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Ben Frank, Ph.D.

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Dr. Frank, known by his peers as Ben Frank, is an acknowledged packaging expert and an active TAPPI member. Former Chair of the Corrugated Division’s Fiberboard Shipping Container Testing Committee (Fiscotec) as well as the Quality and Standards Management Committee (Q&SMC), he is actively involved in several Standard Specific Interest Groups (SSIGs) as well as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the International Standards Organization’s Technical Committee 6 (ISO TC 6).

Please enjoy his insightful take on a variety of Standards’ topics!

“Standards are one of the most collaborative and scientific things in the industry”- Ben Frank 

1. What sparked your interest in Standards?

I took a job with PCA in 2001 managing lab operations - it is very hard to do that if you don’t know anything about Standards. You must understand what each Test Method (TM) does, how it works, what it means, and what it can be used for in order to address questions about test properties. It was important to have an understanding of all of our Standards, and a hand in their management. 

As an industry, we must have Standards to be assured we are measuring the same properties and speaking the same language. If you are unaware of a Standard, you will likely do the test incorrectly. If you can’t do a test repeatedly and reproducibly, test methodology and results are open to question, or simply invalid.  We want to walk into a meeting or discussion and speak the language. Standards are critical for that. 

2. Is there any particular review that has impacted you? Please tell us about your experience. 

I have been actively involved in Standards for 15 years or so, and Working Group Chair on many Standards over that time. One recent valuable learning experience was Standard "T 836 om-13 Bending stiffness, four point method.” We dove in and explored how the test method works, doing round robin studies which made the testing process more robust. I worked with a great bunch of positive people who were all on the same page in terms of refreshing and rebuilding a Standard that had been around for a while. In the end, we added to the knowledgebase around T 836 because we took what we thought it told us and dug into the meat of it, figured out how it works and why it works that way, and by doing so truly understood the property we were measuring. Although we didn’t change much, the fact that we added to knowledge around the Standard is related to the reason I got involved in the first place. 

3. Why do you think Standards are important? How have you used them in your field?

That goes back to the importance of speaking the same language. We use Standards all the time, both from an internal and inter-company perspective. The Standard is your referee. If we all agree on what to do for a test, then within the framework of the repeatability statement, we should all get the same answer on the same material. As well, without a robust Standard you can’t set a specification. You can’t say, “I want the paper to have this weight or this strength” if you don’t agree on how to measure the weight or strength. Standards are critical; without Standards you have no ruler or metric.  I am thrilled that PCA gives me the opportunity to participate actively in the process.

4. What would you tell people that have never participated in Standards activities?

I would love to see everybody jump in! The more people involved, the more we can build on what we have, the more likely we are to get Standards correct, and the better off we are in terms of producing Standards that work well for everyone. Even though we all have day jobs, you can be involved with Standards without having to spend hundreds of hours on them. As a Working Group Chair, much of the time spent totals 3-5 hours of work. I’m sure we all have places in our calendars to do that. You can start by simply reading Standards, participating in the process, and voting on whether you feel Standards as written are appropriate. By surfacing problems, and either getting them corrected or putting bounds on where the Standard is valid, we can find the opportunity to build new ones, and create fresh ways of identifying, measuring and working with our materials. 

5. Does working with Standards give you a sense of fulfillment?

I get satisfaction knowing we have done it right. That the information we have gathered, the things we learned, and the way we’ve outlined a given Standard helps people understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Standards also help them get right answers. Some people don’t realize there are Standards. Or may be doing testing and not realize what’s in the Standard. Their results are often different, which brings home again the importance of speaking the same language. I appreciate that I have a hand and a role in both crafting that language by creating new Standards, and in maintaining that language by reviewing them. People who are writing Standards invent new words, and people who review Standards/ participate in Working Groups, maintain the dictionary by which we all speak. 

6. You previously served as Chair of the Quality and Standards Management Committee (Q&SMC). How was your experience? 

The Q&SMC is a great group of people who have the same interest, who care and want both the Standard process and TAPPI as an organization to succeed. It’s hard to get people to volunteer; the Q&SMC committee are people who volunteer a little extra time and effort to try to make sure the system as a whole works great. It’s a team effort and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

7. If you could describe the value of TAPPI membership in one word, what would it be?

Connections! Connections with other people in the industry. Connections with people that know more than I do, and that I call to say, “I don’t remember this.” Or, “you’ve written a lot about this, can you tell me more?” Connections are what make everything easier. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes I’m the one who has the information and people call me. It’s pleasantly reinforcing for somebody to turn to you as an expert. It’s all about connections and the people! We all work for different companies and compete in the marketplace, but through TAPPI we’re all connected. 

Bonus question: How has networking affected your career?

I’m a scientist by trade, philosophy, and profession. My world view is that science is collaborative. I appreciate the connections made and the things I learn from other people, the opportunities to learn with others, and especially the opportunity to think I know something and have someone argue with me and convince me I didn’t know it as well as I thought, and that I have more to learn. 

It basically helps you stimulate your mind…

Yes, all the time. 

"It’s all about connections! It’s all about the people! We all work for different companies and compete in the marketplace, but at TAPPI we’re all connected”- Ben Frank

Interview conducted by Souadou Camara
Assisted by Priscila Briggs


Thank you, Ben Frank for your contribution with TAPPI!

If you would like to share your experience with Standards, TIPs or ISO TC 6, please write to and the TAPPI Standards team will be happy to interview you.

TAPPI Standards guidelines require that all TAPPI members receive notification of any proposed new Standard or TIPs. This message is being sent to you because you are a TAPPI member; have purchased TIPs or Standards products from TAPPI; or because you have previously expressed interest in this topic.


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