Survival of the fittest

13 March 2006

In just a few days IPEX will open its doors to the international world of print and converting. Of one thing we can be certain: there will be far more visitors from the converting businesses of Asia – from China and India - than we have seen before. And we will hear more languages spoken in the aisles and on the stands from visitors from Central and Eastern Europe.

For European equipment exhibitors that is good news. More presses, slitters, laminators and drying systems will hopefully be ordered by those operating in what are clearly the growing regions of the world. Those opportunities have to be seized.

For the European converters, however, many see this as a threat to their very existence. Attending The Carton Conference 06 (full report next month) brought it home just how many business were closing as the end users took their manufacture elsewhere – many to Poland and Russia, where burgeoning growth is seeing huge demands in consumer packaged goods. And on the flexibles front our lead story this month reveals the proposals Amcor is making to close Colodense (a plant with a tremendous reputation for first class quality) as well as Hochheim, in Germany.

As they say - when one door closes another invariably opens. That is just what the converter has to look to do to survive and grow. The end user expects his suppliers to travel with him if they want to retain the business. Those who have or plan to do so will I am sure reap the rewards of not only that business, but also more local business in the country or countries in which they set up shop. And it is not just the larger companies like DS Smith, Boxes, Amcor (who announced further investment plans in Eastern Europe at the same time as its Western European rationalization) and Alcan who have invested in countries showing developing economies. Robinsons, for example, is doubling its turnover with an investment in Poland.

The short shelf life product and high weight low value item packaging as well as suppliers to the medium to smaller end users will always be with us. And there has to be scope always for the innovative converter. It is by no means all doom and gloom.

Courage mes braves! Have a successful Ipex. See you there.

Pauline Covell


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Ipex 2006

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