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FLEXO Magazine : October 2010
Industry Indicators similar ratio of decline of production in the U.K . Pack- aging has been more robust, as one would expect. It’s less impacted by new technologies. In fact, as long as the population keeps growing, there are going to be more mouths to feed, and those who make food will need packaging for it. The challenges are largely the same. Packaging has a different set of dynamics in that there has been a high push on the environment and recyclability. The drive for packaging reduction is having a major impact. That provides both a challenge and an opportunity for Sun Chemical. What is Sun Chemical doing to embrace this opportunity? We are looking at lamination replacement products, high-barrier and specialty barrier coatings, and intel- ligent inks that will react within certain circumstances. For example, thermochromic inks on medical packag- ing where the user is warned if the contents have ex- pired. Brand protection is another area. We are seeing ever increasing knockoffs on things you’d never even think of, like toothpaste. The consumer would never be able to tell the difference, except that the authen- tic package can be identified with a special reader. Random sampling will help show if fake products are being introduced into the market. We are trying to be ahead of the curve. Packaging as we know it today will continue, and that’s because of its functions: 1. It advertises the product. 2 . It provides protection. There will be some challenges to the adver- tising, such as we’re seeing in cigarettes where all or a large percentage of branding is being taken off the package. In terms of barrier and protection, though, there are opportunities. What about printed electronics? You men- tioned that digital technologies are affecting publications. Will this create opportunities for printing? Again, we are working hard on conductive inks. Printing the circuit board allows it to be flexible. Many people have seen those roll-up keyboards. That’s made possible because of conductive inks. There’s also photovoltaics, which are still relatively inefficient in their current format—they are heavy and fragile. But printed electronics make this more efficient by making it thinner and lighter. Some of these are here now, but they are in early development. In other cases, they need the market to reach critical mass. Who is going to drive that? Utility costs are going to be an influence here. Every- one wants to drive down their energy costs. Flexible packaging printers are looking for ways to generate their own energy. For example, they have gas and hot air being pumped away from press, and yet they are trying to heat the factory through other means. Why push the hot air into the atmosphere and then bring in more gas for heating? In addition to repurposing energy, there are opportunities here for solar panels. After all, heat from the sun is free. What are printers pushing you for? Cost! Everybody wants prices down. How do we do what we do for less cost? Every year we have to reduce the cost for us to manufacture and distribute these products to our customers. The challenge is that we have seen significant raw material increases that we have little control over. We may be one of the larg- est manufacturers of ink, but we are not the largest purchaser of the raw materials that we use to make those inks. Take carbon black, for example. Of all the carbon black that is used in the world, less the 2 per- cent does not go into tires. That includes, inks, paints, pigments for thermoform injection molding, etc. And our competition is largely producing inks for the same end uses, using largely the same materials, likely from the same suppliers. And a lot of times the material is 70 percent of the cost of the product. What are you doing to offset those costs as best you can? We are looking at what we do and how we do it. Can we do it more cost effectively? We have consolidated some of our manufacturing locations and will continue to look at the most efficient way of doing it. We think there are potentially big gains in making our supply chain more efficient than it currently is. The reality is that we are not going to see the heady days of 2007 coming back. Has the decline of publications (and, as such, publication inks) had any affect on Sun Chemical’s focus in the packaging industry? We’ve always had a high focus on packaging. Sun Chemical’s origins are in the heady days of heatset publication printing, but we have always been en- trenched in packaging. Don’t forget, Sun Chemical is the inventor of energy-curable UV inks. What do you think of the Labelexpo Americas show? I can give you a Sun Chemical perspective and a personal perspective. Personally, it has given me a chance to meet the bulk of my team, which I hadn’t yet had a chance to meet. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to meet our customers, whereas it might otherwise take me a long time to get around to meeting. It gives me a feel for the U.S . in this particular arena. From a Sun Chemical perspective, it is important to be present for these kinds of things. Are we going to meet clients we don’t know about? No, and if we did, we wouldn’t be doing our job. But it does give us a forum to show some new products and discuss new areas. Our clients are changing their businesses as well. One person I spoke with had started in folding carton, and is now getting into labels. Meanwhile, label printers are getting into flexible packaging. And it is good for us to sit down with them and see how we can help them. n Optimism in Face of Adversity New President of sun chemical North america talks about challenges and opportunities in today’s Market years, I moved to another large British packaging and label printer, where I ran operations in the U.K., Holland and Spain. When that business was acquired, I spent some time consolidating and centralizing its purchasing. In 1997, I joined Sun Chemical, initially running the publication side of the U.K., then Scandi- navia, South Africa and the Baltics. And more recently, I was told I was coming to North America. You’re well versed in a lot of different markets. How does North America compare to the rest of the world? If I compare it, I would say North America is closest to the U.K. market. Both are very mature areas. Most of the segments—commercial print, flexible packaging, folding carton, you name it—are all well developed. The U.K. tends to be a microcosm of the U.S. Things tend to happen here first, and anywhere between eight and 18 months later it hits in the U.K. We’ve seen declines in the newspaper market in the U.S., and a www.flexography.org october 2010 FLEXO 69 FLX_Oct10_mech.indd 69 10/15/10 12:33 AM
Sustainable Fall 2010