Home' FLEXO Magazine : December 2014 Contents INDUSTRY
Surviving & Thriving
Corrugated’s Growth Areas, Superior
Use Cases, Future Obstacles
By Jack Fulton
Asaprepress and cuttingdiesupplier tothe corrugat-
ed industry andto a much lesser extent thefolding
carton industry,I have opinions on howthe industry is
moving forward andhowI wouldlike to see it change. They
are of course only opinions, and we all have them. For this
article Ifelt readers wouldbe much better served if I captured
thoughtsfrom the people who actually make and sellprod-
ucts, since their opinions are truly the ones that matter.
Rather than ask for general opinions andtryto work with
the varied responses, I asked afew specificquestions, ones
that wouldnot only elicitgood responses but also be of inter-
est to the readers of FLEXO®Magazine.
INDUSTRY AT LARGE
The first question I asked was ageneral one aboutthe state
of the corrugated industry and specifically how companies
were competing with other printing technologies.
We have all seen and readthat, overall, the corrugated
market hasbeen flat for a number of years. Consolidation
hascreatedfour large companies producing 75percent of
the corrugatedboard made in theU.S .Those companies
are controlling the price of paper and currently—for the most
part—doing very well on the profit front.
Advancements intechnology in both corrugators and con-
verting equipment will leadto quantum leaps in production
capabilitygoing forward.The companies I talked with said
their printing ability is ahuge part of their business andthey
needto utilize that tobe competitive in the marketplace.
One converter I spoke with has a multitude of printing and
convertingchoices whenhelping its customers. It hasflexo,
digital and a variety oflitho options at itsdisposal andthe
choice usually comes down to the volume involved with each
job andthe cost of producing that item.
Another spoke about
howit hashad customer
projects move back and
ed andfolding carton.
Printing is sometimes an
issue but more often than
not it comes down to the
strength that is necessary
with the final box. Corru-
gated offers more strength
in most cases andthe
printing canbe very close
in qualityto satisfy custom-
One thing that was
echoed wasthe factthat
manufacturers have been
ableto obtain new busi-
nessoverthe last couple
of years fromcustomers
whohave not been enamored with the consolidation in the
corrugatedmarket.They are not willing to put all of their eggs
in one basket andthathashelpedthe independentsgain
profitable market share.
Thesecondquestion involvedtheir thoughts on digital print-
ing. Were they embracing the technology?Howdidtheyfeel it
wouldaffectthe flexo corrugated market inthe future?
The reactionhere was very mixed. Some said it was more
troublethanit was worth and, in turn, use their suppliers for
digital jobs when necessary.Others had opposite opinions.
Allagreedthat ithad itsplace and right now that was a very
small percentage ofthe market.
One gentleman explained it very well. There are several
waysto print an order, he said. Direct print flexo, preprint
flexo and offset lithography allhave start up costs of vary-
ingdegrees. Because ofthat, the first box costs more than
the subsequent boxes andthe cost generally goesdownas
In contrast, withdigital printing allthe boxes from first to
lastbasically cost the same—and currently that cost ishigh.
Right now digitalprinting is used in the corrugated market
for short runand specialty items. Some use it for marketing
efforts where volume is small. If aproduct performs well in the
marketing tests it willbe convertedto one of the other printing
methods, preferably flexo. Digital is considereda comple-
mentary printing methodto flexo.
Asthe cost ofdigital printing comes down it willbecome
a disruptive technology and will have an impact on theflexo
market.Whenthat willhappen cannot be predictedto any
certain degree right now but everyone agrees that with tech-
nology improving, it will happen in thefuture.
Over thepast fewyears the number of new flexo printing
equipment purchases in the corrugated markethasbeen
astounding.Most of thisprinting technologyhasbeentied
to productivity rather than just printability. Thetechnology is
being usedto upgrade the efficiencies inbox plants so jobs
can be printed and converted in a single pass operation. In
many casesthe next job can be set up while the current job is
running, which means machines are sitting idleless often.
Bigbox stores are stilldriving graphics onpackaging,
however, the better quality ofthe current uncoatedpaper
being usedhas reducedthe needfor coatedpaper in many
jobs. That opinion was sharedbut not necessarily embraced
THE YEAR AHEAD
When I asked about 2014 I wasn’t surprisedto hear profit-
able growth asthe No. 1 priority for everyone! Everybodyis fo -
cused on improving manufacturing efficiencies with improved
equipment andtraining.The corrugated converters andthe
liner manufacturer I talked with are all marketleaders who
are successful dueto their superior customer service and
Iasked whatthesebusinesses are doing tokeep up with
what’s going on aroundthem. They all made certainI under-
stoodthat they are the ones that others are trying to keep up
After my conversations, I had no doubtthey were correct. n
About the Author: JackFulton
is vice president of salesat
Printron. He hasbeeninvolved
in the corrugatedprinting in-
dustry for 36years. Beyondhis
overall responsibility for sales
andmarketing,he is very ac-
tivein the highgraphics are-
na, both inthe prepressarea
andthe development of plate
andmounting systems for the
corrugated market.Jack is ac-
tivein several trade organiza-
tions and iscurrently serving
on theFTABoard of Directors
andFFTABoard of Trustees. Hehas made presentations at
many national meetings as well asregional workshops.
BOX SCORE: PROFITABILITY &
PRINTABILITY DRIVE BUSINESS
• Corrugated’s consolidation hashelped independent
• Digital not athreat in short term due tohigh costs,
lack of economics of scale
• Focus is on improving manufacturing efficiencies
with improved equipment andtraining
• Uncoatedpaper qualitydiminishing need for coated
• Advancements in technology in both corrugators and
converting equipment willleadtoquantum leaps in
production capability going forward
• Technology isbeing used toupgradethe efficiencies
in box plants, so jobs can be printed and converted
in a singlepass operation
• No. 1 priority?Profitable growth
JAN UARY 2 014 w w w.f lexog rap hy.org
www.flexography.org JANUARY 2014 FLEXO
“Diversify your offerings. Expand your reach into new, previously untapped markets.”
“Be c ome a better flexographer. Control outcomes. Secure your future.”
SYNERGISTIC & EXCEPTIONAL
FTA’s 2014 Annual Forum & INFO*FLEX Exhibition Breaks New Ground
Pepper Stokes,Robbie Fantastic Flexibles and Jessica Harkins Harrell, Anderson & Vreeland will co-chair FTA’s 54th Annual Forum, April 27-30 in Baltimore,MD.
Here, whileemphasizing new directions, theytackle
your questions on theprogram, its conception, execu-
tion and your expectations. Their promise is to “Break
Thetheme of 2014’s Forum is “BreakingNew Ground.”
Whatinsight can youprovide into how that theme was
chosen and what it means for attendees?
Fresh.New. Different. This year we made it our No.
1 priority tobring forthnew topics, new content, new
research, new case studies... (new everything!)intothe
Forum program. Thusthetheme “BreakingNewGround”
came tobe. We wantedto make sure that webroke new
ground in every conceivableway. We’reintroducing new
sessions, new formats and new presenters.
TheForum team has workeddiligently topursue new
avenues of learning and toensure the material that’s
beingdiscussed is germane and relevant tothe audi-
ence. We setasidepreconceived notions that aForum
agenda shouldbe “a certain way” and in doing so, we
came up with an event thatis sure tohelp all attendees
“BreakNewGround” in their respectivebusinesses.
Whatisthe “heart” of Forum’s program?
The “heart” of this and every other FTA Forum is the
people. It’s the conference goers who attendtheses-
sions and posedirect, thoughtprovoking questions;
it’s thepresenters who inspire dialogue, debate and
discussion; it’s theINFO*FLEX exhibitors who share
their new technologies andproducts tohelpgrow our
businesses; it’s thehonorees attheAwardsBanquet
who are celebratedfor their excellence, their spirit
of volunteerism and their innovations. Finally, it’s the
members of theForum committee, who work tirelessly
up until the very endto make sure their sessions offer
insightandknowledge. That’s theheartofForum. It was
in 1960 when FTA first heldthisevent, and it continues to
be now, some 54years later.
Describe theprocess that was used when it came
to assembling the agendafor Forum? How is the
“BreakingNew Ground” theme reflected in the
pla nn ed s essi ons?
Our firstgoal wasto assembleastellar group of indus-
try expertstoform thebackboneof theForum Commit-
tee. Mission accomplished!Members of thisgroup re-
ally havetheir fingers on thepulse of theflexo industry.
They know whattopics are hot, whattopics can beput
tobed, what needstobereworked and what can beleft
untouched. Wehad countless brainstorming sessions
and in the end, this “think tank”developed 11 exciting
sessions (many of which are completely new to aForum
program) and immediately startedgoing out intothe
fieldto maketheir visions realities.
For youpersonally, whatdoyoupredictForum’s
hig hli ght wil l be?
Well, we’repartial totheFlexo Mythbusters session, but
we’re also spearheading that one! In all seriousness, it’s
hardtopinpoint whatForum’s main highlight will bebe-
cause it is a different experience for everyone. This year
we’ve introduced a new “Managing Your Pressroom
Efficiencies” session that will becrucial for printers who
want to makethe most out of their existing investments in
machinery. “ExpandedGamut” is a hot one and one of
theworld’s largestCPCs, Procter & GambleCo., willbe
headlining it, so that’s a hugedraw.
Wealsohave an array of concurrentsessions thatfocus
on thedifferent marketsegments(i.e. flexiblepackaging,
tags andlabels, and corrugated), sothosefolks will find
a lot of pertinent contentthere. The “Emerging Flexo Mar-
kets” will beessentialfor anyonelooking todiversify their
offerings and expandtheir reach into new, previously
untapped marketstogrow their businesses.
FIRST isgoing togive sneak peaks at what’s in store for
the newest version (4.X)...FQCwill present findings from
keyprojects... beginners will benefit from Flexography
101 and 102. Addtothatthe networking, the receptions,
theAwards Banquet... it’s impossibleto naildown the
main highlight. Inthe end,that’s something we’reespe-
cially proud of.
Whatdo you think willbethebiggest takeawaysfor
printers in attendance? How aboutCPCs, designers
Theflexo industry faces serious challenges:Increasing
customer demands, shorter leadtimes, rising cost of raw
materials—these are just some of the issues impacting
business. There are alsoa host of opportunitiesthat can
beseized, but we need theproper intelligence to act on
them. Forum 2014 will talk aboutbenchmarking,G7 (Near
Neutral Calibration), process control, pressroom efficien-
cies, expandedgamutprinting, enhancing shelf appeal,
new marketsto explore... this subject matter is relevant
not only toprinters, butfor CPCs, designers, prepress
providers, etc. If it’s trending, rest assuredForum 2014
will address it.
Isthere anything you’d like to say aboutBaltimore, the
2014 Forum’s host city, from theperspective of what at-
tendees can expect?
Baltimore is a great venue. It’s gotthethree “A’s” every-
one is looking for: Accessibility, Affordability andAttrac-
tions. With numerous flight options, convenient highway
access and ahost of rail options, traveling toandfrom
Baltimore is easy. The city is also very affordable—its ac-
commodations, dining and airfares are among thelowest
when comparedtoother keydestinations.
Baltimore also offers a wide variety of attractions, includ-
ing thefamous Inner Harbor, which offers an array of
first class restaurants, entertainment venues and cultural
institutions. Plus, sports enthusiasts will appreciatethat
thepopular OriolePark atCamden Yards andRavens
Stadium are all within walk-
ingdistance from theHilton
center (where INFO*FLEX
Jessica Harkins Harrell
Talk abit about the relationship between Forum and
INFO*FLEX.How does thelatter complement theformer
and what opportunities do they together present?
Theideasputforthduring Forum’s technical sessions are fol-
lowed up on at INFO*FLEX.Welearn about new technology,
new standards, new testing, new practices, new R&D(justto
name a few) atForum andthen we’re given the opportunity to
continuethediscussion with candid,facetoface meetings at
thebooths an hour or twolater. It’s synergy at itsbest.
Have any ofyour pastForum experiences played a part
in thepreparations? Were there thingsyoulearned at
previous Forums, conversations or experiences thathave
influenced any aspects ofyour job?
Of course! There are thingsthat work in big seminars and
there are thingsthatmay not go sosmoothly. We’ve examined
theentire Forum program agenda andkept a watchful eyeto
ensure thatForum 2014 provides an exceptional experience
for all involved.HopefullyForum 2014 will be remembered as
fun, exciting and—perhaps mostimportantly—a great learn-
ing experience for each and every attendee.
Whyisitimportant for a flexographer who is active in the
industry to attend Forum?
Insights circulated atthe sessions are unmatched.Network-
ing—meeting new contacts and building new partnerships—
is invaluable. Together, Forum andINFO*FLEX will foster
a sense of community, then spark new ideas, new thought
processes and new mindsets. It’s where success originates!
Thehuman experience of in person networking andlearning
simply can’tbematched.Standing in a circle of colleagues in
between sessions and ata reception, banquet or on the show
floor and sharing ideas or perspectives is critical.
Isthere anything elseyou’d like to add or anything you’d
like to say to thoseheading toBaltimore in April?
Break new ground. Buildnew solutions. Print tothe numbers.
Applyprocess controls. Become a better flexographer. Con-
trol outcomes. Secure your future. UseForum & INFO*FLEX
2014 to strengthen andleverageyour competitive advantage.
Tap new opportunities. Participate in thedialogue, debate
and discussion. Take new ideas home andputthem in place
atyour plant.Whatyoulearn atForum will befundamental to
“Insights are unmatched.
Networking is invaluable.”
EPI CEN TE R...PAG E 68
Flexo’s FinestEarn 102Awards
Register today. www.flexography.org
“ Baltimore is a great venue. It’s got the three ‘A’s’ —Acc e ssibility,
Affordability and Attractions.”
Katherine Harper, who founded Harper Corporation of America
with her husband, Ron, and a devout member and leader of the
flexographic industry, passed away on May 3 at the age of 80. Beyond
her work at the helm of her namesake company, she served on and
led numerous committees and boards. The Harpers’ philanthropic
endeavors were widely known, most notably their $1 million donation
that kickstarted Flexographic Technical Association’s Technical Edu-
cation Services Team (TEST) program.
As the world of flexo continues to grow, so does the trend of mergers
and acquisitions. Some M&A friendly companies include:
• Five companies—Britton Group, Kobusch, PACCOR, Exopack
and Paragon Print & Packaging—uniting to form Coveris High
• Betram Capital acquiring Maxcess International
• American Inks & Coatings buys Color Resolutions International
• Berry Plastics taking a controlling interest in Qingdao P&B Co.
• Hood Packaging buying Bemis Paper Packaging Division
• Quantum Design buying KTI
• TC Transcontinental Inc. buying Capri Packaging
• Matthews International Corp. acquiring Schawk, Inc.
• Fusion Flexo acquiring Hughes Integrated
• Heights USA merging with Kelleigh USA
• xpedx and Unisource merging and renaming as Veritiv
• MarquipWardUnited acquiring E.C.H . Will, Pemco and
• Heidelberg acquiring Gallus
• Genesis buying VSG and renaming itself Genesis Brand Design
• BST Group buying eltromat
• OEC Graphics acquiring MGM Graphics, Inc.
• Former Mark Andy CEO P.J. Desai, leading a buyout of the
• Koch Industries acquiring Flint Group
• Dynamic Dies acquiring assets from Flexo Die Company
DECEMBER 2014 | FLEXO 15
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