According to John McKay, president and founder of FLAG, the event marked the largest Annual Meeting to date. FLAG welcomed 105 attendees to the Woodcliff Hotel and Spa, including 39 member companies. Overall, 61 companies were represented.
“2019 marks our 10th year of business, and we’ve grown each year with our members,” says McKay. “This was illustrated by our meeting theme, ‘10 Years Stronger.’ Every year, we’re raising the bar of the Annual Meeting in terms of the quality of our keynote speakers, the tour we take of a member’s facility and the time and attention we spend on round table discussions, networking with vendor partners and peer group interactions.
“The tabletops are an incredible time to get around and see your industry peers, and enjoy the company and networking throughout the meeting,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity at this event.”
The tabletop exhibition featured a wide range of FLAG vendors, including All Printing Resources (APR), Channeled Resources Group, Label Traxx, Prati, RotoMetrics, UPM Raflatac, Xeikon and more.
The Annual Meeting also commemorated FLAG’s announcement of its 100th member: Adcraft Labels in Anaheim, CA. Since its inception, FLAG has retained over 90% of its membership by delivering savings and providing a growing list of value-added services.
What started out as buying groups savings has branched out into other benefits for members. FLAG is focused on providing new label sales growth, catastrophic recovery plans, and technical and business support. Meanwhile, vendors gain access to members, which offers a way to expand revenue growth.
FLAG has undertaken several initiatives to boost members and vendors alike. JC McKay, vice president of business development, detailed FLAG’s Lunch & Learn calendar, as well as resources to help with workforce development.
“Finding talent in general is very challenging, for both vendors and members,” said JC McKay. “We’re piloting peer group NXT as a resource for the future, designed to provide a succession plan with advice from peers.”
FLAG will hold 12 Lunch & Learn events in 2020 (one per month), and the organization also launched its new blog. This ongoing FLAG initiative will highlight members, placing a spotlight on their businesses and what they have to offer the labels and packaging industry.
During the Annual Meeting, a host of presenters offered advice to help attendees grow their business. Xeikon, which also held a users’ peer group, detailed the growing market for digital printing and how the technology can support existing flexographic business. Currently, Xeikon is the only digital press manufacturer that’s a part of FLAG.
“Digital is growing, not necessarily at the expense of conventional, but it’s seeing what the job is and making a choice for the right application,” explained Donna Covannon, director of marketing, Xeikon North America. “Conventional and digital will continue to exist side by side.”
Following Xeikon, Brian Van de Water, CEO of SPL Consulting, discussed Lean Manufacturing, including strategic planning and implementation. “We’re producing results for clients – something teams can understand and execute,” he noted. “This only works with people, though. Other than that, it’s just an idea in a box.”
According to Van de Water, a recent Kaizen indicated a 51% reduction in setup time on one press, waste reduction material savings of $69,398, and improved on-time delivery from 63% to 95%. Lean principles are designed to create more value for customers with less resources by eliminating waste.
“The best way to learn Lean is to do Lean,” said Van de Water. “The Lean process can be scary, but it’s scarier if you don’t do it. This needs to be one of your high priority tasks. Right now, I have yet to go into a client where I don’t see major opportunities.”
The event also placed a premium on developing talent for the next generation. Ryan Jenkins, the keynote speaker, explored how emerging generations will serve as change agents for members and vendors. The next wave of employees will emphasize company leadership, the opportunity for a brighter future, and a vision for their role in the organization. In interviews, young candidates want to know about culture and values, perks and benefits, and current employee perspectives, noted Jenkins.
“Progress has the strongest impact on employee engagement,” he said. “The ‘This is how we’ve always done it’ mindset is a slippery slope to irrelevance.”
As part of the FLAG Annual Meeting, 11 awards were distributed. UPM Raflatac received the Vendor of the Year Award, which commemorates exceptional support, communication and commitment to FLAG and its members by a participating vendor.
In addition, John McKay presented the Brad Brown Strategic Partner Award to Scott DeSoto, national sales manager, digital packaging, at Fujifilm Graphic Systems Division. The Brad Brown Strategic Partner Award is an annual honor given to one person who exemplifies commitment, creativity and excellence – three character traits of the late Brad Brown, a colleague and friend of McKay’s.
Meanwhile, the Gold Member Awards were presented to eight member companies. They included:
- Apogee Industries Inc., West Chester, PA
- Graphics Universal Inc., Greencastle PA
- Integrated Label Corporation, Rockford IL
- International Label & Printing Co, Elk Grove Village, IL
- Luminer Converting Group Inc., Red Lion, PA
- Niagara Label Co., Inc., Akron, NY
- Tech Tag & Label, Hatfield, PA
- TLF Graphics, Rochester, NY