Setting the context
There are other significant matters on the label converter’s menu today. Perhaps most importantly, making the decision as to how to take the business forward in the early 21st century. The self-adhesive label industry has come a long way in its relatively short life; and it was small, entrepreneurial ‘start-up’ companies with a vision who, around 30 years ago, kick-started it. With a relatively low-cost printroom setup, they were still able to offer their customers enormous variety – particularly in terms of label shape, thanks to the exceptionally fine kiss-diecutting results that could be achieved in the same machine pass in which the label was printed. The nature of the basic labelstock construction – a sandwich of printable face material backed by an adhesive layer and a release liner – has made it probably the most flexible and versatile labelling medium available. Not only are the constituents of the labelstock all variable, but its stability allows labels to be automatically applied accurately, quickly, and cleanly on simple label dispensing equipment.
30 years on, the founders of these businesses are reaching retirement – and the succession-planning process must begin. The ‘savoir faire’ of young managers in what is a specialty converting industry is crucial – in terms of sound strategic business planning as well as in-depth familiarity of technologies. FINAT’s Young Managers’ Club was inaugurated in 2008 for just this purpose; A younger generation interested in taking on the reins is one solution, but there are other possibilities too. Specialisation is one route: there are successful label printing companies serving such specialist industries as pharmaceuticals and wines and spirits. Alternatively, companies can look to extend their reach from being a ‘local’ supply base, to cross-border trading and, then, an international presence -- achieved either independently or as a result of establishing partnerships and alliances with like-minded companies in other countries. Finally, of course, there are mergers and acquisitions – today an area where we are seeing very strong activity. In this business environment, printers of packaging media other than labels (as well as ailing commercial printers) are strengthening their positions with label printer buy-outs.
The economies and improved profitability which supply chain participants can achieve by owning up- and down-stream companies in the labelling chain are very evident today. Major brand owners and retailers are also considering the possibility of owning their own label printshops.
Providing essential back-up
FINAT, working with its partner national European associations and the L9 – a recently-established group of nine regional label associations worldwide – is actively playing a key role in establishing a professional knowledge and information base that encompasses national, regional, and global legislation as well as technological training. In FINAT, we are very appreciative of the work that our partner national label associations contribute to the mentoring of their label converter members in making the right decisions on future directions for their businesses.
Like FINAT, the national associations also have a focus on increasing the visibility of self-adhesive labelling in two major, key end-user market sectors: food and beverage labelling, where wet-glue labelling still holds the majority share.