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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
24 FLEXO SEPTEMBER 2009 www.flexography.org INDUSTRY INDICATORS establishing forward investment strategies, developing new business and personnel structures, evolving creative staff capabilities and looking for new products and services. Certainly, the best label businesses are already well into this mode. After all, history is full of companies that have jumped ahead of their competitors by actually increasing their invest- ment on growth opportunities and innovation during the bad times. Why should the label industry be any different? But where do label converters find the innovative ideas and growth opportunities to take them successfully into the future, irrespective of when the recession comes to an end? Well one place is certainly going to be Labelexpo Europe 2009. Many industry suppliers have already adapted to global change by bringing out new products, technology and servic- es to help converters become more competitive, to aid cost- reduction, to add-value, and to create innovative solutions. Yet some converters will undoubtedly say, "We have cut our travel budgets and cannot afford to take management teams to Brussels for several days." The correct decision should be: "We cannot afford not to go to Labelexpo." Ideally, converters should increase their management attendance at the show, but make the time more productive by giving each manager a target to return with---say, five good innovative, growth potential, added value or efficiency ideas or products that the company can then evaluate for implementation or investment. It will be interesting to see what each one comes up with. But what areas of the show should they be looking at for these new ideas or products? Let's highlight a few. ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION High-tech innovation and R&D by label press manufactur- ers and equipment suppliers does not appear to be slowing down. On the contrary, a recession concentrates the minds of technology companies and makes them really turn their abili- ties to inventing the future. It's already two years since the last Labelexpo Europe and, if the converter misses the 2009 show, it will be a further two years until the next European event. Miss four years and the converter will be way out of touch with the latest innovative and cost-competitive solutions. Labelexpo is the showcase for the leading technology and high-tech manufacturers. Just think: Nilpeter, Gallus, MPS, Mark Andy, EskoArtwork, and the like are continuously adapt- ing to pressures from the market, from end-user require- ments, from digital label printing, from efficiency targets and from new alliances or partnerships. Just from talking with these companies at the show it will provide ideas on opportu- nities, trends and possibilities. And it is not always just about buying a new press. There are often smaller, lower-cost, add-ons, upgrades or extensions that will provide exciting opportunities. Even if a new press is put on hold it is probably still worth- while looking at a machine upgrade or add-on that offers enhanced value or service to the label buyer---such as brand protection solutions, leaflet labels, on-serting capabilities, numbering, sequential coding, embossing, hologram dis- pensing, or maybe a twin-cut rotary die-cutting unit. All these can be seen at Labelexpo. The whole prepress, workflow, software, file storage, imag- ing, proofing and plate making has also changed dramati- cally even since the last Labelexpo. And these will continue to evolve rapidly over the next few years. Label buyers want to make use of converters with the latest technology solutions that will both add-value and reduce time or costs. How many label converters can say that they are up-to-date with the lat- est pre-press solutions and talk regularly with their customers about the benefits of new technology? Then look at the digital label printing opportunities at the show. Exhibitors now have their own dedicated digital hall, displays of digitally printed labels and products, digital experience panel sessions where the converter can listen to the world's pioneers in digital printing, see all the main digital label presses in operation (including the launch of a new, high speed, near photographic quality digital inkjet press) and learn about the increased label converting profitability that digital can offer. Already some leading label buying companies such as P&G are saying that they will expect all their label suppliers in the future to offer digital capabilities. Wait another two years before coming to Labelexpo and the converter may well have already lost some of their key accounts because they cannot provide the digital label printing service required. GREEN MOVEMENT Follow the green and energy efficiency momentum. There is little doubt that leading label buying organizations and converters have been increasingly discovering the benefits of going sustainability in all of its many forms: green materials, energy efficiency, waste reduction, environmental friendli- ness, forest products, recyclable or re-usable materials, reduced pollution, and much more. Indeed, recession and economic pressures tends to drive these developments even faster. To meet this growing demand, Labelexpo Europe is this year introducing a Green Park area where exhibitors will be displaying their green and environmental solutions. Certainly well worth a visit, but it should be more than this. It gives converters the opportunity to talk to their customers before the show and find out what green solutions they are really looking for. Offer to compile a green report for them on the latest green-related label innovations and opportunities at the show. Make it a talking and selling point with key existing and potential clients after the show. It's also a good way to retain customers. ENHANCE THE BRAND In times of recession, brand owners start looking at new, simpler and more cost-effective ways of presenting and sell- ing their products, maybe moving from bottles to pouches, pots to sachets; or looking for new labeling solutions such as sleeving or wrap-around film. Technology on show at Label- expo offers all these options. Many can be undertaken on the same presses that are already being used. There is also a proliferation of "own brand" products emerging. Brand protection and authentication are also key require- ments today. Recession and globalization both tend to in- crease levels of counterfeiting, so why not make a key point at Labelexpo of looking at all the brand protection, anti-counter- feiting, anti-tamper, anti-theft, hologram, etc., solution. Again, talk to customers in advance, find out what they may be look- ing for, compile a report on possible options and costs---it all helps to build relationships with label customers. NEW SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS Today, a new or upgraded management information system (MIS) can also offer significant benefits to both the converter and to their customers. Holding customer job data