on the line

Last week I helped out at a friend’s winery by joining the bottling production line team for a day.

Boy it was tough work – lifting bottles of wine off the line and into a box isn’t easy work (esp, with bad sleep, no breakfast and no coffee). And it’s not particularly taxing on the brain either, but with all that head space, I was able to do some thinking and I found the experience to be beneficial relating to two aspects of ‘things I like to think about’.

Firstly, I’m into structure. Rhythm, buildings, systems, grids – you name it and I find it fascinating. In fact I believe that humans have a deep-seated need for structure and it’s the stuff that keeps us going.

And this was confirmed for me again last week, on the ‘line’. I found that the work wasn’t too hard once you got into a rhythm – the line would clunk, bottles clink, you’d lift, two at a time, box sorted, closed, onto the tap line, etc, etc – you had to concentrate a little, but mostly it was about having a groove on. And the hard stuff came when you got out of that rhythm – you’d miss a bottle, the box would be all skewiff, the noise and the mundane nature of the job would get to you and it would all get a bit frustrating – the zen-ness of it all was firmly entrenched in going with a rhythm.

I also realised how beautiful stacks of things are – I want to make a production line of red bottles or red lollies, or something, ‘cos when they’re all together, clunking, and moving, it’s like ballet.

Secondly, in the middle of lifting, boxing, bottling the different varieties and brands of wines, I realised how important a process it was, as a marketing./comms type person. I love coming up with great ideas and a lovely, personal package just looks gorgeous, but if it takes an extra person or 12 people in the production/manufacture/packaging of the thing (like one of the lines actually did!), then financially and practically, it’s questionable (not to mention a right, royal pain in the arse).

The other thing I learnt, in the thick of things, was exactly how much waste and/or produce there really is to make some very simple things. Plastic to wrap palettes of cartons in, plastic to wrap a load of bottles in, distilled, pure water to flush out the lines (and straight down the drain), paper to wrap more paper – it’s incredible! And I was part of a very small, lean system – I’m scared to think about the reality of a monstrous organisation.

I think that anyone in the communications industry really needs to spend time on the production line – a brand manager in charge of FMCGs? go hang out in the cannery for a while, designer for 5 blades of razory goodness? how about you hang out with the peeps that put the things together. Even if it’s just for a day, having empathy for not just the process involved but for the people who do your dirty work is surely valuable! I certainly learned a tonne of priceless stuff (and got some nasty cardboard cuts in the process).

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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