Change of Guards at FINAT, Newly appointed president Kurt Walker shares his vision on FINAT’s strategy today and tomorrow
FINAT, the world-wide association representing the interest of the self-adhesive labelling industry, announces that Kurt Walker has been appointed new president for FINAT at their annual congress in Sicily this year. Kurt Walker takes over the presidency from Andrea Vimercati to steer FINAT for the next two years. Mr Walker (°1950), currently CEO at tesa Bandfix Switzerland, became a member of the FINAT board in 1999. Until now he took up his responsibility as FINAT Vice-President and Membership Committee Member. Prior to that he was also the association’s Treasurer.
How better getting to know Kurt Walker than to have him and outgoing FINAT President Andrea Vimercati discuss their vision of FINAT as it is today and will be tomorrow. Meet with two men from a different generation, but very much in tune. The conversation provides the agenda for the way in which FINAT will resolutely move forward to embrace the opportunities and challenges in the packaging industry of which it is a key part.
Establishing the agenda for the medium term
Mr Vimercati said that the FINAT Board, and its various committees, had worked together to create a platform for the industry’s development over a three- to five-year period, identifying the prime opportunities and the most pressing challenges. ”That platform, which has already achieved much, is still in process,“ says Kurt Walker, ”and the new presidency will entail no change in strategy. Our buzzwords are still ’continuity with flexibility‘, and we remain committed to forecasting future directions and preparing for them, as well as responding to present change issues.”
It is obvious that the two men, despite an age difference of 25 years, think alike; and incoming President Kurt Walker, shares Andrea Vimercati’s emphasis on making the industry young again – both through the inception of the Young Managers’ Club, and the ongoing work on embracing new online media which, says Kurt Walker, ”are so much a part of everyday life today, and have much to contribute in the business arena, in many ways”.
Andrea Vimercati enlarges on that topic. ”What FINAT represents for its members – who, pretty well uniquely among industry associations, come from every level of the supply chain, is a forum for communication, and we have built a strong team, both on the Board and in the Committees, to drive interactive communication forward. During my presidency, I have seen a decisive move towards transparency within the FINAT hierarchy. FINAT is developing renewed, open partnerships with national associations – and I have personally been involved in taking that message around Europe. We are one industry, and need to behave as one industry: United Label Europe”!
United Label Europe
‘”We can do better if we work together, and present a united face to the world, speaking as one community. Look how strong and successful TLMI is – but it’s easier to create a single message platform if you just represent one country. In Europe, we have different languages and cultures to contend with -- but FINAT can spearhead the drive to European label industry unity, creating a very functional working forum as an umbrella organisation, and via meaningful relationships and dialogues with the national associations, both in Europe and beyond. In the self-adhesive label community, we must not forget that we are increasingly part of the global packaging community and thus of the extended global consumer goods market. That means we need to develop a completely new mindset.”
Legislation and sustainability
Other items on the agenda during Mr Vimercati’s Presidency which continue to be priorities over Mr Walker’s Presidency are lobbying around legislation and, of course, the whole sustainability agenda. “Both these activities must be viewed in a global context”, says Kurt Walker. ”While FINAT must be the ’central processor‘ in Europe, we will also reach out to other regional associations like TLMI (US), JFLP (Japan), LATMA (Australia) and LMAI (India).. Legislation and sustainability issues don’t stop at country borders today.”
The new FINAT commitment to open communication within the membership will soon be supported by an advanced new interactive website. Members will be able to access up-to-the-minute documentation on legislative, sustainability, and other issues that impact the self-adhesive label industry online. “FINAT’s new internet platform built on leading-edge technology, will provide members with fantastic access to a broad library of data that can benefit their businesses. After all, FINAT members are mostly family businesses, who don’t have massive legal and management support departments.”
Once this new platform is fully operational, the next priority on the FINAT agenda are “Those very many legislative issues and the concerns around the environment (including release liner and matrix waste recycling, REACH, and other consumer safety issues) are not going away”, says Kurt Walker. “We need to work with our sister organisations to develop a uniform strategy for presenting the benefits of self-adhesive labelling, in order to create greater awareness in the broader packaging industry and grow our overall share of the market.”
“‘The Global Packaging Project (GPP), once it has established its full portfolio of measurement tools, will have a role to play here”, adds Andrea Vimercati. ”FINAT has been an enthusiastic and willing participant in the GPP, representing the European self-adhesive labelling community as a whole and speaking for it with one strong voice.”
Continuing opportunities for self-adhesive labels
”Self-adhesive labelling continues to offer outstanding flexibility and versatility, with many possible functional ’add ons’, continues Mr Walker, “and is a major facilitator of RFID and product authentication and tamper-evident features. With a 50% share of the labelling market, we need to be really creative to take additional share, in the face of the extensive competition today from other technologies – sleeving and, increasingly, in-mould labelling. But there’s absolutely no need to be negative. If the overall market is growing – and as new populations around the world join the consumer society, it certainly is growing exponentially. ”Additionally, our industry is stepping more into the wider packaging industry arena, alongside complementary wide-web converting. There are real opportunities here to develop new partnerships and collaborations, and to create a knowledge platform on the many ways in which narrow-web presses and self-adhesive label converters we can support the core packaging industry’s business.”
FINAT’s future role
As European industry regains its forward thrust following the economic crisis, the outgoing and incoming FINAT Presidents share a conviction that there is much to be gained at all levels of the self-adhesive label supply chain if FINAT creates an enabling environment for the whole industry where – to quote Marshall McLuhan – ‘the medium is the message.’
”The self-adhesive label, per se, deserves to be promoted as a marketing tool and as a clever product identifier, and our current and future FINAT agenda is strongly committed to achieving that”, says Andrea Vimercati.
The last word, however, goes to Kurt Walker: ”All FINAT member companies will surely benefit from that approach in an increasingly competitive, globalised business environment. The good times may be behind us, but better ones are certainly ahead!”