Pfizer Exec on What Pharma Needs from Packaging

Images courtesy of Canva Hollander-pharma-packaging-needs-ftd.jpg
In his “exit interview,” trailblazer Rich Hollander of Pfizer fame challenges pharmaceutical packaging professionals for the future and sets up shop to give back to the industry.

Humbly, Rich Hollander attributes much of his stellar career at Pfizer and successful professional accomplishments to the “village.” He retired as VP of Sterile Injectable Technology in July. Packaging Digest chatted with him to get his take on what important changes he thinks still need to happen in packaging in general, and specifically in pharmaceutical packaging — and why — and then how.

In this Packaging Possibilities podcast, Hollander points to two main areas to focus on:

1. Deepening the understanding of packaging science — and for a great reason.

2. Enabling cross fertilization between the disciplines of packaging engineering and biomedical engineering to advance development of combination products.

Hollander also has sage advice for people entering the packaging field today on nurturing their own village and leveraging today’s packaging and engineering tools.

Hollander-pharma-packaging-quote-web.jpg

Before I asked for those insights, though, I prompted him to tell us about some of his prouder achievements:

• He helped influence the shaping of two packaging guidance documents with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): “Probably one of my prouder moments was when the agency asked me personally, as chair of the pharma packaging work group, to help roll out guidances to the industry and participate in workshops to train industry…. That was really, really cool.”

• He helped set best packaging practices for new product launches at Pfizer, with learnings from the mega-launch of blockbuster drug Viagra: “Teamwork, all of that kind of stuff came together really, really well with Viagra and became, you know, our benchmark for how we approach new product launches.”

• Hollander and team figured out how to serialize unit-dose packs to improve patient safety: “The ask started to surface by the FDA to consider putting little barcodes on these things to help hospitals scan,” to prevent drug administration errors. “Through all of the work and understanding that GS1 provided us with and with our site cooperation where we launched this on this old clunky machine, we learned how to print these little tiny bar codes on the existing footprint of the cards that we had with very high quality. Such that, when the hospitals would receive these barcodes, they would scan right first time, every time,” Hollander says. “So really proud of that whole thing.”

These are just some of the highlights from our conversation. It’s entertaining and enlightening to hear his stories. Take a listen.

 

PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES - Season 2: Episode 16

If you have a topic you’d like to propose for a future PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES episode, please email Lisa Pierce at lisa.pierce@informa.com.

 

TRANSCRIPTION IS AUTO GENERATED

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Hello! This is Lisa Pierce, Executive Editor of Packaging Digest, with another episode of Packaging Possibilities, a podcast that reveals what’s new and what’s next for packaging executives and engineers, designers and developers.

In this episode, I’m doing an exit interview with Rich Hollander, who has just retired from the global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after a successful 32-year career, in various roles as a packaging executive. His last title was vice president of Sterile Injectable Technology, where he was kept quite busy there these last couple years in helping the company produce its COVID-19 vaccine.

Before he gets too comfortable in that hammock reading a good book or on the sailboat seeing new lands or whatever retirement has in store for him, I wanted to capture his insights on packaging in general, and pharmaceutical packaging specifically, of course.

Rich, hello, hello. So glad you could talk with us today.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Happy to do so, Lisa. Thanks.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
It's definitely our pleasure. So on LinkedIn, I saw the news that you were retiring from Pfizer, but you say that you are semi-retired. First, congratulations on that. But what does semi-retired mean?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
That means I have to sort it out, quite frankly. So let me start with a couple of things because technically I am retired. It’s been a very long journey, 32 years, but it goes quick, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes it does.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Umm, but I absolutely want to acknowledge a few things that really speaks to what retirement means for me.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
I came to Pfizer in 1990 and I had … I didn’t even know how to spell the word Pfizer, the name Pfizer. I didn’t know what the road was that I was hopping on to. I didn’t know where it would take me. I just took this job with this company called Pfizer. But it was the early 90s, and Pfizer was launching a bunch of really cool new products, which of course meant growth and what growth means is opportunity for people that want to work hard, persist, and just stay motivated. Opportunities are everywhere with growth in a company.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Umm.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
My father gave me some advice and he said do whatever you can to stay with this company because the road that you’re on will take you to really good places. And he was saying it from a place of, you know, retirement eligibility. And if you stay with the company long enough and it, granted this was 32 years ago, right, you would be able to retire, have you know, provide for your family, you’d be able to have, you know, a reasonable health plan. And all of the things that many people aspire to, to actually have. So, you know, I made the made the choice consciously over those years to stick it on this road with Pfizer.

And you know, it’s one thing to say you want to stay with the company. It’s another thing to grow with the company, both professionally and personally. And you know, in my journey in my career, let’s just highlight in 1992 when a very wise man at Pfizer asked me to enter the packaging field, an area that I knew nothing about.

You know, what I quickly realized was that when you work in such a large organization and you have access to experts in the industry, you know the, and you have a quest for knowledge and you’re willing to ask questions to people who are willing to share and answer, it’s an accelerant for learning, professionally, right? And …

“When you work in such a large organization and you have access to experts in the industry … and you have a quest for knowledge and you’re willing to ask questions to people who are willing to share and answer, it’s an accelerant for learning, professionally.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, it definitely is.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
The one thing that I reflect on was when I was transitioning into the role, the person that I was replacing, who was ironically retiring, gave me one piece of wisdom. He said, “Join the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ Drug and Pharmaceutical Packaging Committee.” And this is not a plug for the group as much as it is a big thank you for what they’ve done for me. Early in my career, I realized these guys had tons of experience and knowledge. There wasn’t a problem they hadn’t solved before, that I was going to run into.

And you know, I knew this person was really good at this type of packaging issue, this type of, this person was really good at this type of packaging issue. And I started leveraging it, to the point where I got a lot of knowledge in me in a very short period of time. And I was, in turn, able to contribute back — both within my company and within in the industry. And when you think about reflecting on a career, that gives it the longevity, right, that gives you the inspiration towards an aspiration and I have a ton of people to thank, along the way. The DPPC is certainly one of them.

You know, all of the people at Pfizer that I’ve worked with, both above site, at our sites. It doesn’t matter if you were, you know, in the early 90s and you were set-up in panic, helping me understand why this package didn’t run properly. And I just realized, Oh my gosh, if we just changed the tuck flap radius, just a hair, we’ll get rid of that jam for you. No problem. All of that kind of knowledge and wisdom that I accumulated over the years came from people and am very appreciative of that because that’s really what propelled me all the way through to retirement.

“All of that kind of knowledge and wisdom that I accumulated over the years came from people and am very appreciative of that because that’s really what propelled me all the way through to retirement.”

OK, so that’s the reflection on kind of what retirement means for me, and I’m very, very gracious.

But you asked about, you know, what semi-retired really means, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So the first thing it means and like so I’m only in week number two. So I just retired on July 1st and I haven’t yet dialed the process in. So far, what I could tell you is I’m able to define my schedule every day, right? So, Lisa, like we talked earlier, I’m doing this interview with you. Next thing I’m, let’s go work on my boat so I can go fishing tomorrow. I gotta get the boat, the engine working again. So and I think a lot of people are aware that I have two young boys, 11 and 14 years old. One’s entering middle school, one’s entering high school, and I’m already finding myself spending a lot more quality time with them. Even if it’s just in the mornings before they’re going to camp. I can take them to camp, I can pick them up from camp, I can go for a family swim after camp with them because I have no meetings during the day, right?

Image courtesy of Rich HollanderRich-Hollander-boating-web.jpg

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Oh, that’s fantastic.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So that that is just a privilege, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
I plan on catching a lot of fish this summer. We’re doing OK so far. I’m hopping on a Peloton pretty much four days a week right now. So I don’t think I’m ever going to run marathons again, but I’m gonna get my body back in shape.

You know, like everybody, there’s a million house projects to work on that are now starting to come into my … coming from the peripheral vision to my primary vision because I have the time to start focusing on them.

And then like the semi-retired part, right. So I know I’m not done working. I know there’s still plenty of fuel in my tank. So what am I gonna do? How am I gonna do it? You know, the only thing I know for sure is I’m gonna work for myself and put myself out there. Advise, consult, help companies get out of trouble when they’re in them. Whatever I can do. But it’ll be different, right? Because it’s, you know, your schedule, what you choose to do, and you have complete control of your destiny.

And like I said, I don’t know what it really means, but we’ll see pretty much in September, I think, when it starts to cool off here on Cape Cod, the fish start heading South, the kids need to go back to school, and normalcy kind of hits me in the head really hard.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Sure. And that fits perfectly with “on your schedule” definitely. It’ll be exciting to see what comes up with that because, Rich, you’re now in the position to be that guy that you used to rely on when you were first starting out and coming up through the ranks. So you’re the one now who’s got the 32 years of experience and knowledge to then share with whoever you know needs it.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
You know what, it does excite me to be able to give back, number one. You know my background is industrial engineering. I like to help fix things. I like problems that need to be solved. So if some of the knowledge that I’ve been gifted with through these 32 years is going to help others, then absolutely, I want to be sharing it.

“… if some of the knowledge that I’ve been gifted with through these 32 years is going to help others, then absolutely, I want to be sharing it.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Ah. Fantastic.

Rich, during your career though, can you think back and tell us a few things that maybe stand out as, you know, the most important things you feel that you’ve done in your career and then why do those stand out for you?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So let me start by saying, it was never “me.” Umm, I might have been an idea guy. I might have been the one stirring the drink, but it was a definite “we” thing. I’ve always been surrounded by experts. People much smarter than me. People that will course-correct me, tap me on the shoulder and say look over there. So let me just say, this is not what Rich Hollander did. This is what the village has done.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Noted.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So with that kind of learning, I started realizing, you know, when it comes to packaging and regulatory guidance, there’s not a lot out there. This was the mid-90s, right.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Um-hum. Yep.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
That kind of led into this pharma packaging work group getting together, which was really all of my, you know, senior peers that I talked about from the DPPC and positioning ourselves to help shape regulatory policy with the agencies directly through this packaging technical committee that the agency had had.

And you know, lots of meetings, lots of years. But in 1999, two packaging guidances were issued. One that made it very clear what information was required to be submitted and a registration package. The second was how to approach post-approval changes from a regulatory perspective.

Image courtesy of Peter Probst / Alamy Stock PhotoFDA-logo-Alamy-2D67AY0-web.jpg

So we influenced the shaping of both of those guidances and probably one of my prouder moments was when the agency [Food and Drug Administration] asked me personally, as chair of the pharma packaging work group, to help roll out guidances to the industry and participate in workshops to train industry, how to interpret what they were putting out there. So that was really, really cool.

“Probably one of my prouder moments was when the agency asked me personally, as chair of the pharma packaging work group, to help roll out guidances to the industry and participate in workshops to train industry…. That was really, really cool.”

So all good, win-win.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Definitely win-win. And you know, Rich, one of the things that I like about that is that it was a value add for your company. So you were doing what you were paid to do, but it also was the advantage of the entire industry as you say.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So. Thank you, Lisa. I think I often forget that, you know, when I get inspired to lead outside of Pfizer — and there’s a couple of other examples I’ll go through — it’s really because it’s the only way I can make my job easier within Pfizer, right?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
True. What’s in it for me?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
It’s actually very selfish. It comes across as well, you know, Rich Hollander is this guy who, you know, influences agencies or, you know, the work that we could talk about in a minute, and I’ll talk about the work that we did with partnering with GS1 to make the right impact on serialization, 2D barcode versus RFID and the and the application identifiers that we use today every day on every one of our products. But it was really about, how do I … I say make my job easier. But really what I’m trying to do is enable change in a space where regulations weren’t well defined, or minimize spend on capital, because we don’t have industry standards and, without industry standards, things can run amok. And when you work for a very large multinational company like I do or I have, I should say, it can get very expensive when you don’t have standards, global standards, in place to follow. So at least when it came to packaging regulations, we were able to make a pretty good inroad here in the US. And I think, you know, nowadays I think we’re fairly consistent with how we approach packaging changes.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Excellent. So you set a procedure for making industry changes, which didn’t exist before. Kudos to you for doing that.

Before we hear more from Rich about some other highlights from his career, as well as his advice for the packaging industry moving forward, let’s take a short break for a special message.

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Lisa Pierce here with Packaging Digest. If you are enjoying this podcast, I’ve got good news for you. There are more episodes with insights from other packaging executives at brand owner companies, including tuna giant Bumble Bee Foods, food and confections leader Mars, alcohol-beverage manufacturer Absolut, and snack-king Frito-Lay. Find these and other conversations at packagingdigest.com/packaging-possibilities-podcast. Now, back to our current episode to learn more.

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Lisa McTigue Pierce
So you said you had a couple other examples. Like what?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Umm, so you know, we launched a lot of new products while I …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Some of which I covered as a media journalist, yeah.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Yeah. That’s right.

So you know in the early 90s we called it … you know, we had, I think five or six blockbuster products that we introduced, all solid dosage forms. And then in the late 90s, of course, we had Viagra, which, you know, made Pfizer a household name. But, you know, one thing about the Viagra launch, right? It’s interesting for many, many different reasons, right. Novel therapeutic area. Nobody’s really talked about it before.

Image courtesy of CanvaPfizer-Viagra-web.jpg

So we did a lot of really cool things. Probably the thing that I’m most proud of in that situation was teamwork, all of that kind of stuff came together really, really well with Viagra and became, you know, our benchmark for how we approach new product launches. And the new standard was set, if you will, in terms of expectations.

“Teamwork, all of that kind of stuff came together really, really well with Viagra and became, you know, our benchmark for how we approach new product launches.”

And then you know, some cool stuff happened with Viagra, right? We got introduced to the need to use anti-counterfeiting technologies, in our products, on our packaging. We learned a lot over the next three or four years and …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, there were a lot of new technologies that were just emerging at that point too.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So new technologies swiped from other industries, reapplied into our industry, which was really, really cool.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
So I know a couple of the things that I remember that you and I worked on as, for articles in the past, were the Listerine strips, which was a totally new product format that created a lot of challenges on the packaging design and production side of things, but also was, again, a way of you forging new ground in that.

And then the whole just growth of unit dose. Those are the two things that really stand out for me.

Any comments on those?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So you know the Listerine PocketPaks was a very novel dosage form with a very novel container-closure system. And the fortunate thing about that is it had tremendous volume behind it for a single product, right. So you don’t often have that kind of situation where you’ve got a novel technology that immediately has high volume behind it. It’s good because it helps you establish a platform for how are you going to, you know, get the strips into little packets, seal, label those little packs, and then put them in bigger blister packs. Right? But it’s all novel. So nothing was easy on that. And I give, you know, this was our site in Lititz, PA, and another one in Parsippany, that were doing the lion share of all of that operational work. It was no easy task, but they did incredibly well.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Well, what strikes me about that, from what I remember, Rich, is you started with the one packaging line. And as you say, had a lot of innovations in just how do we do this, figuring out how do we do this since it was all new. But then like I say, what really struck me about it is, when talking with you, as you were setting up your second line, instead of just replicating it, which would have gotten you, you know, double the production as fast as possible, you guys, again, you know, the team, looked at it and said, what could we do better? You were always looking at, Yeah, this is how we did it, but can it still be improved? Not can it still be improved. Kind of like a secret is, you don’t ask the “can” question, you ask the “how” question. How can this be improved?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Yeah, sometimes it falls into your lap, though, to be honest with you, Lisa. You know you can do better just by watching it, right? Just you look at the number of microstops, you look at your runtime efficiencies and you say, hmm, what’s wrong with this overall design? And then just acknowledge it and say we’re gonna do better on the next one.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Great.

What about the unit dose?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So unit dose is an interesting one for me. Unit-dose packaging, you know, and let’s frame it, right. So, for solid dosage forms, unit-dose packaging usually means a blister card that’s, you know, perforated 2 by 5, 10 of those in a box. And we sell it to hospitals, right? So it’s not a high volume, you know, operation in any of our sites. But it’s something that we produce specifically for institutional use.

And there was a gap. The gap is that hospitals around the world are very focused on patient safety and yet the number one issue that exists in hospitals, is dispensing errors, right? So they’re getting their technologies. We all acknowledge dispensing as a problem, but we’ve got these little tiny blister packs that are usually printed one color: black on top of white or sometimes black on top of aluminum foil. And it’s really hard to visually see a difference between any of these medicines. So, the ask started to surface by the FDA to consider putting little barcodes on these things to help, you know, hospitals scan. And I remember very well, there was a lot of push-back from industry not wanting to do it because it’s relatively low volume. We’re gonna have to make bigger blister packs. We’re gonna have any efficiencies that are, you know, gonna be innate to doing this, because now we’ve got to print product identification, maybe lot number and expiration date, on the back of every single cavity.

And I didn’t know how to do it.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Well, nobody at that point was printing online, on the packaging line, variable information in a, you know, human and automated-readable mode. So that again was trailblazing. And I remember, Rich, at the time, you were the one who taught me the impetus behind this was the Five Rights of Medication Administration to try to minimize or even eliminate errors, dispensing errors that you mentioned. So refresh my memory, it’s the Right Patient …

Rich Hollander (Guest)
All right.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
The Right Dose, the Right Drug.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Right Product, Right Dose, Right Time. Uh, you’re really testing me now. It’s been a while since I’ve …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Right Route, Right Route.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Right Route of Administration. That was it. Yep, and …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
So that’s the five of them.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
And you know, I was actually very inspired I personally witnessed a dispensing error in a hospital that was caught by accident by me because I was loosely paying attention. I’m like, that’s not the drug that she told me she was getting. So it was averted, right? But I saw how easy it was and it was for an IV bag, not necessarily a blister pack, so it was easier to see that it was the wrong thing.

Image courtesy of Lisa PierceUnit-dose-barcodes-web.jpg

What happened was, since I didn’t know the first thing about barcoding … well, I’m exaggerating a little bit. I went to GS1. They introduced me to a new barcode symbology that they were introducing called, at the time, it was called the RSS Reduced Space Symbology composite barcode — now it’s known as the DataBar — which was a linear barcode that worked almost like a two-dimensional barcode. We had to put linear barcodes on because nobody had 2D scanners at back in the late 90s, early 2000s. So we had to stick with linear. Anyway, through all of the work and understanding that GS1 provided us with and with our site cooperation where we launched this on this old clunky machine, we learned how to print these little tiny bar codes on the existing footprint of the cards that we had with very high quality. Such that, when the hospitals would receive these barcodes, they would scan right first time, every time.

So really proud of that whole thing.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Great. Well, so many good things and I know you’ve got a ton other stories. But I wanted to ask, let’s look ahead just a little bit. Rich, really want to hear from you on what important changes that you think still need to happen, either in packaging in general or, you know, pharmaceutical packaging. And then how can they happen?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So I’d say two main areas. The first one is, you know, the science of packaging. I think we all need to continue to work with the health authorities around the world to understand the science of packaging — material science, performance aspects of that — so that regulatory pathways continue to develop and accelerate in terms of enabling innovation, new technologies, alternate materials.

“We all need to continue to work with the health authorities around the world to understand the science of packaging … so that regulatory pathways continue to develop and accelerate in terms of enabling innovation, new technologies, alternate materials.”

Because what has happened because of our clunky regulatory pathways … you know, quite frankly, we still make stoppers the way we made them 75 years ago — vulcanization, lots of excipients thrown into a pot, mixed, extruded, or calendar and extruded, you know, pressed into stoppers.

There’s a reason it’s still that way. Part of it is, we’re locked in from a stability perspective on all those specific excipients; part of it is, people don’t really understand the process and what it … risk assess it to really understand the impact to our products. So as a result, we don’t do anything and everything requires full stability and a prior-approval supplement, right? Or submission rather. So I think if we can continue the charge to help deepen the understanding of the regulators and how components are made, what we use to make them, so that they can help us embrace new technologies — it could be injection molded stoppers; it could be new formulations for glass that don’t scratch, crack, and break, right. That’s cool stuff.

“If we can continue the charge to help deepen the understanding of the regulators and how [packaging] components are made, what we use to make them, so that they can help us embrace new technologies … That’s cool stuff.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Mm-hmm. Yes.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
But if we’re handcuffed by, you know, regulatory positions that would require stability on every single product, you know, it’s going to be a slow march towards the goal line, right? So that’s one area that we just, as an industry, we need to keep that drive alive.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Rich, if I could just mention here regarding stability, the … there is a group on the medical device side of things that is working on streamlining the stability testing processes for medical device packaging and that also is the Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee of the IoPP, Institute of Packaging Professionals. So as you were saying earlier, there’s cross fertilization. You took a technology from one market and applied it to your market. There might be some synergy there from the medical device folks.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
You know, that’s a great point. You know, in recent years, Pfizer, you know, has created a very strong medical device, we call it Combination Product Team.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Drug-device development, right?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Well, we have that in R&D, but in manufacturing, we also have very strong Combination Products Team that handles all of our … they actually manage, you know, our design history files. They’re, they are the authors of them. They take ownership of the design history file when the product gets approved.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So clearly they’re managing all of the post-approval changes that go on.

But I have noticed that, you know, we certainly seem to be hiring a lot of biomedical engineers into this space and they’re brilliant, quite frankly. But the opportunity for sure is cross fertilization between what we’ve traditionally called the package engineer that some are very good at performance, some are very good at materials characterization and material science piece of it. But blurring the lines between those two fields and taking the best from both to influence regulatory understanding would be really … that’s something that I think the whole industry should figure out how to do.

“The opportunity for sure is cross fertilization between what we’ve traditionally called the package engineer [and biomedical engineers] … Blurring the lines between those two fields and taking the best from both to influence regulatory understanding … that’s something that I think the whole industry should figure out how to do.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. So maybe in September, someone who might have some time on his hands could help facilitate that.

OK, so important changes that you think still need to happen though, Rich.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
So another one that I really would like to see. You know, it’s not my area of expertise, but I’m going to say I’ve been victimized by it throughout my career. It’s the lead times associated with equipment.

You know, they’re ridiculous.

“Another [change] that I really would like to see. … I’ve been victimized by it throughout my career. It’s the lead times associated with equipment. … They’re ridiculous.”

It’s like 12 to 18… so you know if there, if an equipment lead time has 12 to 18 months before it’s delivered, okay, and typically, you know, the pharma manufacturer is 12 months late in recognizing the need for the new equipment, we’ve got a, it’s a mess, right? So, if there was an opportunity to get our OEMs — could be blister packaging, bottle filling equipment, it could be, you know, fillers …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Something new. Mm-hmm.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
… pill inspection, anything, to move from a kind of make-to-order business where they don’t really do anything until they get our 30% down payment — I’m exaggerating of course — but if we can get them to an assembled-order or configure-to-order kind of business, I think you know, number one, their sales are going to go up, number two, our needs are going to be met that much faster, and opportunities will open up that much easier. Because oftentimes when we’re trying to implement a new technology, we’re trying to get equipment to coincide with it, right. But if the new technology — container-closure system or whatever — is tied to a new piece of equipment that it’s going to take me 12 to 18 months, it kind of puts a damper on the new technology, right.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Well, Rich, hasn’t some of that been addressed in the, you know, over the last couple of decades, we’ve been seeing a lot of machinery manufacturers design modular systems so that they could almost do assemble to order. Hasn’t that helped?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
It’s starting to help. We’re starting to see it. Inherently those lead times are going to be shorter than, you know, designing and configuring from scratch basically, which is what the old way of doing it is. But that’s only in specific spaces. Am I seeing that, I’m not seeing it everywhere, where it’s modularized.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, I think maybe a little bit more on the secondary packaging side rather than on primary packaging because so much is dependent on what the product is.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Exactly. And the volume, right. The portfolio of products that are going on that line and things like that. But, so, you know, so modular is a really good idea. But you know before you go … because modular is a design concept, if you will, right. If an OEM is going to make 25 machines a year or 50 machines a year or 75 machines a year, right, we should have the right number of PLCs on stock. We should have the right number of motors on stock. We have the right number of whatever the key consistent components are. They shouldn’t have to be going back to the well every time. Because what happens is the supply chain issues that we’re all facing these days just get exacerbated, because you’re kind of starting from scratch, right. So I know I’m exaggerating to make a point though. But I think if we can get those lead times for new equipment closer to six months than 18 months, industry is going to be a heck of a lot better off when it comes to adopting new technologies, new approaches to doing things.

“If we can get those lead times for new equipment closer to six months than 18 months, industry is going to be a heck of a lot better off when it comes to adopting new technologies, new approaches to doing things.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. Well, it would be nice to see some movement in that area as well and that will not just benefit the pharmaceutical industry, but that would benefit the entire … any packaging line, production line at all.

So, this is wonderful. I love picking your brain. I knew this was going to be a great interview, but I do want to ask. So what advice do you have for people who are maybe just entering the packaging field today?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Ooh, boy, they’re the ones that should be advising me to be honest with you. They … you know, what I’m seeing coming out of schools these days is just absolute brilliance, you know.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
I agree.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
It’s very clear, the way they teach the science is outstanding. I also think the way people are being educated in college today is with a whole bunch of different tools than I was, had access to. You know the example I used, I like to use is like, you know, as an engineer, you know certain classes … you’ll like certain classes. You didn’t like, like stats? I hated stats, right? And I think a lot of people kind of feel the same way. And I think it has to do with how it was taught and the fact that we’re all using TI55s and things like that. And it was just a pain in the neck. So we just, like, we got through it, right.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
What’s a TI-55? I don’t even know. An old calculator?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Yes, exactly.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Sorry. So anyway. You know, when I have a need to have something you know analyzed, traditionally I would have to call out the statistician, right. And then he’d feed it back to me and tell me if I was OK or not. And, you know, use a whole bunch of terms that I, quite frankly, had to ask, what does it mean? Can you tell me, am I in good or am I bad? Do I have more work to do? Right. So I struggled in this space. And I think a lot of us have. But, you know, these kids come out of school today, like, they do the stats themselves, as if it, you know, was cursive handwriting. They know how to do it. It’s not a problem; it’s a tool in the toolbox. When I need it, I use it as part of my problem-solving and analytical toolkit, right? So it’s that kind of stuff that I say makes them get through technical issues that much faster. Right. So we always say we learn through technical issues, right. You know, it’s a School of Hard Knocks. But that’s not necessarily fun, solving technical issues. The fun part is really the innovation and looking forward and, you know, breaking through on new technologies. And you have to have time to be able to do that. So if you can use your toolkit effectively to get through those technical issues faster, you have that much more free time to go after the cool stuff, right, that you couldn’t get to otherwise.

What I say to these early career professionals entering the packaging field is use your toolkit as best you possibly are schooled and ask a lot of questions to a lot of people that have been around the block for a long time so that you can find where to apply your tools to make the biggest impact.

“What I say to these early career professionals entering the packaging field is use your toolkit as best you possibly are schooled and ask a lot of questions to a lot of people that have been around the block for a long time so that you can find where to apply your tools to make the biggest impact.”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
One of the things that I always try to take advantage of when new people come into my sphere is to ask them, as an outsider — because you’re looking at things with fresh eyes and the advantage of fresh eyes is so powerful — I always ask them, what should we be doing differently? Because sometimes they might have an idea that doesn’t work, but at least it gets that thought process … you have to start thinking differently if you want to innovate. You really do.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
And surround yourself with like-minded people because, you know, ideas need to be greenhoused to be effective, right. And then you’re going to need that same village of people that helped you greenhouse that idea to make it a reality.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, wonderful. So, Rich, let’s just finish quickly here with … so you’re going to enjoy your summer and then, in the fall, you’re going to be semi-working instead of semi-retired. I’m going to call it semi-working. So how can people reach you in the fall?

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Yeah, so reach me on my email rdhollander5@gmail.com. I’m going to work on a better email [as of 7-18-22, his email is rich@rdhollander.com], but for sure you can reach me there. I’m going to come up with a more professional email at some point, but that’s what I have right now.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK. And what I’ll do is, with this podcast, we also do the transcript. So I’ll make sure that the email is hyperlinked in the transcript. People could definitely reach you from there.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
Great.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Rich, wonderful conversation with you. So good to talk with you and thank you so much for doing a little bit of a brain dump before you head off on your boat.

Rich Hollander (Guest)
My pleasure, Lisa.

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