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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
www.flexography.org SEPTEMBER 2009 FLEXO 29 PLANTS & PROCESSES Recent work from YORK Label won FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards. terms of being a packaging engineer and project manager. As they become more and more resource constrained, they rely on their suppliers to do that for them. Companies these days need to be aware and have the assets in place to do this." What does vary by locale, according to Uhlin, is customer interaction and business relationships---even within the U.S. "There will be different expectations as far as the way you do business. The upper northeast part of the U.S. is performance by numbers and statistics, as well as utilizing technology as much as possible to prove you are doing a good job. In the southern U.S. it's more of a traditional business relationship, where, you sit down face-to-face and work out mutually ben- eficial solutions." As for South America and Central America, Uhlin stated that business can be very formal, and the roles of each player clearly defined. Our neighbor to the north is a different story as well. "Canada is very similar to Europe in that there is a serious speed element," Uhlin said. "And I say that only in perspective to the U.S. Canada is typically 10 percent of the volumes of the U.S. If you produce 1 million labels for a product in the states, you will probably run about 100,000 to 150,000 of the same product in Canada." Regardless of the plant that will print the product, Uh- lin noted that accounts for each customer are centralized through specific teams. "The way we service one of our largest food customers is a good example," he said. "We are able to support more than 100 of its facilities throughout North America. It's our multi-plant team approach which makes this work. We service many of our consumer products customers in much of the same way. This team approach makes it easy for our customers to do business with us despite where it's being manufactured. One YORK, one team. "We control image consistency through our art operations. This comes out of two locations, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. Unlike when YORK was single location, the graphic artists were dealing with all types of images for all mar- kets. When we got larger, we got focused and established areas of expertise, breaking them into groups responsible for con- sumer products or wine and spirits, etc. These graphics centers support all of our operations; plates and proofs for flexographic, letterpress, and roll and sheet lithographic printing." EMPOWERMENT Uhlin summarized the company 's core mission as being to empower the brands its services to enhance and better sell its customer 's products. One of the ways it is accomplishing this, he insisted, is by enabling its employees. "The reason for our success in the past and now is that all of our employees have a good understanding of what we're doing, how we're doing and why we're doing it. Everyone knows why their contribu- tions are important, as well as where we're headed." This is due, in part, to the company 's willingness to listen, not just instruct, its personnel. "We take input from employees. Each person is part of a team operation within each plant. So, a press operator working on a press is responsible for the product coming off it. This person can get together with his team and ask, 'How can we do this better?' Suggestions are reported to management and get acted on." Uhlin said Lean is a notable part of its operations. "A lot of people give lip service to Lean, saying, 'Oh, we've done a Kai- zan event or two.' But ours is a relentless pursuit. It's critical. There is no other way to do business and stay healthy." YORK Label will continue to stay healthy, Uhlin added, by supporting the markets it serves, as well as by continuously upgrading its capabilities. The firm utilizes the most modern flexo technology available, including complete computer-to- plate throughputs in all of its operations. "We invest in tech- nology and utilize it as much as possible to drive cost out of the equation. We spend a good amount of time investing the newest in decorating technology. Innovation is a key compo- nent in a down economy." This innovation can come in other ways, too. "How are you presenting lower cost offerings to your customer? What kind of ideas are you bringing to your customers? Something might increase the unit cost, but you can justify how the image enhancement will increase market share and shelf appeal. What are the consumer product companies looking for to enhance their products? Interestingly enough, what's old is new again. There is a large resurgence in instant redeemable coupons, leaflet labels, cross promotions, etc."