Rob Peterson is a senior engineer at the Smithers distribution testing
laboratory in Lansing, Michigan, as well as the site lead responsible for facility operations and improvements. He has worked at the lab for thirteen years.
What keeps you busy every day?
Distribution testing project management is what keeps me most busy. These projects include industry standard testing, such as ISTA
, custom work programs, root cause analysis, and data acquisition/analysis. As the site lead, I am also the supervisor for our hardworking lab technicians and packaging student interns.
What kind of positive changes and developments have your clients experienced after working with your lab?
One of our biggest strengths is being flexible when unexpected results occur. Our clients greatly appreciate that we can shift from a standard test and go the extra mile to determine what caused an unexpected issue or failure. We’re able to assist with the development of a solution, if needed. Being flexible and having the ability to adapt can be extremely valuable to our clients when timing is critical.
We’ve also implemented facility and operational improvements in recent years in order to enhance our services. New HVAC systems, dedicated conditioning chambers, and building renovations are just a few examples.
In 2020, we introduced the use of tablets for documenting test results in the lab. This has allowed us to improve our organization of data and photos. We regularly leverage the video call capability to review samples with clients in real time.
Who are your clients?
We have an extremely diverse client base. Automotive
, medical device
, pharmaceutical, and consumer goods
are just a few of the industries we serve. The background of the clients that we work with varies as well. While most have a packaging background, we also work with product engineers, food scientists, and procurement agents.
What trends and changes are you seeing in the work you do?
Many of our clients are shifting to e-commerce
. This can present a new set of challenges since this distribution channel is quite different than their experiences with brick-and-mortar distribution. As an Amazon Packaging Support and Supplier Network (APASS)
test lab, we help clients navigate these new challenges and guide them through the requirements of achieving approval for the online retail market
We also have started to receive more and more requests from clients who need to “get their pack tested.” In these scenarios, our clients rely heavily on our knowledge to ensure that they’re performing the correct test specification so their packaging will be approved for sale by the retailer.
What are your goals for the coming years?
Overall, I want to ensure that the distribution testing services we offer are the best in the industry. Our expertise gives us a competitive advantage. We’re not just chugging through testing, day in and day out. We’re always mindful of our clients’ objectives, and that understanding allows us to offer an unmatched high level of service.
What advice would you give to a new client to help them conduct a successful testing program?
Having a clear objective is critical in executing a successful distribution test. Once a clear objective is identified, we can tailor our services to that objective. In most situations, a standard distribution test will meet a client’s objective. We can also develop customized work programs to ensure objectives are achieved when standard test procedures are not applicable.
What do you like best about your job?
Offering clients solutions to their packaging challenges is very rewarding to me. Whether it’s a simple solution like changing a pallet pattern
or a more complex design change, helping a client ensure their packaging will be effective keeps me motivated.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I spend most of my free time with my wife and our one-year-old daughter. I also really enjoy carpentry and woodworking in my small workshop.