TLMI Committees Look to 2022

We began this Tech Connect article asking each of the TLMI committees: What does 2022 have in store for the label and packaging community? It seems like a futile exercise to break out the crystal ball with a world full of uncertainty, and the news cycle jumping from crisis to crisis. And yet, the show must go on.  

Below, take a read through some of the committee leaders to hear their thoughts on what 2022 has in store for us.

Technical Committee
By Chelsea McDougall, S-One Labels & Packaging

The label and packaging industry has been inching toward more automated production for some time now. But with today’s outside pressure coming from all angles, we think 2022 is the year when automation becomes a top priority and crucial for success for converters and suppliers alike. 

You know the story – a never ending health crisis, a stressed supply chain, price pressures, just-in-time production demands, and a labor shortage are squeezing our industry. We believe that, at no other time, has it has been more important for a label and packaging converter to find efficiencies and flexibility in their processes. The health crisis is far from over, customers aren’t getting any less demanding, prices and supply chain pressures are expected to remain through the year, and your press operators aren’t getting any younger. 

Now is the time to innovate. 

The good news is that these market pressures drive the rest of the industry to find solutions. We predict that everyone from equipment manufacturers and throughout the entire label and packaging supply chain will be working to drive efficiencies and helping label and packaging converters manage costs, and generally speaking – optimize production to do more with less.  

More automated production is not just a request– it’s a necessity for today’s label and packaging manufacturer. We look forward to seeing exciting developments at Labelexpo Americas and other live events later this year.

Workforce Committee
By Nick Spina, Lumineer Converting, and Kristen Shields, Graymills

We are all aware of a key issue that our industry has faced for quite some time, an aging workforce and lack of exposure to a generation of young professionals. The world of printing has seen incredible technological innovation through the years, yet we are met with the ever-present challenge of communicating these opportunities to new talent. The tight labor market and supply chain disruptions affecting the world have only exacerbated these challenges and have brought them to the forefront of the printing landscape.  

As members of TLMI’s Workforce Development Committee, our goal is to utilize technology to attract the next generation. One way we are doing this is filming short, attractive videos of the success stories of employees within our own companies. These videos highlight the individual, allowing them to share how they came to find fulfillment and lifelong careers in the printing industry. From the teenager that walked into a production floor with no prior print knowledge and worked their way up to a production manager, or the press operator that transitioned into a front office role, our companies contain countless success stories. The goal is to end up with a collection of stories can be distributed through channels that are familiar to the next generation, such as social media and company websites. 

Automation is also a key factor helping us navigate this labor shortage. Advancements in technology – from vision systems and quality control tools, to scheduling software and packaging systems – have all helped to drive efficiencies in our companies. The current market pressures have made continual improvement in the form of automation a necessity, and we are already seeing vendors respond to this need at an increased rate and will continue to do so. 

These advancements in automation are helping managers to remove repeatable, mundane tasks from the duties of their employees.  Not only does this drive throughput and efficiency, but it also allows for companies to craft positions that are akin to a career as opposed to a job.  Those companies that can do more with less, will be the ones that not only survive, but thrive in the current print landscape. 

Membership Committee
By Cindy White, Channeled Resources, and Dale Coates, TLMI

Never before have we experienced such a dramatic shift in material availability and price increases. Never before have TLMI members needed each other’s advice, encouragement, and information like they do today. Our membership committee brainstorms a few times a year as to why join TLMI. Usually, we talk about the ratio study, awards, the great information from the committees like government and regulations, work force, sustainability, and scholarship, but the circumstances of the last few years have created a need for TLMI relationships at another level.

2020 gave us Covid. 2021 was more Covid and price increases. And now as we head into the third year, we have Covid, price increases, and material shortages. TLMI has been the go-to place to find out what other leaders are doing with masks, vaccine mandates, and even sharing material when a friend runs out. Peer support has become critical to our decision making.  

The independent label converters need to stay informed and network with each other to remain relevant and competitive with the larger converters. The large converters look for those who have just had enough and are ready to sell.  2022 is a time we need each other, and TLMI brings people together. 

Suppliers are vulnerable too. The pandemic and all the problems that have occurred have put enormous pressure on our industry suppliers.  They need strong relationships with converters to weather the ever-increasing stress of material and worker shortages. 

TLMI is the bridge that brings all the top leaders in the industry together, to work in unison to solve problems, innovate, share, and help the label industry move forward. 

Regulatory Affairs Committee
By Catherine Heckman, Ashland; Patrick Potter, Flexo Wash, and Bryan Vickers, Pace LLP

The association’s policy and regulatory committee is looking forward to an active 2022, building off a productive in-person meeting this past December and subsequent January engagements with Committee members to finalize annual objectives. 

Efforts within the Committee have been refocused, beginning with a Committee name change to Regulatory Affairs, consistent with other trade associations and encompassing a range of policy and regulatory areas. The Committee’s Mission Statement has also been updated, focusing in on “call to action,” and increased guidance to TLMI members.

The Committee has already seen legislative activity at the state level with the potential to impact member companies. Areas of focus so far include packaging recyclability, extended producer responsibility (EPR), additives commonly found in label and packaging, alongside on-package label claim determinations. 

The Committee has also increased its engagement with similarly focused trade associations, to ensure that policy and regulatory actions remain achievable and fair to the tag and label industry, as well as their supply chain partners. While some of the policy proposals under consideration encourage greater incorporation of label recyclable compatibility, which many TLMI member companies independently work towards, the association is mindful of bill deadlines, label-use restrictions, applicability, and their impact on member company operations.

We encourage representatives from member companies to consider joining the Regulatory Affairs Committee, or to participate in one of our quarterly calls to learn more about our new direction and focus. Please reach out to Patrick or Catherine how you can get involved. 

Sustainability Committee
By Jason Steenbock, Heartland Label Printers

Sustainability is a goal that every label converter, every brand owner, and every consumer is searching to understand.  It is complex maze with many defined and undefined paths and many ways to take action. Where to spend your valuable time and resources is at an all-time high while we all navigate this supply chain crisis. 

The Sustainability team has created a new subcommittee to help the TLMI converter members to connect with the trends and to help navigate the sustainability landscape. The committee is call 3S (System, Strategies and Sustainable Development) and is a cross functional team (Suppliers and converters) and is led by two excellent resources:  Katie Austing of KDV Labels and Adam Schafer of Commerce Label.

This new subcommittee is working and communicating with the existing subcommittee. Those established subcommittees include: liner, matrix, and the sustainability awards. The 3S committee is e working to be a resource and to help TLMI members with information flow for their customers. Come join the fun!

In an effort share some of what our team is talking about, the trends for 2022 include: 

1).  transparency in reporting

2).  Establishment of scorecard for brand owners

3).  Carbon disclosure project 

4).  U.S. Plastics Pact

5).  Chemical recycling

6).  Non-fossil fuel films

7).  EPR legislation

8).  Linerless

9).  Chemistry on direct thermal media

10).  Liner recovery efforts

There is so much to try to understand.  

It is a believe that the 3S team holds that sustainability insight and success and efforts should be shared to make the world a better place for the generations ahead.