Fall Conference 2018 logo

In-depth analysis of specific segments of the flexographic marketplace. Workflow efficiencies. Quality compliance. Correcting and maintaining color. Improving communication externally—with brand owners—and internally—with employees from all generations. The intricacies of ink transfer and the various pieces that affect it.

FTA’s Fall Conference 2018 takes place Oct. 29-31 in Cleveland, OH, home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The theme of music is evident in the titles of the event’s eight sessions, and together they form an agenda that can only be classified as an “instant classic,” with no fluff, no filler tracks and nothing to skip.

“As flexographers, we are challenged by our customers—the brand owners—to deliver on one of their most important assets—the package,” explains Program Chair Kevin Bourquin of Cyber Graphics. “To make sure the brand owner is successful, we have to take care of business—from how we communicate and manage expectations to how we execute predictable, consistent and repeatable print.”

Here, Kevin details what attendees can expect to learn in each session, what the tabletop exhibit between and after sessions adds to the overall event, and the big takeaways that make Fall Conference 2018 a can’t-miss affair.

Kevin Bourquin

FLEXO Magazine: “Taking Care of Business” is the name of a classic Bachman-Turner Overdrive song, a movie starring Jim Belushi, and albums by saxophonists Oliver Nelson and Charlie Rouse. And while Fall Conference 2018 has a music theme to it—it takes place in the same city as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, after all—this is a decidedly flexo affair. How does that classic phrase apply to the material and focus of the event?

Kevin Bourquin: It’s also the tagline of one of the most famous artists of all time, Elvis Presley—from my hometown of Memphis!

As flexographers, we are challenged by our customers—the brand owners—to deliver on one of their most important assets—the package. While its purpose as a printed piece is to carry, protect and deliver a product, its larger goal is to connect with consumers during the first moment of truth, driving sales and creating brand loyalty.

To make sure the brand owner is successful, we have to take care of business—from how we communicate and manage expectations to how we execute predictable, consistent and repeatable print. Leadership, customer service, prepress, printers and every supplier to those companies owns an important part of that supply chain.

FLEXO: The technical sessions kick off Monday afternoon with “Imagine” All the Flexo Markets, which gives a look at the flexible packaging, tag and label, and snack food segments, and analyzes potential growth opportunities for each. Without stealing all the presenters’ thunder, what are some of the insights that will be discussed?

Bourquin: Consumers are evolving. New generations are driving shopping decisions, SKU proliferation is rampant, laws are changing. We as an industry have to better understand how these changes will impact our portion of the supply chain. Will we have to adopt digital faster? How do we gear up for shorter runs? How do we deliver faster speed to market? The speakers in this session will have great insight into what we have done and still need to do as an industry, and will also provide a forward look into some of the buying habits of the consumer.

See the Fall Conference 2018 Schedule
Plan your three days in Cleveland, OH.

FLEXO: Monday’s other session is “Born to Run” Workflow Efficiencies, devoted to that never-ending pursuit of cutting waste and cost while maintaining quality. Why do printers have to continually seek to trim every ounce of fat from their productions?

Bourquin: It’s about staying competitive—not just in our own industry but every other industry segment that brings a disruptive technology. The savings we generate is used to support capital re-investment into our businesses to embrace new technology that drives quality and reduces waste. It helps invest in our people, in terms of training, wages and benefits. It helps protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint and eliminating landfill waste, reducing our impact on the planet so future generations can enjoy.

FLEXO: Tuesday begins with a focus on quality control in “I Walk the Line” for Quality Compliance. In a time where technology is handling more and more of the tasks previously left to operators, why is it still so important for a human level of interaction, and why is it vital those operators know in and out the functions their hardware and software are performing?

Bourquin: Flexographic printing lives in the gray area where science and art mingle. We operate in an environment where we are reproducing works of art. Brand owners have spent thousands of dollars and large amounts of time on developing a vision that will not generate revenue until it’s put in front of the consumer.

Taking place in Cleveland, OH—home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—Fall Conference 2018’s eight technical sessions are each named for a classic song and the event has an overall agenda destined for hall of fame status.
Photo courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

A technology will never be able to fully understand the subjective nature of the art, so we need people to understand the bigger picture of what we are trying to accomplish. As we automate more quality control tasks, we should be worried about knowledge suck—people only knowing how to run an inspection but not truly understanding what is being inspected and how to fix it.

FLEXO: Named for a guy who got too close to a black ink well, “Welcome to My Nightmare” Color—the second session of the day—will look at how to successfully create a color profile, manage conversions, handle specialty inks, work with spot colors and ably print at high speeds. It’s an itinerary that color geeks will love, but why is it equally important for the non-nerds to have those skills?

Consumers are evolving. New generations are driving shopping decisions, SKU proliferation is rampant, laws are changing. We as an industry have to better understand how these changes will impact our portion of the supply chain.

Bourquin: When the process is stopped because of poor color, it can be time-consuming and expensive to fix. Jobs often have to go back to previous stages in the supply chain, expectations re-calibrated and work re-executed. The nerds may notice these issues when looking at the data behind the process, where the non-nerds only see the small flash of light that catches your eye like you are searching for a small lost earing. You have to know that you’re looking for something.

This session will help put a loupe on those things that may not quite stand out, increasing the chance for someone to raise a flag before it’s too late.

FLEXO: The back-and-forth between CPC and printer is something everyone can relate to, and it’s the subject of Causes of “Communication Breakdown.” Is this the radio-friendly, crowd-pleaser session of Fall Conference 2018?

Bourquin: Keeping this session radio-friendly will be fun! Stress brings out the negatives and emotions. As we are pushed to deliver higher quality graphics at faster turnarounds, it’s critical to set expectations and communication channels at the right levels. This session will explore the different avenues we experience gaps in, as well as our ability to make sure the right people have the right information at the right time. I’ll be excited to sit back and listen to what two of my favorite flexo friends have to share about being on the front lines of coordinating jobs through the supply chain.