085. Hero – Michael Tricario, Plant Electrical Engineer at CertainTeed Transcript
While I’m here, I really enjoy solving problems and helping people and being the plant electrical engineer, lets me do that pretty much every single day.
Welcome to EECO Ask Why. The podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights heroes that keeps America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger, and on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market instead. We’ve focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero conversation. I’m very excited to have with us my friend, Mike Tricario and he is the Plant Electrical Engineer at CertainTeed in Oxford, North Carolina. So welcome Mike.
Thank you. Good to be here.
Man. I’m glad to have you buddy. We’ve known each other for several years and I had to twist your arm a little bit to get you to come home, but I’m just so glad to have you here, my friend.
Yeah, I’m glad we could finally make this happen. Last year was a bit of a busy year for me. Personally and professionally. So I’m glad I was able to set the time aside.
Yeah no doubt. We’re going to get into some of that, but Mike, just to get us started for sure. We love to hear your personal story, your journey to the role that you’re in right now.
Yeah, it’s a bit of an accident maybe even serendipitous. I graduated college in 2010 and obviously the recession of 2009 kind of carried over and there wasn’t many opportunities at the time. And through a friend of a friend, I was able to get a position basically running a eBay account and basically being a chauffeur. Driving people to and from the airport for a small little 12 employee systems integrator.
And I did that for about eight months there. And then they signed on a couple of big projects and they got really busy all of a sudden, and they basically asked me if I was interested in doing more engineering work, they knew I had an engineering background. So I got involved with HMI development and SCADA development.
And then after the first project, they offered me full time to come on as a service engineer that was working seven days a week, traveling about 80% of the time or so. Which is great experience. But. Long-term, it definitely takes takes a toll on you. And after about two years, the company was acquired and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future so that there was a lot of turnover.
And that’s when I started looking for opportunities elsewhere and I applied, interviewed and got hired here at CertainTeed, in Oxford, North Carolina, and it kinda came down and. Started off originally as a process engineer is what I was originally hired for. And that role lasted for about six months.
And then they approached me about coming on as the electrical maintenance supervisor for the facility which I had never done management or supervision before in my young career. So I thought it was a good challenge and a good opportunity. And it was a good experience.
It was fun. It allowed me to really learn a lot about the business, about the industry, about the process. And after a few years of that, I was wanting to get more back to the engineering side of things. And I moved into the role I’m in today as the plant electrical engineer. And I still work very closely with the maintenance team. And the engineering team as well.
Very cool, man. So you’re the plant electrical engineer now, but I didn’t realize so you had done the maintenance manager as well at CertainTeed.
Oh, it’s a supervisor. So I reported to the maintenance manager in that role. But yeah, I was responsible for the electrical maintenance. So I had 11 electricians reporting to me and we were responsible for the electrical maintenance for the entire facility, which is three rock crushing mills. Raw material processing center. And at the time we had seven production lines.
Right, now if I remember correctly too, ins’t the site that you’re at the plant there one of the largest shingle manufacturers. Is it in the country or in the world? It’s pretty massive.
Yeah, it’s unverified, but it’s just kind of been passed down. So we joke that it’s the largest shingle plant in the universe because, we’re assuming there’s no more out there outside of earth. It’s uh .
that’s right. That’s right. It is impressive, man. And, as the plant electrical engineer, when you’re looking in the future or things that are changing, what challenges do you see coming down the pipe that you’re going to have to address in the coming years?
So for here, this was one of the first CertainTeed Greenfield plants that they built in roofing and they opened it up in 77. And we’ve started in like the last, maybe two years or so. We’ve had some employees that came on in 77, at 18, 19 years old, starting to retire. And it’s a really good place to work.
So we have a lot of guys that have been here 30, 40 years even. And as they start to, move on to the next chapter, next phase of life they take a lot of that experience, knowledge with them and yeah, it’s going to be very difficult to replace.
No doubt. We’re hearing that across the board, Mike. Workforce attrition. It is happening. That knowledge leaves, it doesn’t come back in. How are you addressing that? Are you trying to do more mentoring while you have the knowledge there now?
Yeah, some mentoring. We’ve seen a push and a desire to explore some of these newer technologies that are out there to see if that can supplement some of the retention of this information.
So we’ve started incorporating like tablets on the floor in the past year or so. And we’re involved with some pilot projects coming down the pipeline now that are involving the Microsoft hollow lens. Like the augmented reality glasses. So I think they’re trying to kinda capture some information using some of these tools to help the transition to the next generation that’s going to basically keep this place operating.
Wow. So you guys are actually using some of the Hollow glasses in your plant right now?
Not yet. It’s still very infancy stages. There’s some safety concerns that need to be addressed and I think some connectivity issues, but they’re trying to explore it as a potential tool to retain this. Cause you can get some first person video footage with hands-free essentially. And then in addition, you can overlay some information in and build some applications with it as well.
That’s very cool, man. That’s exciting times.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And the shingle process hasn’t changed much since about 1903. So it’s a unique situation bringing some of these newer tools in, and I guess back to the last question about the challenges is as manufacturing, as we introduce this technology and as things get more automated it changes the requirement skill set for some of the technicians and the personnel at the facility to be able to make all this stuff work every day.
Right. Right. No doubt. We’re trying to also Mike inspire people to come to industry. You’re a young plant electrical engineer. If you could sit down with someone in engineering school right now and give them some advice to really walk them through what they need to know about industry that they’re not being taught. What would some of that advice be?
That’s funny. So when I was in that position, in school, my department chair at the time basically told us that, manufacturing in America is dead. It’s going to all be outsourced. You’re competing with a bunch of engineers from India and China. And a little did I know within a year I’d be working for someone who basically serves the manufacturing industry.
And now I’m working in a manufacturing facility now that produces quite a bit of product. And I never really thought about how shingles were made until I walked into this plant and I guess for a lot of things is, you have all these materials in your home or in your possession.
And sometimes you don’t really consider how much goes into making that complete item or widget. And there’s so many different parts of the process that require, an engineering that, that you can get involved with. And. It’s some of it’s beyond what you can possibly imagine as far as, what it takes to make something or what goes into make something happen.
No doubt. So it sounds like to me, that professor back then, it may not have been exactly on course. Cause there’s a lot of opportunity in it.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And especially just here in Oxford. You can see, we’re an integral part of the community the manufacturing sector here brings as far as the employment opportunities and then the giving back to the community. It’s really a nice relationship to see.
No doubt. My friend for the people that aren’t for me with shingle manufacturing, is there a high level overview you’d like to give of just maybe have the process sits from a bird’s eye view? Cause you guys do it from soup to nuts, right? The whole process is done underneath your roof.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. We bring in fiberglass mat enrolls and the, the main component to the shingle is an asphalt and make sure it’s a combination of asphalt and limestone. And we bring in an asphalt derivative here in process it onsite.
We bring in rail cars of limestone rock that we crush onsite and mix those to make the base layer of the shingle. And then we basically go to with the granules, which will give it that nice aesthetic look that, on other people’s roofs. And that also adds UV protection because the asphalt gets hot enough without it’ll obviously deformed a bit.
But then we basically cut it down to size, stack it in a bundle and in a rapid, in some plastic thrown on a pallet. And, if you are getting shingles put on your roof, that pallet would show up, in your driveway and, straight from the the end of the palletizer basically.
So it’s CF from start to finish all, all under one roof. It’s a well, a lot goes into it to make it happen. And it’s a very intricate process and very connected process. So there’s a lot of potential points of failure are things that can derail the whole process.
Right. And I do know since I have experienced working with you directly. It’s a good business to be in, apparently because every time I come there and Mike, it’s tractor trailers lined up where it seems like a mile coming in and they’re coming out at the same rate of speed.
It’s great for the community. As you mentioned to have that type of business and infrastructure and opportunity for people like yourself to go to work and enjoy and have some fun and make a real difference in the world.
You know, it’s really nice. And, obviously, close proximity to the Raleigh Durham area which is growing and they’re building housing all over the place still and it helps keeps us busy. And like I said earlier, we’re a pretty large facility. And if we add too, if we were running full capacity, I think we can provide a roofs for a third of a America.
Right. Wrap your head around that. If you’re listening, what he just said, that’s unreal. So th the type of capability underneath that roof is phenomenal, Mike you’re working at a fun place. And I would like to talk a little bit about you and you’ve shared with us about your career. Had there been people that have helped you along the way, like a mentor standpoint you look back on and you can really feel like they care about you in anybody standing out
There is. I’ve had afford enough to have several along the way and at different phases at my first company, my first boss and he basically taught me everything I know about PLCs. Cause coming in, I didn’t mention, when I went to Binghamton university, I got a degree in bio engineering. I never thought I’d be an electrical engineer, by title and I didn’t know a whole lot. Yeah, it’s in programming experience but never with control systems or PLCs or anything like that. I didn’t know how to read a schematic or write any ladder logic and he had a lot of patience and let me fumble through it a little bit.
And I was able to learn quite a bit from him. And then coming here to the platn in Oxford we had a few people who have since retired. The first couple of years I was here were able to work together and a few of them had. Two, two in particular had, probably a combined 40 plus years of experience, specifically in the roofing industry. And I got a lot of insight into the process and how it all folds into the bigger picture and it just helped me put things in perspective a bit.
No doubt. So it sounded like you had some really good people speaking into your life, throughout your professional career.
Yeah. I’ve been pretty fortunate. seems to have been someone closer available to me to help guide me and talk through certain things.
Yeah. No doubt. Speaking to that attrition thing you were talking to earlier about with people leaving. Have you found a chance to mentor others or to try to help other people understand, things about your professional career or helped them along the way at this point?
Yeah. We’ve had a couple young engineers get hired in the last few years and I’ll spend some time with them explain the electrical control side of things and how they work here at the facility. And we partner with our corporate team with a it’s a post-grad program essentially all the essentials of manufacturing.
If you’re out there getting ready to graduate in the spring, it’s something worth looking into, it’s a St Cobain program, which is CertainTeed parent company. And they usually hire about 30 people into that program. And we participated, it’s a two year program and basically we go and we interview all of these potential candidates.
There’s about, I think 25 plants that are involved and we were one of them. And then we divvy up the individuals, we seek their preference for where they want to go. And then we put our preferences for the particular candidates that we were have interest in.
And then we try to match it as close as possible. And so we were able to hire on an individual through that program. That’s been with us since I guess October. Originally gonna start in, in July of last year, but you do the coronavirus restrictions and we had some internal travel restrictions and things like that.
They decided to postpone it a little bit. But I’ve been working very closely with that individual kind of bringing them up to speed as far as, manufacturing and the role of a, of electrical engineer in a facility like this.
Yeah. So that program was called just to recap for listeners that the essentials of manufacturing?
Yes, it’s through St. Cobain, which is the parent company of CertainTeed.
Yeah we’ll put that out there. And there may be people listening that want to learn more about that program. It sounds like it was an amazing opportunity for sure.
Yeah, we’ve had a couple people come in through that program in the past. It’s evolved over the years. And they speak pretty highly of it. And I’ve had a fortunate opportunity to network with some of the other individuals in the organization, through other projects. And it’s really cool opportunity.
For sure. Sounds like it, man. Thanks for sharing that. Now, what about when you’re looking at the future for the plant and what you’re working on. What gets you excited? What projects out there? You’ve already mentioned a couple with the the tablets and the hollow glasses. But what types of projects are coming down the pipe that gets you really pumped up?
those are excited, exciting in their own regard, but a lot of it’s just tackling the lessons. Which is allowing us to increase some of the processing power available to us in certain processes.
For me particular the obsolescence, coming into a facility open it in 77, we’ve had a couple of passes at it where we have had different levels of upgrades and technology introduced throughout the year. So it’s a eclectic mix of four decades worth of different technologies. And being able to have a say and decide how we’re going to move forward with upgrading it and bring it into what is, considered state-of-the-art uh, is fun. And then, it gives us a little bit, maybe a little more control over the process or more recently, it gives us access to data that we never had before.
So it provides more insight into the process than we’ve ever had in the past, which kind of helps us do our job a little better as engineers and helps us make better informed decisions on how to improve things.
Kind of sounds like some of those monitorization projects, man. They’re coming up and you’re going to be at the front of a lot of them, which could be a fun and exciting time.
Very cool, man. So we’re trying to inspire people Mike, to come to industry. You provided some great advice earlier, but taking another approach, what are we love to do is debunk myths. People think when they think of manufacturing, sometimes they have this overview on their mind, that’s just completely wrong man. Cause you know how things really are. So if there is a myth out there that you’d like to debunk about manufacturing or your industry in specific, what would that be?
I think for myth, I guess maybe people might not realize how much tech is involved and how advanced some of these automation systems can be with the introduction of a servo motors and, vision systems and it just it’s crazy how much you can increase productivity with just a little bit of technology.
And there’s some things that issues, long-term issues that we had fought for years where all of a sudden, a new piece of technology comes along and it solves, some pretty significant problems. And I don’t know if people are aware of all that’s available out there and what goes into manufacturing as far as the some of these newer technologies and It’s just something you don’t really think about every day.
Like I mentioned earlier I didn’t know how a shingle was made and then after seeing it I’m still just like amazed how many we can just put out the door every day.
Right? How about another question to dovetailing on that and then we’ll get off the work stuff, When you find that you’re in the happiest, Mike and you’re doing the work that you enjoy, you’re you got a smile on your face. What are you doing in those moments? What’s what gives you that fulfillment?
Oh, it’s like a two-step process. So like I said, I work closely with the maintenance department. So whenever an upset condition occurs, we will usually we’ll get a small team together. And go over, who knows what’s not working the way it’s supposed to, what have we tried so far and kind of game plan, the troubleshooting steps of how we’re gonna approach getting out of the situation. And, when it finally does click and you’re able to it over that hump and get things working again that’s usually a pretty good feeling, being able to solve the puzzle.
And get back to that running state and getting back to the way it was is a nice feeling. And then, yeah, and then additionally, obviously when you’re doing a, an upgrade, when you’re bringing something to a newer piece of equipment or a better piece of control just seeing the benefits of that and seeing how it helps the operators do their job better or safer. It it’s a nice feeling. Being able to help people.
Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. Well, Mike let’s get off the the career. Let’s talk a little bit about you outside of work, man. How about that?
So then what do you enjoy doing for fun? Any hobbies or anything like that?
I had quite a few hobbies uh, and then I, that I had two kids and some, my daughter’s a two and a half. My son’s about eight months now. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely tiring at times as I’m sure any, anyone with kids could, it could attest to especially with everything else going on in the world these days. But yeah I try to spend as much time as I can with them outside of work and just playing with them and it’s a lot of fun.
Yeah, no doubt, man. So how about, when they get a little bit older, do you go, do you like stuff outside and doing outdoors stuff or anything like that?
Yeah. like to try to get out, one of the nice things about living in the Raleigh area is there, there are a lot of parks and Greenways to, get out and to take a bike ride or go for a walk.
And, there’s a couple of different lakes and rivers where you can go got a kayak and go put in, get it on the water for a couple hours. It’s also, an afternoon sitting on the beaches is always nice, which is only about a two-hour ride. So that’s He tried to do that a couple of times in the summer,
There you go, man. There you go. And you’ll be a sandcastle King before, too long. Yeah. Now you mentioned, so your daughter’s two and a half and your son is eight months old. So is your family, the rest of your family? Are they in New York?
No. My wife and I, we met my freshman year of college and We’ve stayed together. And I was traveling a lot with my first company when she got her master’s degree and then she moved to North Carolina for a job actually. So I actually thought her down here back in 2013 and before I knew it both my siblings moved to the Raleigh area. My parents retired to Brunswick County a few years ago.
And my wife’s sister also now lives in the Fuqua Riverina. So they just we came down, not knowing what to expect and trying to figure out, okay, how are we going to, split Christmases out of traveling back and forth and little did we know that the whole family would just kinda follow us.
That’s awesome, man. That’s so good. That’s so good.
Yeah, it’s nice. Especially, the two young kids having family nearby is a huge helping.
No doubt, no doubt. Now is your wife’s family, they from New York too? Yes.
Okay. And her parents are still up there. Probably shoveling snow right now, but yeah, I think they’re getting ready to retire in the next couple of years and I’m not sure what their plans are just yet.
I got you. They’re shoveling snow and we’re trying to stay dry man in North Carolina. So it’s just. It’s hit and miss my friend. Thank you so much for sharing about your family. I know I was talking to you recently and you said your son was teething. And I said, man, just hang in there, buddy. Just hang in there.
That’s still going on.
Yeah, there’s still times man. Those days don’t last long. They definitely, they go in a blink of an eye and I know you’re enjoying every minute of it, man.
Very cool. Very cool. Now we started doing something, Mike, that you’ll have some fun with. We called it the lightning round and I just asked a bunch of random stuff and let our listeners know a little bit more about you as the person. So you cool with playing that?
All right, man. So let’s start with easy stuff. What’s your favorite food?
Probably pizza. I’d have to say.
Okay, so you’re a pizza guy. How about adult beverage?
I like a good craft beer.
Craft beer. Is there, do you have a favorite?
Uh, I’ve I’ve come to like a lone rider. I live pretty close to the brewery. So I go by and get a growler every once in a while of whatever the latest is that they have there.
Okay. Now where’s that at?
So it’s off of a West gate road in Raleigh.
Which is pretty close to Briar creek.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m not familiar with that. We’ll have to check that one out, man. Okay. Very cool. So how about what’s your favorite music?
Lately, especially I’m doing a programming project. I’ll put on the light, like a G like a jazz music in the background. If I’m listening to something with lyrics, when I’m programming, it just throws off my concentration.
So you just gotta have that, that’s more of a, just that noise in the background, right? Yeah. I hear you. Okay. Okay. What about w we’re somewhere you’ve never been, but you, that you hope to go one day?
I think the grand canyon.
Oh, nice. Nice. Yeah, that, that’s all that’s on my list too, for sure. How about one of the best places that you have been that really stands out in your mind?
For me it was probably the I forgot to say St. Lucia went there with my wife for our honeymoon and it was just beautiful.
Okay. Okay. That sounds like a great time. How about pets, man? Dogs, cats older. W what are you saying there?
Yeah, we got a dog he’s a 12 years old now. He’s like a lab pug ciao beagle mix, but he looks like a lab puppy. He’s got little spunk in him still.
Very good. So you guys always have, you always had a dog.
Yeah, he’s been with me and my wife here for the duration of his life for all 12 years. Okay. Very cool. And then growing up, we had a dog in the house too as well. So it’s a lot of fun.
Yeah. I’m with you, buddy. I love having my animals around myself and they make it a lot of fun, you know? So, how about, let’s see here, last question. If you want to take your wife out where are you going to go out for a date at night? What do you, what are you doing?
Probably a sushi that’s her thing. I like it too. Don’t get me wrong, but I know that’s something she really enjoys.
Where do you get any of your favorites? Sushi places around. Cause I know my wife, she listens to these hero conversations and she’s a big sushi fan herself. So we may steal your answer here and pick that one night.
So yeah, we’ve had a lot of success with a place called Kai off of a lead mine road in Raleigh.
Okay. Okay. Good stuff, huh?
Nice. Nice. Yeah, we’ll have to check that one out. We’ve got a couple in wake forest that we frequent quite often. So, Thank you for playing the lightening round. My friend. That was a lot of fun, buddy. Oh yeah. Very good Mike.
So look, we call it EECO Asks. Why. And the why talks about the passion and. I’d love to know for you as the plant electrical engineer, as the husband, the dad that you are, what is your personal why Mike?
For me, I guess, coming to work every day. I do it so I can go home and do what I want to do with my family. And you make sure I take good care of them. But, you know what, while I’m here, I just, I really enjoy solving problems and helping people and being the plant electrical engineer lets me do that pretty much every single day.
So sometimes it’s a, a couple of, minor thing where, there’s a hiccup on the machine or sometimes it’s more of a long-term thing where it’s either a process problem or potential safety concern that gets identified or where we have to engineer a solution. But that’s really what I enjoy doing is helping other people and solving problems. And I’m fortunate enough to get to do that every day.
No doubt that you do, buddy. You do a great job of it. And it’s been a pleasure in my career ever since I met you and had the pleasure of meeting you and learning more about CertainTeed and what you guys do. And I always enjoy whenever my calendar says on there, I get to go to CertainTeed. That’s a fun day, man. Thank you . You’re definitely one of our heroes, Mike. And appreciate you taking the time to share your story. I know you’re a busy guy, but I think this would be impactful for so many people. My friend.
I hope so. Yeah. I thank you for being persistent as far as following up. And it was a lot of fun. Yeah. We appreciate everything EECO does for us here as well. And we know you guys have been very helpful throughout our history together and we thank you for that.
Absolutely, sir. Well, I hope you have a great day and you get to enjoy those kids this weekend.
Absolutely. You do the same. Stay dry.
All right. Thank you, Mike.
Thanks. Take care.