Pack Expo 2006: Be open to change to stay ahead, keynoter advises

By Control Engineering Staff November 7, 2006
Pack Expo International, held last week at Chicago’s McCormick Place, was expected to draw 50,000, including visitors from more than 75 countries. (Photo by Mark Hoske)

Chicago, IL —Advice on how to succeed (apply market knowledge to your products before your customers know about the trends), greater flexibility, speed to market, and training effectiveness were among concerns raised on the opening day of Pack Expo International. The 50th anniversary show, produced and sponsored by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), was held here Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

Explaining how “Packaging can be a change-agent in change,” keynote speaker Harris DeLoach, chairman, president, and CEO of Sonoco Products , noted that rapidly changing influences in the packaging industry “present unique opportunities. It’s best not to be fixated on the past.” Engineers sometimes are guilty of trying to find a market for current offerings, instead of doing research into materials and trends and offering suggestions on how to add value. Other suggestions from DeLoach included offering innovations that are flexible, fast, and convenient; contribute to consumer safety; are environmentally sound; provide differentiation; help elderly customers; attract young talent into packaging engineering; and challenge the status-quo.

“Willingness to change will separate those who are successful from those who are not,” DeLoach said. More automation is a given, DeLoach told Control Engineering after the address, but even more important is staying ahead on research and development, especially on trends and material sciences.

Keeping an open mind to newer ways also was among threads of discussion in another session: “How new technology has affected equipment training and bottom-line results.” Marc Soucy, senior staff engineering at the Hershey Co ., says all training requires relevant content, assessment of skills, and appropriate delivery. The last point, Soucy admits, sours some staff who may like a more traditional classroom setting, compared to a more blended, computer-based approach.

John Kowal, global marketing manager for motion-technology provider Elau , noted a need for a higher base of understanding among those in the plant. Programming should be modular, not linear, he recommended, for more efficient preservation of knowledge. Sequential function chart programming, among the five IEC 61131-3 languages, is a great way to organize, Kowal said. He also advised of the need to break old habits. “If a machine is properly designed and implemented, you shouldn’t be tweaking it anymore.” It’s like the difference between older cars that benefited from frequent tuning, he suggested, and newer, computerized automobiles that need adjustment rarely and only with appropriate computers, software, and training.

“We have an older workforce coming to us for training,” added Kenneth Ryan, director of manufacturing automation research, Alexandria Technical Colleg e. Getting the right blend of instruction can be challenging, he agreed. “There’s often pushback from some learners even as technology is rapidly accelerating.” Small class size and hands-on technology opportunities help considerably, all agreed.

For related coverage, search Pack Expo in the search box atop any page of Control Engineering Online .

Click here to watch streaming video profiles about packaging suppliers and their products from PackExpo show management.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief