CorrWeek Checks All the Boxes

corrweek checks all the boxes

They say “everything’s bigger in Texas”—for one energizing week in September, that was true for the corrugated industry. AICC/TAPPI CorrugatedWeek 2022 in San Antonio had a full exhibit floor and a packed program schedule to keep corrugated professionals engaged, informed, and excited about the future of this essential industry.

Located just off the exhibit floor, CorrWeek’s main stage hosted two powerful keynote addresses and the TAPPI Awards session (see sidebar). Bookending the CorrWeek program, both keynote presentations focused on leadership and productivity—critical topics for the future of the corrugated packaging industry.


The opening keynoter was Steve York, a noted leader in the corrugated industry for more than 46 years and now a sought-after consultant. York drew on that experience to discuss his leadership journey and the technical tricks he’s learned to target production bottlenecks.

He noted that, for his first decade in leadership, he struggled—and that “flailing equals failing.” Instrumental to his turnaround was the realization that box plant leaders must satisfy two different groups that want very different things: employees and customers. “One thing I decided in this balance was that, by a very narrow margin, employees are more important than customers,” York said. “Stable hourly workforces are valuable to organizations and customers. Unstable hourly workforces cannot be dependable suppliers to customers.”

York also detailed the priorities that box plant leaders must have to remain competitive, explaining why each was important. Once those priorities are clear, the leader will be able to devote time to the most critical function at the plant: reducing the impact of bottlenecks.

“Bottlenecks are what inhibit a box plant from increasing straight-time MSF/hour through their bander Monday through Friday,” York said. “Hot orders are short term situations a box plant must respond to that take care of a customer’s immediate need. Hot orders are a fact of life—but to be effective, leaders must spend the majority of their time recognizing and elevating productivity of bottlenecks.”

In his 46 years’ experience, York says, he has decided that there are four potential bottlenecks in every box plant (see illustration). He outlined what to look for in each area and described specific actions a leader can take to address them. “No matter the plant’s location or your management style, taking on bottlenecks always works,” he told attendees.

York closed his presentation with a comprehensive list of leadership tips for attendees to take back to their own plants. His final tip? “A good decision made at the right time is superior to a perfect decision made a minute too late,” he told the crowd.


Another CorrWeek 2022 highlight was the closing keynote from Michael Durant, master pilot, best-selling author, and inspiration for the movie Black Hawk Down. Although his experiences as a soldier and as a hostage were extremely challenging, Durant turned them into a vivid story of survival and motivation that would inspire any leader.keynoter michael durant

During his helicopter crash and subsequent street battle, five soldiers on his Blackhawk’s six-member crew were lost; Durant himself was the only survivor. It taught him a powerful lesson. “The ultimate price is always people. More than the time, equipment, planning, or cost, people and their safety are most important.

“We are in a war for talent,” he continued. “Whether it’s a military operation, a football team, or your company, it’s all the same.”

Drawing from his experiences surviving incredible hardship, Durant explained the following hierarchy of priorities:

  1. People
  2. Leadership
  3. Resources
  4. Tactics
  5. Training
  6. Planning

He also outlined some of the most important tools for team leaders to have. The first? Credibility. “As a leader, you need the best information. I don’t want any ‘spin’ on the ball. Leaders can’t know everything in an organization; they rely on experts in every area to provide accurate information.”

Another tool is flexibility: “Leaders must be able to change plans to respond to a changing situation.”

In the remainder of this riveting presentation, Durant outlined many more of the unique lessons he learned, turning them into compelling insights for personal and professional growth. By the end, CorrWeek attendees had a better understanding of how they—and their companies—could succeed through better planning, motivation, and adaptation, despite the obstacles they may encounter.


Also on the main stage, 15 new technology “Tech Talks” captured CorrWeek attendees’ interest. Proposed presentations were reviewed by TAPPI’s Technical Program Committee (TPC). The TPC is comprised of a group of TAPPI volunteers, including suppliers and converters from different sectors of the industry, who selected the newest and most relevant presentations for inclusion over two days of programming. (See article on page 32 for highlights.)

In total, more than 160 exhibitors packed the exhibit floor with the latest equipment, innovative services, and vendor experts on hand to answer questions from customers. However, the knowledge-sharing was not confined to the exhibit floor. The program included break-out sessions on a wide variety of subjects, plus networking events and social activities. Panel discussions tackled topics including digital printing, supply chain disruption, and robotics and automation.

TAPPI offered a pre-conference education course called Effective Methods to Maximize Diecutting Productivity. Course instructor Rick Putch is regarded as a world-class expert on evaluating manufacturing processes and resolving production issues on a wide variety of manufactured products. This comprehensive, full-day course focused on why equipment differences, general maintenance needs, and subtle structural design differences influence quality and profitability for corrugated converters.

AICC sponsored a special training session titled “Production Training: Easy Steps to Double Your Machine’s OEE.” Offered over two days, the course was led by Les Pickering, packaging expert and president of Quadrant5, a global industry consultant. He introduced course attendees to the steps they could implement to double the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) at their plants.

Nearly 1,500 attendees made Corrugated Week 2022 a resounding success. Those who were not able to attend, as well as those looking forward to more learning and engagement, should save the date for the next major industry event: TAPPI’s CorrExpo 2023, which is being held August 28-30 in Cleveland, OH. Keep checking for updates to the technical program, exhibit space availability, and registration opportunities.