As consumers, we all walk through the aisles of supermarkets and see the way that packaging has changed over the years. The presence of cartons has declined, while shrink labels and flexible packaging have moved to the forefront, both in terms of graphics and for ease of use.
Brian and Barbara Chwierut enjoy a moment together after he received the 2006 Technical Achievement Award at the NPIRI Technical Conference.
“It is very rewarding to provide a product that fulfills a need, see it on the shelf and know that you were involved in it,” he said.
For the past 26 years, Mr. Chwierut’s efforts in packaging inks and ink industry education have helped countless customers and colleagues. As a result, Mr. Chwierut was honored with the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ 2006 Technical Achievement Award during the National Printing Ink Research Institute’s (NPIRI) Annual Technical Conference.
Joining the Ink Industry
Mr. Chwierut’s route to the ink industry began in the classroom. After graduating with a master’s degree in science education from Governors State University in Illinois, Mr. Chwierut taught for a year, then decided he wanted to apply his knowledge in industry. In 1980, he applied to Inmont, starting in product development as a chemist in fluid inks.
“Working on all of these applications was impressive,” Mr. Chwierut said. “That’s why I’m still around. Usually a day doesn’t go by where I either learn something new or can apply what I have learned to a new application.”
Mr. Chwierut’s career at Inmont encompassed a wide variety of areas, including quality control manager, manager of product development for liquid inks, lab manager and product manager.
When Sun Chemical acquired Inmont in 1991, Mr. Chwierut continued to specialize in liquid inks, first serving as product manager, regional technical manger, product marketing manager and, currently, marketing manager of operations, where he works closely with customers and co-suppliers.
Throughout his career, a number of people have influenced Mr. Chwierut.
“A couple of names come to mind,” he said. “Jimmy Ely, my boss in the labs at Inmont, taught me devotion to detail. Bob Bassemir at Sun Chemical taught me to look at things and try to understand why they occur and to think outside the box. Massie Odiotti had a pure knowledge and devotion to the industry, and was one of the fairest, most decent people I have ever known. Sam Gilbert was the most professional, helpful person I have met. Bob Mullen Jr. is the most knowledgeable, customer-oriented person I know.”
Teaching at NPIRI
Not surprisingly, as a former teacher, Mr. Chwierut enjoys educating people about the industry. For many people in the ink industry – myself included – their first meeting with Mr. Chwierut came at NPIRI’s summer ink courses. Mr. Chwierut has taught courses on liquid inks along with his colleague, Shailish Shah, since 1991. Mr. Shah focuses on resin systems, while Mr. Chwierut talks about formulation of liquid inks, use in different applications and color.
Mr. Chwierut’s participation in NPIRI’s summer courses began in 1991, when he was asked by Sun Chemical to give a presentation. Mr. Chwierut took to it immediately, and hasn’t missed a course since.
“It fit like a glove,” Mr. Chwierut said. “What I try to do is configure my presentations for the audience, and NPIRI is a broad group.”
NPIRI isn’t Mr. Chwierut’s only outlet for educating people about inks. Mr. Chwierut also specializes in training programs for customers, co-suppliers and for people in Sun Chemical’s packaging group, and he hasappeared on numerous Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) panels.
“I’ve known Brian for decades, and what makes him different is that he has a teaching background,” added Mr. Mullen, who is vice president, sales and marketing for Sun Chemical’s North American packaging division. “I’ve sat in seminars where I’ve seen the light go on for our customers. He has the rare combination of a chemistry background, the ability to teach people and the desire to work with our customers, which makes him the perfect teacher, whether it is for customers or training sessions for our own people.”
“Brian Chwierut certainly deserves recognition for the outstanding technical work he’s done over a number of years,” said Richard Pettifor, president, Sun Chemical North American Packaging Inks. “In particular, he has educated many people – from printers to technical personnel within the packaging industry – on how to achieve optimal results with inks and coatings.”
Outside of work, Mr. Chwierut and his wife of 31 years, Barbara, enjoy photography and traveling, particularly to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chwierut is looking ahead to more packaging challenges.
“It seems like when somebody gets involved in packaging, they don’t leave the industry,” Mr. Chwierut said. “Packaging is very interesting. I’ve met a lot of great people, and there is constant change, whether it is new films, new requirements or new applications. You have to have the ability to pull from what you’ve done in the past. When I first started, solvent-based inks were really popular, then water-based inks with the ability to reduce VOCs grew in popularity. Water works very well in certain applications, but solvent has its place.”
Mr. Chwierut sees opportunities for retort packaging and electron-beam energy curing as used in Sun Chemical’s WetFlex system.
“The potential for high quality graphics are superior,” he said. “It’s nice to go into a facility and see success. Another area where we get a lot of interest is security inks. People want to protect their product and brand. It’s a new area for me.
“I enjoy this industry and the opportunities I have had,” Mr. Chwierut concluded. “I look forward to challenges and exciting new developments in the future, such as digital, energy curing and security. Every day there are new applications to take on.”