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Harnessing tomorrow’s label converter leaders today: FINAT European Label Forum

12-07-2018

Developing ways to harness the skills of tomorrow’s label converter leaders, driving industry efficacy, and understanding the major changes across the print technology base were the overriding themes of this year’s international labelling association FINAT held its fourth European Label Forum in Dublin in June.

FINAT is this year celebrating its 60th year and FINAT President Chris Ellison, Managing Director of a true family label company, OPM Group welcomed delegates noting that the association’s milestone, pales into insignificance if compared to that of Arthur Guinness, whose central Dublin brewery was opened in 1759 – with a 9000-year lease. A visit to the Guinness Storehouse followed that evening.

The working agenda began with keynote speaker, Alastair Campbell – writer, TV commentator, author and strategist, and well-remembered as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of communications. His headline topic for this multinational meeting was ‘The Elephant in the Room’ – Brexit and implications for EU/UK B2B relations.’ The extant lack of clarity on the UK’s final proposals for its departure, and the likely situation that might follow the UK’s exit from the European Union, were shared in an address that explored all the options, all the possibilities, and all the shortcomings. Afterwards, participants were able to share their own views on the topic with coffee around the extensive tabletop exhibition.

Gavin Killeen, Managing Director of Nuprint Technologies Ltd – leading Northern Ireland suppliers of labels and packaging print – reviewed the current Irish marketplace and showed that Ireland’s strong history in self-adhesive labelling, remains lively today. He underpinned its commitment to the industry by sharing its strong programme of staff training and apprenticeships, R&D and technology support, including the EU-funded PhD project with Glasgow University investigating printed conductive inks and related opportunities.

Harnessing tomorrow’s label converter leaders today: FINAT European Label Forum

FINAT MD Jules Lejeune provided an update on the broader European label industry picture, which has exhibited a strong recovery since 2012. The association’s data confirmed healthy 4.7% industry growth in 2017 over prior year (which, however, was below the average growth rate of 5.4%, 2013-2016), with film-based labelstocks growing at an even higher rate – 8.2% over prior year. The top 15 label market countries in Europe represent a massive 90% of the total business, and the statistics affirm that Turkey, Poland, and Italy have enjoyed the largest increase in absolute volumes between 2010 and 2017. Again, the influence of Brexit has made itself felt in the UK, with consumption in decline since Q3 2017, unlike the other top-performing European country markets. He also discussed the recent issue of FINAT’s regular member publication, RADAR.

Andy Thomas-Emans, Strategic Director, Tarsus Labels & Packaging Group, went on to map out the evolving current industry landscape and the next five years, examining in particular the growing crossover for label converters between label print and other packaging print options. The FINAT RADAR research, he referenced, indicates that the production of flexible packaging pouches is already an additional capability for 19% of label converters; sleeves for 31% of survey respondents; and other flexible packaging items for 27% of them.

He went on to highlight issues and opportunities in converting; the health and safety problems around solvents; energy-efficient UV flexo print; and, of course, digital print. He also introduced the industry’s ground-breaking UVFoodSafe group, embracing major suppliers and related professional associations across the converting value chain, who are committed to making UV and UV/LED curing fully appropriate for food packaging print. He concluded with confirmation that Labelexpo has expanded to become a package print show.

Packaging professional and author Keran Turakhia gave an offbeat and thought-provoking presentation looking at the ways converters and their clients can benefit financially from thinking outside – and inside! – the box, to create innovative messaging opportunities. With real-life case histories, he showed how his own thinking has successfully changed packaging from just being a cost, to helping a brand to take advantage of new on-pack promotional opportunities, particularly with digital print.

‘Rethink packaging’ is the motto of rlc-Packaging, whose managing director, Marc Büttgenbach, moderated an expert panel discussion featuring all the morning’s industry presenters, enabling delegates to explore the topics in further detail. A networking lunch preceded an interesting afternoon of concurrent ‘hands on’ ‘business learning sessions’ on different and important aspects of today’s market. Jennifer Dochstader and David Walsh of marketing researchers LPC Inc looked at how ‘going digital’ has impacted both converters and brand owners, updating the findings of their FINAT-commissioned report on digital label printing. James Bevan, founder and director of specialist product authentication and security consulting house Vandagraf looked at the latest trends and developments, focusing on taggants and forensic solutions.

Food safety and migration issues in the wider world of labels and flexible packaging were addressed by a multi-discliplinary panel of industry experts – Jakob Abilgaard, of Dan Labels Flexible Packaging Division; Robert Rae, of GEW; and Niklas Olsson, Flint Group Narrow Web and also chairman of the ELF’s overall programme committee. Sean Smyth, print consultant at Smithers Pira, discussed the total cost of ownership of ‘alternative’ label printing technologies. Business marketing strategist Bert van Loon guided his audience through modern ROI methods for marketing to deliver improved results in online B2B marketing; and Dieter Moessner, project engineer, pharma, at Edelmann, examined compliance with the new EU Falsified Medicals Directive which comes into effect in February 2019, in terms of serialization and tamper-evidence.

For an audience composed of leaders across the packaging print value chain, the second day’s programme was strongly and appropriately focused on management issues, and opened by best-selling author and CEO of XYZ University Sarah Sladek, who deliberated on the key label industry topic of driving stronger engagement with the younger generations in the quest for new, young business talent. Since, between 2010 and 2020, 78% of the ‘baby boomers’ will turn 65, and 25% of ‘millennials’ will move into leadership roles, the need of their younger-generation successors must be met because there has, as she showed, been more in change in lifestyle and attitudes in the last few decades than in the whole of history. This state of affairs has created, and continues to create, many workforce issues – not the least of which are the availability of skilled labour; retiring company founders; and leadership change. Little is being done to control and manage these issues – and a completely new approach from employer organisations is needed, because today’s most successful, engaging leaders have the same three special traits in common: passion, humility, and urgency.

Bert van Loon carried the topic further, leading a lively debate on the next-generation challenges for, specifically, label converters in Europe because, he said, ‘the label industry has a vast interest in successful generation handover of family-owned converter companies’. Would the alternative to successful generation change be more consolidation, with resultant reductions in innovation?

The audience then welcomed Emma Rochford, Global Marketing Manager for Guinness, and Kathryn Wilson, Design Lead for Guinness and Baileys at Diageo. The trend for premium and craft beers is creating a pressing need for high-quality branding and, while Guinness is a global brand with local flair, Rupert Guinness was right to say, back in 1929: ‘the quality of our advertising must equal the quality of our beer!’. FINAT delegates were then invited to contribute to the future embellishment and sustainability of Guinness’s packaging.

In the conference’s final keynote, business guru, writer, and broadcaster Prof Noreena Herz delivered an eye-opening seminar on ‘how to make smart decisions in a complex world’. In this age of disruption - which includes the potential effects of Brexit. She shared insights into the upcoming new generation of potential employees, generation K - 15 to 24 year olds - and profiled what they care about, how they behave, what they want, and how they consume plus just how different they are to millennials. She left the audience with thoughts on how her insights can improve their businesses.

FINAT President Chris Ellison closed the event stating: “We are an industry that has such a bright future, and we don’t always realise it’. We’re also a very, very, very passionate industry!” The forum also hosted the formal FINAT General Assembly and the FINAT Label Awards Ceremony which celebrated worthy winners in this year’s well-supported label printing competition and its associated recycling and sustainability award. Vlad Sljapic, Xeikon’s Vice President, Global Sales, was Master of Ceremonies. A networking dinner followed, bringing together key players from the international labels & packaging print sector. The next FINAT European Label Forum will take place in June next year in Copenhagen, from 5-7 June.


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