Engineers at Gerresheimer: Palak Shah has been working as an engineer at Gerresheimer Vineland in the USA since 2010
Düsseldorf/Vineland, August 10, 2015. A study conducted in 2014 has revealed that an increasing number of women are choosing engineering professions. The proportion of women engineers working in Germany increased in the survey period (2005 to 2011) from 14.7 to 16.6 percent*. However, measured against the number of male engineers worldwide, they are still in the minority. Gerresheimer wants to encourage women to consider working in a technical profession and has been taking part in the Girls’ Day initiative for a number of years now. On Girls’ Day, all the German Gerresheimer production facilities open their doors to young women to present their attractive technical apprenticeship programs to them.
“There is a shortage of female role models,” said Thomas Perlitz, Global Senior Vice President HR at Gerresheimer. “However, we have some very good female engineers at our Gerresheimer facilities around the world who are passionate about their interesting and responsible functions. That gave us the idea of telling people about Palak Shah’s career in the USA because it makes her a role model for women in technical occupations.”
Palak Shah has been at Gerresheimer since 2010 and she currently heads the Engineering Specifications Department in Vineland/USA. Palak is 35 years old and was born in the Indian province of Gujarat.
Even at a very young age she had a good understanding of technical concepts. One time, when Palak’s uncle was playing with her, he taught her how to set digital watches. He timed her with a stopwatch and was astounded to see how quickly she completed each task. At that time Palak was so young that she couldn’t actually read the time on the watch faces. Later on she helped her mother in the family furniture store by assembling chairs, and she also helped out in the home by repairing household appliances.
All that happened back in the 1980s, when male and female equality was a major issue in India. It was all over the radio and TV, and Palak’s mother encouraged her to follow her heart and choose a traditionally male profession. Palak showed courage, decisiveness and talent. And she decided to build on that talent by becoming an engineer.
In 2001 she arrived in the USA with a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering for Research and enrolled at the University of Illinois, where she gained her Master's. She worked in the energy sector at Pennsylvania Electric Company for several years, initially in technical sales and then as a consultant.
Palak Shah has been working at Gerresheimer Vineland in New Jersey for five years. The Vineland plant manufactures glass tubing for the American market. Most of it is processed into pharmaceutical vials at the Forest Grove plant.
Soon after she started work at Gerresheimer in 2010, the process engineer and computational fluid dynamics expert asked her future boss a question: “Do we know the temperatures on the production lines that process the our glass tubing into pharmaceutical vials?“ This very important question led her to the delamination project at Gerresheimer. The project objective was to discover why glass particle contamination occurs in vials filled with certain medications. She spent one month at the Forest Grove converting plant scrutinizing all details of the entire production process.
Gerresheimer invested three years of research into the subject of delamination in collaboration with the renowned Alfred University in New York. The project team members from Gerresheimer were Carol Rea Flynn, Director of Technical Services Tubing in Vineland, Daniel McNerney, Engineering Manager at TGCA (Tubular Glass Converting Americas) and Palak Shah.
Around 9000 samples were meticulously tested in the project. Today, we know that temperature peaks in the manufacturing process are the main cause of delamination in tubular glass vials. The new Gx ARMOR vial product line was specifically designed for parenteral solutions with aggressive active ingredients and is specially equipped to prevent delamination.
Palak Shah likes working at smaller companies where each person performs a wider range of activities. She also enjoys solving the problems that smaller companies tend to be confronted with. “You have to do things the right way, not the easy way,“ she said, explaining that the easy way isn’t always the better long-term option.
Palak was recently appointed as Head of the Engineering Specifications Department, which is responsible for the digitization of processes and production workflows. She feels that this new position was practically tailor made for her. There are all kinds of challenges because many of the projects are interrelated, which means that a lot of project activities are performed concurrently. She likes that everyone still knows each other at Gerresheimer despite it being an internationally operating corporate group. And she’s proud to be part of the engineering team at TGCA, Tubular Glass Converting Americas.
“My boss, Dan McNerney, helped me to discover my potential. He’s always been more confident in my abilities than I have,“ said Palak, adding that she works with a great many remarkable individuals.
Palak Shah thinks that there are very few obstacles for women and minorities in the USA these days. “It’s time to show everyone what we’re capable of,“ said Palak, and she has certainly done just that.
Palak likes to get up early at the weekends and work until the other family members wake up. Several days a week she works out at the gym during her lunch break because it makes her feel refreshed and energized when she returns to her workplace. Palak’s family is the center of her life and she works very hard to achieve a healthy work-life balance. “My husband and I let other people do the housework as much as possible so that we can spend more quality time with each other. That time belongs to myself, my husband and our little daughter.”
Gerresheimer is a leading global partner to the pharma and healthcare industries. The company’s special glass and plastic products contribute to health and well-being. Gerresheimer is a global organization with 11,000 employees and manufacturing operations in the local markets, close to customers. It has over 40 production facilities in Europe, North and South America and Asia generating revenue in excess of EUR 1.3 billion. The comprehensive product portfolio includes pharmaceutical packaging products as well as convenient and safe drug delivery systems such as insulin pens, inhalers, pre-fillable syringes, vials, ampoules, bottles and containers for liquid and solid pharmaceuticals with closure and safety systems, plus cosmetic packaging products.
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