Women in Manufacturing: A Decade at Oliver


After almost a decade of experience in the manufacturing industry, Oliver employee, Kristen Groth, has started a new opportunity—this time off the manufacturing floor. After diving headfirst into her new role on the product specification team, we sat down to discuss how her time working directly in manufacturing has prepared her for this new adventure.


Kristen, walk me through your years on the manufacturing floor. What encouraged you to pursue a job in manufacturing?

A recommendation from a friend led me to my first job in manufacturing, and with a determined mindset of "I can do this,” I applied for the job at Oliver. When I first started in the Grand Rapids, Michigan facility, I was taken on a tour that showcased five machines in operation (this is quite a contrast to Oliver's current state!).

I started as an inspector, visually looking for defects in the packaging on the line. Over the next 10 years, I bounced back and forth between being an inspector on the line, a senior inspector, a trainer, and on the quality assurance team. Throughout these positions, I gained valuable insights into quality testing and how to look for packaging defects. Each position taught me valuable skills and helped me understand the specificity required in healthcare packaging at every level.

As Oliver grew and acquired new businesses, broadening their global reach, the need for a new standardized ERP system became more and more obvious. There needed to be a more seamless connection from the manufacturing floor all the way to the customer. This new system implementation marked a pivotal phase in my career. Working closely with the transition team allowed me to showcase my product knowledge to ensure the intricacies of our manufacturing operations were met.

The accumulation of all these experiences brings us to the end of 2023. I have always been interested in a role in product specifications, but prior to this year, the timing wasn’t right. So, when a position opened recently, I jumped at the opportunity!


How will your time on the manufacturing floor contribute to your new role?

I felt like a good fit for this role because of my love and experience with numbers. This has been ingrained in me from my years of experience with materials and products. From inspecting to hand-taping to bundling products, while the packaging changed, the math to understand the correct secondary package used and how many bundles fit in a box remained the same.

Being in manufacturing has also been influential in developing crucial skills for my new role because the floor serves on the frontline of potential issues, emphasizing the importance of precision and collaboration. Precision is important because if even one thing is wrong in the order, you cannot run the order. The ability to recognize the significance of each step in the manufacturing process, from order entry, production, and design to quality assurance, has been instrumental in shaping me for this new role.

This brings me to my last point: collaboration. Many requirements must be met within healthcare manufacturing, which allows experts on different teams to work together to find the best possible packaging solution for your order. So, it’s important to understand where your packaging challenges are and how to communicate your problem with other teams to solve the issue quickly.


This year's theme for International Women’s Day is “Inspire Inclusion.” After a decade in the industry, how does Oliver inspire inclusion for women in manufacturing?

It’s not unknown that the manufacturing industry is male-dominated at about 70%, but the women at Oliver are not afraid of it. In fact, I feel like it lights a fire under us! The women at Oliver have an incredible work ethic that allows them to take advantage of the opportunities Oliver has to offer. Being on the floor for the last decade and seeing the transformation and growth of women working within the industry is truly inspiring. The women on the manufacturing floor at Oliver get things done quickly and have the drive to learn and grow, 10 years ago and today.


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