In this article, I like to provide some more background on the mission and strategy of FINAT’s completely rebranded annual congress: the European Label Forum – an initiative designed to support the label industry through an age of challenge and change, in which all in the label supply chain have a part to play.

As we all know, the definition and role of ‘a label’ have changed dramatically in recent years, with the advent of new product decoration technologies, from sleeves and in-mould labels to printed electronics.At the same time, print technology – in particular the reel-to-reel processes that are used for high-speed packaging print – have diversified, bringing us added-value haptic and optic ink possibilities, UV and EB curing, and of course, digital printing technologies.

Addressing business challenges of today and tomorrow

With a customer base that is increasingly international in terms of brand owners and retailers, and a world of consumers who are social and online media experts, this is indeed a challenging scenario for label converters.And with the focus on achieving change firmly placed on label converters, FINAT as international association for the label industry, has both the commitment and the responsibility to offer its members the best possible information and education platform.That is why we launched this yearthe European Label Forum, or in short the ELF.Replacing our annual Congress, the European Label Forum delivers a platform for exploring best practices across a number of disciplines that are key for running a successful, profitable businesses in the 21st century.

Securing future success

The label converting industry, both in Europe and beyond, has its roots in the eager adoption of the self-adhesive label as a leading competitor to wet-glue labelling back in the 1970s. The raft of small, entrepreneurial print companies it spawned have been one of the outstanding success stories in the packaging sphere.But the tsunami of change that is impacting all of us in this industry means that knowledge and expertise of one imaging technology, one packaging style or one set of materials is simply not enough.What is more, we need to take account of brand owners’ accelerating requirement for ‘special versions’ of both packaging and labels in support of their increasingly ambitious campaigns to attract, and retain, consumer loyalty to their products.

So FINAT is bringing together the senior management of its member companies, both label converters and direct and indirect suppliers, in a European Label Forum that is designed, indeed, to redraw the map of the industry in a way that, I believe, will secure its future success.

Top-level keynote speakers from all around the world

At the European Label Forum, we are bringing together a number of expert keynote presenters – all of whom have a message that is valuable for our industry.

Following the opening of the event by FINAT President Kurt Walker, the first keynote session is given by Danish entrepreneur, business advisor and bestselling author RasmusAnksersen. He will share worst case histories of world leading companies that became complacent, and best practices of others that managed to avoid this trap and stay hungry – as such translating his experiences from arts and sports into business reality. His presentation is followed by Ramses Dingenouts (NL) of Heineken, bringing the success story of a world-class brand that managed to re-invent itself using innovative packaging and label design. Last keynote speaker is Gordon Crichton (UK) who will explain how to capture innovation with your strategic customers and why FMCG companies have come to realise that the majority of innovations come through better relations with strategic suppliers.

For the keynote opening session on the second conference day, I’m honoured to have Herman van Rompuy presenting, former Belgian Prime Minister and past EU president. In a global business environment characterised by national priorities, cultural diversity, language challenges and different underlying social-economic conditions, it will be of great value to learn from his experience on the geo-political scene.

Focus on business priorities

As I said before, it is the label converters who are at the pressure and activity centre in this changing world – and they are currently striving, with their supplier base, to develop their small and mid-sized specialist printing companies into multi-track technology experts.The European Label Forum is the base from which a dynamic business strategy for a profitable, successful, growing business in label print can be developed.

New for this event are the three parallel agenda streams, set up as such to serve the needs of different business priorities: sales and marketing, manufacturing and technology, and management and corporate affairs – within the specific context of labels and packaging.Expert speakers in different areas of expertise will address a number of topics.The future of retailing, in the face of increasing online shopping;the emphasis on label design as a sales tool in today’s market;and the challenges and opportunities of 3D printing (dubbed ‘the third industrial revolution’) are just some of the presentations.There will also be a highly-participative leanmanufacturing workshop, during which attendees are introduced in the principles of lean management and how these can help the label printing industry.

A major feature of our industry is its plethora of family businesses – and here the need for managed succession planning is paramount.Selling your business when the time comes is another critical activity in family companies.Both these specific topics are discussed in the European Label Forum’s wide-ranging agenda.

FINAT resources

There will also be an exclusive preview of the upcoming third edition of FINAT RADAR, our association’s new, in-depth half-yearly market overview.FINAT RADAR is just one of the up-to-the-minute knowledge and information resources which FINAT today offers for its members.It is worth reminding that the FINAT services include our biennial Technical Seminar;our highly-active Young Managers Club;our recycling and EU lobbying initiatives;industry-standard publications;series of educational;and the annual FINAT Labelling Competition, in which many of you have taken part and won awards.

A not to miss event for the label industry

In all, I believe this year’s new, in-depth business briefing has much to offer, and the location of the European Label Forum in the convenient central hub of Amsterdam has already ensured that we will have a record number of delegates for the event.They will be able additionally to benefit from the complementary on-site table-top exhibition, and extensive business and social networking opportunities.

As a second-generation leader of the FINAT Secretariat myself (many of you will remember my father Mans, who served the association for a number of years), I feel confident in inviting the industry’s leaders in all its many and diverse disciplines, to join us in taking the first steps as a joined-up group to identifying and activating a pathway to providing brand owners and their customers what they need and want in the way of product identification;and securing the successful future for our industry.

Written by Jules Lejeune, Managing Director, FINAT