Interview series: What’s the next game-changer? – Answers from Jules Lejeune
Jules Lejeune, managing director at FINAT (Source: FINAT)
NarrowWebTech asked label printers and converters to give their views about the past, the present and the future of the label industry. What was the most important thing to note in 2016? What will be relevant in 2017? Read here what Jules Lejeune, managing director at FINAT, think about the latest developments within our industry in the past year and in the immediate future!
Managing director at FINAT
Looking back at 2016, what were the most important developments in terms of technology and production workflow to affect the label industry?
The continuing sophistication of the digital print technologies are bringing much change to the label industry’s modus operandi. As well as ‘hardware’, inks in the segment are now delivering the high-definition results, on a variety of substrates, to match the quality of analogue print. In mainstream label print, UV and EB ink curing have significantly improved drying speeds and throughput, and now represent a mainstream technology base.
Some describe Industry 4.0 as the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’. What is your opinion on this evolution of communications within the production chain, and how does it affect your workflow?
There can be no question that the internet has brought new meaning to production and data exchange across the whole world of label and packaging print. They have brought together, in a global forum, the label designer, brand owner, label converter, and consumables suppliers to achieve, exceptionally quickly, the excellent results that the whole value chain requires. In an age when short print runs, multi-versioning, and just-in-time delivery are in high demand, ‘Industry 4.0’ has certainly changed the label printing industry. As well as bringing a new immediacy and greater computer-based skills to its day-to-day operations, it is also demanding new and different levels of professionalism and supply chain cross-fertilisation to achieve the desired end results. This is work in progress.
We have dedicated an important part of this year’s European Label Forum, our annual conference to be held in Berlin from 7-9 June, to assess the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution, both on the manufacturing operation and on the product design and overall business model of the label industry.
What are your concerns and expectations for the label industry in 2017? What do you consider will be the game-changing developments? How does your view relate to what you might see at Labelexpo Europe 2017?
In the hyperactive packaging print arena, labels will continue to take first place for creating the best “cocktail” of features – product identification data, the increasing tranche of EU regulatory information, product authentication and security devices – as well as the prime requirement of delivering brand identity, brand experience and ‘added value’ for the consumer. This feature may involve personalisation, tactile and colour changing features, devices such as QR codes and other intelligent features such as augmented reality, designed to connect products with the consumer via the web. Such a “cocktail” makes impressive demands on the capabilities of the label industry supply chain, but one they are today perfectly able to meet. It is increasingly true that the definition of a label has broadened beyond self-adhesive and wet glue labels to include sleeve labels, flexible packaging, in-mould labels and direct-to-container print, all of which may increasingly feature in label converters’ 2017 offer to brand owners. The established European label supply platform is also expected to broaden. Since brand owners continue to demand higher quality at lower prices, they are increasingly looking to our developing economies – e.g. Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia — as viable, competitively-priced label sourcing channels, prompting local company development as well as M&A activity.
We expect sustainability and waste management to be headline topics in the agenda of the packaging supply chain, and be the prime concern of FINAT, TLMI, and our sister associations around the world in 2017. We are involved in increasingly formalising the relationship between label converters, co-packers, and brand owners to establish a structured release liner collection and recycling system, and around 70% of the brand owners FINAT recently surveyed indicated they are not currently recycling any of their liner waste.
Labelexpo Europe 2017 will be a wonderful opportunity for our industry to show how it can deliver at every level today – and tomorrow.
Do you currently have digital printing capability? Will you be investing in a digital press (or presses) in 2017?
Our most recent research with European brand owners confirms that more than 70% of them claim that they will not be migrating from self-adhesive technology to another label format over the next 12 months. Therefore, we do not expect to see major change in 2017. There is room in the universe of labels for analogue, hybrid, and digital technologies to prosper and offer solutions that will meet the requirements of their end-use market sector customers, and we believe all will co-exist successfully.