Jay Kumar selected as Plastics News Rising Star
For the first time, Plastics News is turning a spotlight on plastics professionals under the age of 40 who are on the path to becoming the industry’s next leaders. Today and Wednesday, we will profile 10 of these “Rising Stars.”
Jay Kumar 35, Universal Plastics Corp. and Mayfield Plastics Inc.
Title: President and owner
Location: Holyoke, Mass.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science, Cornell University, May 2001; master’s degree in engineering, operations research, Cornell, December 2001.
Career highlights: JPMorgan Chase & Co., proprietary trader-equity derivatives, executive director, 2002-11; Universal Plastics,president and owner, 2012 to present; Mayfield Plastics, president and owner, 2013 to present.
Q: Tell us about your family.
Kumar: My father, Sunil, immigrated to the United States in 1974 because he was enthralled with the manufacturing technology here. My mother, Rekha, is a chemical engineer by training, who at one point worked for the U.S. Navy. I have two sisters. My wife, Pia Sareen Kumar, works at our companies in a marketing and corporate development capacity. I have a daughter, Inaara, who is 1 year old.
Q: What is your greatest achievement?
Kumar: Improving the administrative and scheduling process to manage a growth in the business no one foresaw or believed we could manage. In 2013, Universal grew 30 percent. We didn’t have the processes, capacity or culture to handle this level of business. I spent countless hours rebuilding the process so our managers could deploy capacity more effectively. This involved reverse-engineering our outdated systems and building a custom, in-house, automatic scheduling system. We also needed to add machine capacity and a full second shift. In six months, we cleaned up a two-month backlog and got ahead of our order book despite our business growing an additional 30 percent in 2014, while keeping utilizations at sustainable levels.
Q: What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Kumar: Not recognizing the growth in the business and the demands that growth would require early enough. From this I have learned to have other people focus on day-to-day operations, so I can see and remove the roadblocks down the road, so they have a clear path to keep the factory running.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Kumar: 3-D printing. This will continue to disrupt the low-volume manufacturing segment as the machines get cheaper, the processes get faster and the parts get better.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Kumar: My father, Sunil Kumar, who showed me that an American manufacturer can succeed in the age of growing overseas competition. Joe Peters, the former owner of Universal Plastics and our CEO, showed me the value of community involvement and how to earn the respect of your colleagues.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Kumar: There is no job I would rather have. I will be buried at the factory and I hope my daughter will want to take my place running it.
Read more about the Next Generation of Leaders.