Sustaining Technology Hunger

Have you abandoned, like I have, looking at the stock market's sharp plunges and short-lived vertical climbs that resemble the daily and multiple ups and downs of an elevator? Can't wait to see how these last torturous months of the year will plot out on a bar chart. (Detect any sarcasm?)

When I recently asked a converter how things looked from his vantage point, he responded, “Other than for my 401(k) becoming a 201(k) and my retirement being on indefinite hold, everything's fine!”

All kidding aside, because these are serious times, people have been curious to know what I‘ve heard about how the present economic downturn may be affecting our converting industry. In truth, my ear is no lower to the ground than anyone else's, but I have asked how companies’ businesses are faring whenever possible.

Managing editor Claudia Hine and I attended two separate, simultaneously held annual association meetings this past October. The Tag & Label Mfrs. Inst. held its meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL, and the Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters & Laminators held its technical meeting in Myrtle Beach, SC, at the Marriott Grand Dunes Hotel.

While Claudia will give a more detailed review of the meeting next month in Narrow Web Reporter Clips, I asked her to share with me her overall impression of attendees' business outlook. First and foremost, members were in a celebratory mood since this meeting marked the 75th anniversary of the organization.

The association went all out for its 75th by inviting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as its keynote speaker. He addressed environmental issues across the US and beyond. He received a standing ovation for his presentation that revealed some infuriating and documented cases of humanity's breach of respect for laws protecting our environment. The pressure-sensitive label industry should be applauded for taking a hard look its carbon footprint and facing the challenges that guarantee its stewardship of our planet.

Regarding the business climate, Claudia asked these largely entrepreneurial attendees what actions they are taking to secure a healthy outlook for their businesses during the current credit crunch. In general, many companies are adopting a conservative “wait and see” attitude by putting off large investments until the country's free-fall feeling abates.

This generally agrees with one PFFC reader who wrote on condition of anonymity: “…Several orders that we took at a recent industry trade show have now been delayed due to the inability of the customer to get the required equipment loans at interest rates that were available prior to the show. Also, several of our converter customers that were interested in adding new machinery have now put those plans on hold for several months to see what shakes out in the Wall Street mess and also what happens to the general market, which continues to decline on a year-over-year basis.”

In the meantime, despite the chillier weather in Myrtle Beach, the AIMCAL annual technical meeting seemed encouraging. Adopting a similar sustainability focus, the event opened with a keynote address by Dr. Kenneth Marsh of Kenneth S. Marsh Assoc. on “Packaging and the Environment: Debunking the Myths.” And the following morning included a full half day of presentations (eight papers in all) on “Environmental Responsiveness,” delivered jointly to an audience of 201 attendees of both the web coating/laminating segment of AIMCAL's membership as well as its vacuum web coating participants.

This crowd largely comprises those who determine how to effect environmentally responsible efforts — the scientists, the engineers, the proud “nerds” who make things work, and without whom there would be a bunch of idle machinery.

The final day brought the tall order for a cleaner environment full circle to the outlook for alternative energy sources, focusing on market opportunities for photovoltaics and solar power. The outlook for this technology is promising with growth projected in the double digits.

On the whole, business was holding good for these converters where challenge equals opportunity.

My friends call me…

How is the credit crunch affecting your business plans? Write to me at yolanda.simonsis@penton.com.


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