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Things Change

By AICC Staff

May 20, 2020

Many new cars now come equipped with satellite GPS dashboards that show you the best route from point A to point B. For most of us, it is rarely necessary to turn it on, as we mostly drive the same routes all the time—to work, to school, to the store—normal places we go to again and again. Sometime for fun, punch in a destination and a route you have driven hundreds of times, and see the results. Most times the optimum route selected by the navigation system takes you the way you always go. But every now and then, you find out there was a better route that you never knew about. Usually the time-savings would be minor and hardly worth noting. Occasionally, the new route is a real time-saver, but if you are like most people, you stay with what you know and avoid the change. We prefer what is familiar over change.

Today, everything has changed with the advent of the coronavirus. Nothing is familiar. Our lives are off-kilter.

Most everyone was caught flat-footed. Few companies had contingency plans for a pandemic with no remedy in sight. Schools are closed, businesses are shuttered, travel is disrupted or abandoned, and the phrase “social distancing” is now actually part of our lexicon.

World War II did not stop baseball. This year, there is a very strong possibility that the full season may be called off. Restaurants are closed, airplanes are nearly empty, colleges have dismissed early, and the American lifestyle has been altered beyond recognition.

Rethinking Your Business

The packaging industry was granted a waiver by the federal government to continue operating its plants and producing products. It was deemed critical to the economy for the packaging companies to keep running for fear the entire economy would collapse without shipping containers.

The plants are producing, goods are flowing, but for how long? What happens if someone on your staff becomes infected? Working from home is a viable solution for many information workers, but there is no such option for the machine operators, mechanics, drivers, and dozens of other positions in a converting plant. You can’t take your rotary die cutter and work from home.

Those of us who have spent time in the plants and understand how things really work may have a different view of priorities as opposed to those who have to manage the bottom line. If the president of a company does not show up to work, his absence has minimal impact on the daily production. If his baler operator walks out of the plant, the company is paralyzed in a matter of hours. We have to reexamine and rethink the enterprise.

Cross-training, continuing education, seminars, and documentation are helpful in this regard, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience in every aspect of the business.

Every Marine a Rifleman

The U.S. Marines are the pointed end of the sword when bad things happen. They are the among the most respected military services in the world. Every Marine, ranking from private to general is, at their core, a rifleman. They pride themselves on that capability. Regardless of rank or station, a Marine will do what is required.

If you work in the packaging industry, regardless of your position or job title, at your core, you are a boxmaker—and if you are not, you should learn.

Every member of the staff should know exactly what each machine’s purpose is and how it works. Each person in the office should spend time in the plant—working, not watching—to understand how the business and machinery work and how all the pieces come together.

Plant staff should spend time in the office to understand all the work that is done upfront, so that when the order hits the machines, everything is carefully defined and measured to ensure that every order runs perfectly.

And it sure would not hurt if some of the executives learned how to drive a forklift and work a second or third shift sometimes to hone their skills.

Keep the Troops Engaged

Though modern machines are amazingly automated, your staff is not. They need to know they are important; they need to know that they are valued and respected. They need to know the sacrifice is shared among all members on the staff equally.

We all hope this pandemic ends soon. But the values of shared sacrifice, cross-department training, and management engagement on the factory floor should be values that continue far past our current challenges.

PortraitJohn Clark is director of analytics at Amtech Software. He can be reached at