14909 North Beck Road
Plymouth, MI 48170-7194
Phone: (734) 781-4600
Fax: (734) 781-4699
Sales: 2018 revenues of Flint Group were €2.3 billion (US $2.7 billion) (Ink World estimate); North American Ink Sales: $1.4 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, consumables and services.
Key Personnel: Pierre-Marie De Leener, chairman; Antoine Fady, CEO, Flint Group Packaging business; Steve Dryden, CEO Commercial, Publication & Sheetfed Inks (CPS); Aryan Moelker, president Image Transfer Solutions; Adhemur Pilar, president Flint Group Latin America; Benoit Chatelard, president Digital Solutions; Doug Aldred, president Packaging Inks; Guillaume Clement, president Narrow Web; Tony Lord, COO Commercial, Publication & Sheetfed Inks; Jeremy Berenzweig, general counsel and SVP – legal; Russell Taylor, SVP, global human resources, HSE, communications and sustainability.
Number of Employees: Approximately 7,900 worldwide.
Comments: With estimated sales of $2.7 billion, Flint Group had a strong year in 2018, led by Flint Group Packaging.
“The industry was very competitive in 2018, and raw material markets were challenging, but the Flint Group Packaging division did well, growing in revenue over the prior year in most segments,” said Antoine Fady, CEO Flint Group Packaging. “Packaging print markets grow slowly and can be affected by a variety of economic factors, but we move into 2019 optimistic about long-term opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Flint Group’s Commercial, Publication & Sheetfed Inks (CPS) Inks division faced more difficult times, as the publication and commercial printing industry continue to decline.
“Consistent with prior years, the commercial and publication print industries contracted in 2018 due to consumers’ continued preference for online communications,” Steve Dryden, CEO CPS Inks, noted. “CPS Inks’ volumes were affected by that ongoing trend, but our teams did a great job of working smarter and managing costs. Overall, it was a tough but successful year for our business.”
Dryden noted that 2018 was the first full year in which CPS Inks and Flint Group Packaging operated separately, giving both businesses the flexibility to best focus on unique customer needs in the very different segments Flint Group serves.
“CPS Inks established a new strategy and was able to achieve budget in spite of tough industry conditions – including managing the challenge of rising raw material costs and supply continuity so customers could continue to rely on us,” Dryden noted.
Deanna Klemesrud, global marketing director for Flint Group, anticipates that Flint Group will see further expansion in the packaging ink fields.
“Flint Group expects growth in our Packaging Inks’ businesses – the markets for Flexible Packaging and Paper & Board are growing everywhere in the world, and Flint Group’s key objective is to be the supplier of choice for these markets and continue our growth trajectory,” said Klemesrud. “We remained focused on the global packaging market and are determined to develop streamlined products, services and processes which will support our customers’ current and future needs.”
VIVO Colour Solutions is among the new services offered by Flint Group to its packaging ink customers.
“Flint Group Paper & Board launched is revolutionary VIVO Colour Solutions – digital color management platform – in the first half of 2018,” Klemesrud reported. “With increasing demand from global brand owners for color equity across geographies and packaging substrates, Flint Group developed a solution that can truly, and reliably, meet the color management needs of all stakeholders in the packaging print industry.
“VIVO Colour Solutions is an industry leading and robust color communication and service platform,” added Klemesrud. “It is an effective end-to-end color management process – the first of its kind in the industry.”
“As savvy printers and converters look for ways to reduce costs throughout their operations, Flint Group will continue to differentiate itself through its XtraMile platform – a unique service-orientated value proposition designed to enable printers to reduce their total cost of operation,” Klemesrud concluded.
In important personnel news, Bill Miller retired as COO of CPS Inks. Miller, who first began on the shop floor of Capitol Printing Ink 42 years ago, was honored in 2013 for his dedication to the ink industry with the prestigious Ault Award – the ink industry’s highest honor, awarded by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM).
“Bill Miller guided Flint Group through challenging market conditions, serving with integrity and thoughtfulness while guiding the company’s evolution as customer needs changed. In addition, Bill was an esteemed leader and mentor industry-wide. His reach extended far beyond Flint Group,” Dryden noted.
Raw materials remain a huge concern for the ink industry, as availability and costs continue to be unstable, with dramatic cost increases driving ink companies to issue price increases of their own while also absorbing some of the higher costs.
“The raw material market remains volatile,” said Arno de Groot, VP procurement of Flint Group’s Packaging division, “affecting a wide variety of materials used in printing inks, including solvents, additives and more. In particular, costs of pigments and photoinitiators have spiked due to regulatory controls in China.”
In addition, added de Groot, “Ink manufacturing in the US and Europe are affected by regulations such as Prop 65 in California and REACH in Europe, and some regional guidelines have global impacts due to the global nature of our industry.”
“Significant cost headwinds have been witnessed in pigments, solvents, resins and freight, placing uninterrupted cost pressure on the Packaging Inks’ business,” Klemesrud added.
Michael Podd, chief procurement officer of Flint Group’s CPS Inks business, expanded upon REACH and UV raw
“The recent REACH reclassification of certain energy-curable-related materials has led suppliers in Europe and beyond to look for alternative UV materials,” Podd reported. “Unfortunately, the alternative materials come at a much higher cost.”
“Though we try to avoid price increases whenever possible, in 2018 we were forced to share some of the cost burdens with customers,” Dryden added. “Most were aware of the overall supply chain challenges, often because they experienced it first hand as part of other aspects of operating their businesses. Flint CPS has long-term contracts with key raw material suppliers, which means we can maintain reliable supply, albeit sometimes at a higher cost.”
Doug Aldred, president Packaging Inks & Resins, has noted previously that Flint Group is improving efficiencies while developing new products that will benefit customers.
“We are resolutely committed to the efficiency projects first communicated to the market in late 2017,” Aldred pointed out. “In addition, we continue to implement new initiatives to remove cost and complexity, steadfastly focusing on the benefits these activities bring to our customers. Customers will be pleased to learn that we will be introducing new, high-performing products throughout the course of 2019, helping to improve printing efficiencies and support process optimization within our customers’ press room; the influence of these changes will be especially pertinent for our Paper & Board customers.”
Other economic issues are major concerns, such as transportation costs and uncertainty over trade barriers and tariffs.
“Transportation and US trade tariffs on China were big challenges in 2018. We don’t expect that to change in the short term,” Podd noted.
Dryden sees opportunities for growth in the coming year, particularly in sheetfed.
“In the commercial and publication segments of the printing industries, sheetfed will likely experience a modest increase, with slightly higher growth levels in packaging and UV sheetfed segments,” he observed. “In 2019, CPS Inks expects to increase sheetfed revenue and remain the leader in heatset and coldset segments.”
Klemesrud said she sees excellent opportunities ahead for Flint Group Packaging.
“We expect to see further growth in the Paper & Board markets – especially for Flint Group as we launch our new globally available ink systems,” Klemesrud said. “For our Flexible Packaging business, we see some interesting times ahead. There is no doubt that the global plastics debate is causing consumers to think more about packaging but we still see lots of growth in various flexible packaging solutions. We look forward to working closely with our customers and industry partners to ensure an objective debate on the future of packaging.”