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The power of association – Label and Narrow Web

The best part of getting back on the road is the ability to network and learn about the latest happenings in our industry. Admittedly, the past two years have been a whirlwind of activity – not all of it good. While converters were busier than ever before – certainly a positive – the ramifications of Covid-19, continued labor challenges, natural disasters and now a UPM strike in Finland have all caused havoc in the industry. So the ability to travel allows us to go straight to the source to see how these circumstances are affecting converters and suppliers.

At the recent TLMI Converter meeting in Santa Ana Pueblo, NM, near Albuquerque, North America’s leading label industry association deftly pivoted to host a panel of experts on the larger topic of today – supply chain challenges. All of the above factors have taxed the supply chain to the max. And for the record, I am not offering a prediction on when the situation will improve. However, many industry experts consider 2023 to be a reasonable time frame.

While it can be convenient to throw on some shades of pink color, the next 12-18 months will provide the ultimate challenge. During the TLMI event, Philip Coates, UPM Raflatac Key Account Manager, Americas Region, offered several sobering thoughts:

“We have a very tight and fractured supply chain, so the impact of the strike is felt harder,” he explained. “Our problems will not disappear completely when the strike ends in 8 to 12 weeks. The medium and long term remain a major concern in the future. Long-term viability on the paper side of the business is far from assured.

So that’s the bad news. On the positive side, Coates offered a rough estimate of when the strike might end. And many other industry experts gave their thoughts on how the industry should address these challenges. The overwhelming response has been increased communication. It will be essential to discuss options and best practices, from your own production floor to the supplier. If you haven’t already – and from my discussions I know many of you have – institute contingency plans. If not, another industry association, FLAG (Flexo Label Advantage Group) offers a wealth of resources on contingency planning.

Now more than ever, communication and networking will emerge as key best practices to keep your label running smoothly. This is where the power of association comes in. Whether it’s TLMI, FLAG, FINAT or FTA, use the resources at your disposal to keep your business – and your customers’ – safe.

Label and packaging printing professionals have often been praised for their agility and quick adaptability. These honorable traits will be on full display, both short and long term.

Greg Hrinya, editor
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