Audience congress 2014

Last week FINAT conducted its annual congress in Monaco with 280 visitors from the entire value chain of the PS-industry. The growth in M2 seems to be back to pre crises with +3,5% from 2012 to 2013 – and optimistic projections of +6,4% 2013 – 2104 Europe wide. I want to share with you a waow!

This was for me a great event in many business aspects.The conference content was a real eye opener; the content was really what the printers should be aware of and think deeper about, as the trends, the new needs from brand owners, the differentiation versus competition is key for them to survive within short to medium term. The speakers came from sectors downstream from our industry and all expressed the importance in working together for success. The subjects were really all in line with that short upcoming future. Great!

The extension to product decoration is certainly a route to pursue in my opinion. The printers have machines able to do more, and the result of brand survey about one stop shop proves it once more. There are aside activities / opportunities that brands see as a must. FINAT must continue towards that direction. We managed to introduce a new interactive format with top panel participants – they represented application technologies in one panel and brand owners in the other. They both gave positive and inviting feed back to the PS-industry to keep close to them and to keep innovative. I have never seen so many questions from the audience at any congress before. The panel discussions concept was extremely good. The panels were to the point. What Olivier from L’Oréal was saying “involve us at the beginning, give us ideas, suggestions, … talk to us” is critical today. These 4 guys from 4 different horizons came together in terms of demands.

The congress at the same time introduced the new FINAT Radar – a half yearly industry report with trends, statistics and bench mark information – to converters and suppliers members of the organisation. I can picture Jules’ next presentation on data, or even the 360 radar showing growth in shrink sleeves or monitoring wet glue applied technologies, …

The environmental concern was also a credible subject, but at the end I missed a punchy call to action. Maybe FINAT should now drive and document information towards the countries. What exists, where, under which conditions, …. at some point, there will be a European strict law. Better know while in progress! I wonder what others think about this aspect….

On a personal note I would have liked to add a conclusive guidance. Based on these trends and demands I would say: differentiate yourself, take some risk, work with the designers, become a consultant with your customer, use and abuse the machines you have, involve the machine manufacturers with demands, embark with new technologies, … .

From “out of FINAT” experience, I know that many (too many) printers are very conservative, and stick to what they know best. They have nice customers with demands, but they do not offer more than just what they are used to. They have highly specs machines, but use only the basic functions, they can do more but do not show it. Habit, culture, attitude, whatever the reason, they must move with 2014, think and prepare 2015 and not stay in 1990! I realize it is not easy to give such kick while remaining partial, as the one doing it may be tempted to push for his own and known solution, but I feel sometimes a devil’s advocate is needed with conclusive statements.

The location was fantastic in many aspects. I personally appreciated the view, the surroundings, the hotel style, …really no complain. The gift by means of the personalized book, written by Mike Fairley and Tony White, is a nice gesture that I am sure everybody appreciated. It is a label professional book, given as a personal present, very nice.

The number of attendees was very nice as well. Thinking about the table top exhibitors, they had people to talk to (even if most of the visitors are known), always good to catch up. The coffee breaks were also long enough to allow mingling. I would be curious to know if the Monaco location contributed to the number of people coming. Maybe a survey will show.

Finally the congress ended at a high with the inspirational speaker Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss pioneer that will fly the world in 2015 in his solar powered airplane, Solar Impulse. His message to all of us: “Welcome to those who believe in the power of dreams and who would like to join me in my exploration of life. “Think the impossible possible” and “drop your ballast – it doesn’t make you happy only heavy”. We must all look for ways to improve the quality of the world we hand over to next generations – but same time bare in mind that good sustainability is profitable sustainability.

I am personally not sure yet about the new format FINAT is trying out (moving from Thursday-Friday to a Friday-Saturday working programme). Unfortunately, I and others had to leave on Saturday. There also a proper survey will give tangible feed back.

Finally, I liked the atmosphere. This industry gives me vibes; I like being in these events surrounded by customers, potential customers, partners and competitors. All together we are part of a great environment, a great industry which is large and still personal, challenging and simple, static and so potentially dynamic!

I felt rewound, and certainly still passionate. I guess and hope it is not only me! I can’t wait for the next label event!

Written by Christian Menegon, Business Development Manager Industrial products at Hewlett-Packard