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Internship Lessons

by Sami Anthony, December ’24

When PSE students enter the industry, it is almost always in a mill, whether it be paper, board, tissue, towel, or pulp. During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer from WestRock to join them as a Process Engineering Intern at their Cowpens, SC Mill. At Cowpens, they recycle old corrugated containers (OCC) into rolls of medium and linerboard. I practiced data analysis, continuous improvement, performance excellence, and trial development through my daily responsibilities and project work. My first manufacturing experience was full of firsts and I enjoyed my time in the mill. I returned to Cowpens for a co-op in the Fall 2023 semester where I got to dive into more complex projects and tasks.

Sami Anthony

One piece of advice I took away from the 2024 TAPPI Student Summit was to check out a box plant before I graduate. After my experiences in a mill, I decided to try something new and see what other career paths the paper industry could offer me. In PSE, we mainly focus on the process of making paper, and less on finished products. Converting is an entire sector of the industry that is essential to creating the items we use every day.

This summer I’ve returned to WestRock as an Engineering Intern at the Mebane, NC Folding Carton plant. Here, we take rolls of paper from various mills and create secondary packaging for healthcare products. My primary focus centers on preventative maintenance for some of our equipment – more specifically, using project management tools and strategies to reduce machine downtime. Though I have only been here a few weeks, I can already say this has been a beneficial experience for me. Having a first-person perspective on the converting process has helped me make more sense of concepts I learned in class.

I’m also thankful to see two different types of manufacturing within the same company. The consistency in values and expectations that WestRock has definitely made for a smooth transition into unfamiliar territory. This experience has already opened my eyes to how large this industry is and how many moving parts and people are necessary to succeed. I look forward to what else I have the chance to learn this summer!