Thomas L Schneider
About: Thomas L Schneider - President

A large part of WPO’s mission today is about education. While many of our members are involved in basic packaging education, WPO’s programs tend toward educating a person who has found themselves suddenly working in packaging within their company.

1. Kindly share with us some of the most memorable milestones of your long-standing association with the Packaging Community.
I have been in the packaging business for more than 40 years.  Even so, as I began my association with WPO in 2004, finding out how passionate my colleagues were about packaging was a great discovery.  That passion grew in me over time and has led me to where I am today.

2. You’ve had unsurpassed experience in conferring with international audiences about Packaging.  What are the distinguishing qualities of the workings of this industry in other countries?
Some might say that the differences in culture are a surprise.  From my perspective, it is the opposite.  It is the commonality of purpose within the packaging community that is most interesting.

3. Since its advent in 1968, how far has WPO come in realising its initial objectives and goals of promoting and ameliorating packaging as a global industrial sector?
I think that WPO has gone well beyond its original objectives and has become an important place where packaging professionals can share information and find common solutions, regardless of the cultures involved. I don’t think that the founders envisioned this as part of the original vision.

4. Inculcating and sharpening packaging skills as well as acumen is an integral part of WPO’s vision. What are the pedagogical techniques used in order to achieve this? Do you encourage vocational training?
A large part of WPO’s mission today is about education.  While many of our members are involved in basic packaging education, WPO’s programs tend toward educating a person who has found themselves suddenly working in packaging within their company.  So, yes, we promote and provide practical packaging education, creating enough awareness so that the student can decide what to explore next within the world of packaging.

5. Kindly delineate the conceptualisation behind the Worldstar Student Award. How significant is education for WPO?
We have nothing without education, whether related to packaging or any other field of endeavor.  The concept of the WorldStar Student competition was, and still is, to capture the imagination of future packaging professionals, thus leading them to rewarding and productive careers.

6. WPO’S involvement with the Packaging industry of other nations in terms of development and construction is exemplified through your preceding and present work. How much of a difference do you think this makes to international trading holistically?
Good packaging, effective packaging, is one of the differences between success and failure in international commerce.  But it isn’t just about trade.  It’s about doing good in the world, especially when it comes to developing nations.

7. Packaging is considered to be the culmination of the manufacture/production process. Hence, its influence on the consumer’s health and safety is enormous. What are the preemptive measures that are taken by packaging firms to ensure food safety?
Clearly, most forward thinking, progressive countries (and there are scores of countries in this category), have developed systems that control how certain materials and methods are used in packaging, especially when it comes to food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. In fact, WPO has formed a committee that is focusing on food safety. This project will be of special benefit again to developing nations.

8. WPO’S members are dispersed across the globe in nearly every continent.  What are the challenges of managing a membership as pervasive as that of WPO?
It’s not a difficult as one might expect.  It is true that English is the official language of WPO, for which I am grateful!  But beyond that, all members have the same goals.  WPO members are dedicated to “Better Quality of Life Through Better Packaging For More People.”  Our members fall into essentially three categories; education-focused, trade organisations and trade shows, and standards organisations.  Each group has its own strengths, but all are committed to promoting packaging to drive better living standards, commerce, and a more sustainable society.

9. As an upholder of the staunch belief that Packaging aids and abets environmental sustainability, kindly elucidate what strategies and methods go into making Packaging conducive to environmental conservation?
The concept of sustainability, though not new, has gained momentum over the last 15-20 years. Designing for a sustainable environment is no longer an idea. It is part of the fabric of society and will continue to drive innovation, not only in the packaging sector but across all disciplines in all cultures. But the challenge, in my opinion, is to make sustainability work for humanity, not the other way around.

And this is true in the packaging sector as well. Going forward, business strategies must include packaging as an integral part of future business planning.  

Now, a lot of elements in sustainability are being driven by technology. Thinner and stronger films, nano-particle technology, and specialized inks are all the result of scientific breakthroughs that haven’t always been driven by the packaging sector, but, nonetheless, are being applied by creative and talented technologists who are our packaging colleagues, and demanded by consumers.

Today there are initiatives like SAVE FOOD, organised by Interpack and underwritten by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, also known as FAO.  There are hundreds of participating members, including WPO and global corporations such as DOW, DuPont, Henkel, and Nestle. These forward thinking organisations are the vanguard of perhaps one of the most important subjects in the broad definition of Sustainability—Finding practical ways to save food so that more people can receive adequate nutrition on a daily basis.

10. What would be your advice to upcoming entrepreneurs who are at the offset of their association with the packaging sector?
Effective packaging is a practical and important discipline.  It is essential to any company’s success.  And I can tell you that, in the US, graduates of university programs in packaging almost always find a job after graduation.  Packaging professionals are in high demand across the globe.  It’s a great time to be a Packaging Professional!!