Top Companies Report

2. Flint Group


North American Headquarters
14909 North Beck Road
Plymouth, MI 48170-7194
Phone: (734) 781-4600, Fax: (734) 781-4699

Sales: US$2.9 billion; €2.25 billion euro 

Major Products: Coldset and heatset web offset, sheetfed offset, flexographic, gravure and UV/EB inks; coatings for publication, packaging and commercial applications. A wide range of inks and coatings for narrow web tag and label applications. Photopolymer plates and sleeve systems for flexographic applications; highly engineered printing blankets and sleeves for offset applications; Full suite of pressroom chemicals and supplies. Dry, flushed and press cake pigments, chips and resins for ink and other applications, aqueous dispersions, hyperdispersants and additives for the colorant market.

Key Personnel: Charles Knott, chairman; Antoine Fady, CEO; Michael J. Bissell, executive VP and CFO; Doug Aldred, president, Packaging and Narrow Web; William B. Miller, president, Print Media Transatlantic; Brent Stephen, president, Asia Pacific; Adhemur Pilar, president, Latin America; Mario Busshoff, president, Flexographic Products; Craig Foster, president, Flint Group Pigments Chips and Resins and global operations, and president, Print Media Europe; Jan Paul van der Velde, senior VP, procurement; Russell Taylor, senior VP global HR and communications.

Number of Employees: Approximately 6,900 worldwide.

Comments: Flint Group enjoyed a successful year in 2012, as the company overcame global economic challenges, added new customers and launched new products.

“2012 followed the general trend of the few years prior to it, and in all likelihood foreshadows the next few years,” said Bill Miller, president, Print Media Transamerica for Flint Group. “Keep in mind, that’s not all bad news. Though 2012 was tough, and though the economic recovery continued at a slower pace than we would have liked, we did see improvement, including growth in select print markets. 

“In spite of the continued economic and industry challenges, Flint Group persevered,” Mr. Miller added. “We gained new customers, launched new products and forged new ground. Perhaps most importantly, Flint Group employees reached a powerful milestone in terms of safety. Our year-end total global incident rate was well below world-class levels.”

On the sheetfed side, Peter Baird, marketing director – Sheetfed, Packaging & Narrow Web, Print Media Europe, said that 2012 was another challenging year, with the printing ink sector continuing to see volumes and margins squeezed. 

“Considering this background, Flint Group’s Sheetfed Division maintained a strong market share globally through innovating print solutions including inks and coatings, blankets and chemicals,” Mr. Baird said. “We continued to work closely with our customers and support them to help them compete in areas of value proposition, quality and sustainability.

“Consolidation continued globally, with many small to medium sized enterprises merging or sadly going under,” Mr. Baird added. “This led to a general reduction in volumes, mainly in the commercial sector. Packaging printing grew slightly in 2012, but not sufficiently to compensate for the downturn in commercial print.”

Mr. Baird noted that Flint Group significantly increased its market position in sheetfed packaging, especially through the launch of a complete low migration range for food packaging, including conventional and UV inks and coatings, as well as low migration blankets and chemicals. The company finalized the consolidation of its dealer network, with most of Flint Group’s dealers now selling a complete product offering of sheetfed inks and coatings, blankets and chemicals.

In addition, Flint Group announced a new partnership agreement with Heidelberg in Sweden and Denmark in August. Heidelberg became Flint Group’s exclusive distributor for K+E branded inks as well as Varn pressroom chemicals and DayGraphica blankets.

With an eye on its global strategy, Flint Group announced a series of organizational changes. Mr. Miller was promoted to president Print Media Transatlantic, with an increasing focus on aligning Flint Group to the key winners in the industry and engaging ongoing contact at the most senior customer level.

Craig Foster has been appointed as president Print Media Europe, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as president Pigments Chips and Resins and global operations.

Tony Lord, vice president European operations, has also been appointed as general manager, Print Media Europe, and will continue in his vice president operations position for Flint Group’s large manufacturing plants in Europe

“These changes will accelerate the delivery of our global strategy and have been implemented to help us better manage the many opportunities and challenges in the Print Media markets for inks, transfer media and chemicals,” said Antoine Fady, Flint Group CEO.

The past 12 months has seen Print Media Europe place an increased focus on support for packaging printers. As such, the company has expanded its portfolio of ISEGA certified products for food packaging applications, which now includes a selection of blankets to accompany approved inks, coatings, fountain solutions and washes, giving the printer a full portfolio of certified products.

Print Media Europe launched two new ecological fountain solutions which meet and surpass today’s stringent criteria. Varn GP 3000 (General Purpose) and Varn AF 3000 (Alcohol Reduction) are formulated for use on all sheetfed/packaging presses. Nick Brannan, vice president, PRC product management, Print Media Europe, explained that the new products are designed to reduce their impact on the environment without compromising on print performance. Both products are formulated to minimize VOC emissions and present low hazard risk to the end user. Flint Group’s approach to continuously improve sustainability underpins the company’s mission to deliver value and consistent quality to the printing and packaging industry.

With the launch of the Varn Pro-Web range of silicone emulsions for heatset web applications, Flint Group has created a new type of silicone technology, which drastically reduces the amount of silicone oil required to provide anti-marking and slip properties.

“The high performance emulsions deliver a silicone film with reduced migration into the substrate, meaning a higher concentration of more effective silicone oil at the paper surface where it can provide better and more efficient lubrication,” said Mario Johnson, PRC product management director, Print Media Europe.

On the packaging side, Flint Group successfully introduced an upgraded product range of Ultraking UV inks and UV coatings for carton, plastics and low migration applications, including Ultraking High Intensity inks perfectly suited to the latest generation of UV presses from Heidelberg (LE) and Komori (HUV).

“We also introduced a new product range for conventional low migration printing applications, including inks, coatings, blankets and pressroom chemicals,” Mr. Baird added.

In addition, Novavit F 900 Extreme BIO was introduced. It is specifically developed for fast setting printing highest print sharpness, very high gloss and very high color strength, as well as very high rub resistance and a significantly reduced tendency for picking and piling.

“These innovative print solutions were especially designed to optimize press performance, supporting start-up waste reduction, wash intervals and high speed press performance,” Mr. Baird noted.

Flint Group emphasizes the importance of safety, and takes much pride in achieving these low global incident rates.

“Flint Group’s ongoing commitment to safety continued to pay off,” said Frank Mastria, vice president operations/global SHE. “Globally, our average recordable incident rate was lower than it has ever been – far better than industry averages. I am proud of the way Flint Group employees around the world have incorporated the safety culture into their daily lives – within and beyond the walls of work. While we reached a notable milestone in 2012, this is not a one-time event. Striving for optimal safety is a continual effort, day after day.”

On a different front, Flint Group received three prestigious industry awards in 2013. Mr. Miller received the 2013 National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) Ault Award, the most prestigious honor in the ink industry, for his dedication to Flint Group and the ink industry. Michael Podd, who manages Flint Group’s largest global account and leads the heatset and publication gravure businesses, and Ron Gallas, director of global sales, Flint Group Pigments, each received the prestigious 2013 Printing Ink Pioneer Award.

Flint Group also introduced a number of new offerings—inks as well as other pressroom supplies we provide customers – to the North American print market, including the commercial and packaging sectors. 

The raw material situation remains challenging, as some key ingredients have seen costs stabilize, while others remain volatile. Diane Parisi, vice president supply chain management for Flint Group, noted that either way, prices are now higher than in the past, and added that close partnerships with customers is absolutely essential.

“From a raw material perspective, 2012 mirrored 2011,” said Ms. Parisi. “Cost volatility continued for many raw materials while stabilizing for some others, but at much higher levels than in the past. Geopolitical conditions and environmental factors – remember the hot summer and drought? – affected crop yields, creating tight supply of many materials. This medley of challenges is the new norm, though, and Flint Group’s global procurement team works with our suppliers and our colleagues to prepare for the trends and minimize any disruption these conditions may cause us and our customers.”

Moving forward, Flint Group’s leaders see opportunities for further growth across the printing spectrum.

“Flexible packaging and labels will continue to lead industry growth, and we also expect folding carton to continue a slow and steady increase,” said Grant Shouldice, vice president technology and marketing of the North American packaging group. “Flint Group’s Packaging & Narrow Web group launched a number of new and innovative products that will provide valuable momentum for our growth in 2012.” 

“I’m confident that Flint Group will continue to be a leader in all the major graphic arts segments,” Mr. Miller added. “Year after year, we remain committed to offering high-quality products and expert support to our customers. That more than pays off, regardless of the economic and industry challenges we face.”