Kathy Pfannerstill President at Toolcraft Co.,Inc.

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Kathy Pfannerstill, President at Toolcraft Co.,Inc.
#WiMHearHerStory | @WomeninMFG

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing. As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing. The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.

I am the president and owner of Toolcraft Co., Inc., a precision machining company in Germantown, WI. As a small business owner, my work changes daily depending on what problems need solving. For example, on Mondays, I have a weekly production meeting with the management team to discuss the status of current projects, and troubleshoot any delivery or quality issues. I work with our production team as well as our customer service team to ensure we develop a solution that provides positive results for our customers, without adding unnecessary cost to the project. On Tuesdays, I have a leadership meeting to discuss shop-wide topics such as safety, maintenance, continuous improvement and personnel. On Wednesdays, I have a customer sales and quoting team meeting to discuss new opportunities and areas for growth. Sprinkled in throughout my work week are phone calls or meetings with customers, suppliers and employees. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities that keep me engaged in my work.

How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?

I started my career as a CPA in public accounting, working mostly with manufacturing clients. After five years of performing audits and tax returns for other businesses, I was ready to venture into the private market as a controller.
I grew up near Milwaukee, WI, which has a rich history in manufacturing. My father owned a tool, die and machining business, and I grew up learning about all the different industries that rely on manufacturers. I wanted to be part of an industry that made a difference in people’s lives.

At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men. Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?

As a woman in the metalworking trade, I have experienced the challenges of being in a “man’s world.” For me, the best way to overcome this was to learn everything I could about our industry, without pretending that I knew everything. I learned to develop a thick skin, be humble, and ultimately be myself. In some ways, being the only woman in the room is a benefit; you’re not easily forgotten, which is great for generating new business contacts.

Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career?

Definitely, I found another woman business owner in our industry early on in my career. She helped me navigate some difficult challenges over the years, and also served as an inspiration.

One of the key findings in WiM’s survey is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?

Supporting groups like WiM to start. Role modeling these careers to our children and their friends is another powerful way to influence young women.

Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options. Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?

Yes, particularly because our sector offers so many different types of opportunities such as accounting, finance, engineering, marketing and sales. In manufacturing, we make some pretty amazing things, and I enjoy knowing that my company was integral in the manufacturing process.

Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?

I joined initially as part of the Tool, Die & Machining Association of WI. Our women’s group was “adopted” into WiM shortly thereafter. I value the opportunity to share experiences with other women, and ultimately, become a mentor to a young woman in need of encouragement.