Part 1: How is the release liner market developing? – Interview with Corey Reardon from AWA Alexander Watson Associates
How is the release liner market developing? What was the most surprising fact that was discussed during AWA Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition 2018 in February in Amsterdam? In an interview with NarrowWebTech Corey M Reardon President and CEO AWA Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) comments on the current status of the release liner industry, the challenges companies are facing and how to meet these challenging developments.
By Rosina Obermayer
What is the current state of the release liner industry?
Corey Reardon: The release liner industry today is in a very strong position. It is growing by more than 5% per annum across all application segments including labels, tapes, graphic, films, industrial applications and hygiene. The strength of this industry is its ability to work together. The industry is quite complex and includes paper, film, pulp, resin, silicone suppliers who are working together with coating and laminating companies to produce release liners.
What was your highlight of this year’s annual AWA Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition?
Corey Reardon: The most obvious and interesting fact to emerge from these two days was the need for collaboration. The word which was most often spoken during the programme and the breaks was collaboration. Several companies across the value chain need to work together to develop solutions or applications.
Can you give an example?
Corey Reardon: A release liner is a – as defined by a speaker – “a highly engineered piece of trash”. It incorporates a number of highly engineered and sophisticated components whether it is the paper, film or the silicone. These components are produced and supplied by different companies and have different value chains in themselves. So, when developing a new product, collaboration of not only the company producing the release liner, but the companies involved with the components, mainly silicone and substrate is required. So it is quite a complex structure.
Is collaboration already a status quo?
Corey Reardon: I think in the end, compared to a lot of industries, the release liner industry works very well together, as seen at the conference where representatives from all the key component areas for release liners were gathered. There is a good relationship across the value chain, between these suppliers if you will. Improvements are always possible, such as being more transparent in collaborating.
What is the most surprising fact you learned from the last two days?
Corey Reardon: Maybe as a take-away it is the importance of working together. To develop solutions for some of the challenges like sustainability and waste, like quicker product development or faster time-to-market. The presentations given by customers had a common theme asking particularly for new developments. There is the need for those customers to have flexibility from their suppliers, also flexibility in terms of quantities, going through the trial process is important. [Editorial Comment: A review of the annual Release Liner Conference & Exhibition including pictures you can find in this post! ]
Flexibility in terms of quantities, does that also include release liners for the label industry, where for example short runs are a huge topic?
Corey Reardon: No, I mean it in that way, but not so much for the label segment. In the release liner industry 49% of all release liners produced worldwide are for label applications. The other 51% is used in graphics films, tapes, medical or industrial products. These applications may not have the same volume as the label market but require smaller volumes. E.g. in the tape industry, pressure-sensitive technology being used for bonding applications is replacing mechanical bonding or fastening applications. But the process of getting from the conception of an idea to production volumes may take several years. During this process the quantities may be small, so the industry has to support that kind of development before it gets to the volumes we see in the label sector.