Gerald Napiecek – Colorcon, No-Tox Products

By David Savastano, Editor | 11.27.13

Gerald Napiecek, the 2013 winner of the Technical Achievement Award, is a major reason for Colorcon’s success.

The field of FDA compliant inks and coatings is challenging, and Colorcon, No-Tox Products, a specialist in printing inks and coatings formulated for direct contact with food, medical and pharmaceutical products, is an industry leader in the field. Gerald Napiecek, the 2013 winner of the Technical Achievement Award, is a major reason for Colorcon’s success.

Mr. Napiecek, area technical manager for Colorcon, No-Tox Products, is a major contributor in the development of FDA compliant inks and coatings. A 33-year member of the ink industry (29 years holding various technical and regulatory positions with Colorcon), he currently serves as vice president of the NPIRI Board of Directors and is an active member of many regulatory committees.

“I am both humbled and honored at receiving this prestigious award from my peers,” Mr. Napiecek said. “Most of us enter this industry because we need a job, and if we stay in this industry, it is because we fall in love with it.”

“What is funny is that just two days before the Awards Banquet, I was participating in the NPIRI Board of Directors meeting when Brad Bergey showed us a Board of Honor, if you will, that he had put together with plates containing the names of every TAA and TAM winner,” Mr. Napiecek added. “As I looked at the names of these prestigious winners, I recollected that I had learned something from most of these people, by having listened to them lecture, reading their books and articles and by direct conversations. That my name will now be included with the names of these industry greats is rather overwhelming.”

“Jerry has worn many hats at Colorcon, but never lost focus on serving the customer,” said Mike Gettis, general manager for Colorcon, No-Tox Products. “In his current position as area technical manager, he works closely with the business development managers and our customers, who benefit from his technical and regulatory experience. Jerry is very deserving of the 2013 NAPIM Award for Technical Achievement, and it has been a pleasure working with him for so many years.”

Mr. Napiecek began his career at Neville Chemical, and after a few years at Mattheyprint, he found his calling with Colorcon.

“I have been blessed to have worked with or for great people in this industry,” he said. “First, if it wasn't for the late Bill Beardsley of the Neville Chemical Company, who hired me as a QC chemist out of college in 1980, I probably would not be in this industry today.

“After two years at Neville, I accepted the challenge of Paul Brown to relocate to eastern Pennsylvania and become the formulation lab and process control manager at Mattheyprint Corporation,” Mr. Napiecek continued. “Our claim to fame was designing the ceramic inks from which we printed the decals for Lenox China that they used to manufacture the state dinnerware place settings for the Reagan White House.”

“It was while working for Mattheyprint (a division of Johnson-Matthey) that a decision by their Board of Directors to close the U.S. manufacturing division turned into my golden opportunity, the opportunity to join Colorcon in 1984,” Mr. Napiecek added.

Mr. Napiecek was hired in September 1984 by Fred Bichaylo, technical service manager of Colorcon's No-Tox Products division.

“I was privileged to be mentored by the late Fred Bichaylo, who remains the individual to this day that I have most respected in this industry,” Mr. Napiecek said. “Fred had a unique way of teaching that included ‘trial by fire’ in the field and by the use of personal experience stories. Many of my days would end after 7:00 p.m. in Fred's office, listening to his anecdotes of press trials, lab experiments, being on the hot seat in front of customers etc. etc. I was allowed to learn by doing and to not be afraid to fail (provided you didn't make the same mistake over and over again!)”

“Fred, former vice president of F.G. Okie Inc., was known as the original Ink Doctor and founder of No-Tox ink,” said Mr. Gettis. “When Jerry was hired, I was working in Colorcon's sales and marketing department, trying to develop a need in the U.S. marketplace for the No-Tox ink line. I met an excited Jerry in Fred's office not long after he started with the company and, since I value first impressions, just knew he was a perfect fit for our business. They say first impressions are lasting ones and I don't know who ‘They’ are, but ‘They’ were as right as right can be.”

“In 1995, Jerry was promoted to technical service manager and Fred concentrated on No-Tox product development,” Mr. Gettis added. “In 1998, Fred passed away and Jerry added the product development tasks to his technical service laboratory responsibilities. He had the benefit of 14 years of experience in working with Fred developing FDA compliant ink systems for every printing process. Jerry had a lean staff but with his skill, knowledge and experience was able to get the job done. He also benefitted from a five-year tutelage by Dr. Richard Podhajny, the 2003 winner of the Technical Achievement Award.”

“Fred left this world much too soon, but then Dr. Rich Podhajny joined Colorcon as our R&D manager,” Mr. Napiecek recalled. “I was able to speak with Rich everyday and learn much about how the conventional ink industry worked and of new ways to improve our products and processes. The same can be said for my friend and current Colorcon colleague, Ron Tarewicz, who I learn something new from everyday, given his 30+ years of experience in the conventional ink business.”

“I also certainly can't forget the gentleman who has for too many years to mention led Colorcon's No-Tox Products Division from a business standpoint to where we are today – Mike Gettis,” he said. “ Thank you, my friend, for making sure to remind me that there is, in fact, a commercial side to this business, and not just the technical/regulatory sides in which I have always been enmeshed.”

“Lastly I must thank my fiance, Robin Kerollis-Smeddy, who is always there to support me, on good days and bad, and who is always asking questions to learn about what I do and about the industry in general,” Mr. Napiecek added. “What a partner!”

Mr. Napiecek said he gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction from working with customers and developing innovative solutions for food and pharmaceuticals.

“We don't stay with our jobs because we are looking for accolades or awards,” he said. “Rather, at least in my case, I have remained because of the satisfaction I receive from helping a customer, the opportunity to learn something new everyday, the excitement of helping our company achieve its goals and the camaraderie that exists with my industry colleagues.

“Being with a small company (albeit a part of a large company) that serves but a niche of the industry (supplying inks for direct food or pharmaceutical contact applications, imprinting medical devices or medical packaging, printing cosmetics and for printing directly onto foods or drugs), I am amazed daily with what we can do with the rather limited palette of FDA compliant raw materials that are available to us. It is the challenge of formulating these materials into commercial ink products that brings out the best in all of us at Colorcon.

“I plan to continue to serve my company, our customers and our association in a manner that will never cause any of the people instrumental in bestowing this honor upon me to second-guess themselves,” Mr. Napiecek added. “Lastly, it is imperative that we who are now the old guard of this industry continue to find ways to attract and educate young technologists in our science. This is what I feel must be NPIRI's most important objective. We need the creativity of new graduates in chemistry, engineering and environmental sciences, etc. in our businesses to perpetuate innovation and economic growth. And our companies need to offer opportunities to such individuals who find themselves needing a job, and then provide them with an environment to innovate and grow so that they discover a career in our industry that they can love.”

Related Printing Inks: