A conversation with: Charles Knott, Flint Group

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 08.07.08

Having come on board as CEO of Flint Group in September 2007, Charles Knott said he is enjoying

Charles Knott, third from right, with Flint Group’s Dr. Dirk Aulbert, Dr. Thomas Telser and Dennis Wolters.
 the ink and printing businesses, largely because of the quality and enthusiasm of the people from the companies that came together under the Flint Group umbrella.
“Each of the four businesses that formed Flint Group – BASF Printing Systems, ANI, Flint Ink and Day – were damn good businesses with unique strengths, and we’re taking the best of all of those,” Mr. Knott said. “They all brought with them a passion for the industry.”
“The key to Flint Group’s potential is the expertise the company has from these roots.” Mr. Knott said
“Our ability to leverage products at the interface and understand what is happening is critical; we can bring application knowledge and thus bring value.”
Mr. Knott sees the industry as being creative yet conservative. “On one level, there is quite a bit of creativity, such as in packaging, yet on another level, the ink industry is quite conservative,” Mr. Knott said.
Skyrocketing raw material and operational costs are a challenge, although Mr. Knott believes that providing value to customers is the key.
“We need to provide better products that add value to our customers’ processes, providing reliable quality and performance and improved efficiency to help our customers to meet their cost targets,” Mr. Knott said. “Ultimately, the customer, whether it is the brand owner or the consumer, isn’t going to pay more for the product. It’s about alignment between suppliers and customers, and the better we get at that, the lower cost we’ll be. I’m not convinced that has thoroughly happened yet.”
“We now have a critical mass we didn’t have before, for example, for raw material purchases, and we need to translate that into value, so that we can earn adequate margins in order to reinvest” Mr. Knott added.“ With the recent market turmoil – oil prices, China policies and weak U.S. dollar – you have to make decisions faster. This will accelerate the changes the industry needs to demonstrate value.”
Mr. Knott said that the company will continue to look at making sensible acquisitions. “We seek industry consolidation where it makes economic sense,” he said. “We will be selective. I don’t think there will be a huge wave of consolidation and change, as people need to understand how they can bring value. We all need to learn what we are really good at. Everyone is going to start making choices.”
Mr. Knott is optimistic about Flint Group’s opportunities.
“We have a very young, vibrant company, and our shareholders have been extremely supportive,” Mr. Knott said. “We are number one or two in every market we serve. We can’t stand still. I joined Flint Group last year, and was very optimistic about what the future holds. Now, eight months later, I’m even more optimistic. This is an exciting opportunity, and I am absolutely enjoying it.”