Expert's Opinion

The future of flexo

By Mary Sullivan, Regional Sales Manager, Mark Andy | May 17, 2017

Mark Andy's Mary Sullivan shares key takeaways from the 2017 FTA Annual Forum and INFO*FLEX, as well as industry trends.

What a week! After judging the Phoenix Challenge collegiate flexo competition, celebrating Mark Andy receiving an FTA Technical Innovation Award and sitting through in-depth education sessions surrounding our industry’s future workforce and technology, it’s been a busy seven days.

The wake of major excitement, however, causes one to pause and take notice of how things are actually trending in the label and packaging marketplace.

Watching college teams (10 in all) from all over North America compete by presenting "real life" client projects never ceases to amaze me. These students from Cal Poly, Central Missouri, Clemson, Ryerson and beyond are among the best and brightest already making a difference through flexography. College programs like these are aimed at attracting and building our future co-workers and industry influencers…and it’s working.

For the last 20 years, the Phoenix Challenge Foundation has driven dozens of students toward what are now rewarding careers at both converter operations and all across our supply chain. Heck, the first High School Challenge winner (20 years ago) is now my co-worker today at Mark Andy. Who would have thought!

On the flip side, baby boomers are turning into a "silver tsunami" of happily retired folks leaving the workplace for their next big life adventure. In fact, Pew Research reported back in 2011 that beginning then and for every day over the next 19 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 in the United States. Uh, that is 10,000 people every single day.

In 2017, we are dead center of that tsunami and it is sure to leave a gaping hole of talent, commitment and drive in our label/packaging landscape. During the FTA Annual Forum in Phoenix, we were all reminded of how serious of an issue this is already becoming for our industry and many others that rely heavily on skilled labor. Trade labor workers have become a dying breed. It is something we all need to take seriously, consider our options and work hard to create a persona of ourselves that draws in the millennials and create an environment where they can thrive. As an industry, we need to step up our game and make flexo and package printing super cool in the eyes of tomorrow’s workforce.

In light of all the changes and trends happening across the workforce, innovation and technology continue to take center stage, making a major impact in exciting and interesting ways.

At Mark Andy, it’s an honor to be part of the print technology evolution. Today, our industry produces printed packaging and labels beyond everyone’s expectations and gets them to market utilizing groundbreaking techniques and sex appeal at a mind-boggling productive pace. Automation is added to the mix more frequently, cutting down on costs and streamlining technology workflows like never before.

Wow, to think where we were just 15 years ago and the progress that has pushed us to where we are today. It’s simply astounding and has proven to be such a rewarding career path.

Several sessions at the Annual Forum covered the ever-evolving flexographic trends and how they impact narrow and wide web converters. Attendees received a well-rounded idea of where the industry is heading in terms of technological innovation and how it will directly impact their day-to-day pursuit of customer satisfaction and profitability.

This year was no exception for Mark Andy when it comes to pushing the limits through innovative technology. We were recognized by the FTA for the third time (in 10 years), receiving the Technical Innovation Award for marrying two leading print technologies most once considered mutually exclusive. Digital Series, the first truly integrated flexo/digital hybrid print platform, has set the stage for the next norm in print technology…combing conventional flexo with advanced hybrid assets where it makes most sense (or cents- pick your poison!)

This is a trend that will only continue. When it comes to flexography, which is still growing by the way – 8% per year, and integrating it with digital inkjet, the latest and fastest growing print resource, brings the best of both worlds together and will drive us further into the future.

The world of flexography makes a mark on the lives of everyone in some way every single day, in more ways than most even imagine. Let’s keep it that way!

We certainly are in an industry that doesn’t stand still. And that trend will only continue.

About the author: Mary Sullivan is a regional sales manager for Mark Andy and a chairman for the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA). With over 15 years of industry experience in marketing, sales and strategic development, Sullivan is a well-respected champion to the label and packaging market.

Related Technology:

Related Markets:

  • Dscoop Post-Show Report

    Dscoop Post-Show Report

    Greg Hrinya, Associate Editor||April 7, 2017
    “Imagine” was the theme for the annual gathering of users of HP Indigo digital print technology.

  • Materials Handling

    Materials Handling

    Steve Katz, Editor||April 7, 2017
    Working without these products may cause employee injury, damaged goods and lost revenue.

  • Adhesives Update

    Adhesives Update

    Greg Hrinya, Associate Editor||April 7, 2017
    Label adhesives must meet a variety of performance and manufacturing requirements.