Naples, Fla. — Companies involved in a project — molder, machinery supplier and component supplier — are linked together. But when things go wrong, "the blame game" can undermine that partnership, Alex Hoffer said at the Plastics News Executive Forum.
"First, you can only control you," Hoffer made clear. "And second of all, you've got to remember that you're all interconnected.
"We rely on each other. Let's work together so that we can get to that destination," said Hoffer, vice president of sales and operations at Hoffer Plastics Corp. in South Elgin, Ill.
Hoffer told the story of a contract packer that filled applesauce into pouches, a new-product development project. It used Hoffer Plastics' Trust-T-Lok closure, an injection molded cap that is tamper-evident. The product was filled on a horizontal form, fill and seal machine.
But the co-packer reported that 20 percent of its packages were "leakers" — not acceptable. It looked like either the spouts were not aligned correctly or the pouch film was bad, Hoffer said.
First, Hoffer said, the entire team got together. He said he thought this would resolve the problem, but "unfortunately, we started blaming each other."
That got him thinking about the issue of blaming others, "this human tendency that we find an external reason for what may be an internal problem — maybe."
He said the blame game is also now is part of our culture.
Back to the applesauce project, there were a lot of factors: film quality, spout alignment, speed of the sealing machine, training of the operators.
"What I had to learn in this situation, all this noise in this boardroom, is I can only control myself. I can only control what we do," Hoffer said.
Hoffer Plastics officials realized that spout alignment was an issue they could control. So, the company bought a new assembly machine, investing another $650,000 to improve the process.
"And it was one of those moments for me as a young leader that, doing the right thing, sometimes costs some money," Hoffer said.
Hoffer Plastics also volunteered to use its tool room to make new seal bars, a wear item on the form, fill and seal equipment, for the co-packer.
Once the packaging operation was running smoothly, Hoffer visited the plant. One of the operators told him how important smoothly working equipment was to her, personally. She said when the line was making 20 percent leakers, management would shut down the line and send her home. She missed a paid day of work.
"It dawned on me that the parts that we produce contributed to this lady's life, contributed to putting bread on her table," he said.
Hoffer's message to Executive Forum attendees: "What you do absolutely matters. Therefore, I challenge you to control what you can control. And remember that we're all interconnected."