Converter Experiences Highlight TLMI printTHINK Summit
In odd-numbered years, when Labelexpo heads overseas to Brussels, TLMI has historically hosted a Technical Conference in Chicago, providing a deep dive into the latest technology impacting the label industry.
However, as the industry has evolved, TLMI has updated its approach to this biennial event, rebranding the former Technical Conference to the printTHINK Summit, and incorporating content that extends to all facets of the label segment, beyond just technology. In its second edition, which was held Sept. 11-13 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., the printTHINK Summit delivered on its mission, providing attendees with insight into marketing, regulations, sustainability, workforce development, and new market opportunities, in addition to technology.
Opening the event on Thursday, Sept. 12, a panel of suppliers offered their insights into LED, and the impact the technology is having on the curing aspect of label production. According to panelist Tom Hammer of Siegwerk, one of the key advantages of LED technology is its ability to perform very well in curing white and black ink. Another advantage is its faster run speeds and overall efficiency, Jeff Cowan of Mark Andy explained, stating that with LED, there’s no wait needed to start running the press once the lamp is turned on.
Transitioning from technology, the day’s second session detailed marketing best practices. In addition to covering tips for effective web design, digital marketing campaigns, and press release writing, the panel offered insights into social media, and how printers and converters can make the most of the various platforms.
Judy Abelman, a principal with marketing communications and research firm LPC Inc., explained that among converters, there are some that have wholeheartedly embraced social media, and others that have been reluctant, due to concerns over sharing the work they are producing. However, she recommended maintaining some social media presence as a way to communicate with brand owners and reach potential prospects. Citing the ubiquity of smartphones, Abelman said that photography and video has never been easier to promote.
That does not mean that social media is not without its costs however, as it does take committed labor and time to keep up a steady stream of posts and interaction.
“Don’t think of social as a now and then proposition,” she said. “And don’t start [an account] if you can’t maintain it.”
Following a session on navigating regulations in the packaging industry, two panels featuring a variety of converters closed out the first day. The first converter panel provided a deep dive into automation, which has become an increasingly important topic throughout the label and packaging industry.
Brian Van de Water of SPL Consulting, which specializes in strategic planning and lean processes, moderated the panel, and recommended that printers interested in implementing automation locate where there is “continual motion” in their facility. It’s likely, he said, that this constant motion could largely be occurring due to employees taking on supplementary tasks that support the actual mission at hand. If these tasks were automated however, these employees could be more productive.
Due to the custom nature of label printing, where each customer wants a product specific to their needs, Tim McDonough, president of Butler, Wis.-based label printer Flexo-Graphics, stated that automation in the front end of the operation can be highly beneficial.
“We are a custom manufacturer – every job we do is custom,” McDonough said. “If you can automate as much of that as you can, it really increases your chances of succeeding.”
To close out the first day of the 2019 printTHINK Summit, a panel featuring five converters, and moderated by Danielle Jerschefske of Outlook Group, discussed their companies’ individual efforts in reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfills.
While seeking out alternatives to landfills for waste disposal can be challenging, one commonality among the panelists was in how the teams at their respective companies quickly supported the cause. For example, John Crosby of Grand Rapids Label explained that once the staff saw the tangible impacts of reducing waste to landfill, they were eager to contribute.
“The cultural change is immediate,” Crosby said. “Everyone will first look at it like they have more work to do. But once we got involved and saw 20 tons not going to landfill, people rallied around it pretty quickly.”
On Friday, Sept. 13, attendees had the opportunity to select from a variety of sessions most pertinent to their specific interests, with tracks devoted to digital production technologies, workforce development, and emerging trends. Among the highlights of the digital track was its opening session featuring two label printers who have invested in digital, with each joined by a customer who has benefited from it.
Mark Turk, president and CEO of International Label & Printing, who was joined by Lisa Gregor, co-owner of Church Street Brewing Co., shared how the two have collaborated on a variety of digitally printed beer labels.
Gregor explained that in the craft beer world, every label design must be approved by the federal government before it can be applied to a bottle or can, and that approval can take between one to six weeks. Because of this, she said that the quick turnaround capabilities of digital are very important in getting packaged beer to retail.
“Even before I have an approved label they can print, I have beer ready to be packaged and get out into the market,” she said.
Representing the pharmaceutical industry, Brent Hansen of Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Amy Schmidt of Nosco shared how they have worked together to deploy digital technology in Takeda’s packaging. Hansen explained that among the advantages digital brings to the pharmaceutical market, serialization has been particularly useful as security initiatives have ramped up.
In addition to the variety of sessions at the printTHINK Summit, TLMI President Dan Muenzer provided an update on some of the association’s initiatives. One that he said he is particularly excited about is the #LabelLeaders hashtag. Muenzer encouraged TLMI members to use the hashtag on social media when sharing something particularly noteworthy, such as volunteering in the community or hosting an employee engagement event. To supplement the social media campaign, Muenzer said TLMI is also launching a Label Leaders video series, which will profile standout members of the association.
TLMI will reconvene for its Annual Meeting, which will be held Oct. 27-30 at the Omni LaCosta Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.