14909 North Beck Road
Plymouth, MI 48170-7194
Phone: (734) 781-4600
Fax: (734) 781-4699
Sales: 2014 revenues of Flint Group were € 2.1 billion (US $2.8 billion); North American Ink Sales: $1.1 billion (Ink World estimate).
Major Products: A wide range of inks, coatings, blankets, pressroom chemistry, printing plates, consumables and more. Expertise in solvent-based, water-based, oil-based and energy curable technologies for various applications, including offset lithography, flexography, gravure, rotary screen, rotary offset, digital and letterpress. Products are designed to support nearly all print segments in the print media and packaging sectors. Also manufactures dry, flushed and press cake pigments, chips and resins for ink and other applications, aqueous dispersions, hyperdispersants and additives for the colorant market; pressroom chemicals; printing blankets; and flexographic plates, sleeves and printing equipment. With the acquisition of Xeikon, Flint Group shows its commitment to expanding digital platforms. Flint Group Digital Solutions offers a unique mix of equipment, consumable and services.
Key Personnel: Pierre-Marie De Leener, chairman; Antoine Fady, CEO; Steve Dryden, CFO; William B. Miller, president Print Media/Pigment, Chips & Resins; Doug Aldred, president Packaging and Narrow Web; Jan Paul Van Der Velde, SVP, procurement, sustainability, regulatory and IT; Russell Taylor, SVP, global human resources, communications and sustainability; Aryan Moelker, president Flexographic Products; Wim Maes, President Flint Group Digital Printing Solutions; Adhemur Pilar, president Flint Group Latin America; Gene Yang, president Asia Pacific
Number of Employees: Approximately 7,300 worldwide.
Comments: Flint Group had an exceptional year in 2015 and early 2016, expanding into new markets (digital inks, South Africa) and adding to core segments (web heatset and news inks and water-based packaging inks).
In the most significant move, Flint Group re-entered the fast-growing digital printing market with the acquisition of Xeikon, a leading press manufacturer, in November. Xeikon became the core part of Flint Group Digital Printing Solutions, Flint Group’s new digital division. Xeikon CEO Wim Maes is president of Flint Group’s Digital Printing Solutions division.
“This acquisition represents an excellent opportunity for Flint Group, propelling the organization further into the digital solutions market,” said Antoine Fady, CEO Flint Group.
“We are very pleased to be joining Flint Group’s global organization and excited by the opportunities this acquisition presents to accelerate business growth,” Maes said.
In the web offset field, Flint Group issued a binding offer to Siegwerk Druckfarben in February 2016 to acquire its heatset and news ink business. Completion is still subject to customary closing conditions.
Also in February, Flint Group announced the acquisition of Advanced Color Systems, Inc. (ACS), Tualatin, OR, a water-based ink specialist focused on the paper and board packaging segment.
“Flint Group is very pleased with this new partnership and the opportunities it presents to expand in the North American paper and board packaging market,” Fady said. “Tim Becker, Reed Fowler, and the team at Advanced Color Systems have built a customer focused and responsive organization with teams dedicated to its clients’ success.”
In October 2015, Flint Group expanded its geographic range into the sub-Saharan range in Africa, launching Flint Group Africa, a joint venture with Continental Printing Inks and Eagle Ink Systems, two of the leading ink and coatings suppliers to packaging and print media markets in South Africa.
“In 2015, Flint Group experienced a powerful increase of opportunities through product and service innovations, customer-focused care and strategic acquisitions,” said Doug Aldred, Flint Group’s president Packaging & Narrow Web. “By acquiring Xeikon, we broadened Flint Group’s portfolio into the important digital realm for packaging, labels and document printing. Our acquisition of Continental/Eagle Inks South Africa increases our geographic reach in an important and growing market. Both companies were winners in their arenas, and they’re a great fit for Flint Group.”
In terms of inks, Flint Group had a strong year in 2015, with Packaging & Narrow Web leading the way.
“Packaging & Narrow Web delivered growth in North America in 2016 across all packaging business segments,” said Aldred. “We are strongly committed to the packaging industry, which is highlighted by our recent, and significant, investment in our solvent-based manufacturing facility in Lebanon, OH.
“Additionally, our investment in our people capabilities and skills, along with the recruitment of key positions for Packaging & Narrow Web, have contributed to our growth in North America and also in other parts of the world,” Aldred added. “In addition, the recent acquisition of Advanced Color Systems (ACS) further confirms our commitment to the paper and board segment in North America.”
The publication and commercial printing segments have been declining in recent years. Bill Miller, president Print Media for Flint Group, noted that these segments continue to be concerns.
“Industry experts once expected the news industry decline to soften substantially, but in fact, it continues to face steep declines,” Miller said. “Flint Group certainly felt the effects of that in 2015. While the retail, magazine, catalog and book sectors also continued to struggle, they remained vital in 2015. E-book growth remains at low levels, catalogs saw some resurgence, and once again, the number of new magazines outpace folded ones. Flint Group’s Print Media business continued to invest in inks, blankets and pressroom chemistry for the news and publication sectors, and will continue to do so.”
As the printing industry changes, the ink industry also must evolve. Grant Shouldice, VP technology and marketing of the North American packaging group, said that Flint Group’s new technologies are bringing new opportunities in growth areas such as flexible packaging and lamination inks.
“Packaging is a very exciting sector. Color, branding and aesthetics of packaging continue to be the dominant factors that make up minds at the shelf and therefore remains a powerful marketing tool for brand owners,” Shouldice noted. “Flexible packaging in general and especially laminated structures such as stand up pouches and retortable packages – printed both flexo and gravure – are growing significantly. The label segment, especially shrink sleeves, is also growing and remains an area for all printing processes, including electrophotography and inkjet.
“Flint Group is focused on providing inks for all processes and chemistries such that a higher level of graphic quality can be met while maintaining efficiencies with high speed inks,” Shouldice added. “As the number of SKUs explode in the packaging sector, a digital process for short runs is fast becoming essential for efficient manufacturing. With our complete package of products – including, now, digital – Flint Group continues to increase our presence in packaging and label markets, with ink and equipment.”
Mike Green, VP sales, Web, noted that Flint Group remains completely dedicated to publication sector.
“It’s not an easy market for our customers, but it is still a large and important sector with numerous bright spots,” Green said. “Our inks, blankets, chemicals and consumables – backed by some of the most dedicated sales and service people I’ve ever known – are committed to working side by side with web offset printers to help them capitalize on the opportunities.
“Flint Group stands strong in both the Packaging and Print Media sectors,” Miller added. “We are stronger for this diversity for customers in either segment, and for the increasing number of customers who participate in both the packaging and print media worlds.”
Regulatory mandates are on the rise globally in areas such as food packaging, and Shouldice noted that Flint Group is working closely with its customers on these issues.
“This has become a familiar, and very important, trend over the last few years,” said Shouldice. “In Europe and North America, especially, there is a great focus on food packaging. Flint Group’s business managers, scientists, and regulatory specialists all play an important role in ensuring that Flint Group offer packaging inks that meet the many needs faced by printers.”
Raw materials remain an issue for ink manufacturers. While prices for many key ingredients stabilized and crude oil costs came down, consolidation of suppliers and currency effects are concerns.
“There’s never a dull moment in the world of raw materials, and 2015 was no exception,” said Diane Parisi, VP procurement for Flint Group. “The industry was challenged by a number of issues, such as the continued consolidation of raw material suppliers. Global currency rates and rising transportation costs also affected raw material pricing, as did tighter environmental regulations in many regions worldwide.
“Thankfully, those challenges were somewhat offset by stable crude pricing and relatively stable supply for most raw materials we buy,” Parisi added. “Still, we know from a long history of buying raw materials and tracking trends that conditions can – and do – change. We are always looking ahead, talking with our suppliers, and keeping our teams and customers informed of the latest trends.”
All in all, Miller and Aldred believe that Flint Group is ideally positioned to grow along with their customers in 2016 and beyond.
“Publication print markets will continue to feel the pressure of online communications – the news industry more than most,” Miller said. “But print media is still a vital part of marketing spend, and, as in the case with catalogs, can help boost the end-customers’ online businesses. We expect the print media market to continue to be challenging, and we remain steadfastly dedicated to helping our customers maximize their opportunities for success.”
“We are bullish about our possibilities in 2016 and beyond,” Aldred added. “The investments in our manufacturing assets and people put us in a good position for growth – both now and in the future. The cooperation between our Packaging & Narrow Web Division and our colleagues in Flint Group Flexographic Products and Flint Group Digital Printing Solutions will enable us to develop an even stronger value proposition including inks, plates, and digital solutions. We have a unique proposition for the packaging converter, and this will support our growth ambitions for the Packaging & Narrow Web market.”