HISTORY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In a world driven by fluid employment, companies lack experienced technical staff to mentor new hires and solve complex problems. With over 35 years of experience working for DuPont, helping build the International Society for Coating Science and Technology (ISCST), twenty years of teaching short courses through AIMCAL (now the Association of Roll-to-Roll Converters or ARC), and three years as a member of an ARC Technical Consultant. Ted Lightfoot has a proven history as a mentor, teacher, and problem solver in film casting, coating, drying, and laminating.
Problem Solving and Solution Generation
There are many methodologies for solving problems – as simple as the Five Whys and as complex as Six Sigma. Ted has worked with many of these, but adds a focus on generating a range of options for improving operations rather than focusing on a single course of action. The primary goal of any improvement project is to offer management a menu of options – from easy procedural changes to capital projects that can foster improvements ranging from a measurable change in yields to several orders of magnitude reduction in defects.
Learning the Hard Way
The rise of large applications for coated film in the latter part of the twentieth century gave rise to sophisticated understanding of the coating process as well subtle technological innovations for improving coating quality. But the demise of the photographic and magnetic tape industry led to shuttering most of the industrial laboratories dedicated to coating process research. The deeper understanding of coating is now preserved in a few large coating companies and academia – and a few veterans of the photographic industry like Ted. Ted was the first American to be named an Industrial Fellow at the University of Minnesota Coating Fundamentals program, joined the AIChE Area 1k – Mechanics of Thin Film Coating steering committee and became a founding director of the International Society of Coating Science and Technology). He is a past president of ISCST and currently serves as Vice President – Americas. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Plastic Film and Sheeting. These experiences, and his time in R&D in DuPont, help him maintain a perspective on the state of the art in coating.
However, during Ted’s career with DuPont he also worked as a hands on Aid To Operations (ATO) engineer (carrying a pager so he could come in to keep multiple lines running) and supervising the ATO engineers supporting fluoropolymer film production in Buffalo and Circleville Ohio. In plant support roles he was the technical lead in four projects that increased productivity on sold out assets from 50-100% with an impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Ted was the technical leader of the team that reduced defects in photovoltaic back sheet film from defects per square meter to less than one defect per thousand square meters for which he was recognized with a DuPont Engineering Excellence Award.
While with DuPont, Ted also worked closely with customers – both in traditional technical service (where he had responsibility for helping customers coat and laminate fluoropolymer films) and as a Six Sigma Black Belt working at the customer (for which he won a West Pharmaceuticals award for Excellence in Six Sigma). To date he has worked on nearly 300 coating lines – some with DuPont, but most with customers trying to develop new processes or improve capability on existing processes. His knowledge of coating is not just theoretical – he has learned plenty the hard way (and has the scars to prove it).
Helping Others Learn the Easy Way
After retiring from DuPont, Ted started a consulting business (Ted Lightfoot LLC) working with customers doing coating, drying, and laminating. The primary activities of the business are consulting (and occasionally doing longer projects) with companies fighting defects in coated film, projects with customers scaling up processes (including with contract coaters), teaching short courses (both public and private courses customized to a clients’ needs), and technical writing (including the Coating Matters column in Converting Quarterly).
Over the past three years, Ted’s approach to consulting has changed. Initially, Ted followed the time honored model of visiting a customer, having a wrap up session, and writing a report summarizing observations and recommendations. Ted quickly changed to a model of giving a short wrap up at the end of the day and holding meeting with the client in the next week to go over the report. However, with the current level of turnover experienced in industry, the effectiveness of the written memo has become less probable. The most effective interactions have been interactions where Ted substitutes a short course customized to the client’s technology and needs for the technical report. Some clients have preferred traditional courses (where the client is left with a set of notes), other have preferred video short courses that the client can use for training new employees.
Ted currently teaches public, in-person short courses through the Association of Roll-to-Roll Converters as well as private courses developed with the customer. Ted’s latest direction in teaching is a series of video-on-demand courses ranging from very basic orientation to the industry to advanced special topics. Watch for these in the coming months.