I took a day off to hang with my grandson, Markus, and practice his ABCs. I didn't want to overdo it so welcomed his question about what I do. I told him that I was a kind of optometrist, that I help people see their packaging problems more clearly.
"Don't quit the day job," he told me. "Now tell me what you really do."
I started showing him some videos of different kinds of packaging machinery and explaining how they worked. My passion for packaging sometimes gets me pretty deep in the weeds at times, but he loves mechanical stuff and seemed to be following OK. Then he asked me, "How did you learn so much, Grandpa? It looks really hard."
"Time and experience," I told him. "That and asking questions and keeping my eyes open. I also had to learn my ABCs."
"Your ABCs? Like you're helping me with?"
"That's right. Inventor Robert Fulton called them the engineer's alphabet. Machines can be complicated. Just as words are made up by combining letters in different orders, so are machines."
He made a face: "Grandpa, machines don't have letters."
"Yes they do, but a different kind of letters. Instead of A, B, C, every machine is made up of things like motors, sensors, gears and other parts. These are the 'letters' of the engineer's alphabet. Once you learn them, you can understand any kind of machine."
"Way cool, Grandpa," Markus told me. "Now back to my ABCs."
KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].