By Rachael Pfenninger, director of strategic execution, AMBA

On July 19-20, 2023, AMBA convened its first plant tour workshop run entirely by emerging leadership. Sponsored by the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network, this dual plant tour workshop provided all AMBA members with an opportunity to tour two facilities renowned for their workforce development efforts – Wepco Plastics Inc. (Middlefield, Connecticut) and Westminster Tool, Inc. (Plainfield, Connecticut).

As active community participants, vocal supporters of workforce development and previous winners of the AMBA Tooling Trailblazer of the Year Award, both companies represent the gold standard in employee recruitment, training and elevation.

Wepco’s plant tour attendees participated in a collaborative exercise. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Renallo, Creative Technology Corp.

During the two-day event, these efforts were illustrated as emerging leaders from both facilities highlighted the ways in which operations have been impacted, improved and driven by the empowerment of next-generation leadership and the provision of executive-level guidance.

At Wepco Plastics, attendees experienced a hands-on plant tour, where Wepco Plastics employees established how the company empowers its workforce and works across departments to collaborate for success within the manufacturing environment. Attendees then were provided with an opportunity for informal crosstalk, where best practices and opportunities were shared with the host facility.

The following day, Westminster Tool guided attendees through several areas of operation, including areas dedicated to 5-axis machining, EDM robotic cell, 3D printing and more. Each station highlighted how culture has played a role in achieving operational efficiency and managing everyday tasks through an individual-based challenge/solution format. Attendees again had the opportunity to share insights with the host company during an end-of-event lunch at Westminster Tool’s second facility in Sterling, Connecticut.

Both facilities represent members of the Emerging Leaders Advisory Board, including its Chair, Amanda Wiriya, Wepco Plastics. The Emerging Leaders Advisory Board, originally convened in 2018, features six mold manufacturers intent on developing emerging leadership within the industry, as well as two industry partners.

“Since its inception in 2018, the AMBA Emerging Leaders Network has grown in membership and engagement beyond our wildest expectations,” explained Wiriya, who is an inaugural member of the committee and remains at its head today. “Our mission is dedicated to elevating emerging leadership, which has led to impactful, year-over-year programming designed for that very specific demographic. While we’re proud of the community that we’ve built to date, it made this event particularly special in that it took our intentions one step further. For the first time, we were able to engage both emerging and executive leadership, allowing the best practices shared to impact an entire organization rather than a single individual.”

During AMBA’s tours at Westminster Tool and Wepco Plastics, attendees agreed that each facility’s culture and employee management strategies represented some of the best in the business.

Although the takeaways at each facility were wide-ranging, touching on everything from operations and technology to employee accountability and training, each highlighted the company-wide impact of three key areas of focus – accountability, empowerment and partnership.

At Wepco Plastics, these themes emerged in the facility’s emphasis on continuous improvement, its flexible shift structures and the way its workforce lives and breathes the company’s core values. At Westminster Tool, the workforce development theme continued, touching on employee accountability, crosstraining strategies, the cultural elements that enhance the team environment and the community partnerships and financial resources that have generated new business opportunities.

“The culture at Westminster Tool and Wepco Plastics is special, but neither happened overnight,” explained Hillary Thomas, Westminster Tool’s vice president and AMBA board member. “What we really wanted attendees of this tour to understand is that adapting your culture and investing in your workforce can make a true impact on your bottom line. But building that will require time, investment and patience… as well as a willingness to try doing business a little differently than it may have been done in the past.”

The AMBA Emerging Leaders Network offers a variety of events throughout the year – in-person and virtual – for 40-and-under emerging leaders at AMBA member companies. To get involved with the Network, its Advisory Board and to see what opportunities are upcoming, visit or email Rachael Pfenninger at

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