Member Spotlight: Hillary Femal, Director of Strategic Market Development, IFCO; RPA 2012 Board Member and Chairperson of the RPA Marketing and Communications Committee

Editor’s note:  Following is the first member spotlight for 2012 – Hillary Femal, IFCO Systems, new RPA Board Member and Chairperson for the RPA Marketing and Communications Committee

RPA Editor: Describe the products and services that your company offers.

Femal: IFCO is an international logistics service provider with more than 210 locations worldwide. IFCO operates a pool of more than 125 million reusable plastic containers (RPCs) globally which are used primarily to transport fresh produce from producers to leading grocery retailers.

RPA Editor: Describe the area of the supply chain where your services/products play a role.

Femal: RPCs play a critical role throughout the entire fresh produce supply chain, from the field to the grocery store.

RPA Editor: Describe some of the challenges you see that impede companies from implementing reusable packaging.

Femal: Because reusable packaging impacts so much of the supply chain, much coordination is required. A retailer cannot simply analyze their operations and decide to implement reusable packaging; they must work closely with their suppliers in order to enact the change. Moving from disposable to reusable packaging is a big change for many companies, so strong collaboration between the packaging supplier/pooler, product supplier, and retailer is necessary. Often, this level of coordination has not taken place before, and can be a challenge.

RPA Editor: Describe some of the successes you or your customers have had with implementing reusable packaging. Include any innovative methods or insights.

Femal: The most interesting successes that have come from the implementation of reusable packaging for our customers have been requests for more conversions. Often, retailers will finish the roll out of RPCs for their main commodities and start noting other products that might be a good fit for reusables as well, such as meats, dairy, and even center of store products.

RPA Editor: What are the key changes you see happening in the reusable marketplace in the near future?

Femal: As reusables become more mainstream, I expect to see more services and tools available to aid analysis and implementation, making conversion to reusables faster and simpler.

RPA Editor: List your past and current positions within the RPA and state why you chose to become a member of the RPA leadership team.

Femal: I have served on the Communications Committee since 2005, and became Chair this year. I will also become a member of the Board of Directors in 2012. The RPA has always been an important association for IFCO, so it seemed only natural to continue to serve in any capacity. I’m very proud to be a member of the leadership team now, and plan to continue my involvement with the association for many years to come.

RPA Editor: What value do you gain personally by being in a leadership role with the RPA?

Femal: I am constantly impressed by the work and dedication of my colleagues in the Association. Many members of the Communications Committee have been involved for years, and always make time to contribute despite the demands of their jobs. Now that I have the opportunity to interact more frequently with the Board as well, I am pleased to see that the same level of involvement and dedication exists throughout the organization.

RPA Editor: What has your company gained from its membership in the RPA?

Femal: The RPA’s work on critical industry issues has been very important to IFCO throughout the years. Many of the studies funded by the Association are still used to support our business.

RPA Editor: Has RPA had a positive impact on your business? If so, how?

Femal: The RPA has done a lot to legitimize reusables, back when it was a very niche market. The growth of the Association and its involvement in various trade shows like the Pavilion and other initiatives have gone a long way toward demonstrating to end users that reusable packaging is not a fad.

RPA Editor: Why would you recommend membership in the RPA to another company?

Femal: Very rarely do you have the opportunity to really shape your industry. Most trade associations are far too large for any one company or individual to have a real impact on its direction. The RPA is different in that members really do have a voice and can really determine which initiatives the Association takes on. If you’re not a member, you are relying on your competition to shape the industry for you!

RPA Editor: Why would you recommend individuals to become involved in the RPA committees or in a leadership role?

Femal: For the same reason that membership is important, so is personal involvement. There are so many ways in which to contribute to the work of the Association; there is so much that needs to be done for the health of our industry. As individuals with a personal stake in the success of reusables in the marketplace, we owe it to ourselves to get involved in every way we can.