The Year in Review: What 2017 Meant to FTA, FLEXO Magazine & the Flexographic Industry

Forum 2017 definitively answered a question on every flexographer’s mind: “What’s trending now?” Its four-day agenda focused on what’s en vogue in flexo and, by extension, enlightened attendees as to how they can shore up their present-day processes for the future.

It was fitting, because for flexography at large, 2017 as a whole was a year in which the printing process remained dominant in the packaging industry, while taking the steps to FIRST 6.0 coverkeep pace with ever-changing trends and technologies. Workforce challenges, packaging segment requirements, the complementary nature of rival processes, greater efficiencies, catering to consumer and brand owner demands—these were just a few of the subjects explored at industry events, through webinars, in print and online, in 2017.

Here’s a look back at highlights from 2017 in the world of flexography.

FTA Happenings

With a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST), its newest iteration, FIRST 6.0, was officially launched at Fall Conference. An expanded appendix, and updates to the printing and prepress sections, allow printers, prepress houses, designers and customers to access the knowledge needed to continuously improve the entire printing procedure.

FTA’s redesigned website made its digital debut with a completely new look, simplified navigation consisting of fewer menus, improved page design with wider margins and more room for images, and mobile responsiveness.

FTA’s Generational Study, a year-long project by the association’s Emerging Leaders Committee that sought to better understand the industry’s youngest workers, was completed. The first article on the study revealed numerous interesting data points; among them: Five in six Millennials say they feel completely unprepared for a career in package printing; three-quarters of Millennials plan to still be at their current employer in three years; and Millennials feel the most significant challenge they face is the workplace age gap between themselves and older generations.

Companies from every corner of the industry continued to find value in FTA membership, as nearly 200 joined the association’s ranks.

The annual rotation of the FTA Board of Directors and FFTA Board of Trustees saw a handful of members leave (with an acknowledgment of their contributions at Forum), others join and some existing members take on new roles. Mary Sullivan began her tenure as FTA Board Chair. Jean Engelke, Ron Premo, Geoff Roznak and Dale Walbert joined the board. Other changes included:

  • Johnny Dye named Board Chair-Elect
  • Ian Hole named FTA/FFTA Treasurer
  • JP Delage named FFTA Vice Chair, Scholarships
  • James Stone named FTA Vice Chair, CPC/Education
  • John Crammer named FTA Vice Chair, Printers/Converters

Nine FTA Member Webinars—free to members—were held. They covered topics like process control for color consistency, mounting tape optimization, color theory and more.

Flexographers from all walks of the workflow continued to embrace FIRST Certification, as a FIRST Individual CertificationFIRST Press Operator Certification, FIRST Prepress Operator Certification or FIRST Implementation Specialist Certificationwas achieved by nearly 500 people.

FLEXOGRAPHY 101 Booklet Series - An Introduction to Color FundamentalsFTA released the sixth entry in the FLEXOGRAPHY 101 Booklet Series, “An Introduction to Color Fundamentals.” Created to provide a better understanding of color related to the graphic arts industry, the booklet was developed for all levels of flexographic professional to build upon or refresh their basic knowledge of color.

In May, a meeting between representatives of FTA U.S. and a delegation from FTA Europe took place at Forum 2017. The European delegation consisted of 30 persons representing the different national member organizations of FTA Europe, as well as some other non-member flexo associations, as a signal of curiosity and interest in the initiatives of FTA Europe. “We were delighted to welcome the attending FTA Forum & INFOFLEX delegates representing FTA Europe at this year’s event in Phoenix,” commented FTA President Mark Cisternino. “Through the hosting of an international attendee ‘meet and greet’ hospitality reception at the event, it gave dignitaries from both groups the opportunity to get to know one another and discuss issues of importance within their markets in an informal, social atmosphere.”

FTA served as a member of the PACK EXPO Partner Program and exhibited at the event from Sept. 25-27 in Las Vegas.

FTA’s social media presence on Twitter continued to provide a valuable communication channel to speak to members and provide links to resources, updates and informative articles.

Industry Happenings

This year, the flexography world lost several industry veterans who, throughout their careers, made significant contributions to package printing:

  • Jerry Shields, 80, an FTA Hall of Fame member, association supporter since 1971, frequent speaker at FTA events, contributor to FLEXO Magazine and former member of the publication’s Editorial Advisory Committee. Jerry also served important roles on the Flexo in High School Advisory Council, FTA Project Evaluation Committee, FTA Board of Directors and as Forum chair in both 1986 and 1992
  • Richard Koslowski, 75, a 54-year veteran of the flexographic industry and supporter of FTA who served on its Awards Committee and also shared his expertise in early editions of FIRST
  • Ed Bingham, 82, owner of Bingham Flexo Services and a face recognized by virtually everyone in the decades he spent serving the industry

Acquisitions were once again frequent throughout the year. “Great merger and acquisition strategies build value,” said Patricia Johnston of Douglas Group. “Companies can cross-sell new and budding technologies and capabilities to customers of sister companies, to make greater value for the combination. They can leverage the strengths of combining players to allow them to do more and greater things than they could ever have achieved alone. They can offer staff, who may have been top-bound by the financial constraints of funding growth capital, the chance to excel to amazing new heights.”

Here are just a few that took place in 2017:

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed to extend the compliance dates for the various revisions which collectively make up the Nutrition Facts Label update to Jan. 1, 2020 for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales, while manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales would receive an extra year to comply, until Jan. 1, 2021.