Rob Hammond (Division Chair), Mica Corporation; Rory Wolf (Vice Chair), Enercon Industries; Jim Lush (Secretary), Celplast Metallized Products; Tom Dunn (Technical Team), Flexpacknology; Brad Kramer (Marketing Team), NOVA Chemicals; Kelly Frey (Products Team), Chevron Phillips Chemical.
Cumulatively, there is well over 100 years of experience among the interviewees.
Q: What is TAPPI PLACE?A: Hammond: As many people in packaging know, TAPPI is the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry. But, many people don’t know is that there is a division within TAPPI that supports the flexible packaging industry, called PLACE, which stands for Polymers, Laminations, Adhesives, Coatings, and Extrusions; and helps the packaging industry connect up and down the value chain through primary and secondary packaging. PLACE enjoys the resources and staff of a large TAPPI organization, while also having our own focused identity.
Q: Who typically joins TAPPI PLACE?A: Kramer: Our typical members are entry-level and mid-level professionals in the flexible packaging industry, but we also attract students in packaging, on up to retirees who have a place within our division to share their vast experience. Our members are line operators, supervisors, engineers, purchasing reps, sales/marketing reps, and even packaging company executives. The single common thread is a willingness to share technical information and network with others.
Q: Can you please share a quick update of the just completed conference?A: Hammond: We had a fantastic TAPPI PLACE 2012 Conference in Seattle. Our conference theme was “Helping Me Do My Job Better” and the attendance was a strong 288. Our attendees represented material suppliers, equipment suppliers, converters, brand owners, and students. Of our attendees, there were 113 companies represented, a marked increase from our last conference in 2010. Our attendees heard excellent keynotes from Brent Denniston of Starbucks and Gail Tavill of ConAgra detailing their initiatives and future needs in the packaging industry. We enjoyed sponsorships from 22 total companies; with premier sponsors Dow Chemicals (Welcome Reception) and NOVA Chemicals (Gala Dinner Cruise), as well as many others.
Q: What were the main technical themes for the conference?A: Dunn: Our primary technical themes were new materials and new equipment advances, but we also had several presenters discuss innovations in applications development, and we also held an interactive brand owner panel discussion which highlighted challenges and goals facing brand owners.
Our interactive session offered direct real-time feedback and audience participation, which led to a great discussion about future brand owner packaging needs. This use of new technology and interaction is something we want to continue to work on in coming events.
Q: What makes TAPPI PLACE the venue of choice for the flexible packaging industry?A: Lush: We see TAPPI PLACE as the premier destination for those in the packaging value chain to teach, learn, and network. We highly encourage networking among members, as a way to solve problems and help do their job better.
At this year’s conference, for example, we implemented a Mentor or Guide program, whereby we assigned repeat attendees with new attendees, with the goal of helping to facilitate further connections and introductions. Our conference feedback suggests this program was a hit, and we will be looking at how to implement further into our division and for upcoming events.
Q: What events are next for the TAPPI PLACE division?A: Hammond: Our TAPPI PLACE Conference is held every 2 years, but we have a lot of on-going planning right now. Our EuroPLACE team is working on next year’s conference in Dresden, Germany from May 6-9, 2013. In addition, we are co-hosting the CETEA Packaging conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil in October of this year, and we’re planning one of our premier offerings, the Extrusion Coating Short Course, on the Michigan State University Campus from August 27-29, 2012. Holding a PLACE course on a college campus will be a first for us, and this is exciting. For those who are interested, our short course is designed for new engineers and operators in the extrusion coating area, at any company in the value chain. We are also planning a Golf Fundraiser in conjunction with this event.
Q: What are the PLACE Division marketing goals for the upcoming year?A: Kramer: Well, first of all, we want to build upon the energy and success of the just completed conference. Membership recruitment and volunteer recruitment for our teams remain a high priority. We want to make sure we get the word out that TAPPI membership offers something to everyone, professionally, but personally, too.
Next, we want to put out quality offerings to the industry. Simply put, our main focus is the packaging industry and our primary goal is to facilitate networking of top packaging converters, with material suppliers, and brand owners. Finally, for those who have new ideas and want to help the organization grow and develop, we continue to look for volunteers to execute team initiatives and tasks.
Q: What other products are you working on this year?A: Frey: The Products team is really excited about our offerings and work activity this year. We plan to digitize the bestselling Roll and Web Defect Terminology Handbook and turn it into a more comprehensive and interactive troubleshooting guide for the flexible packaging industry.
We are updating our Film Extrusion and Extrusion Coating Manuals and working on a new comprehensive Barrier Handbook. The Products team is also gearing up to produce a full series of webinars on topics relevant to the flexible packaging industry.
Q: How has PLACE been working with its younger members?A: Wolf: Thanks for asking. I would say our largest opportunity continues to be how to better reach the industry and enable connections. To that goal, we are working hard specifically with two groups of members, students and young professionals. Our Student Outreach program was initiated about three years ago and continues to pay off. We have visited most of the packaging schools in the US, to encourage their participation with the hope to set up a local chapter.
In addition, TAPPI holds a Student Summit, where PLACE is also present. This year, there were two award winners at the TAPPI PLACE Student Poster Session, and we are actively fundraising to further support our outreach efforts. Our PLACE Lebowski Bowling Fundraiser was a hit, as well.
Finally, with the realization that our existing membership demographic continues to age, we have re-invigorated our Young Professionals team. We are hoping this team can assist all three working teams to better understand what young professionals in packaging need in order to continue to develop their careers.
Q: If I'm interested in joining or being more involved, where can I learn more?A: Lush: Please visit our website at http://www.tappiplace.org. We also have popular pages on LinkedIn (TAPPI PLACE Division), Facebook, and Twitter. Please drop by and be part of our virtual community.