A “State of the Industry” report earlier this year cited the top challenges of printers today, with automated workflows, color management and cost control rising to the top of that list. Giving insight into one company’s experience with these particular challenges and others, Thomas Morin and Rebecca Casey of FTA printer member TC Transcontinental Packaging say finding skilled workers is another obstacle, while emphasizing how the company’s acquisitions have allowed it to amass a talented workforce across a broad range of capabilities.
Here, Morin, who joined as president of TC Transcontinental Packaging in July, and Casey, who is the vice president marketing and consumer market development at the company, discuss acquisitions, challenges, process control, long-term strategies and more.
FLEXO Magazine: Since joining TC Transcontinental Packaging in July, what have been some of your top priorities in your new role?
Thomas Morin: My priority has been to meet with the teams and have a better understanding of the company, its culture, values and processes. I am very happy to join TC Transcontinental, which has seen a tremendous growth over the past five years. I am looking forward to working with the great talent that we have on, establishing our long-term goals and strategies, as well as executing our business plans.
FLEXO: In a “State of the Industry” report earlier this year, printer members cited color management as a top challenge. Where would you rank it among printer’s difficulties?
Rebecca Casey: The top challenge for flexographic printers is efficiently and effectively printing short runs on plastic substrates with wide web flexographic technology. The second challenge is color management.
FLEXO: In that same report, more than one-third of respondents stressed automating workflows as a top challenge. Why do you think automation is a point of emphasis?
Casey: Automation is a point of emphasis because it increases productivity and in some cases quality. Finding skilled workers in today’s competitive workplace environment is difficult and expensive.
FLEXO: Do you take a universal approach to automated workflows? Do you incorporate auto impression, auto clean up, auto register, etc.?
Casey: We do not take a universal approach to automated workflows. We take into account many requirements including quality, efficiency, safety and others to determine the appropriate decision for our automated workflows.
FLEXO: What about tension control and 100 percent inspection systems?
Casey: As substrates get thinner and new innovative films are used to meet our sustainability objectives, tension control is increasingly more important. And 100 percent inspection systems are also important.
FLEXO: What measurement devices do you deploy?
Casey: We use mostly X-Rite color management and AVT inspection systems.
FLEXO: TC Transcontinental Packaging is a repeat winner in the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards. Is automation partly responsible for your success in the annual competition?
Casey: Automation is available to the whole flexographic printing industry. Being a repeat winner in the Excellence in Flexography Awards is due to the skilled and talented employees we have at TC Transcontinental Packaging, advanced prepress know-how, partnership collaboration, and a committed investment in technology.
FLEXO: Cost control, reduced setup and makeready times, and short runs were also identified as top challenges in the report. Why do you think this is?
Casey: These are the top challenges due to the consumer trend of personalization/differentiation. Consumer product companies want more SKUs, less inventory, and shorter lead times to meet the ever-changing consumer needs, differentiate themselves from the competition, and respond quickly to trends and promotions.
FLEXO: In the last several years, TC Transcontinental Packaging has acquired several companies. How is this affecting operations? Is M&A activity on the rise?
Morin: The acquisitions that we’ve done actually make us unique in the market. They allowed us to gain substantial know-how thanks to the talented people that came with the acquired companies. Our entrepreneurial spirit—that also came with all the acquisitions—in addition to our technical talent, allow us to encompass a broad range of capabilities.
Regarding M&A, the packaging industry is still very fragmented. There is definitely room for consolidation and acquisitions in the market. Today, we are not actively looking for any acquisitions, but if any opportunity arises, our priority would be to acquire a company that is a natural fit to our current operations.
FLEXO: Are process control and the principles of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) part of your operating strategy?
Casey: Yes, we use FIRST Individual Certification programs in many of our facilities.
FLEXO: Looking ahead, what are some long-term strategies and goals of the company?
Morin: R&D is at the top of our priorities to develop intuitive packaging for the consumer. With the recent appointment of Alex Hayden to the position of senior vice president, R&D, innovation and sustainability, we are confident that it will allow us to push further the development and commercialization of differentiated products and eco-responsible packaging solutions for our customers. We continue to work with our current clients and other potential clients to develop and commercialize products that meet their expectations as well as the consumers’ needs.
In addition, as you may know, we share the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s common vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste and we are proud signatories of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. We have committed, by 2025, for 100 percent of our plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, on top of achieving a 10 percent use of post-consumer recycled content on average by weight, across all plastics in our product basket. Sustainability is at the top of our priorities.