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FLEXO Magazine : September 2012
Plants & Processes Holding its Own Paul christopher, Managing Director: “everything is tied to consistent Product & accurate costing” FLEXO: Can you begin by assessing the state-of-the-industry as it exists today? What are its top priorities and challenges? Is growth, both in volume and dollar sales likely this year and into the future? Why? CHRISTOPHER: I would describe the label sector to be in flux. The past five years has seen the introduction of shrink sleeve packaging as well as digital printing. Shrink sleeve made an immediate impact in the market, but in my opinion, growth has slowed from its original novelty. The market here in Trinidad has only so many large manufacturers, yet it is left with a large spread of smaller manufacturers. Customers making the investment to shrink sleeve quickly absorbed the business. New conversions are slow. Digital has made its impact felt but in a cost-conscious mar- ket, traditional flexo still holds its own. Growth has stagnated. The investment in shrink sleeve and digital has been afforded by only the top two or three operations. Where labels were traditionally applied to bags, China has become a competitor for high volume quality print. Affording new equipment to meet designs for customers who don’t want to hear about flexo’s limitations, and a labor market that is not attracted to printing remain top challenges. Trini- dad’s government has designated printing and packaging as one of seven sectors to focus on for development, but the gen- eral print sector itself has been too fragmented and distrustful thus far to reap the progress that should have been made. Trinidad’s economy is in a recession and is expected to contract by 2 percent, but in the non-energy sector (Trinidad is an energy economy) that decline is likely to be greater. By volume, I expect slight contraction, but inflation will offset this to about neutral. FLEXO: What technical advance- ments have simplified the flexographic process in recent years? How have they served to reduce waste, enhance efficiency, improve time to market and alleviate other challenges? CHRISTOPHER: Improvements in ink quality, the adoption of FIRST (Flexograph- ic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) principles, and CTP (computer to plate) all have reduced the variables that produce waste. Improvements in design programs have made the process simpler. Magnetic dies and sleeves have been a godsend. But, for small narrow web shops: CTP has not yet become af- fordable, getting good staff to make a career out of flexo is an uphill task and digital poses the temptation to leave behind the worries of dot gain, trapping, and fighting with designers who send you three-color, five-point text. The majority of my waste has its origin between the prepress area and mounting. My variables are negative density— caused by still using a photo processor; dot drop-off, from an older non-lava, low intensity exposure plate unit; and manual mounting. Magnetic sleeves mean that I can share some of my die inventory between four different press models and press widths. FLEXO: How is your firm embracing the industry ’s push to- ward standardization? Are you optimizing the production pro- cess and moving out to print to the numbers/specifications? CHRISTOPHER: We fully embrace the principle, with seven staff members having completed FIRST, Level 1. We are work- ing on the human resource issues needed to implement the change successfully. FLEXO: What color management and control applications/ procedures do you employ in an effort to maintain design and brand color integrity? CHRISTOPHER: The one great thing still about flexo is the ready use of spot color. As long as we can afford a station, we put key colors as spot color. FLEXO: Do LEAN manufacturing principles have a place in your plant? Why/why not? ICHRIS INDUSTRIES, LTD, LavENTILLE, TRINIDaD • Ichris Industries is a printer of pressure sensitive labels used for packaging of household and industrial chemicals, food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals • It specializes in short runs • Services offered include in-house design—from concept to the finished label, plus photopolymer platemaking • FTA member since 1996 Paul christopher, Ichris Industries, ltd. 50 FLEXO sePteMber 2012 www.flexography.org ichris industriEs, Ltd. FTa MEMBERSHIP PORTRaIT: