The American election is over and Mr Obama has another four years. American fiscal policy is still in a mess and a second US recessionary period not far from the doors but, but walking the halls of PackExpo you would not have thought so.
In a floor space about twice the size of the NEC there was assembled every aspect of the packaging supply chain and, on every booth, people enthused and passionate about what they do in design and service. 45000 visitors from around the world came to engage.
What was so good to see was the number of European businesses at PackExpo mixing it with the USA big boys and making up a good slice of the 1950 exhibitors.
This is a show like no other and truly shows the importance of packaging to our consumer world.
The show clearly illustrated just how much packaging features in the supply chain and how crucial the role packaging professionals play in the wealth of most manufacturing businesses.
Attending the after show events around Chicago hosted by Packaging Digest and PMMI I, as well as the Hall of Fame dinner, I was struck by the honour these professionals are given, their contribution truly recognised as a significant factor in a successful company’s wealth.
Further, talking with visitors to the Institute of Packaging Professionals booth, I saw how really proud they were to be packaging professionals.
Then I returned to the UK! Then I was bought down to earth!
Why is it we have let things slip so badly as packaging professionals. Why is it we are almost invisible in our organisations when it comes to strategic involvement, planning and marketing. Why have we got to a point where we are treated like a service function rather than a core part of management? Why is it we have lost our status as ‘packaging engineers’.
And just when did we let the salaries drop to such low levels. It’s truly a disgrace that a design engineer in a consumer goods company can command a £50k salary and a Packaging Engineer in an FMCG company 20% less for essentially the same job.
We can only blame ourselves. We have allowed our voice to fade, we have stopped challenging, we have let the press get the upper hand and colour poplar opinion about how ‘bad’ packaging is, which has, in turn, put the industry on the defensive.
We have, by our lack of support, allowed our individual professional representation grind to a halt.
The question has then to be why? Why is it that our American counterparts are still so active and so bullish about what they do and how they do it?
My view is that it’s because they see themselves as engineering professionals, their employers see them as vital to the health and wealth of the company and, maybe significantly, their trade body, the Institute of Packaging Professionals acts as an active, vocal and vital core to the greater community.
I admire this commitment to the greater cause, the professionalism with which they keep connected to the wider community and the time they give to engaging with industry and education.
This is precisely why the Institute of Packaging Professionals had to come to the United Kingdom and precisely why I am giving my time to it.
I love our industry and am passionate about bringing its individual members back to the status they deserve and I believe that the IoPP has the resource and organisational skill to help us find our voice again.
Of course I may have got this all wrong, and the UK packaging industry may be full of professionals who couldn’t care less. My experience is the opposite but you could prove me wrong!
Kevin Vyse is director of IoPP UK