SussexIM, an independent cosmetics packager, recently held an on-site meeting of Women in Manufacturing (WiM), which underscored the desire of both women professionals and manufacturing management to forge closer bonds, to the mutual benefit of all.           

SussexIM is an innovative, full-service, fully automated supplier of plastic products. Women in Manufacturing is a national trade association focused on supporting, promoting and inspiring women in the manufacturing sector.

“The manufacturing sector is changing, and fast,” says Teresa Schell, president and owner of the Milwaukee-based Vive LLC and head of the local WiM chapter. “Yes, it is still male-dominated. However, opportunities in manufacturing are growing for women – and in management, not only on the shop floor.

“Our WiM chapter, while new, is bringing women together and building confidence in exploring the many professional possibilities in manufacturing,” says Schell.

According to SussexIM’s supply chain manager, Christine Fenzl, “Company cultures have certainly evolved, as management realizes that women are manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent. It’s not completely a man’s world any longer.”

Adds Gigi Cheung, SussexIM’s production scheduler, “Today, manufacturing offers women job opportunities in management – especially
as education, and perceptions about our sector – adapt to today’s realities. In the years ahead, I foresee the number of women in manufacturing doubling. It’s not just labor-work for guys anymore.”

A recent Deloitte ( report noted that women represent nearly half (47%) of the total U.S. labor force, yet comprise less than a third (27%) of the manufacturing workforce. The report added that manufacturing faces an estimated two million worker shortfall over the next decade, and manufacturing executives responding to a recent skills gap study report six out of 10 positions are currently unfilled due to the skills gap.

“With women representing less than a third of the manufacturing workforce, it’s clear that manufacturers are missing out on a critical talent pool, which could prove invaluable in closing the skills gap,” adds Schell. “Diversity contributes to both innovation and, by extension, profitability.”

In fact, a recent study by Catalyst (, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business, found that Fortune 500 companies with high percentages of women officers had a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return than companies with fewer women executives.

“As with innovation, cultural change begins at the top,” says Megan Tzanoukakis, the newly promoted manager 3PL (Third Party Logistics) of SussexIM’s new business-to-consumer division – Sussex Brands. “Our company’s culture encourages all of us to do our best, in a collegial, laid-back environment, unlike some of my colleagues pursuing careers in professional services. I’m not sitting behind a desk all day. I’m involved in both the strategy and the physical creation of real products found on store shelves. There’s a certain pride that goes with that, a feeling that ‘hey, I helped make that.’ ”

SussexIM, founded in 1977, is a full-service, fully automated supplier that solves problems to satisfy consumer needs.  The company’s capabilities include B-to-B and now B-to-C, with the addition of its new Sussex Brands division. Customers benefit from its ability to accelerate time-to-market, thanks to the company’s streamlined decision-making capabilities and shortened supply chains. SussexIM’s end-to-end suite of services extends from product design to warehousing. Importantly, the company has extensive automation design capabilities and an in-house, dedicated staff of automation engineers.

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