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FLEXO Magazine : November 2010
started with International Paper in its Graphics Group. From there, I moved to Menasha Packaging and was a general manager of its Hartford, WI, facility. Then, I went to Smurft- Stone, back when it was still Jefferson Smurfit, and had re- sponsibility for the Graphic and Display Division — nationally, with some overlay with overseas. We did a lot of flexo work to compete with lithography. ” It’s no secret that high-end graphics are the future of cor- rugated printing. “ T he industry keeps trying to evolve into higher graphics because the Walmarts of the world want more imagery on the packaging, so that they could put it on the shelves,” observes Nelson. Early on, Great Lakes Packaging purchased a Cuir Mark II flexo press for process color printing. But Arnold, whose back- ground is from outside the packaging and printing industry, confesses that there were some initial challenges to getting into such work. “ We didn’t know what we were doing!” Arnold admits with a laugh. “ We’d get samples off the press and they ’d have thumbprints on the printed area. Very quickly, we learned that the press is just a small part of it. You need designers; you need sales people, etc. The machine is almost an afterthought.” At that point, Arnold worked hard to determine the next best steps. “ To Glen’s credit, he brought a lot of outside consul- tants in to help with that decision-making process and figure out what is the state of the industry today, where is it going to take us in 10 years,” explains Nelson. “ Making more RSCs (regular slotted containers) was not the answer,” adds Arnold. “ I put a taskforce together and selected the machine we bought and began training our people on printing. Early on, though, we were outsourcing the printing to the point we were almost brokers.” Nelson continues, “They did their diligence and homework and realized they had to have an infrastructure in place. Sure, the press was one piece of it. But if you didn’t have someone who understood how to work between the platemaker, the ink people, and the machine to make a finished product, that takes a lot of time and learning. It takes time to put that talent together. Even before that, the company knew it needed to break itself out from being a commodity producer. So even with the equipment it had, it was trying to do screens and line work—the basic printing that would differentiate them from others. By the time Glen bought the company, he put the tools in place and made the investments necessary to make the jump to the next level.” Still, Arnold insists that it was the ambition of the people he had empowered to do the job that has gotten Great Lakes Packaging to where it is today. “ We had people with the passion to get to the next level,” he says. “ We didn’t have the knowledge, but they were driven. It just proves that people make a business, not machinery. And when Jim came in, he provided the leadership in the graphics area that we were lacking before. Today, it ’s a major part of our business. ” Arnold proclaims, “We have been fortunate enough to attract good people from the industry. We’ve also grown our own by having them work with more experienced members of the staff, or moving them into other areas, like from the plant to design.” That kind of education is an integrated part of Great Lakes Packaging’s operation. “ We are continually training people,” Nelson says. Great Lakes Packaging dedicates a set budget for training, and utilizes every resource possible. “ We have our vendors Plants & Processes Great lakes Packaging’s five-color flexo press with robotic auto feed on the die cutter. www.flexography.org november 2010 FLEXO 69 SuStainability at Great lakeS PackaGinG Nelson and Arnold are quick to insist that, in addition to valuing its people, the firm also values the environ- ment. “ We are dealing with a sustainable product, with corrugated board usually being at least 30 percent post- consumer recycled,” says Nelson. Other eco-minded efforts include: • SFI certified site as of April 2010. • New equipment uses less energy. • Semi truck fleet meets all environmental standards. • Efficient lighting throughout the entire plant. • A leader in metal-free inks. “In advance of most people in our industry, we were forced to eliminate copper from our blue inks,” says Nelson. “ We had to work with our ink manufacturer to come up with non-metal blues and greens. A lot of people in the industry would later benefit from that.” FLX_Nov10_mech.indd 69 11/1/10 2:26 PM
Sustainable Fall 2010