Package Printers and Converters Ramp Up in Nation's Time of Need
When the nation entered an unprecedented time of need grappling with COVID-19, the team at Poly Print was prepared to maintain its key role in keeping America stocked with important food and supplies. Joe Genova, VP of the Tucson, Ariz.-based flexible packaging printing and laminating company, explains that while the current pandemic situation is unprecedented, Poly Print’s crisis management preparation has been essential in keeping the company operational as it continues to provide essential packaging products in the food and beverage markets.
While much of the country has been tasked with staying home or is working remotely, packaging producers like Poly Print have needed to keep the presses running. Genova explains that Poly Print is part of a critical infrastructure industry as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, which includes pharmaceutical and food supply. Packaging, Genova says, is an essential component of getting these products to consumers, and Poly Print, he adds, prints packaging for a variety of in-demand items including produce and bottled water.
“Our employees have stepped up and are willing to work and do whatever they need to do to make sure our customers are being supplied and that product is being delivered on time, and they’re doing their part,” Genova says. “A lot of that was voluntary. We didn’t have to go to them and tell them that. I think once they realized the severity of the situation, they came out asking that if we needed their help, then they will be there for us. It’s not me [that needs their help] – the country needs your help at this point.”
The presses are also up and running at Steinhauser, a Newport, Ky.-based label printer, that serves a variety of industries including food, beverage, and household cleaning products. While Tara Halpin, owner and CEO of Steinhauser, says that she has never experienced a situation quite like this, the timing of the pandemic coinciding with the TLMI Converter Meeting was beneficial in helping the company prepare.
The Converter Meeting was held March 8-11 in Austin, Texas, before travel restrictions and work from home orders were widespread. Halpin explains that at the meeting, which brings the converter members of TLMI together for three days of education and networking, an impromptu preparatory discussion surrounding the coronavirus was added to the event’s activities.
“It was great that we were all together,” Halpin says. “All these label converters were in the same room and we took time out of our agenda to talk about what were people doing and what were they seeing. What would happen if someone was infected? What would you do? What are you doing about in person meetings?”
While the presses are running, Halpin says Steinhauser has taken substantial precautions to keep its employees safe. She says that employees within the high-risk demographic, along with employees that have kids being kept home from school that have the ability to work from home are set up to do so. Additionally, a pod of customer service representatives that had been sitting close together has been moved to a separate area.
Meanwhile, extra cleaning precautions and steps to limit in-person interaction have been put into place.
“We’re wiping all the common areas twice a day,” Halpin says. “Everybody is responsible for their own work space and to be consistently wiping that down. We’re not having any in-person meetings. We’re doing everything via conference call. No visitors are allowed in unless they’re approved by me.”
At Flextec Corp., a label and packaging printer in Colorado Springs, Colo., some orders have doubled and in certain cases, have even quadrupled since the coronavirus has emerged. Rocky Rahija, president and CEO of Flextec, explains that the company produces labels for a variety of nutraceutical products, including cold and flu products.
“We’re in a market that is very important to the general public and consumers overall with the pandemic on our hands,” Rahija says. “Our brand owners are gearing up for an influx of products to distribute throughout the country and abroad.”
Having just completed a capital expenditure expansion, which added a new HP Indigo digital press, a digital finisher, and upgraded graphics software, Rahija says that Flextec has been able to rise to the occasion and tackle the increase in orders. Now with three digital presses on board, in addition to the company’s flexographic capabilities for larger orders, Rahija says Flextec has been able to meet the needs of the industry at a time when product identification is of immense importance to consumers.
“All these nutraceuticals are really ramping up distribution and we’re in a position to accommodate,” he says.
Additionally, he says that Flextec continues to take precautions surrounding health and safety, and explains that in February, the company issued a memo that it would pay for an urgent care visit and allow for three days off with pay and no loss of accrued sick pay, should an employee become sick with the flu or a virus.
Looking at the industry overall, Genova says that he hopes that going through a situation like this helps consumers realize the importance of packaging. With increasing backlash against the industry, and plastic in particular, he says that current events have demonstrated how packaging helps essential products safely reach consumers.
"I hope this was an eye opener for those that have something against us and don’t realize how important packaging is in our lives," he says.
During an unprecedented and uncertain time, Halpin says that communication is of utmost importance. Staying in contact with customers, suppliers, and industry peers is essential to ensuring packaging and label producers can continue to operate. The label and packaging industry is a close-knit community, she says, and now is the time to maintain a supportive culture.
“We’re constantly staying in touch with our customers, communicating with them, communicating with suppliers, and then also reaching out to some of our industry partners and other printers,” Halpin says. “If you have capacity issues or other issues, let’s help each other.”