The Master of Multitasking - Family man, Sports coach, CEO, and TAPPI expert!

[This is a reprint of the recent TAPPI STAR Newsletter article published Jan. 20, 2021.]

M. Todd Popson, is the current President and Chief Executive Officer of Technidyne Corporation (New Albany, Indiana, USA) and the owner of Technidyne Inc., Dorval, Quebec, Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Indiana University. He is Chair of the TAPPI’s U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee 6, U.S. Expert to ISO Technical Committee 6 and all of its Working Groups, and a member of the Optical Properties Authorized Lab (OPAL) Committee within ISO.

As a valuable Member of TAPPI, Mr. Popson is a member and former Chair of the TAPPI Process & Product Quality (P&PQ) Division, a member and former Chair of the TAPPI Optical Properties Committee, a member of the TAPPI Quality and Standards Management Committee (QSMC), and a member of the TAPPI Physical Properties Committee & Tissue Properties Subcommittee. He was named TAPPI Fellow in 2015 and winner of the TAPPI Process & Product Quality Division Technical Award and Richard H. Hunter Prize in 2020.

He is a continuing Sustaining Member of PAPTAC (Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada), and was a member of the Canadian Standard Methods Committee. Mr. Popson is also a member of CIE Technical Committee 1-95 (Validity of CIE Whiteness and Tint Equations) and has been involved in the evaluation and measurement of the optical properties of paper since 1988. Prior to his current position, he was an Applications Engineer, Assistant Quality Manager, North American Sales Manager, Vice President, and President/COO at Technidyne Corporation.

“You don’t have to be an expert to be a valuable participant.” M. Todd Popson

1. What sparked your interest in ISO TC6?

My interest in ISO TC6 began when I started working full time at Technidyne. Since Technidyne is an equipment manufacturing company, our instruments meet many international standards. The first ISO-related Standards that I encountered were optical (specifically ISO 2469 and ISO 2470), because Technidyne was known for optical test equipment. I had two co-workers that were involved with Working Group 3 (Optical Properties), so I started to follow the development of those committees. Also, as I started to travel for work it allowed me to attend ISO TC6 Plenary and working group meetings. Initially, I attended a Working Group 3 meeting, but Charles Bohanan (formerly of TAPPI) introduced me to other groups/meetings (which helped increase my knowledge). In 2015, Charles offered me the Vice Chair position for the TAPPI U.S TAG ISO TC6 to assist John Walkinshaw. Unfortunately, shortly after having that conversation John passed away. As much as people think that I know about ISO TC6 Standards and its process, John was the king! He really understood the history and inner working of this field. It has given me a great appreciation for what is there and what is needed to be done. I became involved with ISO TC6 loosely through work, but as I got more involved, it created an opportunity for me to support the organization more broadly.

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

What comes to mind is a Working Group 7 (ISO TC6) meeting that occurred in Paris, France. Working Group 7, titled “Cores for reels of paper”, develops and maintains standards related to this topic. Charles Bohanan invited me to come with him. Even though we didn’t understand the technical details of what was being discussed, we were able to see the participants’ different positions while trying to facilitate the conversation to a point where everybody could agree. That proved to me that you don’t have to be an expert to participate, or be a useful participant in the ISO process. Sometimes you just need someone who can see both sides, or different sides, to help people come to an agreement. That experience was enlightening to me.

Another experience was with the Standard ISO 7263 Part 1 & 2 related to flat crush of paperboard, which I didn’t know much about either. Ben Frank was our expert, but the meetings were being held in Stockholm, Sweden, and Ben couldn’t call in to our working group meetings. Prior to the first meeting, Ben and I exchanged emails concerning the TC6 meeting, and he gave me enough information to be able to present the USA position in a technical way. Even though I wasn’t an expert, I could still relay the thoughts and concerns of our delegation. Once I was able to do that, other people started to chime in with related concerns. Without being an expert, I was able to participate and help us get to the point where we could agree on a Standard applicable to the United States as well the other countries involved.

Both examples impacted me and showed that you don’t have to be an expert to be a valuable participant. This lesson encourages me to share my experiences. It’s great to have expertise, but it isn’t critical in every area. It is mainly about communicating with people and coming to an agreeable resolution.

3. Why do you think ISO TC6 is important? How have you used it in your field?

ISO TC6 and its Standards help create a common language among people around the world. As a company, we use Standards daily. It’s important to have similar terminologies when we’re talking about Paperboard, Pulp and Nanocellulose. It has helped develop a network of international experts. Whether for product development or a customer inquiry, I now have people around the world that can help me obtain answers. It’s tremendously valuable in that regard. Also, it has created a group of friends I know when traveling internationally.

4. What would you tell people that have never participated in ISO TC6 activities?

You are part of a team! The US TAG group represents the interests of the United States from a global expert standpoint. I joke with our participants and call them Team USA. The physical representatives at the last TC6 meeting were Jeff Lundeen, Dave Loebker and me. Occasionally, we would start chanting “USA, USA, USA!” and joke about representing the US. It was fun and lighthearted. There is structure in the process, and we are always looking for people with expertise, but also people who want to learn and contribute. You have the opportunity to touch on many areas, since every member has the option to review balloted votes. Recommended votes go through the entire TAG, and everyone has the chance to participate or learn from those ballots. Participation level is guided by what a voter can do or wants to do. We have a group of 37 experts on the team, as opposed to 1-3 people in some other countries’ teams. My goal is to continue to expand because there’s a vast amount of learning opportunities.

5. Does working with ISO TC6 give you a sense of fulfillment?

It’s exciting to see a TAPPI Test Method or Standard be published; especially if you participated in it. It’s very rewarding to know that you had a hand in something that is used around the world and is used to facilitate research, production, and commerce in our industry.

6. Tell us a bit about yourself? (hobbies, education, and passion)

From a business standpoint, Technidyne Corporation was started by my father Jerry in 1974. I have been involved with the company in many ways over the years (from cutting grass to painting walls). When I became old enough, I would service the lab over the summer. Once I started working fulltime, I worked in engineering, quality, sales, and administration.

My wife Claudia and I have eight kids ranging in age from 26 to 10 years old. They’re either going to a play practice, singing practice or ball game. My wife and I ask each other what would we do if we didn’t have all these activities? We would be so bored! I’m also very involved in coaching basketball, baseball and tennis. I really enjoy coaching; it’s fun and a release from work responsibilities. My flexible work schedule allows me to be present, which is nice to have.

“Networking! Over the years TAPPI has created the opportunity for me to meet many people in a variety of roles from different companies.” – M. Todd Popson

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

Networking! Over the years TAPPI has created opportunities for me to meet many people in a variety of roles from different companies as well as people from many different countries. Even though there was an international element when I first joined TAPPI in 1993, it has become vastly more international since then; the connections are tremendous. Whether it’s through touching base at a conference or contacting the author of an article, TAPPI has created quite a platform to connect and learn from others. In addition to the Process and Product Quality (P&PQ) division, I’ve also been involved with the PaperCon Steering Committee. That introduced me to a whole new group of valuable resources. TAPPI Connect and LinkedIn are always good avenues to drop a question, which has created a great network.

The key aspect of all this is networking for knowledge. There is so much happening, it’s hard for anyone to be an expert on everything. TAPPI creates a platform for people to find valuable resources. Everyone is always pleasant and willing to help. One thing I found that is extremely unique is that TAPPI is international, but also like a small family. No matter where I am in the world I run into familiar faces, which is a quite unique and fascinating aspect of our industry. It is comforting to see my industry peers when I travel.

Interview conducted/ written by Souadou Camara Assisted by Standards Manager Priscila Briggs

Special thanks to Editor in Chief: Janet LoBue

Thank you, M. Todd Popson for your contribution to TAPPI!

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