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News August 17, 2011

Social media and packaging education

New learning vehicles could help younger packaging pros get up to speed.

With job cutbacks and growing numbers of aging packaging workers nearing or reaching retirement age, there's a buzz about the possible erosion of both basic and advanced skills, particularly among younger pros.

For years, the packaging community has addressed this issue primarily in the form of financial scholarships, internships, equipment and material donations, education and training seminars. Perhaps just in time, social media looks like it could play a beneficial role in helping younger packaging pros learn the business function.

A recent LinkedIn discussion exemplifies the possibility. A college student conducting research on pharmaceutical packaging asked about important issues, commonly used packaging materials, and the advantages of packaging in-house vs contract packaging.

Several thoughtful responses followed, including one from Greg Davis, a project engineering manager at Nosco. He said, “The largest generation in history will begin retiring this year, so senior-friendly packaging is another area of focus.” Davis also mentioned package design and functionality, the need for packages to comply with regulations, and sustainability as concerns.

Mary Panzino, a specialist in [the] pharmaceutical process of glass and plastic provided the following insight: “Over the years, one of the major problems of packaging was forcing too much of the product in a box and causing damage to the product. It's all about how much it cost[s] to ship.”

Christopher Lazo, a packaging and containers professional, offered tips on stability tests and considerations necessary in the bottle selection evaluation process.

The in-house vs contract manufacturing/packaging question received the following response from Jens Agerskov of Dencore Packaging Systems in Denmark: “Many [companies] do the majority of the packaging and outsource the rest. If you have everything in-house you have better process control. Drawbacks are that you might not have the volume to build a top-notch packaging operation, which is what many of the CMOs offer.”

Courtney Richards, promotion & events manager for Summit Media Group, says, “Not only do social media sites such as LinkedIn offer students access to industry professionals, but they also allow students to pose questions to these individuals, who might not be as accessible to students via more traditional communication vehicles.”

Granted, this is just tip-of-the-iceberg information, but it's a sample of how students and young professionals can use social media to gain knowledge from their more seasoned brethren. Conversely, some of us with more experience may learn a thing or two about social media from our junior colleagues.

-Jim Butschli, Editor, Healthcare Packaging

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