“Take a look beyond!” -Interview with the new FINAT president Chris Ellison – Part 2
FINAT president Chris Ellison during the interview with NarrowWebTech editor Rosina Obermayer (Source: FINAT)
During the latest edition of FINAT European Label Forum the editorial team of NarrowWebTech interviewed Chris Ellison, new president of the label association, about his opinion to Industry 4.0, his advice for label producers regarding automation as well as his aims during his FINAT presidency.
Industry 4.0 is also the main focus of this afternoon. Is this the reason why?
Chris Ellison: I think so. It should be seen as an opportunity. The industry can control itself. We produce a product on demand for our customers. What we produce is driven by technologies available by our suppliers – printing plates, inks, printing machines and more. We have to take our technology and adapt it to a product of our client, but innovative opportunity in the product doesn’t necessarily make us more efficient or profitable. It is then taking this opportunity, being able to produce this product efficiently and reliably. Thus, Industry 4.0 gives us the electronic framework to manufacture products all reliably, quicker and to a higher quality. Yes, I believe, it got a real place in the printing industry.
So it does already have its place? If yes, could you demonstrate it?
Chris Ellison: It does already have! In my business, OPM Labels and Packaging Group, it does have its place. We manufacture printed labels and short- and medium-long flexible packaging solutions. To demonstrate this, we have an automated customer relationship management system, which is also linked into Esko Prepress. This information is shared with plate making system, but it is also talking with the ink management system for creating mixtures, receipes etc. which in turn is talking back to proofing systems. This is for proofing in terms where we create by ourselves. Equally, we have a job planning system for managing capacity issues and capacity points across the different presses. This is then linked to warehousing, so automated warehousing with QR codes etc. This is linked to our printing machines which is talking to MIS which is updating the planning board. A live planning board with different colours of product of different stages in the production and it is moving around. This enables us to control high levels of turn over with relatively few members of staff.
When did you start to implement this range of automation?
Chris Ellison: We started 30 years ago, we adopted this very early in the UK although it was not called Industry 4.0. The question is also: do we have Industry 4.0 now? When will we get Industry 5.0? What would Industry 5.0 look like and how long is the life with this? During the panel discussion today, one answer was: this is a life product. It will begin to evolve and evolve again and move to something else. The more things get connected the more things become more available and more automated. The next big step will probably we articifical intelligence. It sounds terrible, but this is where it may go.
What is your advice for label companies regarding automation? Chris Ellison: It is a working progress and you can start at any point in your business – it is a huge opportunity for our industry to take back some control of where our businesses are going. To build an architecture to run our businesses ourselves. I think that each business is different to another one.
Coming back to FINAT – what is your aim of your presidency?
Chris Ellison: My aim of my involvement with FINAT is goes thinking about getting a bigger picture. To look beyond just the product, look what is available in the market regarding improving efficiency, but also getting a little bit more focus on the future to look forward. Labels entrepreneurs are very good at looking at what is front of them. We are driven by technologies of our suppliers and sometimes we are a little blind looking beyond that hill and driving the suppliers. My aim is to get us thinking about the next generation of young people in our industry. In ten or fifteen years there will be a gap. We need to attract younger people to our industry. If you want so, my aim is: take a look beyond! Focus on the horizon!
Could you bring this advice – “take a look beyond” – on the bottom? What is your advice for companies to follow this advice?
Chris Ellison: Examine the way we are doing things right now, be aware of the market, look at technologies, go for what technologies can offer us and using technology for producing more efficiently and smarter. Events like this help a lot for being aware what the market looks like now and where it is going. FINAT needs its members and greater engagement of the member. My call to ounce is: be more involved! Be more active! Come to events like this and open your mind.
What was your highlight at FINAT ELF?
Chris Ellison: Probably the start with Michael Jackson. There were some very good technical presentations, afterwards, but you have to open the minds first. You need to get people willing to think about chance. So, the presentation of “the other Michael Jackson” just at the beginning of the European Label Forum was like an eye-opener. For me he was the “key of the morning”. He opened the path way for the technical presentation afterwards.