NAPIM Annual Convention Focuses on 'Sustainable Business Strategies'

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 05.07.09

Winfried Gleue, fourth from left, president and CEO of Hostmann-Steinberg Limited, received NAPIM’s 2009 Ault Award, the most prestigious honor in the North American ink industry. Joining Mr. Gleue are former Ault Award honorees, from left, Cal Sutphin of Braden Sutphin Ink; Rick Clendenning of INX International Ink Co.; NAPIM executive director James Coleman; Mr. Gleue; Michael Murphy of Joules Angstrom U.V. Printing Inks; and Urban Hirsch III of Ink Systems.
There are plenty of concerns facing the printing ink industry. Raw material prices of practically all key ingredients have risen dramatically in recent years, but because the printing industry is seeing a decline in sales, passing along higher ink prices has proven to be difficult.

Meanwhile, environmental issues and sustainability are becoming more important. As a result, printing ink companies are looking atgreen chemistries, with an eye toward formulating more environmentally friendly products, and examining their own business practices in order to improve efficiency.

The global recession that began in the latter stages of 2008 and has continued into 2009 is also having a major impacting, further straining the capabilities of ink and printing industries as well as suppliers.

Against this backdrop, the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) 93rd Annual Convention focused on “Sustainable Business Strategies.”

The convention was held March 22-25 at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, FL. Program chair Rich Bradley of Lubrizol Advanced Materials and NAPIM officials prepared a schedule that offered insight into key facets of these issues.

State of the
Industry Report

After opening remarks by Dr. Jay Lehr, a 13-time ironman triathlete, NAPIM’s opening session featured the annual meeting and State of the Industry Report, which was presented by Alan Kalmikoff of Keim-Additec Surface USA and Bill Miller, Flint Group.

Not surprisingly, the report reflected the difficult times facing the U.S. printing ink industry, whether it has been dramatically higher raw material prices, the decline of certain key printing markets and the global recession. Notably, raw materials costs now make up 59.1 percent of operating expenses, up from the 2000-07 average of 54.8 percent.

According to the 2009 State of the Industry Report, the volume of U.S. printing ink sold in 2008 declined 6.1 percent, with corresponding sales falling by 1.8 percent.

According to NAPIM, offset ink volume declined 6.7 percent overall in 2008. In particular, NAPIM reported that coldset inks declined 17.4 percent, reflecting the challenges faced by the newspaper industry. Sheetfed volume declined by 6 percent, and to further add to the problems faced by that market, NAPIM reported that sheetfed ink prices declined during the past year.

On the packaging ink side, flexo ink volume shrank by 4.2 percent in 2008, although solvent-based flexo ink was a bright spot, with volume increasing 3.6 percent, according to NAPIM.

Profitability was also a serious concern. Ink manufacturers showing a 3 percent earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), up slightly from last year’s 2.9 percent but still far from healthy. Return on net assets (RONA) dropped to a paltry 5.1 percent, down significantly from 7.5 percent in 2007. However, that figure rose to 10.8 percent for ink companies with sales below $50 million.

Discussing Sustainability and Forecasting

The challenges being faced by the ink industry and its suppliers was the focus of the presentations during the business sessions on March 24 and 25.

Dr. Lehr opened the March 24 session with “Energy, Chemicals and the Environment,” an examinationof the present viewpoint on chemicals, energy and environmental concerns. Dr. Lehr was followed by Bob Treadway, who discussed “Forecasting and Planning Amongst Uncertainty.” Mr. Treadway’s point is that a forecast is an evolving picture rather than a prediction, and planning for contingenciesis essential.

Mr. Treadway discussed a wide variety of issues facing the ink industry, including the impact of new technologies, raw material availability and pricing, consolidation and globalization. His presentation was considered a highlight by both NAPIM executive director James Coleman and Michael Gettis, general manager, Colorcon, No-Tox Products and NAPIM’s outgoing president.

NAPIM honored three industry leaders with the prestigious Printing Ink Pioneer Award. From left, the honorees are Mike Green, vice president – general manager of Flint Group’s North American Publication and News Ink business units; NAPIM president Michael Gettis, general manager, Colorcon, No-Tox Products; and Jim Distler, vice president, specialty products for Color Resolutions International.
“The point that struck me was that the purpose of planning is not to predict, but rather to forecast in a way that reduces the various levels of uncertainty, and to take the time to think about all the major factors that affect a business,” said Mr. Coleman.

“He presented a different way to look at business situations right now,” Mr. Gettis said. “The future is going to change. You have to recognize that there will be uncertainties. You have to give a lot of thought to these changes and have a plan in place.”

The March 25 session focused on the environment, petrochemicals and sustainability.

Bruce Uhlman of BASF opened the session with “Eco-Environmental Analysis,” sharing BASF’s environmental analysis model the company uses to assess the impact of products and methods.

Mr. Uhlman’s talk was followed by “Petrochemical Supply Chain Dynamics,” presented by Tom Gwizdalski of Bigler Specialty Oils. He discussed the petrochemical supply chain and its impact on raw materials and the ink industry.

Closing the morning was Eric Henry, president of TS Design, a printer specializing on T-shirts and environmental causes, whose topic was “Business Sustainability – Good for the Plant, Jobs and Your Competitive Edge.”

Ault and Pioneer Awards

On the final evening, NAPIM held its annual Ault Award dinner. The Ault Award, the most prestigious honor in the North American ink industry, was presented to Winfried Gleue, Winfried Gleue, president and CEO of Hostmann-Steinberg Limited, who also serves as a NAPIM director.

During the dinner, NAPIM also presented three industry leaders with the prestigious Printing Ink Pioneer Award. The honorees are Jim Distler, vice president, specialty products for Color Resolutions International; Mike Green, vice president – general manager of Flint Group’s North American Publication and News Ink business units; and Mr Gettis.

The Pioneer Award came as a huge surprise to Mr. Gettis, who was a member of the award committees, and was unaware he was getting the Pioneer Award. He had just turned over the gavel to incoming NAPIM president Rick Clendenning, president and CEO of INX International Ink Co., when he was called back to the podium.

“It was a shock,” Mr. Gettis said. “I had just handed the gavel over to Rick, and as I headed off the stage, he told me that I forgot my plaque, and stated reading my biography.”

Overall, NAPIM leaders felt the conference went well.

“Although we were disappointed with the attendance, I thought the convention went really well,” said Mr. Coleman.

“I thought the convention was great,” said Mr. Gettis. “The only thing that was disappointing was that the situation with the economy caused some longtime attendees to not be able to come. Still, I thought the messages were really good, and the feedback from attendees on the content of the presentations was very strong.”

NAPIM is already planning for next year’s convention, which will be held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, AZ from April 18-21. For more information on the convention and other NAPIM programs, contact NAPIM at (732) 855-1525, though e-mail at napim@napim.org or on the web at www.napim.org.