Abbott Nutrition Packaging Internship

Name: Ethan Warner

Type of Project: Internship

For my STEP Signature Project, I spent six months interning with Abbott Nutrition within a Packaging Engineering role. As a packaging engineer at Abbott Nutrition, I was primarily responsible for the installation, validation and start-up of a new packaging line across two different manufacturing sites within the United States. I also delivered process capability assessments and recommendations for package commercialization, as well as supported the planning and roll out of change management around new global standard operating procedures.

Coming from a chemical engineering background, I was fairly unfamiliar with the roles and responsibilities of a packaging engineer. For me, value alignment is paramount. I knew that as a company, Abbott Nutrition valued positively impacting people’s lives through improving their health and nutrition above all else – This is something that I aspire to do in my life as well. Although this internship did not relate directly to chemical engineering, I felt that it would challenge me to grow technically and professionally, and also allow me to positively contribute to Abbott’s mission of helping others live life to the fullest through good health.

Reflecting on my internship experience, my growth and development was really driven by five key takeaways:

  1. Be flexible, take initiative.
  2. Be technical, ask questions.
  3. Find sustainable solutions.
  4. Bring people along with you, Explain “why”.
  5. Take time for yourself.

These key learnings were primarily driven by the work I did on various projects during my time at Abbott Nutrition and my interactions with the people there. By applying these to my life both inside and outside of work, I have noticed a positive change in the way I approach problems, lead, and interact with others. Additionally, my experience in packaging as a whole introduced me to a new field that I am very interested in pursuing in the future.

Be Flexible, Take Initiative

New Abbott Recloseable Container produced in Altavista, VA and Casa Grande, AZ

A few days before my first day of work, my supervisor emailed me and asked if I would be interested/willing to travel to Arizona for a week to help with training for the main project I’d be working on. As it turned out, that week was my very first. On my first day of work I went through HR orientation, met the packaging team, and got on plane to fly to Arizona for the week. This was a nerve wracking experience – I had no background information on the project I was working on, didn’t know anyone I was working with, and was flying by myself for the first time. However, this turned out to be a phenomenal experience – I was able to get hands on with the product, packaging, and processes right away, and I was able to immediately contribute by facilitating training sessions for plant staff and operators by the end of the week.

Throughout the course of my internship, there were many times similar to this where I was asked to travel last minute or take on extra projects. I found that by being flexible and taking initiative to seek out such opportunities, I not only gained greater understanding, but also established rapport with my coworkers and was provided with opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had. This set me up for success throughout the course of my experience.

Be Technical, Ask Questions

Abbott aseptic bottle qualified through my project work.

As I mentioned previously, coming from a chemical engineering background I was very unfamiliar with packaging processes and technology, and was initially overwhelmed by the technical depth associated with it. It was critical for me to embrace that I did not have this technical depth, and instead turn to the engineers and operators who did. By building relationships with those around me and not being afraid to ask questions and seek out technical expertise, I was able to better understand the minutia of packaging and identify resources to help me overcome obstacles as I was working on my projects. This helped to reinforce for me the importance of looking into technical details and asking questions, as well as the importance of relationships.

Bring People Along With You, Explain “Why”

 One of the most unique projects I worked on throughout the course of my internship was in the rewriting of Abbott Nutrition’s global package qualification process standard operating procedure. This was a complex document that spanned across multiple functional areas. Upfront, my work consisted of identifying themes from project case study lessons learned to identify gaps within the current procedure. What I enjoyed most, however, was taking part in discussions revolving around the change management of rolling out a procedure of such large magnitude. Specifically, how to ensure that the change we were trying to make was sustainable, and that the change we were leading was in the right amount, and at the right time.

This helped me to realize the importance of creating standardized processes in developing sustainable solutions, and more importantly, explaining the “why” behind what you are doing to ensure people are brought along with you and buy into your vision. Only by doing these things can you ensure that change you are trying to lead is successful, sustainable, and long-term.

Take Time for Yourself

Something I struggled with during my six months at Abbott was setting aside time for myself. For me, this breaks down into three categories – taking time for my relationships and involvements, taking time for my own development, and taking time for my wellness. I am very results oriented, and I greatly value my relationships with those around me. At work, it would be easy for me to put aside my own learning and development to finish a project I was working on, and outside of work, I would often spend all my time connecting with the people important to me, rarely taking time for my own health and wellness. Learning how to balance these three areas was a huge takeaway for me, helping me to realize how much time I have, and how to prioritize and make time for the things most important to me.

Final Thoughts

Abbott Nutrition Packaging Conference

As I move into my final year at Ohio State, the key takeaways I learned from my time at Abbott Nutrition will be conducive to my success both academically and post-graduation. I have found myself applying the lessons I’ve learned not only in work situations, but also in my classes, my student organizations, and in my relationships. Additionally, I have found a field that I am interested in and challenged by, with a company whose values align with my own. As I move into the fall semester, I will be working part time with Abbott Nutrition, and I hope to pursue a full time position there post-graduation.