At last month’s AWA Global Release Liner Industry Conference & Exhibition 2020 held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, three top executives from the global release-liner converting field offered their opinions on an extensive list of topics ranging from the impact of coronavirus to the lack of skilled workers. On the panel were Loparex CEO Simon Medley, Panoval CEO Wilco Van Zwieten and DOW Consumer Solutions VP Massimo Rebolini; AWA President/CEO Corey Reardon moderated the one-hour conversation.
Coronavirus: The release-liner manufacturing supply chain is shifting to other non-China facilities to deal with the growing pandemic. Panoval in Vietnam is dealing with school and business shutdowns, and DOW staff in Wuhan (China) are considered MIA until at least May 2020 as infections decline.
Emerging markets: Top challenges internationally require providing new creative advantages and collaboration for customers. There’s a serious lack of trained employees and problems with materials sourcing in parts of southeast Asia. The industry flows to where the GDP growth is, so coating and converting is moving from Korea to Vietnam and Myanmar instead. There can be no company loyalty among Asian workers when better opportunities arise or more money is offered by another firm. You need to create a good “employee experience” at your company to lessen attrition.
Brexit: The departure of the UK from the European Union is a serious backward step for humanity. Consequently, release-liner converters and suppliers in the UK (and Canada, too) are streaming into Asia now to make new trade deals. Common sense in business will hopefully prevail.
Innovation: It’s vital to offer employees opportunities to think in different ways. Robotics, automation will radically change the status quo. Anti-misting, faster production speeds are crucial for business success (emulsion vs. solvents) in converting operations.
Sustainability: Long-term investment in sustainable release-liner coating via technology and renewable energy is the best approach to should have started “yesterday.” Taxes on solar-generated electricity is bound to rise 50% as a new government revenue source, so it’s best to mobilize now.
Collaboration: It’s hard to share technology and information with some parts of the supply chain without losing your shirt; you need to tread carefully. The fact that there is no common view of how to approach certain aspects of the entire coating and converting process means it’s not a good situation overall. But be a better partner for your customers and their customers; learn to work & play well together.
Growth opportunities: Loparex is now at a 55/45 ratio of paper to plastic for release liners with its Infiana acquisition. DOW is busy eliminating bottlenecks to meet demand for high-end materials. Medical applications are a top growth area for Panoval because of the aging global population, even in high-birthrate countries like India and China.