Innovation in the Workplace: A College Graduate's Experience

Sam Bailey pictured with former teammate, Kevin Duve

Industry People

Charles Coker, a former Sonoco President & CEO said it best, "Find a better way to do what you are doing because if you do it the same way you did it three years ago, you are probably doing it the wrong way."

Sonoco's strong focus on innovation encourages employees to think outside the box to find solutions and through a process of elimination, find that 'better way' of doing things. 

Sam Bailey, a former full-time associate in the Emerging Leaders Program, now the current Plant Manager at the Orlando Recycling facility is a perfect example of how Sonoco puts innovation into the hands of employees to improve processes. Sam graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and started his Sonoco journey as a Management Associate at the Columbia, South Carolina Recycling facility in 2018. Upon his arrival, Sam was tasked with the project of finding a machine that would help reduce waste.

For recycling, less waste means better quality. For Sonoco Recycling, high quality material is extremely important because of the role it plays in the business. Sonoco Recycling is not just a division, it is a products company providing material for the whole of Sonoco. Even though there is no perfect plan to waste reduction, the need is always there. Sam explained that “When individuals recycle ‘non recyclables’ they end up in the recycling facility and without the proper tools, can create a big problem and a lot of waste.”

Sam Bailey took the words of Mr. Coker to heart, tackled the waste reduction project head-on and found a solution to help Sonoco Recycling produce high quality material. Sam and his team were able to use the project to implement a sorting machine that reduces waste while simultaneously increases quality, decreases downtime, and saves time, money and resources. For Sam, this was not a seamless process. He encountered several challenges and milestones along the way that helped him grow as a manager and taught him skills he could only gain from experience. “I originally thought that putting a 6-ton piece of equipment two stories up would be what defined this project for me but in reality, executing skills I learned in the classroom and building relationships had the biggest impact.” Through his experience, Sam was able to learn the importance of being able to motivate and inspire a team, how attention to detail can make a huge impact on results, and just how important people are.

“You can’t do everything. Learn to be comfortable with delegating. Involve the right people, delegate the right jobs and then trust that they will get it done. Focus on the people, because there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you made a positive impact on someone.”

In the end, Sonoco implemented the robot at the recycling facility and named it "Sortin' Sammy" in honor of Sam. "I tried to play it cool, but I was extremely flattered that I had made enough of an impact on my team and the division to have the robot named in my honor. I am so thankful that my boss had enough faith in me to take this project on. It was a great way for me to learn and show my worth early on in my career."

Source: Sonoco