Being successful in the hyperactive world of consumer packaged goods requires insight into what consumers need from product packaging. Figuring that out is a goal of Michigan State University School of Packaging engineer Eric Lausch. He expects technologies like 3D printing for package prototyping and interaction on social media will help him achieve that high-level of customer awareness.
Lausch is one of three packaging students selected to participate in the Mission: Packaging program, sponsored by Shurtape Technologies LLC, a pressure-sensitive tapes manufacturer. The initiative sets challenges for the pupils to augment their classroom education by exploring real-world packaging issues, trends and strategies, as well as by talking with industry experts—and then blogging about what they’ve learned.
Here is some of what he has discovered so far:
Tell us about yourself.
Lausch: I am a fifth year student at Michigan State University. I completed my degree in packaging in 2015 and am now pursuing a second degree in biosystems engineering.
In addition, I am an active member of both CoPPAC and Pi Kappa Gamma, two packaging organizations at Michigan State.
Outside of school, I am an avid car enthusiast and you can usually find me golfing, spending time with friends or reading a good book.
What does participating in Shurtape’s “Mission: Packaging” program mean to you?
Lausch: Being selected as one of three students nationwide to participate in Shurtape’s inaugural “Mission: Packaging” program has been an incredible opportunity thus far.
Participating allows me to blend my knowledge and experiences from the classroom with my work experience and apply them to a variety of topics and challenges presented in the Mission.
Through my writing on the Mission's blog, I am able to broadcast my thoughts and ideas and share them with people who are learning about packaging or already in the field.
What segment of packaging interests you the most and why?
Lausch: The segment of packaging that I find particularly interesting is consumer packaged goods (CPG). Interpreting consumers' needs and wants to help enhance the brand or even the product itself is a unique and challenging experience.
What real-world packaging experiences have you had and what did you learn from them?
Lausch: I started building packaging experience by supporting the Fresh Produce Packaging Group at Michigan State University. The group was participating in a joint research project with an international chemical company to investigate new compounds for the development of active materials to improve food shelf life.
Not only was this my first opportunity to gain practical packaging experience, it was also a chance to see firsthand what happens at the front end of long-term innovation project. My work as a research assistant at MSU led me to an internship at an industry-leading closure company where, as a packaging engineering intern, I was introduced to R&D testing techniques and equipment.
I learned what it takes to conduct package performance testing for a range of products and how this testing affects the creation and modification of products. I am currently interning for a multinational food and beverage company, where I am being exposed to the practices of a large CPG company while learning what it takes to be successful in such a large business.
Is there any particular technology that you see accelerating over the next few years and why?
Lausch: Over the next few years a technology that I see accelerating in the packaging field is 3D printing. This rapidly developing technology allows prototypes to be created in a matter of minutes and opens the door to real-time packaging innovation and problem solving.
How can/should social media be used to advance packaging?
Lausch: With its constant presence in society today, social media holds incredible promise in the pursuit to advance packaging. Increased efforts toward resource sustainability and reducing environmental footprints can be witnessed in companies around the world.
However, in the end, packaging is driven by the choices of the consumer. Using social media to promote topics like sustainability, re-use and recovery can have a huge impact on the continued advancement of packaging.
What piece of advice would you give other packaging students or students who are considering packaging as a career choice?
Lausch: My advice to others would be not to rush through their university studies to quickly land that first job. Take every opportunity to gain experiences of all kinds outside of the classroom during their college years. Their education is a stepping-stone to a career. Explore many different opportunities as they build their educational foundation. Find their passion and a career path that will allow them to flourish.
What do you envision your dream job being when you graduate?
Lausch: My goal is to contribute to the success of an industry leading CPG company, where I would have the opportunity to steer my professional career path as well as have an impact on products used by consumers every day.
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