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Kurt Walker takes the FINAT helm

June 20, 2011

He shares his views of the industry and the association with his predecessor, Andrea Vimercati.

FINAT, the European label association, has a new president for the next two years. Kurt Walker, CEO of tesa Bandfix in Switzerland, accepted the medallion of office from outgoing President Andrea Vimercati at the group’s annual conference this month in Sicily.

The two recently shared their views of FINAT as it is today and will be tomorrow. Vimercati, a converter from Italy, said that the FINAT board and its various committees, had worked together to create a platform for the industry’s development over a three- to five-year period, identifying the prime opportunities and the most pressing challenges. “That platform, which has already achieved much, is still in process,” says Kurt Walker, “and the new presidency will entail no change in strategy. Our buzzwords are still ‘continuity with flexibility’, and we remain committed to forecasting future directions and preparing for them, as well as responding to present change issues.”

It is obvious that the two men, despite an age difference of 20 years, think alike; and Walker, shares Vimercati’s emphasis on making the industry young again – both through the inception of the Young Managers’ Club, and the ongoing work on embracing new online media which, says Walker, “are so much a part of everyday life today, and have much to contribute in the business arena, in many ways.”

Vimercati enlarges on that topic. “What FINAT represents for its members – who come from every level of the supply chain – is a forum for communication, and we have built a strong team to drive interactive communication forward. During my presidency, I have seen a decisive move towards transparency within the FINAT hierarchy. FINAT is developing renewed, open partnerships with national associations – and I have personally been involved in taking that message around Europe. We are one industry, and need to behave as one industry: United Label Europe!

“We can do better if we work together, and present a united face to the world, speaking as one community. Look how strong and successful TLMI is – but it’s easier to create a single message platform if you just represent one country. In Europe, we have different languages and cultures to contend with – but FINAT can spearhead the drive to European label industry unity, creating a very functional working forum as an umbrella organisation, and via meaningful relationships and dialogues with the national associations, both in Europe and beyond. In the self-adhesive label community, we must not forget that we are increasingly part of the global packaging community and thus of the extended global consumer goods market. That means we need to develop a completely new mindset.”

Other items on the agenda during Vimercati’s presidency, which continue to be priorities for Walker, are lobbying in Europe’s legislatures and sustainability. “Both these activities must be viewed in a global context,” says Walker. “While FINAT must be the central processor in Europe, we will also reach out to other regional associations like TLMI (North America), JFLP (Japan), LATMA (Australia) and LMAI (India). Legislation and sustainability issues don’t stop at country borders today.”

Interactive website
The new FINAT commitment to open communication within the membership will soon be supported by an advanced new interactive website. Members will be able to access up-to-the-minute documentation on legislative, sustainability, and other issues that have an impact on the self-adhesive label industry online. “FINAT’s new internet platform, built on leading-edge technology, will provide members with fantastic access to a broad library of data that can benefit their businesses. After all, FINAT members are mostly family businesses, who don’t have massive legal and management support departments.”

“Legislative issues and the concerns about the environment (including release liner and matrix waste recycling, REACH, and other consumer safety issues) are not going away,” says Walker. “We need to work with our sister organizations to develop a uniform strategy for presenting the benefits of self-adhesive labelling, in order to create greater awareness in the broader packaging industry and grow our overall share of the market.”

“The Global Packaging Project (GPP), once it has established its full portfolio of measurement tools, will have a role to play here”, adds Vimercati. ”FINAT has been an enthusiastic and willing participant in the GPP, representing the European self-adhesive labelling community as a whole and speaking for it with one strong voice.”

Continuing opportunities for self-adhesive labels
“Self-adhesive labeling continues to offer outstanding flexibility and versatility, with many possible functional “add ons’, continues Walker, “and is a major facilitator of RFID and product authentication and tamper-evident features. With a 50 percent share of the labeling market, we need to be really creative to take additional share, in the face of the extensive competition today from other technologies – sleeving and, increasingly, in-mold labeling. But there’s absolutely no need to be negative. If the overall market is growing, and as new populations around the world join the consumer society, it certainly is growing exponentially. Our industry is stepping more into the wider packaging industry arena, alongside complementary wide web converting. There are real opportunities here to develop new partnerships and collaborations, and to create a knowledge platform on the many ways in which narrow web presses and self-adhesive label converters we can support the core packaging industry’s business.”

FINAT’s future role
As European industry regains its forward thrust following the economic crisis, the outgoing and incoming FINAT presidents share a conviction that there is much to be gained at all levels of the self-adhesive label supply chain if FINAT creates an enabling environment for the whole industry.

”The self-adhesive label, per se, deserves to be promoted as a marketing tool and as a clever product identifier, and our current and future FINAT agenda is strongly committed to achieving that”, says Andrea Vimercati.

The last word, however, goes to Kurt Walker: ”All FINAT member companies will surely benefit from that approach in an increasingly competitive, globalized business environment. The good times may be behind us, but better ones are certainly ahead!”

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