Born into what would become a true flexo family, some said ink ran and continues to run through his blood.
Printers’ loupes at times seemed permanently affixed to his fingers. His ever-present eye for detail, passion about quality and reticence about never shying away from pushing the boundaries, all contributed to great print exciting him—time and time again. It’s been happening for four decades and counting.
Known to be “positive,” “patient,” and “professional”—when things go well, his adjective of choice is, “nice.” This troubleshooter and proponent of training tirelessly worked to make life better for every printer he encountered. That’s of course when the woods, rivers, lakes, fish and “shoes” weren’t calling to the avid outdoorsman.
He was raised in flexography. His mom worked in flexography. His wife worked in flexography. His sister works in flexography. Flexography is his professional legacy.
As a result of lifelong endeavors that stretched over a 41-year career, this label master is now the 60th individual to have the honor of entering FTA’s Flexo Hall of Fame. Easily recognizable to countless members of the worldwide narrow web print community, some of whom consider him associated with one company; others, six—Louis O. Werneke Co; Werneke Inks; Akzo Nobel Inks; ANI Printing Inks; XSYS Print Solutions; Flint Group—Mike Buystedt’s reputation as friend and mentor was meticulously earned. He is credited with being astute, skillful and ingenious.
It all began back in 1978, when as a student in HVAC at Dunwoody Institute, his mother, Dorothy, arranged an interview with her employer. Lou, “Inky Lou” Werneke. Her tenure at that company and its predecessor, a lithographic ink manufacturer owned by Louis Roberts, stretched back to 1949 and forward through multiple incarnations to 1989.
Mike was hired soon after Inky Lou changed the focus of the business to liquid ink for labels and joined the Minneapolis firm as a formulator. His sister and fellow flexographer Deanna Klemesrud (marketing director, Flint Group Packaging), reported, “Werneke designated Mike his protégé. The pair and the company mascot—an environmentally minded cartoon fox named ‘Inky Lou’ too, proved instrumental in transitioning from solvent- to water-based ink technology, having developed the first such product for narrow web.”
The fox and its handlers—Lou and Mike—established a presence for their company throughout the world in the 1980s and 1990s—the UK, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other regions, bringing ink technologies developed in the US to every part of the world. In 1986, the company unveiled the first UV inks for narrow web.
As Mike rose through the ranks, he became technical manager, operations manager, product manager, technical director, general manager, director of sales and finally, vice president narrow web North America for Flint Group; his activities and influence stretched far beyond corporate initiatives.
Always good with step changes, Klemesrud noted that, “He guided fellow employees through the transition from one company to another, pointing to benefits each evolution brought along.”
Let in on the news, and sworn to secrecy, Klemesrud reported that Dorothy, along with her and Mike’s father, Doug, were “giddy.” Dorothy exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! … I remember those awards. You know, when Mike started working at Louis O. Werneke and Lou took him under his wing, Lou told him that he would make him a great businessman. He saw potential in Mike. They traveled all over the world together. Mike always worked so hard. I wish dad and I could be there in Texas!”
Klemesrud observed, “People know Mike. Those of us who have walked through an exhibit hall with Mike—at an FTA INFOFLEX or at a Labelexpo—know that people ‘know Mike’! And, people who know Mike, always rely on his expertise and deep understanding of the applications, technologies and the global market of narrow web printing. Those who worked closest to Mike would say he was an extremely hard-working individual, who is dedicated, genuine, patient and extremely kind.”
In FTA circles, Mike was known for contributing portions of the ink chapter to the textbook Flexography: Principles & Practices (FP&P). He served on the Expanded Gamut Subcommittee for Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST), co-chaired the first TLMI/FTA Technical Conference in 2003, spoke on at least 10 occasions at various FTA FORUMs, Fall Conferences and Technical Seminars; plus authored several articles for FLEXO Magazine with a frequent topic being narrow web UV.
Beyond FTA, Buystedt’s engagement stretched to other professional organizations, including the Envelope Manufacturers Association, Flexible Packaging Association, Gravure Association of America, Printing Industry Midwest, Twin Cities Flexo Association, Independent Carton Converters, and most notably the Tag & Label Manufacturers Institute.
At TLMI, Buystedt served on the board of directors, chaired its Technical and Awards Committee, and frequently judged in the TLMI and World Label Awards. Eventually, he was named TLMI World Label Awards Liaison. In 2005, he was awarded the first-ever TLMI Supplier of the Year Award for his 25 years of service.
And at Labelexpo of the Americas, Mike continually oversaw the judging and presentation of awards in Flint Group’s Narrow Web Print Competition.