The second Label & Narrow Web Symposium, presented for converters by converters and others closely involved with the industry, took place November 14 and 15 in New Brunswick, NJ, USA. Attendees were able to network among the 40 sponsoring supplier companies throughout the event.
Vic Stalam, vice president of market segments and packaging for Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group (the main sponsor of the symposium), gave an overview of trends in the industry. He talked about globalization, security, sustainability, and the war for shelf space. He also stressed the importance of creating buzz and enthusiasm to draw young people into the industry.
Peter Renton, founder and director of business development for Lightning Labels, gave a presentation titled “Marketing for the 21st Century Converter”. He focused on the use of the internet in today’s business world, calling the web site the central piece in the marketing puzzle for converters. He said search engines are the most important tools to attract visitors to web sites.
A web site isn’t the only use of the internet converters should use, according to Renton. He emphasized the impact blogs can have in attracting visitors and getting company information out. Email is another useful tool that allows converters to directly contact their customers. RSS (short for really simple syndication) feeds offer a more personalized search that converters can use to their advantage. Press releases, especially when posted on web sites like PRWeb.com and having them included in RSS feeds, are important marketing techniques. Renton believes networking sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, will be the future of marketing as more people join and use the sites for business purposes.
Elisha Tropper, president of T3 Associates, told attendees how to develop a sellable company. He talked about the reasons for selling a company and the type of acquirers that are out there. According to Tropper, acquirers seek several characteristics in a company, including a track record of profitability and positive cash flow, a sustainable competitive advantage, proprietary technology or know-how, and a broad customer base. He told attendees that building a sellable business is a long term activity and includes practices like managing debt and equity, managing for EBITDA, developing a management team, and developing a sustainable competitive advantage.
Richard Spencer, president of Label World, relayed his experience of taking over an existing business in his presentation, “Orchestrating a Leadership Transition”. He acquired the 21-year-old Label World from a married couple that wanted to retire. The company had a number of employees that had been with the company for many years. The couple wanted to find the right buyer that would grow their business and treat current employees fairly.
Spencer stressed that during a leadership change it’s all about the people and their interactions. He said that during his takeover, he kept employees informed about what was going on and tried to reassure them. After the leadership transition was complete, he started implementing practices to make the workplace the best it could be. As examples, he cited Halloween parties with costume prizes, recognition of birthdays and accomplishments, training opportunities, and financial and health security benefits.
Leslie Gurland, president of Logotech, spoke about how companies can sustain people instead of just focusing on the products they produce. She discussed how to inspire employees and told stories of how her company has taken steps in this direction, including initiating a monthly meeting with employees at all levels. Another way Logotech has tried to sustain its employees is by offering perks such as loans, birthday and thank you gifts, holiday prizes, and bonuses. Gurland explained the different mentalities of generations, saying that the younger workers are less loyal to companies and are more devoted to their own interests than previous generations. She said converters need to find ways to attract and keep young people in order for the industry to thrive.
Discussing the premium brand image was Barry Sanel, manager of packaging and creative services for Cadbury-Schweppes. As a specific example, he talked about the redesign of Nantucket Nectars’ packaging and labels. In that case, the designers decided to have the same size and shape for every bottle and to display the product flavor in the same place on every label. All elements like prices and offerings being equal, Sanel told attendees that he looks for clean and organized facilities when choosing a converter, especially since the labels and packaging he deals with go on food and beverage products.
Tom Southworth, business development manager for CONNSTEP, talked about Lean Manufacturing for label converters. According to Southworth, Lean printing offers several benefits: improved safety, faster press changeover, less inventory, improved and more repeatable quality, and lower overall total cost. He said implementing Lean is easy and not very costly, but factors like fear of change and lack of commitment prohibit companies from adopting the practices.
Southworth pointed out that converters aren’t alone in the quest to be Lean. They can work with customers and vendors to control inventory, standardize pallets and packaging and use their knowledge of their products to achieve goals.
Mike Falco, president of Topflight Corporation, spoke about the success his company has had by implementing Lean practices. Topflight began implementing Lean in the spring of 2003 by trying to eliminate non-value added