“The Family-Owned Company Schumacher Packaging Has the Right Spirit for Me”
5/14/2024 Insights Women in the packaging industry Interview

“The Family-Owned Company Schumacher Packaging Has the Right Spirit for Me”

Leena Gaebler has been Managing Director of the Lehrte site of the Schumacher Packaging Group, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of corrugated and solid board packaging solutions, since January. In this interview, the 35-year-old economist and packaging technician explains why she has remained loyal to the company since graduating.

Portrait of Leena Gaebler, Managing Director at Schumacher Packaging Services GmbH. Leena Gaebler is Managing Director at Schumacher Packaging Services GmbH.

Why did you choose packaging technology?

I already worked at Schumacher Packaging as a student trainee during my business studies. This gave me a taste of the world of packaging. I immediately found the subject exciting and I really enjoyed producing packaging for a wide variety of products.

What do you like about packaging?

It's the diversity that excites me. Every company that manufactures products also needs packaging. Through development and optimization, you also get to work in production in almost all companies and learn how it works. From food, drinks, and toys to electronics. It's always a bit like watching “Sendung mit der Maus” (iconic German kid’s TV show with storys as well as science and technical lessons). It gives you the opportunity to gain a lot of different experiences.

Why did you stay with the company? As a packaging technician, certainly all paths were open to you...

That's right, there are many paths open to you. The diversity of packaging technology also plays a major role in this. Former fellow students of mine are now working in a wide variety of companies – for brand manufacturers, automotive, food, or cosmetics. In short: everything must be packaged. Few of them ended up working for packaging manufacturers. Schumacher Packaging has always supported me and encouraged my career path. The family business has the right spirit for me. Like my colleagues in management positions, I have the necessary freedom to develop myself and make my own decisions. Not every company places this kind of trust in you.

Which trends do you see in packaging?

As in many other areas, sustainability is the big trend in packaging. We are lucky that we already use a very sustainable material in the form of paper/cardboard. But here too, weight reduction and, for example, optimization of the filling level of the carton (stop sending air) play a major role. With the recently adopted PPWR, further plastic and polystyrene replacement projects are now being added. We have already successfully launched new developments on the market with our customers in the past.

What is your overall assessment of the PPWR, which was recently adopted by the EU Parliament?

I think that it has achieved a positive result for paper-based packaging. In return for higher reusable targets, the Parliament has achieved a general exemption for paper-based transport packaging, including in non-food e-commerce. Exemptions for cardboard transport packaging between companies are also included. In my view, the outcome of the negotiations represents a sensible solution to continue to enable environmentally friendly packaging made of paper, corrugated board, and solid board as well as to promote the circular economy. The reduction of packaging materials and the efficient use of resources have long been a central concern at Schumacher Packaging.

What is the market situation for corrugated board?

During the coronavirus peak, a lot of investment was directed towards expanding capacity throughout the European market. This is now coming up against a generally weak market phase. Such a combination is never good. The wheat will be separated from the chaff over the next few months. We are already seeing movement among the major groups. Not everyone will survive this tough time. Schumacher Packaging is well positioned thanks to its mixed portfolio of paper, corrugated board, cardboard, and co-packing, and we will survive this weak phase. In recent weeks, we have already noticed an upturn and an increase in incoming orders.

How do you see the situation for women in the packaging industry?

That is always a difficult question. I think it’s the same in the packaging industry as it is in other sectors. Times are changing and the playing field is changing. Everyone has to get used to that. Women also have to want to be at the top. Unfortunately, I know from my personal environment that not everyone is ready to let women rise to the top management level. I think that’s a great pity. From my point of view – and there are studies on this – diverse teams are the most successful. If you only have people of the same sex, skin color, and age in a company’s management team, important perspectives are easily lost.