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Thank you

Why, you might ask, have I refrained from launching an editor’s column in the six years that I’ve been fortunate enough to be the editor of Packaging World?

I think it’s been a matter of finding a suitable voice. I’ve never been excessively opinionated, and some of the editorial columns in the consumer press that I like best tend to be written by editors with an ax or two to grind. I guess I figured if I couldn’t write a column as edgy as theirs, I shouldn’t write one at all.
Intimidation may have played a role, too. My editorial lineage includes three Packaging Hall of Famers: Sarah Lee Gerrish, now deceased, who taught me an absolute ton; Bob Heitzman, now retired, who hired me into the packaging press in 1983; and Arnie Orloski, also retired, with whom I helped launch the magazine you now hold in your hands and the editor who, more than any other, forced me to grow.
And let’s not forget the Packaging Hall of Famer who made Packaging World possible in the first place: Lloyd Ferguson, president of Summit Publishing. With mentors such as these, I’ve always felt unworthy somehow, or insufficiently experienced to do anything so presumptuous as writing a monthly column. I always pictured Sarah Lee cackling at the thought of such a thing, her horn-rimmed glasses steamed by the sheer effrontery of it all.
And finally, I’ve never viewed myself as much of an expert where packaging is concerned. I’ve always seen the readers of Packaging World as the experts. My only contribution to the business of packaging has been to serve as a conduit of information, an ink-stained messenger gathering up content and delivering it to an audience in the hope that it might be found useful.
But I realized recently that I’ve been wrong, that I should in fact be writing a monthly column about the business of packaging simply because I’m in constant contact with the packaging professionals who make packaging the rich profession it is. That puts me in a unique position to share, in my column, some of the packaging ideas, trends, and insights that don’t always fit neatly into a feature story or a news item.
What finally removed the scales from my eyes was a recent trip to grout manufacturer Laticrete International in Bethany, CT. Shortly after my tour of the sophisticated robotic packaging line that brought me to Connecticut in the first place, I watched Dr. Suresh Patel adjust the angle of a laser coder operating on a bagging line at a Laticrete plant in Oregon. And how did he do this from the opposite side of the continent? By pressing a key on his laptop. Ethernet connectivity and a little software sleight of hand did the rest.
Later, while driving down Connecticut’s lovely Merritt Parkway to my next plant visit in New Jersey, I couldn’t get over what I can only call the futuristic quality of Dr. Patel’s laptop wizardry. I mean seriously, folks, mechanical adjustments to packaging machines aren’t made with the press of a button from several thousand miles away, are they?
Will I report on this technology in the pages of Packaging World? Of course. But only in a column like this can I get beyond the who/what/where/when/why of what I witnessed. Only in a column like this can I convey any sense of how remarkable our business of packaging is. That’s why I think it’s time I started doing this column on a regular basis.
“Co-authoring” the pieces that appear in this space will be a managing editor to die for and a team of writing editors whose insights will serve as a constant resource. Our combined experience in the packaging press totals 110 years. The stability and journalistic excellence this brings to Packaging World represents an investment in quality you don’t typically find in the trade press.
So thank you, Dr. Patel, for bringing about the epiphany that led to this column.
And thank you, Sarah Lee, Bob, Arnie, and Lloyd, for lessons too numerous to number.
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