI, members need to get involved in division, committee and common interest group activities and not simply attend meetings.

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Paper Technology Foundation at Western Michigan University