It’s a brand new year, with a brand new name for the magazine. It’s also time for New Year’s resolutions. Will this be the year you stop fighting the crocodiles and begin draining the swamp?

Here are six resolutions that packagers should think about for 2008:

1. Eliminate variation-Quality means the absence of variation (see my column in Food & Drug Packaging, August 2007, p.45) Your customer wants a product that tastes, feels, looks and works the same way every time. When it doesn’t they start wondering if it is truly a quality product. Variation occurs in materials, components, product, machine setup and everywhere else through the manufacturing and packaging process. I am experienced enough to know that it will never be completely eliminated, but that has to be the goal. “Good enough” never is.

2. Talk to the packaging floor-Well, not actually the floor but the people on it. They are experts in what they do and too often that expertise goes unrecognized and unutilized. Ask them what they need to do their job better. Get them involved. Not only will you find some great ideas, they will generally be better for being more involved.

3. Eliminate downtime.When you aren’t producing product, you aren’t producing profit. Sure, you notice the big stoppages. Do you notice the short, 1 to 2 minute “nuisance” stoppages that you have every day? More importantly, do you eliminate them? On a 300-container-per-minute line, five minutes per day of downtime is 360,000 units of lost production at the end of the year. That’s a lot more than just a “nuisance.”

4. Talk to the package designers. Package designers sometimes come up with great packages that can’t be run in the packaging plant. Minor changes at the design stage can avoid later problems when it comes to production. Com­munication is the key to avoiding this. You need to get involved in the packaging design process up front. After the design has been carved in stone, it is too late.

5. Train. Like the lumberjack who did not sharpen his axe because he didn’t have time, too many plants don’t take the time to adequately train their people. Training needs to be formal and ongoing. Yes, training is costly. The alternative is worse.

6. Use your noodle. Most importantly, Think! Imagine new ways of doing things. Don’t automatically discard an idea because it is not the way it is done in your company or industry. When you run across a good idea, whatever the source, adapt it to your needs and implement it.

So, what are your resolutions for the packaging line? Same old, same old? Or new and improved? The crocodiles are nipping at your heels. It is time to get rid of them.