- September 25, 2009, By Claudia Hine, Managing Editor
With a nod to Agents 86 and 99, Get Smart was the theme of the Tag & Label Mfrs. Inst. (TLMI) Technical Conference, held September 8–10 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, IL. More than 280 attendees got lessons in improving productivity, maximizing profits, selecting label materials, and more. It's not surprising that sessions in digital printing and printed electronics also were on the agenda.
In a session on Process Technology Comparisons co-chaired by Mac Rosenbaum, Aquaflex, Duncansville, PA, and Mike Hoft, Color Resolutions Intl., Fairfield, OH, presentations covered solid versus flexible dies and printing process comparisons. A case history on expanding into flexible packaging rounded out the session.
Steve Lee, VP of technology with RotoMetrics, Eureka, MO, gave attendees a lesson in the key differences between flexible and solid dies and the decision process for choosing the correct type of rotary tooling for their businesses. Flexible dies are less expensive than solids and offer lower shipping costs and easier storage; they are enjoying rapid growth in the US. However, they require an inventory of magnetic cylinders, depending on repeat lengths, and they are not hard enough for in-mold labels, RFID chips and labels, and long-run jobs requiring multiple flexible dies to complete.
Chuck Sims, labeling and graphics technologies manager with CL&D Graphics, Oconomowoc, WI, provided a comparison of offset, flexographic, and digital printing and their associated ink trains. He said that although flexo is the leading flexible packaging print form, with technological advances in plates and inking that challenge offset, digital, and gravure quality, it requires a higher amount of operator intervention and continuous training methods to succeed. Offset's variable repeat presses are making inroads into flexible packaging, and this technology will come to the forefront, he says. His company has written software that tailors its digital presses to be print proofers, so when a job runs on a flexo press, the flexo print matches the digital prototype.
Don Rees, a partner in Northern Label, Toronto, ON, Canada, discussed narrow web flexpack opportunities. His five-year-old company saw the need to diversify from prime labels and six months ago got into the aerowrap market (aerosol canisters wrapped in unsupported film). He said quick turns, samples, and niche markets are the most immediate opportunities for narrow web, with smaller runs and more SKUs being the most advantageous. He stressed the importance of running tests with the actual packaging equipment manufacturer before entering any new market.
A session devoted to Quality & Consistency was chaired by Vincent Genovese, Nireco America Corp., Port Jervis, NY. Anilox rolls and G7 (www.idealliance.org) implementation were the covered topics.
Alexander James filled in for Bill Poulson of Harper Corp. of America, Charlotte, NC, and gave his presentation, Anilox Roll Issues Answered. He discussed how press optimization creates a stable press environment, and this requires standardizing the anilox inventory.
Jay Sperry, research associate from the Sonoco Inst. of Packaging Design & Graphics at Clemson Univ., Clemson, SC, provided an explanation of G7 Calibration and Color Management for Flexo. G7, which is the standard for what CMYK printing should be, grew out of GRACoL. It is a press and proofer calibration method based on “near neutral” calibration that maintains gray balance throughout the tone range.
In a lively session called Learning from the Champions, which was chaired by Paul Brauss, Mark Andy, Chesterfield, MO, and Tom Spina, Luminer Converting Group, Lakewood, NJ, moderator Frank Gerace, Multi-Color Corp., Sharonville, OH, and audience members had an opportunity to “pick the brains” of four successful executives in areas such as profitability, operational performance, motivation techniques, succession planning, and more.
Panel members included Craig Moreland, Coast Label Co., Fountain Valley, CA; Andrew Farquharson, Dow Industries, Wilmington, MA; Bob Zaccone, GSI Technologies, Burr Ridge, IL; and Joel Carmany, Consolidated Label, Longwood, FL. All four represent companies that have won TLMI's Eugene Singer Award for management excellence.
Among the tips they provided were negotiating discounts from suppliers for fast payment of invoices; paying suppliers with a credit card that pays cash back; bonus programs in which all plant personnel participate; lean manufacturing practices; and staying in touch with your employees to promote a family atmosphere. Entering niche markets with less competition, cross training employees for more flexibility, and measuring performance and error tracking all were discussed.
Conference attendees also had the opportunity to “interrogate witnesses” at a tabletop reception featuring 85 booths manned by suppliers exhibiting the latest technology and substrates of interest to the narrow web market.
TLMI next convenes for its annual meeting October 18–21 in Scottsdale, AZ. Visit www.tlmi.com for more information.