With twice as many powerhouse female manufacturers in the running than in years prior, narrowing 2021's Colorado Manufacturing Woman of the Year field down to three was a definite challenge for our selection committee. From leaders in manufacturing consulting and food manufacturing to hard tech, this year's nominees embody a wide range of skills.
Senior VP of Operations at Solid Power in Louisville, Colorado, Alexandra Gold plays a critical role at the industry-leading developer of next-generation all-solid-state batteries.
"Over the last year, we have shipped more than 400 small-scale prototype cells around the world," Gold says. "Those shipments went to three different continents for external validation of the technology and was a huge team effort across several departments at Solid Power. It was very exciting to get those cells out the door and also to get the results back and see that our technology is behaving the same way in our customers' hands as it does in our own."
Gold notes that the company has also recently transitioned their production line to a 20-amp hour cell format battery that required a full retool on the downstream assembly unit operations. "We're starting to see some really promising data off those larger scale cells," she continues. "Over the next year, we have a lot of work underway that will lay the groundwork towards validation for automotive applications. I think it will really be a catalyst for what's to come, and I'm excited to see what comes down the pipeline in the next five to ten years when the batteries of tomorrow aren't limited by the constraints of today's best technology."
Gold would love other women contemplating careers in manufacturing to know that it's an industry brimming with opportunity. "Particularly in advanced manufacturing and hard tech, you can develop a highly rewarding career," she says. "Companies are looking hard at diversity as a core value now more than ever, so what may once have seemed like a less hospitable environment for women is really only going to become more welcoming of diverse perspectives and of women in leadership positions."
Chief Human Resources Officer at Ready Foods in Denver, Amy Olson is proud of the exceptional teamwork demonstrated by the private label co-packer's employees during the challenges of 2020.
"We produce food for the retail and restaurant industries and, as such, were classified as frontline essential workers," Olson says. "Our team members in production bravely came to work every day and quickly adapted to all the new rules and procedures to keep everyone healthy. Our leadership pivoted just as quickly. IT got us set up immediately for remote work and virtual meetings. Our continuous improvement team switched out our sessions to virtual and kept us on track. Our training department migrated our annual trainings online. Our supply chain department got creative about
where and when we could get raw materials. Maintenance installed protective barriers and thermometers. Quality assurance ramped up the already aggressive sanitation processes. And HR followed up with every employee who either had symptoms or tested positive. Everyone did their jobs and did them well."
Olson notes that Ready Foods is now looking towards expansion over the next one to two years, including a new facility and new positions. "One of our strategic objectives is to increase employee retention, and that will be key to getting a new plant up and running," she continues. "our success depends on how our team members are doing. We want to provide a job that gives all team members a pathway to success in their lives. If we do that, retention will increase, and that new facility will fall into place."
Founder and CEO of H2 Manufacturing Solutions in Longmont, Heidi Hostetter and her team created the Manufacturing COVID Taskforce in response to last year's pandemic.
A volunteer collaboration of manufacturing businesses and community partners across Colorado responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Hostetter says the taskforce created a nonprofit fund that was used to repurpose the manufacturing community for the early production of PPE and keep manufacturing workers classified as essential. In partnership with Energize Colorado, the taskforce also created a marketplace where businesses were able to leverage state procurement contracts and pricing for their PPE needs.
"We started to help schools and businesses open safely with the COVID safety System and Certification program that we created at H2 Manufacturing Solutions," Hostetter continues. This program led to the certification program that is currently in operation in Boulder County, Denver County, and some of Colorado's ski town communities. "We wanted to help the service industries that were just slayed by this economically," Hostetter adds. "The 5-Star program allowed them to open safely, employ folks that were unemployed, and get business back open."
Going forward Hostetter says that H2 Manufacturing Solutions will continue its mission to help local business communities. "We believe that now that companies in all sectors are reopening and vaccines are being distributed rapidly, what they will most need assistance with is rebuilding. We have a program and product that we were currently building out and looking forward to featuring here in the next month or so that will help many."