- December 31, 2005, Stanley Sacharow, The Packaging Group
Among the worldwide flexible packaging organizations, there is one group that is probably least known, open by invitation only and only to those specifically selected for their technical skills. The International Flexible Packaging Network (IFPN) was created in 1998 with six companies as founding members—North State (NS) Flexibles (US), Kohler (South Africa), Amcor (Australia), Celomet (Argentina), Carvajel (Colombia), and the Sigma Group (El Salvador).
Meetings are held annually at various host companies, with the venue rotating among members. I was invited to speak before the IFPN in San Salvador in May 2005 by Rotoflex, a subdivision of Sigma S.A.
Luis Roberto Fernandez, general manager of Sigma Flexibles Packaging Group, began the meeting by noting that four basic areas normally are discussed at the annual meeting. These are centered on the following: New technology—production; Development of new materials; Trends in raw materials; and Best Manufacturing Practices.
These meetings always are productive thanks to the international participation and intensive converter “give and take.” Special guests often are invited; this year Bobst, Esko Graphics, and Sun Chemical participated.
The very latest non-proprietary information in the flexible packaging/converting industry is exchanged on a timely basis with global partners, and this is at the heart of IFPN’s uniqueness.
The sole US member is NS Flexibles, Greensboro, NC. In a telephone interview with Tim Mages, general manager of NS Flexibles, he said, “We discuss all sorts of issues relating to productivity—printing, converting, etc., and tend to get to know each other on both a personal and global basis….” He said the IFPN was formed as an outgrowth of a group devoted to paperboard cartons. When it was discovered that many of the participants were deeply involved in flexible packaging, the emphasis shifted to that.
Many of the members are company owners and/or production experts. Thus, machinery and converting equipment feature prominently on the meeting agendas.
The 2005 meeting was chaired by Mr. Drummod-Hay, a retired Kohler executive and the organization’s coordinator. He stressed that converting productivity, peer information, and trends were the most important subjects that would be shared in the meeting.
The participants were South Africa (Nampak), Denmark (Schur Intl.), Holland (Schur Holland), Poland (Schur Poland), US (NS Flexibles), Canada (St. Johns Packaging), Argentina (Celomat), Colombia (Carpak), Indonesia (Dai Nippon), and India (Positive Packaging).
The main topics on the agenda at the El Salvador meeting were efficiency indicators, investment trends, innovation in packaging, and new trends in raw materials. Other themes were the development of new packaging structures, which are characterized by thinner gauges and greater barriers.
Also discussed were other innovative products such as zippers for closure; easy-open-and-close sealing; coffee bags with and without valves and closure sealing; thermo-shrinking sleeves; coffee bags with and without valves; security and tamper-evident packaging; and work flow management.
This year St. Johns Packaging was added as a new member. Its product mix complements the North American participation of NS Flexibles.
Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. Contact him at 732/636-0885; email@example.com.