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Four Pros with a Long History

February 2, 1992. What a day for BOPP! The first class of 8 operators began work that day. Of the original eight, four remain with BOPP today and all occupy key positions. The 4 from the first class are – Mary Tijerina Morris, Johnny Coleman, Jimmy Barnes and John Melton. There is probably no group of people with more intriguing stories of the early days of BOPP, than this group.

They were chosen since they had been in the Victoria College Plastics Technology class taught by the late Ron Migl, the original Environmental Health & Safety Manager for Inteplast. From the class they were invited to apply at Inteplast or really AmTopp as it was more often referred to at that time. The class had emphasized extrusion technology and concentrated on blown film. This, of course, was not where they were going to be hired; instead, going to BOPP film. The four were hired as Extrusion Technicians and actually spent their first 3 weeks in the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce meeting room. There they reviewed documents, were taught more about their upcoming jobs and the equipment on which they would be working. Coleman recalled trips they would make to the various warehouses where equipment was stored and they would complete inventories. Morris complained that she was forced to ride backwards in the station wagon because she was the only one that could fit in the back seat and for whatever reason the seat was facing backwards. Morris also pointed out she was the youngest of the group at the time and the only female. Coleman also said Morris was a little naïve because they had her convinced at one point that dirt mounds from installation of a gas pipeline were actually giant ant hills.

Barnes said the next stop for the team was Taiwan, where they were trained on the equipment, toured the various facilities there and just generally learned about their new company. Barnes said he was frequently asked if he were Michael Jordan and would he give out his autograph. Some locals even wanted their picture taken with him. The other three just rolled their eyes at Barnes and his “celebrity status” in Taiwan.

The class returned from Taiwan to sweep. That is sweep the floors and conduct basic housekeeping in the buildings under construction. What now houses Stretch Film was completed before their own BOPP I building. Next came unpacking as Barnes, Coleman, and Melton were assigned to this and Morris went to the Plant Office for general administrative duties. One of those duties became scheduling and as anyone in BOPP knows that has been Morris’ domain ever since. When asked

Pictured below from L-R, Jimmy Barnes, monitoring the lines from the control room in BOPP II, while Mary Morris and John Melton, hash out scheduling lines, and Johnny Coleman poses amongst some of the racks of packaging materials.

how she learned production line scheduling she said “we learned by bumping up against things and our own mistakes. From that we developed the system that we use today.” Morris is the Scheduling Coordinator for all six BOPP lines. This sometimes places her at odds with her original team. More on that later...

Barnes, Coleman and Melton worked on the original Line 1 as Extrusion Techs. Barnes was then promoted to Lead Operator and in 1999 he was promoted to Staff Engineer in BOPP Building II where he continues today. Both Coleman and Barnes have the distinction of having worked on all 6 of AmTopp’s BOPP lines. Coleman began to function as a liaison between Production and Maintenance on PMs. He along with Barnes were part of the Building II start-up team. He then pulled a stint in project improvements and gained material control experience. Today he is Materials Coordinator and is responsible for hundreds of millions of pounds of resin consumed by BOPP each year and millions of dollars of packaging materials. His desk is next to Melton’s who moved to Material Control in 1997 from his position as Production Supervisor. These two manage this area of responsibility with quiet focus, a fierce work ethic and sometimes humor directed at their old pal Mary when she makes a particular scheduling demand. Neighbors in the BOPP Plant office have witnessed some animated discussions among the three, always with the best interest of the company in mind.

When asked what advice they would have for newcomers Morris said “it’s a job and you must take care of it”. Coleman said “have a thick skin and remember it is business”. Barnes said “work safe and go home with all your fingers and toes”. What is the biggest change they have seen? Morris laughed and said she wished it were furniture, she’s had the same white plastic book shelf since 1992. Wherever she goes it follows her. Barnes said by far the biggest change is operability. He said at the beginning “we weren’t very good, but today we make excellent film.”

Observing these four it is clear they have great admiration and affection for each other and appreciate the challenges of their work – every day.

Brenda Wilson Human Resources Manager

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