Spotlight: D. Robert Hammond
D. Robert Hammond
North Haven, CT
Rob Hammond isn’t the first TAPPI member to say his company encouraged him to join, and he certainly won’t be the last. Nor is he the only one to cite networking, access to global resources, and in-depth technical knowledge as benefits.
But he is the first spotlighted member to focus on how involvement in the International Flexible Packaging and Extrusion Division (formerly PLACE) helps keep you relevant in a fast-changing industry.
Since joining TAPPI in 1999, Rob has devoted much of his volunteer time to flexible packaging efforts. That’s not surprising having started work at Mica Corporation in 1998, and it was Mica leadership who prompted him to join. He joined Mica as a Research Chemist after several research and development (R&D) positions with other companies such as Allied Chemical, GTE Laboratories, and Polaroid Corporation. He subsequently moved into technical sales and currently serves as Mica’s Technical Sales Director out of Shelton, CT. As his career grew, so too did his involvement in TAPPI.
“Initially, one of my Mica colleagues asked me to volunteer as Vice Chair of the Technical Program Committee and it just grew from there,” Rob said. Two years later he moved into the Chair position, which was then later extended another two years. Upon completing that service, Rob was immediately asked to join the Division Council.
“I started as Secretary, and at the next PLACE Conference I rotated into the Vice Chair position,” he noted. From there he served in a variety of positions, including Chair, and currently holds the position of Chair Emeritus Division Council until 2018, overseeing the duties related to awards and scholarships.
“There are many benefits to volunteering,” said Rob, “but the biggest is being able to develop a worldwide-network of professional colleagues and friends in the packaging industry. The ability to find answers and get help is enormous and has benefitted my career immeasurably.”
Last year, Rob says the decision was made to change the name of the Division from PLACE to the International Flexible Packaging and Extrusion Division. The growing global nature of packaging was the catalyst, he explains, and the prior acronym was unable to correctly convey the essential focus the Division now has. “TAPPI is not only the primary go-to resource for flexible packaging information and technical resources, it is also the premier one. We needed the Division name to reflect that.”
With his decades of hands-on experience in the business as well as volunteering within the Division, Rob also continues to serve as an instructor for the annual TAPPI Extrusion Coating course. He says all these combined experiences have helped him create a successful and rewarding career, and to literally stay ahead of the curve when it comes to rapid, global changes in the industry. “I really believe all professionals in the flexible packaging and extrusion field should be involved in the Division, both young and old. The payback is much more than the small amount of time spent volunteering.
Q. How has TAPPI membership helped you in your career pursuits?
A. The benefit of joining TAPPI is both personal and professional. Professionally, the value is unmatched because of the networking opportunities in our industry. Knowing a large group of other professionals provides access to knowledge that helps me, and ultimately my customers. The personal benefit is working with a great group of professional colleagues – many of whom have become personal friends.
Q. In addition to your Division activities, what TAPPI resources do you use?
A. I use TAPPI publications as reference resources for a variety of problems presented to me by my customers who need help. I also look for new technologies that might help Mica develop new products.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. Golf, cigars and tequila – not necessarily in that order. I also have five grandsons who take up most of my free time, and I love every minute of it (see photo right of Rob with grandson, Hunter Robert, who someday will be called H. Robert)!
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
A. I have a vestigial tail … just kidding, but some might offer I have a vestigial mind! Apparently, my laugh precedes me. People hear me before they see me. Also, my speaking volume level increases from an “inside voice” to an “outside voice” with the more alcohol I consume.
Q. Please provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry?
A. Functionality is the future of packaging and brand owners are looking for more of it. Security is an extremely important packaging function, especially in a global market. It is important to protect against counterfeiting because it endangers the brand owner’s reputation and puts at risk the consumer with potentially unsafe products.
My favorite example showcases increased functionality in a flexible package. Frito-Lay has developed a product that can detect a person’s blood alcohol level and even order them an Uber. It is called “The Party Bag” and features special sensors that can detect the blood alcohol level of anyone who breathes near it. If the circle turns green, then you are safe to drive. But if the person’s blood alcohol level is too high, the circle instead turns red and displays the words, “Don’t drink and drive.”
Q. Closing sentiments?
A. TAPPI membership is fun and rewarding, and that applies both professionally and personally. Participating and volunteering will increase your knowledge of the industry, increase your network of industry contacts, and improve your position within your company. Being a member gives you access to industry leaders and the technical knowledge they have developed. It also gives you access to leading-edge technology in the flexible packaging industry that will help you stay relevant in a fast-changing field.