Better Work, Better World: Michael Sobeski of BW Flexible Systems
Mar 17, 2023
People will always have a need to eat, but how often do we think about the processes that bring our food from the production facility to the grocery store and, eventually, to our plate?
It was something that Michael Sobeski started to consider when he was working for a component manufacturer making rubber gaskets. He found the work interesting, but he wanted more in his engineering career. He wanted to work with complete systems, which is how he came across Barry-Wehmiller’s BW Flexible Systems company.
BW Flexible Systems is based in Duncan, South Carolina and is part of our BW Packaging group of companies. BW Flexible Systems makes packaging systems that fill and bag thousands of food and non-food products. So, when you go to your local grocery store, the items you see on the shelf like bakery items, confectionery snack foods, frozen foods, fresh produce, cheese, and many more, could have been packaged on a BW Flexible Systems machine. And when it comes to non-food products, their machines help package pet food, personal care, pharmaceutical, agricultural, paper and mail sorting and collating, and industrial products.
Michael has been with BW Flexible Systems for almost seven years now, for the majority of that time as an applications engineer, but he recently became a sales executive.
“Applications Engineering is really just sales support, research and development, working with our customers and our sales team to develop new solutions, break down new barriers in packaging and automation,” he said. “It's been a lot of fun.”
What Michael liked about applications engineering was that “It's something new and different every day, whether we're packaging sponges or cheese or wet wipes or potato chips, you get to experience so many different environments, work with different customers and cultures, get to experience that. And technology itself, it's always evolving, so just getting to be a part of what changes are going on in industry, something that I really enjoy, always beyond the cutting edge of new things.”
Michael said that one of his favorite projects as an applications engineer was with a bakery in Alabama.
“It was a packaging application, a brand-new package that had never been used, a package style that never been used in that market,” he said. “And they went on to win the package of the year award. And it was a lot of hard work, but incredibly rewarding to see that pay off, and (we) made some new relationships along the way with some of our close film suppliers and the customer as well. But yeah, just anytime you can solve a new problem with new folks, I think that's awesome.”
But beyond working with interesting products or technologies, Michael was motivated by the opportunity to genuinely have an impact in people’s lives – with how their food is packaged and preserved.
“I think that comes primarily in the standpoint of what we're doing with food safety and wash down equipment that you're not going to have any bacteria on the equipment that we're building,” he said. “And I'm very proud of the focus that Barry-Wehmiller has put on that.”
And also, in terms of sustainability.
“I know there's a lot of talk about that today in society,” Michael said, “but we have invested in that and what does sustainable packaging look like? What are our landfills going to look like in years to come? And (I’m) really proud of the work that we do to have the best equipment to handle those materials that are biodegradable or recyclable or compostable. That's going to make a difference for myself and for generations to come and something that really, really motivates me and makes me excited to come to work here every day.”
This motivation to do work that has an impact in people’s lives is rooted in the Barry-Wehmiller culture. After all, as we always say, we measure success by the way we touch people’s lives – whether it’s the lives of our team members or the lives of our customers and our customers’ customers.
“So, the Barry-Wehmiller culture is that everybody matters,” Michael said. “And so, I think we have to think beyond just maybe the profitability that we can make today, but it's about the legacy that I'm leaving for the next generation, for my kids and their kids. What mess am I leaving them to clean up? And so, really, it's about caring for people and being responsible for what the next generation will have to deal with.”
One of the moments Michael is most proud of in his career at BW Flexible Systems was when he was recognized in a special way for his hard work.
“We have something called the High Five Award that's awarded by our sales team for extra contribution in the sales process or development process,” he said. “And so, I was fortunate enough to be nominated for one of those a while back, and my wife knows the passion that I have for the work that I get to do each and every day and there are probably some sacrifices involved in that.
“But when I was nominated for that award, she received a letter in the mail just thanking her for allowing me to make those contributions. And so, that really hit home with me, just the gratitude enough to thank me for that contribution and also thank my wife for the sacrifices that she's allowing me to make. And it just allows her to believe with me in the good work that we're doing here at Barry-Wehmiller. So, I thought that was really cool.”
Everybody wants to know that who they are and what they do matters. When team members like Michael are cared for by their leaders, they in turn are more motivated to care for others.
And this circle of care is how business can truly have an impact in the world.
Better Work. Better World. is a video series designed to shine a light on team members throughout the global Barry-Wehmiller organization. You can watch the video through the link above.