Rick Putch

Rick Putch Headshot

The Go-To Guy

Rick Putch Receives
2018 IADD Presidential Award

Have you ever known a Go-To Guy? He or she is the person everyone instinctively calls when a tricky problem comes up—because somehow, they always know what to do.

As described by blogger Kelly Gurnett, “They always keep their heads in a crisis. They’re always happy to help out, they’re energizing to be around and they instantly boost the morale of anyone they come in contact with. They are the [industry] equivalent of superheros.”

The IADD and the diecutting converting industry are fortunate to have such a superhero in our midst—Rick Putch, Director of Technical Services at National Steel Rule Co.

IADD President Shaun Larson (Jonco Die Co. Inc.) explains, “As an association that is centered on bringing education and information to the industry, we are always pulling on people who are willing to share knowledge and experience. There is nobody who fits this role better than Rick Putch.

Rick is recognized by many as an Industry educator, not only by the IADD, but by many trade associations in related markets. As far as I know, there just is not another person who is more passionate about cutting stuff!” “Rick is always willing to do whatever, whenever; to bring information to whomever is looking for it. He is a rock star when it comes to chapter meetings, always being one of the most sought after speakers, oftentimes causing him to set up his travel tours accordingly. Rick is that ‘go-to guy’ for many things.”

For decades IADD members of all ages and places in their careers have turned to Putch as the person who knows how to solve a specific problem—or who knows who else does. So it comes as no surprise that at least two IADD presidents have identified Putch as someone worthy of further recognition through the association’s Presidential Award.

What makes each Presidential Award uniquely exciting is the fact that the specific criteria is chosen by the current IADD President, and no two acknowledgments or plaques are the same. Whether it rewards exceptional leadership, active support of IADD programs and activities, significant contributions to the Association or achievement in the industry, it is considered a great honor to be recognized in such a significant and personal way. To essentially be recognized by two presidents simultaneously—that is a first.

Current president Larson further noted, “I love Rick’s passion and determination. In 2013, as part of the IADD Board, he was the main thrust behind getting the Xchange programs up and running, and to this day he is our headliner speaker at the events that are designed to get people asking questions and having the industry experts providing solutions. He has served on the Board of Directors of the IADD. He has been a critical part of TechTeam™, and has written technical articles for The Cutting Edge. In 2006, our award winner received the inaugural PEAK Award; the PEAK acronym stands for performance, excellence, achievement and knowledge, and so appropriate it was for him to get it because these words describe him perfectly. At the time of this award a comment was made by our former colleague, Dennis Garrity of Bar-Plate Manufacturing: ‘Passion is the lead element in Putch’s qualification for recognition. His passion for our industry, for learning, for sharing and for life is evident to all who know him. He shares his knowledge and experiences willingly.’”

Larson continued, “Personally Rick has helped me out of jams many times, always having a solution for the question at hand. It’s my conviction that the person receiving this award should champion the association’s vision of providing information and education to the industry. This year is unique because Immediate Past President Jeremy Guest (Diansuply, Inc.) and I both greatly wanted to present this award to Rick. Since Jeremy was unable to do so in 2017, we felt that we both should do so now—Rick is that deserving,”

Guest added, “One of the greatest honors of being President of the IADD is the ability to hand out Presidential Awards. In 2016, I was blessed with the opportunity to bestow Rex Williams of AdamsTech with a Presidential Award. It was one of the top highlights of my two-year term and something I will remember forever. That, and the fact I mistakenly claimed I was President of the United States. Which…might not have been such a horrible idea. I don’t have a Twitter account, so that’s a good start. Finally being part of a celebration of Rick Putch’s accomplishments is another highlight for me.”

As a young man, Putch’s diecutting journey started at Form Rite, a corrugated sheet plant in Clinton, PA, USA. He literally walked down the road from his house and applied for whatever work was available. Ever since, he has been doing just that—whatever work is available, or in some cases, what some would consider impossible. The Cutting Edge was able to chat a bit with Putch:

TCE: Our industry is highly competitive, and many people are hesitant to share what they know for fear it will give others an advantage over them. What motivates you to share your extensive knowledge and experience with others?

RP: I always enjoy helping others. I was raised that way. While the industry is highly competitive, it is also dynamic regarding materials and equipment innovations. I try to stay informed of these developments to provide best practices for world-class converting. I’ve done technical training in 35 countries, translated into 10 different languages. Seeing the “I understand” expression on the faces of participants when doing a class is priceless.

TCE: What contribution have you made to the converting industry that is most meaningful to you?

RP: Being recognized as an effective problem solver, from small family-owned operations to multinational corporations.

TCE: What are some of the important lessons you’ve learned from working in this industry?

RP: The importance of working efficiently and meeting a deadline. I was amazed at how many different jobs and schedules are connected to a single cutting die.

TCE: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the industry?

RP: Merging my company with a publicly-traded company within a very short time. The cultural differences were evident early on. We were able to overcome and blend together, but it was quite a challenge.

TCE: What advice would you give to someone who is just considering entering the industry?

RP: Find your niche and be the best at it. Don’t try to be all things to all people. When you’re the best, selling the product is easy...and profitable. I attended an ISO 9000 seminar 30 years ago and never forgot this advice from the instructor: “If it walks—train it,” “If it don’t walk—calibrate it,” and “If you don’t write it down—it didn’t happen.” I see far too many companies who have one individual who holds the “secret recipe.” Document; early and often!

TCE: Where do you think the industry is headed?

RP: Digital print and converting continues to grow but traditional methods of diecutting will continue. More bio-based and biodegradable materials are entering our industry.

TCE: How did you get involved in IADD?

RP: I learned about it from The Cutting Edge (or whatever it was called back then) while on my first job at Form Rite Co. in the late 70s. Back then the organization was known as NADD. Attending the Larson Symposiums and DREC shows really opened my eyes to how vast our industry is. The Odyssey Expo is much like a combination of both.

TCE: What has your IADD participation meant to you?

RP: As a board member, I learned a great deal about conducting a structured meeting. The technical chapter meetings and Xchange programs are still my favorites. Many of the professionals I have met along the way have become great friends who have shared enjoyable times and created great memories for me.

TCE: Do you have a favorite IADD meeting you attended (or IADD story) and why?

RP: That’s a tough one. So many. As far as a meeting, I’d have to say receiving the PEAK Award in Interlaken, Switzerland.

For a story, the infamous “freezing on stage” in Montreal, Canada at the IADD 25th anniversary event with 450 people in attendance. I was asked to present a technical program, and Kevin Carey was the moderator. I was all set until I got up there. I froze and was shaking uncontrollably. Kevin tried to settle me down and was just ready to give me the hook when I suddenly felt a calm come over me and I got rolling. He had to then try to get me off the stage, as I kept going over my allotted time. I don’t think I’ve shut up since. The crowd gave me a very nice ovation for the recovery.

The best part was the next morning. I was on the agenda for an 8 AM presentation. I’m up there ready to go and the room was only 1/3 full. I could have blamed it on Saint Catherine Street, but instead I said, “Obviously, everyone saw Putch was speaking, and thought ‘he’ll take 20 minutes to get started, so I can sleep in.’” The nervousness was gone and that program was also well received.

While in the elevator afterward, John and Joann Gordon of Jonco Die Co. Inc. were with me. Joann said, “Did you realize your microphone was on while you were up there yesterday trying to get started? As you were shaking, you said to yourself, ‘God, please help me.’” I replied, “Apparently he did.”

TCE: Are you involved in other associations/organizations?

RP: Yes, primarily TAPPI and AICC.

IADD congratulates Rick Putch as the 2018 Presidential Award recipient. See past Presidential awardees—and other IADD honorees—online here