Association Report: PMMI

Commitment to its industry and membership has advanced this association to world leadership.

The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) has been around since 1933. This trade association for manufacturing companies in the packaging industry now numbers 509 members. It held its first Pack Expo trade show in Cleveland in 1956, when 136 exhibitors displayed their wares for 5,000 attendees. Compare that with this year's November event in Chicago, expected to attract nearly 2,000 exhibitors and an anticipated 47,000 attendees. You quickly see this is an association that does it right.

We talked with Chuck Yuska, president, PMMI, about the successful formula of this dynamic organization.

MHM: What was the impetus for the organization and has that changed in the last 71 years?

Yuska: Originally, the organization was formed to address federal and state business issues. Over time, we became more internally focused, finding ways to help the membership and, eventually, the association became synonymous with its trade show, Pack Expo.

MHM: What generated the success and staying power of PMMI?

Yuska: Primarily it's been a strong commitment, on the part of PMMI, to the packaging industry in general, from the supplier and the end-user perspectives. From the members' perspective, the association has created a sense of trust and responsibility. PMMI has created a number of programs that help members sell and promote their products. Things like the Pack Expo brand of trade shows, PackExpo.com, our Packaging Machinery Technology magazine, the directory we distribute all work in concert. We put together programs that help our members with their company and product promotions.

Internally, we focus on statistics programs that help members run their companies efficiently. We also work hard at putting together meetings that generate peer-to-peer interaction.

MHM: And from an industry perspective?

Yuska: What we [PMMI] are known for is our ability to bring together buyers and sellers that support the packaging of industrial and consumer goods. We create marketplaces. We are known in the industry as the association that can put together an event that meets the needs of packaging-goods consumers.

MHM: Pack Expo feels like more than just a trade show.

Yuska: Right. The show has become part of the industry itself. It's evolved to be the place where everyone in the industry comes together. Obviously, people attend for the technology component, but also the networking and educational opportunities.

MHM: PMMI has had a good 71-year-run. Where is it headed?

Yuska: In the future, PMMI will be working more closely with the other pieces of the supply chain. Packaging is one of those neat things that is not necessarily a market unto itself. It's a function within manufacturing and distribution. There are many opportunities within this organization to reach out to the other pieces of the supply chain to foster and develop closer relationships. The packaging line represents an intricate balance, or cohesiveness, of raw material coming together; the engineering of the package and its movement through the process; and on through the shipping of the product. As a trade association, we can reach out to all the disparate parties and help the industry come to grips with new ways of looking at manufacturing and distribution.

MHM: What are the things your members currently talk about?

Yuska: Everyone seems to be looking at radio frequency identification [RFID] these days and how it will impact its businesses. Many companies are looking at RFID as an opportunity since they're already doing labeling, case sealing and other end-of-the-line things. They're looking at innovative ways to meet their customers' or retailers' demands.

In general terms, there's always the constant search for machines that are faster and more efficient, and that offer a smaller footprint and quicker changeover.

With the plethora of new products that comes onto the market every year, members are constantly searching for new machinery that will meet the productivity demands of their customers.

MHM: What about security?

Yuska: Security is, and always has been, an issue and we've added a packaging security resource center to the show this year. Security is one of the primary reasons for packaging and, in this day and age, that word takes on a whole new set of meanings. Material suppliers and machinery manufacturers will be looking more closely at not only how to make packages more secure, but also how to monitor things that are already packaged.

MHM: Pack Expo is like the United Nations of packaging. What's the feeling about foreign competition?

Yuska: When your membership serves the single largest packaging machinery marketplace in the world, it's safe to say there is always competition. It's been a slow couple of years for the entire industry, but PMMI members still represent oneoutevery-four packaging machines sold around the world. Our members sell approximately $6 billion in machinery, parts and services around the world, and even with increased competition, we are confident PMMI members will continue to innovate and serve their customers around the world.

MHM: With PackExpo.com, PMMI has proven the Internet can be a successful venue for members. How else is the association using the Internet?

Yuska: We currently have 477 virtual exhibitors on the site. What we've seen is that the industry has found new ways to source and promote what they do. We did a study that showed 75 percent of new equipment purchases have some sort of Web component in the purchasing process. That could mean the buyer is using the Web to either find, or eliminate, potential suppliers. We also discovered those buyers come to the trade show for that final look, or to kick the tires, so to speak. Another element of this that pleases us is that the supplier base, often small companies more comfortable with traditional forms of advertising or promotion, is taking up the challenge of creating Internet sites.

With capital equipment purchases, you have to test drive it. With online video, however, the viewer's experience is enhanced. He can see the machine running and, through graphic representation, visualize what the machine is capable of doing. With engineers, however, they still like to go and see the machine running, so again, it brings people to the trade show.

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