There are signs that the ink industry may see economic improvement in 2003.
“The Reality of Tomorrow” was this year’s theme for the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) 2003 Annual Convention, which was held April 6-9 at Registry Resort & Club, Naples, FL.
While much of the talk was indeed about the future, the present state of the printing ink industry and NAPIM was very much on the minds of the attendees.
The annual State of the Industry Report offered some glimmers of hope for the industry for the future, but what was perhaps most impressive about the convention was that its attendance was up dramatically. This year, 300 people were at the convention, a 13 percent increase over the 260 attendees last year.
Discussing the Future
The convention officially began April 6 with the President’s Reception and Dinner. The meetings started off April 7, led by the keynote talk by Bodine Balasco titled “The Reality of Tomorrow.” Mr. Balasco, a speaker and magician, kept the audience’s attention with his mix of discussion and trickery.
“The two key questions are what do you truly want to create, and how good can you stand it,” Mr. Balasco said. “We all have to find out what areas we can truly be great at.”
The annual meeting followed, with Jeff Koppelman, president of Gans Ink, being named the new NAPIM president. Dave Frescoln, president and COO of Flint Ink, is the new vice president and Mike Gettis, director of business development at Colorcon, is the new treasurer.
On Tuesday, Henri Dyner, retired president and CEO of Sun Chemical, spoke on “Innovation and Global Competitiveness.”
“We are more and more operating in a global environment, and innovation will be vital to the future of ink and pigments,” Mr. Dyner said. “We are affected every day by events which take place thousands of miles away. Creative people are needed to bring changes about, and passion is they key ingredient to innovation.”
Mr. Dyner was followed by Robert Schlosser of IES Engineers, who discussed future regulatory issues. After a break, the future of inks were the topic, with Ron Tarewicz of American Inks and Coatings discussing liquid inks, Andrew Matthews of Flint Ink talking about offset inks, and Robert Hochella of Lyra Research closing the session with a talk on digital inks.
There was also plenty to do outside of the meetings, including the annual golf and tennis tournaments and other activities, including a Trolley Tour of Naples, a visit to the Philharmonic Center and a tour of Edison Ford Estates and lunch at Traders. The convention closed with the Suppliers’ Party, organized by Dave and Jan Grabacki of Dynamic Color, which had a Gilligan’s Island theme.
After the convention, 29 attendees helped work on a Habitat for Humanity project, which allows NAPIM to give something back to the convention’s host community.
“It was terrific,” said James Coleman, NAPIM’s executive director. “Our people really enjoyed it. We raised one compete house and finished off another.”
The State of the Industry
On April 9, the State of the Industry report was presented by Brad Bergey, chair of NAPIM’s management committee and vice president for Canada and Mexico for Sun Chemical. While the report showed the continued decline in sales of ink and also reflected the erosion of prices, there was some good news to be found.
Mr. Bergey said that overall ink sales were down 5.2 percent, and volume decreased 2.5 percent, which illustrates that prices fell faster than volume. In particular, the publication ink side continued its decline, with sales down 7.6 percent in 2002 and volume dropping 2.6 percent. Of the main printing processes, gravure fared the worst, with sales declining 10 percent and volume decreasing 2.7 percent. On the packaging side, sales were down 0.7 percent from the year before, while volume declined 1 percent.
“The publication and commercial business is still driving the decline,” said Mr. Bergey. “The packaging side is primarily off due to the corrugated business. Flexible packaging is growing. Flexo solvent is showing growth due to more sophisticated products and the growth of the film side.”
The improvement in earnings before income tax (EBIT) and return on net assets (RONA). In 2002, EBIT rose from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent; RONA increased from 12.6 percent to 15.5 percent. Together, these indicate that profitability was up somewhat, primarily due to the cost containment efforts put in place by ink manufacturers.
The other piece of good news came from the fourth quarter 2002 results, in which printing ink volume rose 1.1 percent over the fourth quarter of 2001, with sales decreased 1.5 percent.
“The ink industry has been very focused on taking costs out of the business, with a focus on raw materials and operating expenses,” Mr. Bergey said. “The two things I am most encouraged about is that we are finally seeing a bottoming out of our pattern of declining sales, and second, that we are able to increase our earnings. What scares me most is our raw material costs.”
The highlight of the NAPIM Convention is always the Ault Award banquet, and this year was no exception, as NAPIM president William P. Rimel III presented the Ault and seven Printing Ink Pioneer Awards.
The Printing Ink Pioneer Awards honor longtime industry members who have faithfully served their companies and the association. Typically, NAPIM has a limit of six Pioneer Award honorees, and the six announced honorees were Roy T. Beagle, vice president of global news ink at Flint Ink; Jean S. Lavelle of Lehigh University, director of the National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) beginning and advanced summer courses; Mitsuo Matsuzawa, chairman of INX International Ink Co.; Robert Mullen, vice president of packaging ink sales for Sun Chemical; Jeanette Truncellito, director of Sun Chemical’s packaging ink technology laboratory; and Wally Whalen, quality compliance manager for Color Resolutions International.
Mr. Rimel then announced that a seventh person had been chosen for the award: Mr. Coleman, NAPIM’s executive director since 1996.
“Thank you very much,” Mr. Coleman said. “This is very much a surprise.”
The Ault Award is NAPIM’s highest honor, and it recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the progress of the industry. This year’s honoree, Urban S. Hirsch III, founder of Ink Systems, Inc., certainly fits the description. Mr. Hirsch started in the ink industry at Bowers Printing Ink in 1960 and in 1985, he began Ink Systems, Inc., the 20th largest U.S. Ink manufacturer. He also served as NAPIM president in 1997-99.
The increased attendance was very much on the minds of NAPIM’s leaders, who also noted that there were 66 first-time attendees.
“I was very pleased with the convention,” said Mr. Coleman. “It was an excellent turnout.”
“I thought the convention was a good one,” Mr. Koppelman said. “As always, there was a good combination of old and new friends who get together and mix a little business with a little pleasure, with a little education thrown in. We had a lot of first-timers, which is also a good sign.”
Next year, NAPIM will try to build on the momentum it gained from this year’s convention when the convention is held at the LaQuinta Resort, LaQuinta, CA from March 28-31.