Amazing Women and How They Impacted the Manufacturing Industry

Amazing Women and How They Impacted the Manufacturing Industry

The impact women have had in history is being honored this month, and we’re looking at how women have helped revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

Starting as International Women’s Day in 1911 and changed in 1980 to Women’s history Week by President Jimmy Carter, March was finally declared Women’s History Month in 1987 by President Ronald Regan.

Rosie the Riveter may be the most famous name synonymous with women in manufacturing, however there have been a multitude of women who have had a profound impact on the industry. We are looking at just a few of those women who have revolutionized the manufacturing industry.

Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek invented one of the most integral lifesaving pieces of equipment that both our armed forces and police use every day, Kevlar. While working at DuPont, Kwolek was assigned the task of looking for the next generation of fibers that could work under extreme conditions. During her research and experimentations, she found that she was able to cause very high strength polymer fibers to be formed, under very specific conditions. The fibers that were formed are what we now know as Kevlar.

Kevlar is a fiber that is as strong as steel and is used in the manufacturing of many items. The most notably use is in making lightweight bulletproof vests that our law enforcement officials, and military personnel use. Kevlar is used in a wide range of manufactured goods from sports equipment like helmets, sails, tires and shoes, to musical equipment like drumheads, reeds and loud speakers, to construction materials such as rope, cables and expansion joints. During her career, Kwolek made many discoveries leading to 17 patents but her biggest discovery and her legacy is Kevlar, which is something that we all can be thankful for.

Margaret Knight

Knight began her career as an inventor at the age of 12, after seeing someone injured at a textile mill in New Hampshire. Her first invention was a safety device that prevented injuries to workers working with the industrial looms that was adopted by all the local mills. One of Knight’s most notable inventions was patented in 1871 was for a machine that cuts, folds and glues brown paper bags. Machines built from specs of this patent are still used today in the manufacturing of paper bags that can be found all around the world. While she is not the first women to ever receive a patent, Knight is considered the most famous female inventor of the 19th century. Knight was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 and has 27 patents for things such as an internal combustion engine, a shoe sole cutting machine as well as a rotary engine and the reel.

Melitta Bentz

In our humble opinion, possibly one of the most important inventors ever was Melitta Bentz. Bentz helped to usher in one of the greatest additions to the modern world by redefining how we drink coffee. For nearly 800+ years coffee was made by tying coffee grounds in a cloth bag, then placing that bag into a pot of boiling water, similar to tea.  The difference is while tea leaves did not affect the flavor or consistency of the drink, coffee grounds would create a bitter flavor and leave a gritty texture. Bentz devised a method of putting an absorbent paper into a brass pot with holes punched into it then pouring the coffee and water through it. Thus, creating a filter which allowed the filtered liquid to drip into a waiting cup effectively separating the grounds from the liquid. The demand for her filters were so high that during the 1920’s, 80 workers had to work double shifts just to keep up with the demand. By 1928 over 100,000 filters had been produced. Bentz forever changed the coffee industry, and her legacy still lives on in the Melitta Group KG which is controlled by her grandchildren to this day.

The love of coffee that Bentz’s invention brought forth helped to make it possible for Americans to drink 88.8 GALLONS of coffee per capita in 2016. For perspective the average American drinks 39.2 gallons of carbonates (sodas and pops) 34 gallons of tea and 33.5 gallons of bottled water per capita during the same time period. Bentz has helped engineers, machinist, CEOs, sales associates, secretaries and everyone in between to function. Helping us through sales calls with clients 13 hours behind us, finish all-nighters to meet project deadlines, to get up and face that Monday morning commutes, and for that we must say a deep and heartfelt thank you to Mrs. Melitta Bentz.

In this article we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to looking at all the amazing women that have impacted manufacturing from inventors to CEOs. During Women’s History Month we will be taking a look at some of the other important women in history that have forever impacted manufacturing, just as soon as we get a refill on our coffee.

About IMS Supply: IMS Supply is a leading distributor of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products and services with facilities in East and West Michigan and Kentucky. Through our MRO Asset Recovery Program we stock hard to find parts and supplies from thousands of different manufacturers at prices up to 70% less than MSRP. Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.