Forum’s 10 technical sessions spoke directly to its theme of “Power of the Past, Force of the Future.” It delivered on all fronts and presented the essential subject matter necessary to maintain flexography’s long standing position as the package printing method of choice. Likewise, the INFO*FLEX show floor attracted heavy foot traffic on both days, as conference goers made their way from aisle to aisle evaluating and comparing services and solutions; and networking with the record number of exhibitors on the show floor.
“The Forum & INFO*FLEX brands have evolved into one cohesive, multi-dimensional event that seems to perfectly fit the educational, networking and business commerce needs within the FTA membership,” says FTA President Mark Cisternino. He added, “Its continued growth and expansion of coverage mirror the incredible degree of market dynamics that are currently being experienced within the package printing & converting industry.”
Chaired by Jennye Scott, Berry Plastics Corp. and Paul Teachout, Nilpeter, Forum kicked off on Sunday, March 6 with the “Understanding the Customer FIRST” session. Representatives from two leading print buyers, General Mills and Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., took to the podium to share insights on print quality, brand management, and how to achieve a symbiotic relationship between the printer and consumer product company (CPC.) One survey response indicated, “Very insightful to hear from the customer’s perspectives. The speakers did a good job providing a deeper understanding of the importance of consistency, not only from job to job, but printer to printer.”
Forum’s second session, “Passing the Torch: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders” featured a panel of some of the industry’s most respected and knowledgeable leaders. Each panelist shared personal stories, his/her own secrets to success, as well as recommended paths to avoid. All in all, the audience gleaned powerful advice from the decades of experience represented on stage.
The final session of the day, “New Tools for Your Prepress Workflows,” kicked off with a hugely entertaining mock presidential debate that pitted flexo against its printing rivals. After the laughter died down, presentations honed in on new tools for communicating, controlling and optimizing color. Surveys stated “Excellent use of humor and science to get info out in an engaging way.” “Great content on real world issues in regards to proofing/printing spot colors.” “I left with a goldmine of info on expanded gamut printing.”
Platemaking, high resolution imaging, inks, special effects, digital printing and LED curing were among the topics brought forth on Monday, March 7 in the “2016 Flexo Game Changers” session. A variety of experts took to the podium to discuss these transformative technologies, set to impact, and in many cases, solidify, flexography’s competitive advantage.
“Are you ready for the future?” was the question posed to the audience at the onset of Monday’s final Forum session, “FQC: Preparing for the Future.” From there, each presentation highlighted research on smart inks, high resolution printing, technical standards and Lean Six Sigma to help attendees prepare for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. One survey response put it concisely: “I’m excited for the future!”
Tuesday, March 8 tackled three sessions on today’s hottest topics. The first, “Enhancing Digital Print with Flexography” delivered the authentic experiences of two leading label printers that successfully added digital printing to their arsenal of print capabilities. They explained how the move has led to increased customer satisfaction, optimized plant efficiencies and their ability to now say “yes” to any job, large or small.
Immediately following was the hotly anticipated “Flexo International – 60 Minutes Around the World” session which drew in crowds to hear experts speak about the marketplaces in China, Europe, Australia and Latin America. The panelists covered a wide range of content, from the different trends in each geographic region, to unique training/apprenticeship programs, sustainability endeavors, as well as the opportunities and challenges faced by diverse international economies. One survey stated, “It's a real eye opener to hear what's happening in the global flexo marketplace. The multiple perspectives the panelists presented help us think differently about how we should plan for the future.”
The “Direct Engraving: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” session closed out Tuesday’s educational program. In a nod to Forum’s theme, the talk spanned everything from the history of direct engraving, to its current role in flexography, and where it’s going in the next five years. Surveys revealed praise, such as “Great topic, very important forward thinking.” “It was a fascinating topic and the encouraging experts motivated me to improve my own printing expertise. Look forward to more like this next year in Phoenix!”
The fourth and final day wrapped up with two fundamental sessions designed specifically for industry newcomers and those wanting to brush up on the basics. The first session, “Flexography 101: Define It!” covered the essential knowledge every flexographer should know, inside and out, including terminology, press componentry, and the history of the process. The “Flexography 102: Control It!” session delved more into process control, data collection, fingerprinting, characterization and optimization. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive: “Handout was excellent! I'm going to use it in our plant for training!” and “Great real world tips for optimization.”
The exhibition that got its start as a small, intimate gathering of tabletop display’s, is now a true tradeshow that grows larger and more expansive every year. The packed 2016 event featured 236 companies that occupied 295 booths across the nine aisles of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Products on display spanned everything from color management software, print inspection systems, multiprocess printing presses, proofers and prototypers, job management software and press componentry—all tools essential to the success of a package printing and converting operation.
Kevin McLaughlin, president of Flexo Concepts, says, “We’ve been a participant in INFO*FLEX since 1990, and the 2016 event ranks as the best ever. The number of attendees and the quality of the inquiries were exceptional. INFO*FLEX has become a must-attend event for our organization.”
In addition to the intensive networking and the live demonstrations of running machinery, the sprawling show floor featured:
- 41 new exhibiting companies for 2016
- 35 press manufacturers - traditional flexo, hybrid and digital
- 85 percent exhibitors that develop products/services for wide web industry
- 80 percent exhibitors that cater to the narrow web and tag & label marketplace
- 40 companies address the latest in in-line converting
- 35 prepress/platemaking companies featured a slew of new product developments
The show floor also housed an all-new 14 topic Solutions Theater, which delivered a range of subject matter, from modern color workflows to high speed inks, to flat top dots, to lamination and slitter/rewinder productivity in front of standing room only crowds.
Those who won Excellence in Flexography Awards, and those who wanted to view the winning entries of flexography’s most prestigious competition, were able to do so at the red carpeted Awards Gallery during both days of INFO*FLEX. All told, 110 winning entries were showcased and subsequently admired and scrutinized by mobs of conference goers.
Already, 70 percent of the 2017 show floor is spoken for. FTA’s 2017 Forum & INFO*FLEX will take place April 30-May 3 in Phoenix, AZ, and will be chaired by Paul Teachout, Nilpeter. The co-chair selection process is currently underway.
More info: www.flexography.org