On a recent business trip, I was having dinner with some folks when the conversation turned to what it is that I do. They knew my job title — they wanted specifics. Answering this question is always a challenging exercise. None of us wants to be defined by how we earn our daily bread, yet all of us want to let people know how (or that) we fit into this larger picture we loosely define as society.
My response, and I really hadn't seen the question coming this time, was that my job is to hold up the mirror. To be the eyes, ears and, yes, sometimes the mouth, for thousands of people who cannot be present at an event, or aren't able to make a visit to some exotic location or business establishment.
For a moment I thought I had lost my audience with my opening gambit. However, they got it! I was particularly pleased when one fellow, a company VP, said that it must be a rewarding career. And it is.
Then he asked, how do I (or can I) learn so much, so fast, on so many different topics from month to month? I told him that I find my voice in the words of others. And it's true.
One term I found years ago in the words of others is transport packaging. Packaging guru Al McKinlay was the first person I can recall using the term, late in the last century, to define all the pieces and parts of packaging as they relate to material handling.
I liked the term, co-opted it and convinced our publisher at the time (May 1995) to change the name of my column to reflect more accurately what I write about. My column had been called Packaging for Productivity the previous eight or nine years. Productivity was a good word; however the buzz of the word was beginning to sound like static and productivity had lost its zing to words like quality and customer service.
Transport Packaging! Now, there was a term that said it all. Well, almost all. Actually, it appears the words, in fact, said too much. Some folks could just not get past the transport word. To them it said trucks, trains, ships and planes. Exactly.
Well, we're changing things again. This special section on Protective Packaging you're holding will become a regular feature in Material Handling Management starting early in 2004. It will look, feel and smell a lot like what you're currently reading.
And before you call or write, telling me the term protective packaging was used long ago (and is possibly a redundancy), let me say, I know all of that. However, protective transport packaging for productivity is what we, in the material handling industry, are all about.
Thanks for sticking with us through the changes. I enjoy your letters (particularly the ones written in crayon) and e-mail. I'm always open to suggestions and change. E-mail me at [email protected] if you think I'm not doing it write.
And the fact that the term, protective packaging, is kind of retro doesn't bother me, either. I still think the last cool car built was the '57 Chevy — or maybe the '71 Porsche 914.