Friday, January 25, 2013

Fighting The Skills Gap


by Greg Kishbaugh

Converters continually lament many different areas of doing business, everything from competitive pricing to keeping up with the latest technology, but one area remains at the top of their list of primary concerns: that of finding and maintaining a qualified workforce.
The truth is that attracting and retaining solid candidates in the printing industries has always been a challenge. Finding a strong candidate is formidable in and of itself, but after training an individual on the many specific skills needed to operate in the printing industry, keeping them on board is every bit as challenging.
Manufacturers have spoken for years about the “skills gap”, which is an unfortunate reality that is actually forcing many companies to change their growth plans for the future as they simply don’t have enough qualified people on staff to make the plans materialize.
Hoping to find out exactly how the “skills gap” is effecting the graphic communications industry, The Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) recently produced a survey called Skilled Worker Shortage: Myth or Reality? The survey was distributed to the memberships of the Printing Industries of America and the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL).
The survey posited the following statement: “While the national unemployment rate hovers above 8 percent, hundreds of thousands of jobs go unfilled because employers cannot identify candidates with the required knowledge and skill set.” Nearly 74 percent of respondents felt this statement to be true. In other words, the jobs exist (certainly in the graphic arts sector) but applicants simply do not have the proper skills set.
When respondents were asked how they typically find new employees, 63 percent said they use job boards, 25 percent use headhunters, almost 58 percent found referrals from colleagues to be the most successful, while 41 percent use local schools as a resource and 36 percent use a temporary agency.
When asked if they would prefer to train a new employee themselves or hire someone already trained for the specific job position, 76 percent said they would prefer to hire trained personnel.
The survey concluded with an invitation to provide additional comments from respondents:
• The challenge we have faced is finding managers and sales professionals who can understand and apply the capabilities of the new more digital and faster technologies. It requires more creative problem solving and management of an accelerated workflow.
• Finding someone with working knowledge of the latest social technologies is difficult.
• Machine operator positions require already trained operators, who are fewer in number due to aging of the industry and a lack of new talent coming in.
• It is very difficult to find people who have a good work ethic.
• Because most companies are running so lean, the positions that are vacant demand an experienced worker over a newly trained one.
• Employers in our area are in dire need of skilled technicians in all production areas with press and finishing being the largest need.
• Finding print-experienced personnel is tough. We can find designers, but no designers with printing experience.
• It is harder and harder to find quality people these days. Companies need to treat loyal, talented employees like assets and invest in their growth.
No question this challenge will remain for the foreseeable future, yet it remains an area that forward-thinking printers can turn to their advantage. For the flexo printer who successfully unlocks the key to attracting and retaining high-quality employees will have a huge, nearly insurmountable, competitive advantage.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Look At MRI Flexible Packaging

The January 14th issue of Flexo Market News featured an in-depth look at MRI Flexible Packaging in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The company stays competitive through strict adherence to customer responsiveness and the addition of its new Bobst F&K 20SIX flexo press, the first North American converter to install the machine.
Here, in the words of MRI’s leading managers, are the ways in which the company stays focused on its core business principles.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

DuPont Hosts Kenyan Flexo Seminar

DuPont Packaging Graphics recently conducted the second in a series of flexographic printing seminars in Eastern Africa in conjunction with flexo industry associates, including Tesa, Esko, Chespa, and Windmöller & Hölscher.
Held in Nairobi, Kenya, the seminar was attended by almost 50 printing experts representing the entire value chain from pre-press to press from more than 20 companies in the growing Eastern Africa region. The seminar was titled “Quality at its Best – Advancing Flexography in Africa,” and featured the use of DuPont™ Cyrel® flexographic systems.
“Eastern Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world where there is a significant increase in demand for sustainable packaging solutions, and a higher expectation of quality,” said Hans-Peter Hormann, Business Development Manager DuPont™ Cyrel® EMEA. “Flexographic printing is delivering sustainability, productivity and quality to help packaging printers address these needs [and] we estimate that more than 250 attendees from Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya have gained important insights from these seminars to date.”
“It is satisfying to see the enthusiasm of the attendees after presenting the printing results, which are standard these days within a flexo printing process,” said Johan Bastiaen, Sales Account Manager Middle East & Africa ,who represented Esko with his presentation “Results That Make You Smile.”
“There is no way not to roll out Flexo in Africa on a large scale,” said Vincent Marzin, Sales Manager Export Sales, Industrial Division, of Tesa. “There is a vast demand for quality and sustainability solutions.”
After watching the “Virtual drupa 2012” video from DuPont, Richard Okemwa, Sales Co-ordinator, from Sanjac Packaging Limited, the major flexo distributor in Kenya, commented, “We have not been able to attend drupa 2012 in Germany this time. However, we feel delighted to see, that drupa show came to us.”

“We see a great benefit for us, but also for the flexo market in Africa, to show effective printing solutions from pre-press, substrates, inks, flexo plates to flexo presses, that are cast in one pour,” said Joachim Siekiera, Chairman of the board, from Chespa. “This is really a great chance as we don’t build on legacy business, but provide almost a new flexo community on the green field. The demand is huge.” 
DuPont Packaging Graphics expects to continue the series of flexo seminars in Africa throughout the year and to strengthen a regional contact network through the African DuPont organization and through specialized dealers in the region.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ArtPro Turns 20

Esko is celebrating two decades of its ArtPro packaging prepress editor. ArtPro is a full-featured packaging preproduction editor offering unique technologies and dedicated tools focused on relieving major prepress pain points, according to Esko. It supports all industry standard file formats and can be integrated into any packaging workflow and can seamlessly be integrated with ArtiosCAD and Automation Engine.
Originally designed as an easy to use Mac-based software tool for cleaning up documents, ArtPro evolved over the years into a full-featured packaging preproduction solution well placed to keep pace with the growing demands of the market.

     Initially, ArtPro was developed to assist prepress operations such as scanning, editing and color corrections. Soon after, ArtPro alleviated film-based stripping by digitally aligning graphics to CAD designs as well as stepping and repeating single designs on the print sheet. Other important features followed and today ArtPro is utilized by more than 15,000 professionals for their day to day tasks in prepress departments all over the world.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

FTC Issues New Green Guides

The Federal Trade Commission issued revised “Green Guides” that are designed to help marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive.
The revisions to the FTC’s Green Guides reflect a wide range of public input, including hundreds of consumer and industry comments on previously proposed revisions.  They include updates to the existing Guides, as well as new sections on the use of carbon offsets, “green” certifications and seals, and renewable energy and renewable materials claims.
“The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and producers who want to sell them,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated.  The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people and it is one reason why we had such broad support.”
In revising the Green Guides, the FTC modified and clarified sections of the previous Guides and provided new guidance on environmental claims that were not common when the Guides were last reviewed.
Among other modifications, the Guides caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s consumer perception study confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits. Very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate.
The Guides also advise marketers not to make an unqualified degradable claim for a solid waste product unless they can prove that the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature within one year after customary disposal.
The Guides caution that items destined for landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities will not degrade within a year, so marketers should not make unqualified degradable claims for these items; and the Guides clarify guidance on compostable, ozone, recyclable, recycled content, and source reduction claims.
The Guides contain new sections on: 1) certifications and seals of approval; 2) carbon offsets, 3) free-of claims, 4) non-toxic claims, 5) made with renewable energy claims, and 6) made with renewable materials claims.
The new section on certifications and seals of approval, for example, emphasizes that certifications and seals may be considered endorsements that are covered by the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, and includes examples that illustrate how marketers could disclose a “material connection” that might affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement. In addition, the Guides caution marketers not to use environmental certifications or seals that don’t clearly convey the basis for the certification, because such seals or certifications are likely to convey general environmental benefits.
Finally, either because the FTC lacks a sufficient basis to provide meaningful guidance or wants to avoid proposing guidance that duplicates or contradicts rules or guidance of other agencies, the Guides do not address use of the terms “sustainable,” “natural,” and “organic.” Organic claims made for textiles and other products derived from agricultural products are covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program.
The FTC first issued its Green Guides in 1992 to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims. It revised the Guides in 1996 and 1998, and proposed further revisions in October 2010 to take into account recent changes in the marketplace. The guidance they provide includes general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims; how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims, and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
The Guides issued today take into account nearly 340 unique comments and more than 5,000 total comments received since the FTC released the proposed revised Guides in the fall of 2010.  They also include information gathered from three public workshops and a study of how consumers perceive and understand environmental claims.
The Green Guides are not agency rules or regulations.  Instead, they describe the types of environmental claims the FTC may or may not find deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Under Section 5, the agency can take enforcement action against deceptive claims, which ultimately can lead to Commission orders prohibiting deceptive advertising and marketing and fines if those orders are later violated.
The FTC has brought several actions in recent years related to deceptive recyclability, biodegradable, and environmental certification claims as part of its overall effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and substantiated.
The FTC also released several business and consumer education resources designed to help users understand the Guides.  These include: 1) “Environmental Claims – Summary of Green Guides,” a four-page summary of the changes in the Guides; 2) “The Green Guides,” a video explaining highlights of the changes; 3) a new page on the FTC Business Center, with links to legal documents, the Guides and other “green” content; 4) a Business Center blog post; and 5) related consumer information.