Anecdotes and other tall tales

By Lisa McTigue Pierce in Packaging Education and Training on August 08, 2013

Anyone who has worked in packaging for any length of time probably has stories to tell. Like when the in-line filler didn't shut off during a press conference demonstration and water spilled over the bottles, down the conveyor and onto the floor. Or when a photo shoot moved to the roof of a hi-rise in New York City and the view of man's architectural accomplishments spurred deep thoughts about my own career aspirations.

Well, pull up a chair, grab a cup of brew and enjoy these chronicles from those on the front lines.



Stephen Birtsas, senior manager, Kalypso
Remember when label copy and artwork files were mounted on art boards, stuffed in folders and passed around like pre-school Valentine's Day cards? How many times did they come back battered, worn and wearing someone's lunch?



Oliver Campbell, director of procurement, packaging, Dell
I actually ate our Dell mushroom packaging on China TV. As much as I like Dell products, in this case, it really needed some soy sauce. I still smiled though!



Alan Blake, executive director, PAC NEXT
Anecdotally, I'm always impressed by the tremendous synergy of great product and package design to deliver a winning market proposition. My personal favorite was Downy Simple Pleasures (2004) combining brilliant product colors and perfumes with a transparent PET bottle with twist neck feature.



Michael Richmond, vp, Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions
What's in a name...

We knew when writing our book that it would be important for all parts of the value chain and wanted to ensure we got the point across to the potential readers so they would pick up the book. We pushed ourselves to make the title really compelling. It took days going back and forth with the internal team and the publisher to get the right title. 


However, we think we finally got there with the title "Creating Value Through Packaging: Unlocking a New Business and Management Strategy." It sounds so simple but it sure took a long time to get there.



PMMI staff on 50 years of packaging and processing stories

• Sweet!
Tom Egan, vp industry services: When I was heading up an OEM's sales and marketing efforts, we had a customer who was launching a new brand of gummy candy, and I just knew it would be a winner. 

The way I knew was that every time we had a meeting about the production line we were building for them, the client would kindly bring samples along. Everyone in the room would take the obligatory gummy candy (we didn't want to insult the client)-and then would start eyeing the leftovers. While the meetings didn't quite come to fisticuffs, based on our response to the candies, it was clear that this product was going to be a success. Many years later, this candy is still an active brand.


• 9/11—What now?
PMMI Staff: On Sept. 11, 2001, the industry was at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, and we awoke to one of the most horrific news stories of our time. Because the PMMI offices are outside of Washington, DC, the emotional connection for our staff was particularly strong. As exhibitors and attendees straggled to The Sands Convention Center, the PMMI staff and leadership had to make a decision: Stay open or close?

PMMI decided to keep the show open-after all, where would anyone go? The country's airports were closed. And so began a surreal event. We placed TV monitors throughout the exposition halls and lobby, and watched as attendees and exhibitors alike were mesmerized by the news coverage. 

When the show was over, about 30 PMMI staff members rode a chartered bus from Las Vegas to Washington, DC—an unforgettable two-day journey. Among the many lasting effects of the whole ordeal: To this day, PMMI staff reviews meeting spots and action plans, and new staff members receive a flashlight for navigating dark corridors prior to every PACK EXPO—just in case of emergency. It taught us what it really means to be prepared!

Maria Ferrante, vp education & workforce development: On the morning of 9/11, we had an OMAC meeting scheduled, and I was on the agenda to speak to the group about PMMI's PackLearn initiatives. My husband and my son, then 6 months old, had traveled to Las Vegas with me, but because of my schedule, I left the hotel long before they did. 

Once we learned the shocking news of the terrorist attacks, we weren't sure whether to hold the meeting or not, but ultimately decided to go ahead with the meeting. Everyone was already there, and there was really nothing else for folks to do but gather and be together.

Just before we were scheduled to start the meeting, my husband showed up at the meeting room with Jacob in his stroller. This was the first opportunity I had to see the two of them since I left my hotel room and since we heard the news. I went over to them, grabbed my son and gave him a big hug—and everyone in the room broke out in a round of applause. Then they all wanted to meet Jacob! I still work with many of those packaging professionals, and while it's in a different capacity, they still ask about Jacob even now, 12 years later. It was a bit of humanity on a very tragic day.

Tom Egan, vp industry services: At the time, I was a PACK EXPO exhibitor and PMMI member, but not PMMI staff. I rented a car with three business friends. We left Las Vegas on Friday for our first stop, the Denver airport. One of our group hoped to get a flight back to Italy, his home. If not, he reasoned, he could rent a bicycle for a few days and see Denver and the Rocky Mountains. We found out later that instead, he stood on line every day until the following Wednesday, when he was able to get on a plane. No bike riding for him.

We remaining three drove from Denver to the home of Passenger #2 in Indianapolis. His wife kindly offered us sandwiches, which we accepted, and a place to nap, which we did not, for fear of sleeping for days.

And then we were two. From Indianapolis, Passenger #3 and I drove to Lynchburg, VA, where I dropped him off at his home. It was around 10:00 p.m. Saturday night, and I was now in the home stretch! I arrived at my home in the Washington suburbs around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

My takeaway? The 37.5 hour, 2,500-plus mile cross country drive fulfilled an item on my bucket list. I always wanted to drive across the country and our experience definitely cured me of that!


• Fore...
PMMI Staff: The day before PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2009, the wind was so strong that when the golfers got off the bus for the PMMI Education & Training Foundation Golf Tournament, they made a beeline for the pro shop. There they purchased sweatshirts, jackets, and anything they thought might keep them warm—there were no questions about prices or colors, just the need to get warm. A good time was had by all...after they bundled up!


• We are family
PMMI Staff: Mark Jacobson of Econocorp was an active and much-loved PMMI member. In 2011, when we learned he'd been diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, it was just a few years after his best friend and partner in crime, Mark Garvey, had succumbed to a different type of cancer. 

It was a difficult time, but no one wanted to sit by and wait. Instead, the industry banded together and started Jaunt for Jake—an 80+ mile bike ride as part of the Pan Mass Challenge, which raises funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Center. That first year was amazing. Mark and his family were touched by the support and the outreach by the community, and everyone who was there was overwhelmed with emotion. PMMI members, friends and family all came out to support the cause. Mark lost his battle with cancer in 2012, but Jaunt for Jake, now in its third year, is still raising thousands of dollars for cancer research and still bringing our industry together to support a great cause and remember some very special people.


• We've come a long way, baby!
PMMI Staff: 50 years ago, the Packaging Machinery Show, sponsored by PMMI and held in Detroit, welcomed 10,000 attendees and 205 exhibiting companies with a total of 97,000 sq ft of exhibit space. 

In 2014, PACK EXPO International is expected to have 50,000 attendees, 2,000 exhibiting companies and more than 1.1 million net sq ft of exhibit space. 

A lot has happened in between!

- In 1971, the Packaging Machinery Show (sponsored by PMMI since 1956) becomes PACK EXPO, exhibits annually and becomes the central event of National Packaging Week.

- In 1974, PACK EXPO goes biennial, and the American Management Assn. ends its annual show and partners with PMMI. PACK EXPO becomes the sole national tradeshow for U.S. packaging machinery manufacturers.

- In 1990, Chuck Yuska is hired as PMMI's president/CEO.

- In 1993, PMMI adds Canadian members and opens its Latin America office in Mexico City.

- In 1994, PMMI sponsors EXPOPACK México as a joint venture with OPREX.

- In 2000, PMMI opens its China office.

- In 2004, PMMI acquires 100 percent of EXPOPACK México.

- In 2006, PMMI adds the Supplier Membership class.

- In 2007, PMMI adds Materials & Containers Membership class.

- In 2009, PMMI adds the Processing Membership Class, and represents the entire packaging and processing supply chain.

- In 2011, PMMI adopts a new strategic plan and launches the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence.

- In 2012, PMMI opens general membership Mexican firms.

- In 2013, PMMI:
-- Launches EXPO PACK Guadalajara;
-- Announces PACK EXPO East, to debut in Philadelphia in February 2015;
-- Announces Pharma EXPO, a joint venture with the Intl. Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers, co-locating with PACK EXPO Intl. 2014;
-- Unveils its new logo and its new identity as PMMI, The Assn. for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

There's still half a year left!


Andrew Manly, communications director, Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Assn. (AIPIA)
• The second PPMA Show in Telford, U.K. (Pack Expo British style), was partially held in a 15,000-sq-ft tent, which, due to the uneven surface of the ground was on 11 feet of scaffold. The gods decided to cook up a storm on the first day of the show. With 80-miles-per-hour gusts of wind, the tent (with 100 tons of machines and 500 people) was swaying at the top and, when the wind hit the sides, it sounded like a shotgun. Scared...were we! You could not have written the script!

• India 1991, trade mission to Mumbai and surrounding areas. A visit to a bakery was organised. We were greeted by the rats on the flour sacks who all waved hello. Then to the packing hall where we came across the man carefully wiping the top of the (sweaty) loaves with a rag he carefully placed on the rat-dropping-infested floor after each batch of loaves passed. The loaves were packed by hands, ambient temperature about 110deg in the room. One of our number asked, naively, "Don't they wear gloves to pack the loaves in the bags?" There was much wagging of heads, then the answer came: "Ah, but this shift does not have sweaty hands."



Joe Elphick, president of 3C Packaging
We're an independent privately-owned packaging solutions company specializing in the design and manufacture of custom folding cartons, printed literature, inserts, outserts and unit-dose compliant packaging.

We once faced the challenge of producing five separate components from the same top-five pharmaceutical company over the course of a weekend—totaling more than half a million units in approximately 36 hours.

We knew it would be tight—but not that tight. I think that project stepped right up to the brink of physical impossibility. There was enough time to print the units and ship the units—and that was it. The execution needed to be absolutely flawless for us to achieve our standards of quality and timeliness.

It was the work that was done ahead of time that mattered. Collaborative meetings, a thorough review and re-review of product specifications, and having the equipment available at a moment's notice were just the beginning. From there, we performed trial runs of various launch components during the scant downtime between other pressing projects, and implemented a raw materials plan incorporating not only quality, but quantity and physical location of each quantity—all toward the goal of saving as much precious time as possible without sacrificing exemplary customer service. 

And in the interest of going the extra mile, we executed an all-hands-on-deck manpower strategy—including sales executives, customer service representatives, graphics teams, pressmen, folding crews, quality assurance specialists, shipping personnel—that ran full shifts not only over the weekend, but what was, essentially, a holiday as well. 

It was Super Bowl weekend. Now that's dedication.

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
500 characters remaining