When readers feel compelled to write to Packaging World we listen-especially when it appears we've struck a chord. In recent months we've received several comments. Our two-part outsourcing survey examined the trend towards outsourcing packaging functions (see PW Jan. '98 p. 34 and Dec. '97 p. 28). Sara Lee mentioned in the story is banking on the outsourcing of all its manufacturing operations to concentrate on marketing as a key to increasing shareholder value. However the survey uncovered one seemingly incongruent fact-that nearly half of respondents reported no increase in plant efficiency as a result of outsourcing. That caught the eye of Carl D. Melville vp marketing The Power Group which owns contract packager Power Packaging. "The plant efficiency question and its initially puzzling response actually masks a larger issue: removing assets from the balance sheet" Melville wrote us. "While Sara Lee certainly wants to focus on core competencies it also sees huge benefits in removing untold millions of dollars of assets from its balance sheet-drastically boosting its revenue per employee return on assets deployed and most importantly overall economic value added. The net effect of all this is huge-even if net plant efficiency (measured as a case price or other metric) remains static." Of course for firms like Mr. Melville's outsourcing is a welcome trend: "The current boardroom level of interest in outsourcing and focusing on core competencies is driving our growth at record levels" he writes. "Your survey echoes many of the trends we are witnessing."