FINAT Technical Seminar 2018 – Part 1: the Internet of labels

Participants discussing the challenges of the labels industry during the workshop session of the FINAT Technical Seminar 2018 (Source: FINAT)

SPAIN • The unusually extended supply chain for the self-adhesive label industry always makes the biennial FINAT Technical Seminar an interesting event in many ways. It brings together a diverse community – all of whom have a strong interest in technical advances that will impact labelling and packaging.

This is the first part of the  2018′ technical seminar’s review. Please find Part 2 in this post!


This year’s event, held in Barcelona for the sixth time, was no exception. Over two days, March 7-9, 2018, the seminar combined networking and exploring and evaluating the “challenges in the label market” that constituted the event’s chosen agenda.

Delegates – from across Europe and beyond — met at the hotel on the first evening for cocktails around the tabletop exhibition, followed by an informal networking dinner, and convened for the formal proceedings the following morning.

Exploring the clouds…

The seminar’s keynote speaker, Andy Hobsbawm (UK), co-founder and CMO of leading Internet of Things smart products platform EVRYTHNG, set the tone for the event. He discussed the way in which the Internet of Things and its key advantage — data – have  enabled smart products to transform brand relationships, customer interactions, product authentication and brand security, business management, and service experiences – a vast arena where labels on packaging can play a number of key roles.  It is currently in its infancy, but growing fast – particularly in such areas as serialisation and on-pack augmented reality devices.

In fact, said Hobsbawm, “99% of things will become part of a connected network”.  The benefit of on-pack “communicators” for brand owners is, of course, the  huge source of data received as a result. It can deliver end-to-end visibility across a product’s lifecycle, enhance business efficiency, and help to secure the supply chain. Andy Hobsbawm adjured seminar participants to actively exploit these opportunities and “transform your products into smart digital assets.”

As if in answer to this plea, Günther Dieroff (SE),sales and marketing manager of Swedish label printers Beneli, who already have an established reputation in smart labels, went on to discuss in detail the sheer scope of the customer engagement market, which is “everywhere from childhood to retirement”, particularly in partnership with mobile devices. Dieroff led the audience along the NFC digital corridors that can deliver successful business results for brands and retailers, as well as successful purchasing and brand engagement for consumers.

There is more than QR-codes

On-pack promotions and invitations to connect with a product are creating increased consumer engagement – particularly when compared with traditional standard advertising and promotional activities. However, Dieroff said, QR codes are not the route to follow. “Only 155 of smart device users know how to scan properly”, he said, and “they are ugly”; and he showed that there are plenty of other creative communication solutions for NFC scanning.

 Do things differently

The complex business of making ready the production process is today much simplified and quickened by the linking of ‘front end’ activities via digital workflows, as Xeikon’s director, product management, Jeroen van Bauwel (B), showed. Particularly in the light of today’s customer demands for shorter print runs and shorter lead times, “make-ready time becomes a major bottleneck”. Digitising the production process can, he showed, not only reduce the costs of print job preparation, prepress, and manufacturing time (by over 20%), but also creates additional production capacity, reduces on-press waste, and can improve all-round quality.  A “no paper” workflow from order entry to invoicing is a prime benefit of digital production, coupled with optimised colour management;  substrate standardization and order grouping based on substrate;  plus the addition of “separator labels” for better integration with on-press finishing systems.

The principles of workflow automation were then addressed in depth, appropriately, by Esko’s director, solutions marketing, Geert de Proost (B), who described his paper as ‘automation myths debunked’. In a world where speed to market is the desire of product manufacturers and their customers alike, ‘great packaging’ is also a key requirement. There is one way that the label converter can make this dream come true, said de Proost: “digitise, automate, connect”.

Esko’s director detailed the ways in which production can be streamlined, so that label converters can better meet the requirements of their brand owner customers, and enjoy benefits across the production process – without compromise.

What is the bottleneck?

“All of a sudden, your bottleneck is NOT the printing machine”, said Daragh Whelan (IT), process manager at Bobst. He discussed digital automation for flexography in the face of the challenges in the label market from digital print. Bobst are members of the REVO Partnership formed with other industry suppliers to provide viable full-circle digital flexo.

Whelan showed how, with digital UV flexo, the REVO solution delivers wide graphic flexibility in terms of extended colour gamut technology. It also offers significant improvements over conventional flexo in terms of both minimal process waste and make-ready time – which is reduced from a total of three hours for conventional flexo to just ten minutes with digital flexo.

“Accept, create, invest”

MPS Systems’ global marketing manager Marjolein Ekkelboom (NL) was uncompromising in telling seminar participants to “accept, create, invest” in the benefits of connectivity. The hardware and software are ready, as prior speakers had shown, and can deliver multiple core business rewards in terms of a successful business future. Indeed, she underlined that revenue generated from IoT and ‘Big Data’ services is set to exceed EUR 300 billion by 2020 – and that is just the beginning.

Participants discussing the challenges of the labels industry during the workshop session of the FINAT Technical Seminar 2018 (Source: FINAT)

Interactive troubleshooting workshops

The afternoon session consisted of a choice of two parallel interactive ‘troubleshooting’ workshops for delegates, on key current label converting scenarios, which were moderated by De Ruyter Strategy. John Hammond (UK), sales director of Nilpeter UK, led the workshop on self-adhesive multi-layer peel-and-read labels and their construction, which provoked lively participant interest

As a result of increasingly-strict regulatory requirements in terms of the provision of more in-depth product information in the field of pharmaceuticals and OTC medicines, as well as a general desire to place just “one label” on a product. Peel-and-read labels now represent a strong opportunity arena for label converters because, he summed up, “you just took away all the brand owners problems with a single solution”.

He explained in depth both the single-web and dual-web production options, and concluded that one-pass production of peel-and-read labels would additionally give label converters “the opportunity to bring that advantage to the market”.

“It makes sense…”

Nanette Thomas (D), CEO and founder of Synthogra, led a very lively and positive workshop on “going into flexible packaging and sleeves” on narrow-web presses, alongside traditional self-adhesive labels. She encouraged participants to look at the process of starting up such a process – including the practical production challenges and pitfalls, brand owners’ buying behaviour, and the implications of food safety regulations. As she showed, for label converters today, flexible packaging and sleeve label production represent a genuine opportunity to gain additional market share with existing brand owner customers, as well as resultant increased profitability.

As moderator Paul de Ruijter (NL) commented: “Flexible packaging is very important for the label industry in terms of increasing its role with the brand owners… and it can really raise the bar for the industry, taking it from secondary packaging print into the realms of primary packaging production.” FINAT’s role in enabling such industry evolution is of course key, he underlined.

Afterwards, delicious dinner in Barcelona’s lovely port, accompanied by live Spanish guitar music, proved a delightful end to the day’s activities.

Read a review of the second day of the FINAT Technical Seminar 2018 in this post!

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