Outside the Box


Sarah Meldrum packs up a career at Graphic Packaging International.


Western Michigan University (WMU), Graphic and Printing Science, B.B.S. ’16


Sylvan Lake, MI


Material Management Analyst, Graphic Packaging International

On the Job

Graphic Packaging International is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of folding cartons. A carton could be a cereal box, a tissue box, or any of the other packaging you see in supermarkets. We produce around 3.5 billion cartons a year, so chances are you have recently bought something that came off our line. I’m responsible for coordinating all of our end-process materials. This location is our highest outputting plant in North America; we are a fast-paced 24/7 facility, so there’s a lot to manage.

A Day in the Life

I do inventory in the morning to make sure that we have enough materials [to support production] for the day. I have 130 different materials to account for, everything from corrugated cardboard to pallets to film. Because this is such a dynamic environment, I have to be ready for any adjustments or changes. I also review and update our packing specs to ensure that we pack and send out everything correctly, either to the customer directly or a co-packer.

Forming Your Career

When I was at Western, I worked on the production floor at Graphic Packaging for a summer. During that time, I kept asking about an internship until I was finally able to get one. I worked throughout school and was an intern for about three years before they hired me at full time. I don’t think I could have gotten where I am today any other way. You don’t learn the on-the-job stuff in school; you have to put in the effort and pick things up along the way.

Working and Growing

The mentorship program here has been a great help. We are each paired with an upper management mentor who meets with us on a weekly basis. Our production manager, Joe, and I meet to talk about what I’m working on. We also go into detail about how the company operates. That way, I have a greater understanding of the big picture, how different departments work, and how it all affects the company as a whole. Along with the additional leadership training they have here, the mentorship will really help my career.

Here to Stay

My fiancé and I bought a house in Richland. We have two dogs and live on about an acre of land. I also have a horse out in Hickory Corners. I like to horseback ride and hang out at the farm, which is something that I could not do on the east side of the state where I grew up. I wouldn’t dream of moving back. It’s just more laid back here—even driving down the road is less stressful.

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