North Sails NEWS

Story Contributors: Patricia Rios


Introducing Patricia Rios: Vacuum Consolidation

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we dove into the inner workings of the North Sails 3Di manufacturing facility in Minden, NV. Patricia (“Patty”) Rios is the Films lead in Minden, and she is a leader and role model in her department, enjoying every aspect of North’s unique sailmaking process.

October marks Rios’s 12th year with North Sails. Before beginning her tenure with the company, she was a stay-at-home mom taking care of her young son. Her siblings worked at the North Sails and told her about a job opening, and she thought she would apply.

Patricia (“Patty”) joined North Sails when 3DL was at the forefront, first drawn in by curiosity about sailmaking—and building them in the desert. Now that manufacturing has progressed to 3Di; she oversees a team of five who preps and produces vacuum bags to lock in sail shape. Rios explains, “The films department produces two vacuum bags that encase the sail while it is on the mold. Like building a carbon boat, heat and vacuum pressure are used to consolidate the filaments and resin. The bags and the sail membrane sit on the mold in the flying shape intended by the sail designer.

It’s a fast operation to prepare the sails for consolidation. Even minor hiccups have a ripple effect, and any hold-up affects the most important part—shipping to the client. Rios’s worklist is based on the daily molding schedule. “There is only one shift for my department, so when I number the pieces, the team needs to follow the order. From my team, I assign each of my team members the role of creating the vacuum bag and securing it onto the mold (seen below). Before the sails are ready to be cooked, I double-check that the bags are airtight and empty of air, so the chemical reaction kick-off heat is applied.” The sails then spend at least seven days on the curing floor before they are finished and shipped off.

Patty prepping the vacuum seal for consolidation of 3Di.

Rios says that the films department would not be everyone’s number one choice and that’s because it is the fastest moving department. But she embraces each challenge and takes pride in the importance of thinking ahead and doing her job right the first time.

“My team is fast and efficient because quality is important to us. We don’t make mistakes, and that’s because we stick to a strict procedure.” Although I am the lead, my team is working towards a common goal. If they need me, they know they can ask for help. It’s 100% a team effort. This job is more than a one-person job, so we have to communicate well.”

When Patty Rios arrives to work each day, she discusses the day before with her team before moving on to the next project. She likes the flexibility of her job, and she appreciates the confidence her supervisor, Jessie Barnes, places in her. “Jessie knows that I am good at my job, and she trusts me to get it right. I like that I’m given that initiative. It helped me build confidence as a leader in my department, and that helps my team feel confident about their individual roles.”

“Patty is a long term employee. She’s a quiet hero that keeps her films team tight and efficient.”
– Per Andersson, 3D General Manager

Before coming to work at North Sails, Rios did not have any sewing or sailmaking experience. Over the years, she’s gained more understanding of the process and how she can streamline her techniques to keep the workflow efficient. Although the sailmaking process has evolved from 3DL string laminates to 3Di, she still took some of her early skills back to motherhood. “I can make my son’s Halloween costumes now, which is really cool. Although our manufacturing process has changed, my new-found sewing skills have come in handy!”

Rios enjoys learning other areas of the manufacturing process too. “My supervisor Jessie Barnes has taught me a lot, for which I will be forever grateful. She is unbelievably patient, and I’ve learned from her how to become a better leader in my department.”

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