Happy New Year, PackTalk readers! I have the good fortune of kicking off our 2024 blog, so I’ll try to make it a good one.
February will mark my 30th year in flexible packaging, and I’ve been asked to share some of my experience here. Manufacturing has always felt like a great fit for me personally, with healthcare manufacturing being a clear favorite. The thing I enjoy most about manufacturing is the fact that there is a new challenge to tackle every day. It’s an area where everyone contributes as a part of their daily work, but there’s the added challenge of identifying and solving problems. As a leader, it’s awesome to see someone’s potential for improvement and problem-solving unlocked.
As I said, the bulk of my career has been in healthcare packaging manufacturing, but I’ve also spent time in both food and specialty packaging. Healthcare is hands-down the best because, while you might not see your products on the grocery store shelf, the potential to make a real difference in someone’s life is unmatched. The medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and therapies we package enhance and even save lives.
I’m sure some people think that all manufacturing is the same, but there are critical differences involved in healthcare. To start, the focus on patient safety is where we spend a lot of our time. The level of patience needed in healthcare is different, simply because the stakes are higher. Every change is evaluated thoroughly for its potential impact to the product, and ultimately to patient safety. It also takes longer to make manufacturing equipment productive since there is a thorough qualification and change management process involved. Lastly, capital projects cost more in general because most of our manufacturing occurs inside a heavily-controlled cleanroom environment.
I was recently asked to describe healthcare manufacturing in three words, to which I answered: fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding. I was really lucky to have a great mentor early in my career who helped me thrive within this environment. That’s the advice I would give to people early in their manufacturing careers. Seek out someone who will give you honest advice and challenge you. For example, I had the opportunity to travel and spend time on several acquisitions, which forced me to meet new people, learn different processes, and make a difference in a key area that was important to the company. Working hard to get results is crucial, and it should be done in a collaborative way. Achieving results and celebrating those successes with your colleagues is important in building confidence.
In closing, I challenge all manufacturing professionals to look at problems and challenges from a holistic perspective. Balance things like safety, quality, delivery, cost, and employee morale. Challenge yourself to create wins across those areas instead of settling for trade-offs. It’s hard work, but worth it!