As plant manager at the Dart Container facility in Augusta, part of Benjamin Benedict’s job requires him to make adjustments to ensure the Michigan-based company runs smoothly.
After 21 years of working in the manufacturing industry, Benedict is accustomed to making necessary changes where he sees fit.
The Pennsylvania native, however, is still trying to acclimate to one thing in Augusta after relocating here two years ago – the weather.
“The summers are definitely longer and they’re somewhat brutal coming in from the Northeast,” said Benedict, an avid gardener and outdoorsman. “There’s a lot more days over 100 degrees than what it is out there.”
Benedict moved to the Wrightsboro Road plant, formerly known as Solo Cup, in April 2011 to assume the plant manager position after overseeing the Solo Cup facility in Baltimore.
In May 2012, Dart Container acquired Solo Cup for about $1 billion.
Other than the signs and a few minor policies, not much has changed at the 375,000-square-foot Augusta factory since the merger, Benedict said.
The company’s local plant employs about 320 workers and continues to ship polystyrene foam products, including cups, plates, bowls and platters, to convenience stores, grocers and other businesses across the country.
Benedict didn’t always foresee a career in manufacturing, having once aspired to become an attorney as a child.
When he started college, Benedict took a temp job at an electronics factory in his home state at age 18.
“It just clicked for me,” said Benedict, whose background is in business and computer engineering. “I just felt like this is where I belong.”
Benedict spent several years working at electronic and telecommunication manufacturing facilities before he came across the opening on a job Web site for a plant superintendent at Solo Cup in Baltimore. Five years later, he was offered the job in Augusta.
Benedict’s passion for manufacturing was evident from the start, said production manager Simon Graham, noting his keen ability to address areas of improvement while still giving employees positive feedback and motivation.
“Ben has brought us just a healthy balance between the seriousness of getting the job done but having fun and being part of a team,” Graham said. “That’s really exciting.”
Benedict’s meticulous attention to detail and organization and propensity to working with different personality types also likely has contributed to his professional success.
“You drive positive change by recognizing deficiencies in yourself as well as others in the process,” Benedict said. “That’s one of the things I think that we do well here. We bring things to the surface and address them.”
The plant, built in 1947 by Lily-Tulip Co., has also been home to Fort Howard Paper Co. and Sweetheart Cup Co. It was last renovated in 1973.
When Benedict took over the facility, he quickly realized how popular the large cup above the front doors was. He resurrected an old tradition of placing a large Christmas tree on top of the cup after hearing from many in the community about the custom.
“There’s a lot of times where passers-by will stop and pose in front of the cup and take their picture,” he said. “There’s a big draw to the giant cup out front.”