FTA Member Coveris Shares Experiences of 80+ Personnel Completing FIRST Individual Certifications

FIRST Individual Certification logoIn the war on inconsistent print, it was a handful of Coveris employees at the company’s Battle Creek, MI location who fired the first salvo.

While developing training documentation for their flexo presses, explains the FTA member company’s Corporate Continuous Skills Development Manager Sheri Hudachek, those employees pondered how a more comprehensive knowledge base could help Coveris’ operators and staff in other positions. From that spark of interest, an investigation into available training programs led to FTA’s FIRST Individual Certifications.

Coveris’ initial plans were to train staff at its facilities in Battle Creek, MI and Albany, GA; that expanded to include locations in Menasha, WI; Griffin, GA; Catoosa, OK and Concord/Whitby, Ontario, Canada. More than 80 employees have enrolled in either FIRST Press Operator Certification, FIRST Prepress Operator Certification or FIRST Implementation Specialist Certification, and regardless of their experience level, have found it to provide valuable new information in the pursuit of repeatability and consistency.

“It’s an excellent training opportunity to introduce new employees to the flexo industry, as well as provide experienced employees valuable insight on improvement opportunities within their own organization,” Hudachek says.

Here, FLEXO Magazine speaks to Coveris executives and employees who have completed each FIRST Individual Certification, to discuss their initial reactions to the training, how it has changed their day-to-day jobs and where the material makes a difference.

Coveris Company Background & Profile

FLEXO Magazine: How large is Coveris? How many locations/presses/employees/shifts does the company have?

Andrew Green, senior vice president operations: Coveris Americas is a manufacturer of flexible packaging solutions, coated films and agricultural products. Coveris Americas has more than 3,000 employees across nine countries and in 21 manufacturing/converting facilities, most of which employ flexographic printing.

Coveris Press Helper Wendell Maye, who recently attained FIRST Press Operator Certification
Photos courtesy of Coveris

FLEXO: In what market segment(s) does the company do business?

Green: As a manufacturer of flexible packaging solutions, Coveris Americas serves a customer base of leaders in both consumer and industrial end-use markets. These markets include:

  • Cheese & dairy
  • Pet food
  • Beverage
  • Household & personal care
  • Protein
  • Food ingredients
  • Chemicals
  • Building materials
  • Agriculture

FLEXO: What’s new at Coveris?

Green: Coveris Americas has invested more than $100 million in new printing equipment and plant modernization projects. Additionally, our Coveris Performance System is driving quality, service and responsiveness throughout our supply chain. Our frontline associates, including our press operators, make us the best partner for our customers. They amaze me every day.

FLEXO: What does Coveris see as new or exciting in flexography? New capabilities enabled by modern technologies? A specific consumer trend? Growth in an unexpected segment?

Hank Welter, VP manufacturing technology: We work to explore and test all new technologies, equipment, materials and techniques. Current opportunities in screening, along with improved plates, plating processing techniques and anilox configurations, all look to help us improve our offerings. Building our systems with the right combinations of these will be the key to offering our customers something unique while continuing to provide improved quality.

We feel confident our staff will be more prepared to take us to the next level with their training from FTA and its ability to help them understand how it all works together.

FLEXO: How about in the flexible packaging realm—What’s changed in the past five years and where do you anticipate the segment will go in the next five?

Welter: SKU proliferation, stricter quality requirements and increased speed-to-market have been ongoing trends for the past few years, and will continue to be key areas of focus. As our customers strive to expand their shelf presence in highly competitive markets, the Coveris Americas team will continue to invest in technologies, processes and personnel that help us to better address their needs, drive our quality and performance systems, and consistently create value.

FIRST Individual Certifications

FLEXO: How Coveris came into pursuing FIRST Certification is a very interesting story—An employee proposed the idea in a suggestion box?

Alex Braman

Sheri Hudachek, corporate continuous skills development manager: Not exactly, but close. Several seasoned production employees who served on the skills development team in the Battle Creek, MI facility were assisting in the creation of training documentation for its flexo presses. This process made them reflect on their own training and how they might have benefited from a broader knowledge base of the flexo industry. Their interest in flexo training launched a research effort that quickly led to FTA’s certification program. Data was gathered to develop a cost proposal, initially for employees at two production facilities, and later expanded to six facilities, enrolling more than 80 employees in the first cohort.

FLEXO: Your company has employees pursuing each FIRST Individual Certification—Press Operator Certification, Prepress Operator Certification and Implementation Specialist Certification. Did you target one certification initially, or did staff enroll in all three simultaneously?

Hudachek: Coveris management opened it up to all three certification programs, simultaneously.

FLEXO: Describe the employee response to FIRST Certification. Was there any resistance to doing things differently?

Hudachek: Any initial hesitancy dissipated as confidence grew in applying new learnings, wherever possible. Additionally, employees were beginning to recognize the way they had been trained historically was considered “tribal” in nature. With an aging workforce, it was clear those with operational expertise would soon be retiring and the company needed to accelerate development of standard work processes across the board to remain competitive.