Forum 2018 logoThere are many things for which Indianapolis, IN—the site of Forum 2018—is known. It is the birthplace of both Wonder Bread and writer Kurt Vonnegut. The King, Mr. Elvis Presley, gave his final concert at the city’s Market Square Arena. Its namesake zoo is the only in the country to be certified as a zoo, aquarium and zoological garden.

But what Circle City is truly known for is the Indianapolis 500, and both that event and FTA’s annual gathering share a similar spirit. While there are only 33 individuals who race 200 times around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile track, each of those drivers is aided by a pit crew, spotter and other vital roles; in the same vein, Forum 2018’s four days of informative and educational sessions aim to get all the key players in a successful print job working together—firing on all cylinders, if you will—to deliver more of the good stuff (efficiency, quality), less of the bad stuff (rework, waste) and an overall better workflow.

“If people’s roles are not clearly aligned to that of an organization, it will be much less likely to meet those goals,” explains Forum 2018 Co-Chair Ann Michaud of 3M. “It takes all functions within an organization embracing a common strategy to truly execute successfully.”

Here, Michaud and Forum 2018 Chair Bob Coomes of Plastic Packaging Technologies talk at length with FLEXO Magazine about what attendees can expect at the May 6-9 event, details of how each session reinforces the theme of “bringing it all together,” what INFOFLEX and other events-within-the-event add to the whole package, and how heading to Indy will improve their operations for years to come.

Forum 2018 Themes

Bob Coomes

FLEXO Magazine: Forum 2018’s theme is “Bringing It All Together: Synchronizing Processes, People and Potential.” Why is that such an important mission statement?

Bob Coomes: There are so many moving parts in this business. You have customers pushing the envelope in design and applications that will separate them from their competition. Brand equity must be maintained and to meet that demand requires improving your processes and procedures through continuous improvement. It’s about investing and training your workforce to improve your productivity and quality. And it’s about looking at where you want to go and what you should do to get there.

Ann Michaud: Forum has been a source of information for new technologies for many years. Our mission in planning Forum 2018 was to bring useful content to our audience that highlights these new technologies, along with tools and shared approaches for all of our resources—both capital and human—to bring everyone and everything together.

FLEXO: Having everything in your workflow “click” into place is an immensely satisfying feeling, but getting to that point is a long journey. How will Forum 2018 set attendees on that path?

Michaud: We’re attempting to give attendees lots of tools and information to make their workflow click, from culture and strategy to practical case studies. It’s a journey, and our aim is to bring content that printers can easily implement on the path of continuous improvement.

Headshot Ann Michaud
Ann Michaud

Coomes: It all starts with an idea. The idea may come from a statement, concept or principle shared by a speaker during one of the sessions. It could come while discussing the key learnings in between sessions during a break. But the journey starts with an idea and as developed and implemented, it provides the pathway to success. With so many resources available under one roof, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone coming away without some new idea or building blocks for improvement.

FLEXO: At first glance, it might seem like the idea of “bringing it all together” is something that can only be accomplished by company executives and decision makers. What part can press operators, designers, managers and everyone else play in achieving that goal?

Coomes: Everyone, regardless of his or her role in the process, can come away with insights and useful information that will help with continuous improvement. Knowing more about each stage of the process gives you an advantage in meeting each customer’s expectations. Press operators will learn about consumer trends and why printing expectations may be higher than ever before. They will also come away with practical strategies for printing or troubleshooting on press. Individuals who work in design or prepress will learn about press technologies and how to prepare art that meets print specifications. And everyone can learn about using Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) for color management and process control at each step. It really is about bringing all of these various segments together to meet the consumer expectations.

FLEXO: What do you hope printers take away from Forum 2018? How about prepress professionals?

Forum 2018 Chairs Q&A Mall web
The Depew Memorial Fountain and Indiana War Memorial are located on the American Legion Mall in downtown Indianapolis.
Photo courtesy of Visit Indy

Coomes: I keep using the words “useful,” “practical” and “real-world” to describe the content being presented because, if it doesn’t work, or can’t be applied at some point, it really isn’t helpful. There is something for everyone at Forum 2018!

Michaud: We seem to use those three adjectives when talking about Forum 2018’s content for a reason: The sessions were intentionally designed to walk through the “real-world” challenges faced by flexo printers, from the fundamental view of our organizations, to “useful” information on current and new technologies, to “practical” checklists for successful press approvals and troubleshooting case studies. We hope to bring to each and every attendee something that has immediate relevance in their daily operations.

Coomes: I believe printers will come away with ideas and strategies that can bring immediate improvement to their production environment. From the information presented on the capabilities of new presses in “New Capabilities: Look at Flexo Now!” to the learnings taught in the FIRST in Motion – Wide Web Project” session, to the “Troubleshooting Survival Guide” closing out the event, there will be plenty of information with which attendees can come away.

And that’s just as true for those hailing from the prepress segment. EG, and understanding consumer behavior as driven by package design, are two examples of session topics that will provide great insights directed toward them.