Virtual Fall Conference 2020 logo

October 5-7

FTA’s Virtual Conference Center



Virtual meetings, video conferencing, Zoom calls—however you phrase them, they have been a major part of the changes and adaptations that offices, tradeshows, conferences and schools have all had to accept as a new normal in 2020.

The same was true this year for FTA’s Fall Conference. Shifted to a virtual environment and renamed in kind, Virtual Fall Conference 2020, too, adapted. The well-attended, three-day event was presented in a new format, with new ways for attendees to connect.

What remained the same? The technical content, exchanging of ideas and networking opportunities. Read a recap of FTA’s Virtual Fall Conference 2020, its technical sessions and Virtual Exhibit

The Sessions

Themed “Collaboration Achieves Perfect Vision,” Virtual Fall Conference 2020’s 20 presentations covered much ground, and the six sessions into which they were organized, together, offered a complete picture of how every member of the packaging supply chain can work together.

The event kicked off Monday, Oct. 5, with “Evaluation, Optimization, Control: The Complete Plate Making Package,” chaired by Malcolm Keif of California Polytechnic State University and Jason Cagle of MacDermid Graphics Solutions. Catherine Haynes of All Printing Resources Inc started the session with her presentation “Calibration and Optimization in Plate Making.” She explained how the terms calibration and optimization are often used interchangeably, but that she considers calibration to be a component, explaining what aspects of plate making fit into each.

Next, Haley Hendry of TC Transcontinental Packaging presented “Process Control and Quality Control.” Focusing on process control, she asked, “Is chaos disrupting your process?” Hendry stressed how a systematic, process-oriented approach can regulate plate outcome and ensure top-quality results. “Consistency is the key to repeatability,” she said.

The third speaker of the session was Allie Ayers of DuPont Image Solutions, who presented “Problem Solving in the Flexographic Plateroom.” Explaining that there are hundreds of variables in the plate making process, Ayers said that with every variable, there’s a possibility of error. “Ensuring that your relief is proper is extremely important,” she said. [Read a full article relating to this presentation].

Kevin Bourquin of Cyber Graphics closed with “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Turn and Face the Strange.” Bourquin revealed strategies to consider when embracing technologies to enhance the final product, while reducing the risk of mistakes. “We’ve got to figure out if we’re going to lose efficiency because of process condition changes,” he stated.

Attendees said Virtual Fall Conference 2020’s technical sessions were engaging and met their expectations.

The second session, chaired by Bobby Congdon of Clemson University and Marcy Southern of PPC Flexible Packaging, was titled “Moving Through Reality with Virtual Help.” Claudia St. John of Affinity HR Group began with “Hiring and Onboarding in a Virtual World.” She explained that when interviewing candidates for a position, companies now need to be addressing their COVID-19 culture and expectations. “Good talent, experienced talent, top talent is as hard to find now and it was before the pandemic,” she noted.

Catherine Haynes returned with “Ready Player One: The Precursor.” Discussing how companies now need to understand how to better harness the power of web-based platforms, she explained that virtual learning is here to stay, and noted most experts believe that a mix of online and in-person instruction will exist even after the pandemic ends. “We have to become better learners in a virtual environment,” she said. [Read a full article relating to this presentation].

Nate Newsome of Clemson University spoke next with “STRIPE Online: Making Interactive Flexographic Training Accessible.” Newsome explained how the virtual reality training platform works—an interactive print lab for workforce development that the Sonoco Institute at Clemson University has been working on. “We don’t just want to train in the visual quality; we have a system that is data-driven,” he expressed.

The last speaker of the session was Kristen Olberding of Olberding Brand Family, who presented “Remote Press Approvals in a Time of Travel Restrictions.” Press approvals still need to be accomplished during a pandemic, and Olberding said that by implementing process controls, metrics and validation, press approvals can easily be conducted virtually. “Communication is key for a successful remote press approval,” she said. [Read a full article relating to this presentation].

The second day of Virtual Fall Conference 2020 began with “File Preparation for Successful Print Production,” with Ken Pavett of Flexografix and Chris Wermes of Steinhauser. The two companies came together to produce a hand sanitizer label print sample—mailed to attendees to examine during the session—both flexographically and digitally, in a short amount of time. In explaining how the job was completed on time, Pavett noted that prepress has seen more innovations in the last five years than the 15 prior, while Wermes explained how working together was mutually beneficial for both businesses. “We felt we gained a lot,” Wermes said.

Color Management: The Methods and the Madness” ended day two. Featuring a panel of experts—Barry Sanel of Diageo North America, Steve Smiley of SmileyColor & Associates LLC, Mark Samworth of Esko and Kim Madigan of Smyth Companies—the session looked at brand owner color expectations and color recommendations, and how they fit into a printer’s workflow, as well as the science and tools used to successfully manage brand colors.

“Brand people are not technical people… you have to convert what you do and say to a non-technical audience,” noted Sanel. Samworth explained that you can’t drive an adjustment curve without a desired curve: “You have to have something to aim at.” Madigan explained the importance of having a communication system that your internal team truly understands, while Smiley stressed, “If you don’t start with a clean, smooth dataset for everyone to aim at, it causes some problems.”

Day three started with “Print Quality Scoring: Friend or Foe?” chaired by Dan Uress of Colorware USA Inc. Kicking off the session were Michael John of 3M and Jasmine Hietpas of HAVI Global with “Print Quality Scoring: The Benefits, Challenges and a Catalyst for Improvement.” The two examined the objectives of print quality scoring from the perspective of two global brands. The goal of print quality scoring can be perceived differently, depending where you sit on the supply chain, Hietpas explained, noting the importance of print quality scorecards for brands to track performance. Similarly, John expressed, “Print quality scoring allows printers to learn and educate using data supplied.”

Paul Biernat of brandkey graphics and Marc Levine of GMG Americas followed with “Building a Solid Foundation for Measurable Success.” Speaking from the program management and premedia points of view, the pair outlined the steps brand owners and printers can take to deliver benefits to their organizations. Levine noted that print quality scoring can be used to make process change more portable. Biernat pointed out that a generalized approach to print quality scoring can be cost-effective and easy to implement. [Read a full article by Levine on the subject.]

Jeff Hall of Graphic Packaging International ended the session with “Print Quality Scoring: Driving Operational Effectiveness.” Hall gave insights into print quality scoring implementation and what it provides, and how it can gauge the health of a workflow and enable proactive process. “Don’t just accept something and put it on press—validate standards for achievability,” he said.

The final session was “Promoting Success at the Intersection of Technology and Emotion,” with Dan Haney and Stephanie Love of Haney. The company has implemented a process designed to bridge the gap between the aesthetic and technical components of package development, and Dan and Love outlined this process, as well as the ways sustainability benefits can be conveyed to clients and customers. Love noted how the pandemic has “reshaped” the industry in ways that will have short- and long-term implications. Dan pointed out that when brands are considering how they move to market, they should ask, “What’s the problem to be solved?”

The Virtual Exhibit allowed attendees to visit booths on their own schedules and beyond the event, until Oct. 16.

The Virtual Exhibit

The conference portion of Virtual Fall Conference was not the only thing to move into the online space. More than 40 companies were part of the first-ever Virtual Exhibit. Open exclusively to conference attendees during the three-day event—and then to the general public for an additional 9 days—the Virtual Exhibit checked plenty of boxes for those printers and converters looking for a place to see the latest and greatest in the packaging industry.

Additionally, the virtual venue allowed exhibitors to video conference one-on-one with attendees, as well as conduct live product demonstrations directly from their showrooms.

The Future

Fall Conference may have looked different this year, but the experience was just as beneficial as an in-person event for attendees. No matter what the future holds, events like Virtual Fall Conference 2020 show it is possible to adapt, reinvent and offer technical sessions and exhibits in an engaging, informative and collaborative way.