PIA chats with CEO Chris Payne on celebrating Miraclon’s first anniversary in the face of COVID-19, and looking ahead to drupa 2021.
In April 2020, Miraclon celebrated its first anniversary as a new company. Birthed from Kodak as its former Flexographic Packaging division, it develops, produces and sells Kodak Flexcel-branded technology solutions.
“When you think about creating the new company, we started with a good product, a good team, and great customers around the world. We’ve continued to serve the customers while we set up the infrastructure of a business that includes distribution channels, finance, HR, and that's been going well. At the same time, we've continued to develop the business,” said Chris Payne, CEO of Miraclon.
“In Asia, we're doing really well too. We last talked a lot about gravure to flexo conversion and we still seeing a continued trend towards flexo. It's a slow trend, but that's a very good trend for us and we’re seeing real growth in places like Thailand for example. We’re seeing a lot of growth in India, and there is some conversion happening in China and Japan. We’re very optimistic about the long term prospects in Asia,” Payne continued.
In the past year, Miraclon launched and built its new plate manufacturing factory in the US. The company also recently concluded its first Global Flexo Innovation Awards, which honoured 12 companies from all over the world.
“It’s been an interesting and a very good year for us, although there has been a few twists and turns along the way in the last couple of months with COVID-19,” Payne continued. “We've continued to stay very busy. Flexo’s main market is the food packaging industry. The business continues to be busy for our customers as people are not going to restaurants but to the stores for food at this time. There’s more packaging produced, which has been good for us.”
According to Payne, Miraclon’s main focus has been to make sure it has sufficient supply in the various regions to continue producing in order to keep up with demands.
“We are lucky because we have distribution centres all around the world. Classically, we have about a six-months supply in the supply chain, so that has helped. We’ve been very focused on making sure we can get products imported and exported between the various countries as shipping and governments close down and start up at different times,” he continued.
COVID-19 has impacted many businesses worldwide and disrupted supply chains, deliveries, production and manufacturing. Payne affirmed Miraclon’s dedication to continuing to provide support to its customer in these times.
“Most customers are in lockdown today but they are still producing. They want to keep the number of people visiting sites minimal, so we are doing most of the support remotely. Our demonstration centres are doing a lot of remote support, including looking at files remotely by camera, and also receiving samples from our customers where we're diagnosing on the site.”
“We also have local teams of sales and service people around the world that are available to talk to our customers. So far, when our customer experienced mechanical breakdowns for example, we've been lucky enough to be able to send someone locally to see them,” Payne continued. “We’ve been able to support the customers in this very difficult time, which has been quite good to see. Our whole team worldwide has been quite responsive to helping the customers too.”
drupa 2021: Miraclon to continue transforming flexo
In light of drupa’s postponement to 2021, Miraclon will be revisiting its strategy for new product launches.
“At drupa, we are going to continue to transform flexo. As we move forward as we've been doing, we had a number of different launches that we were planning to do at the trade show. Some of those we’re going to have to wait until the revised April 2021 dates. We are still making final plans as the postponement of drupa is still new,” said Payne.
“For one of those launches, we’re looking into virtually launching it as we move through the later part of the year. We won't do it in June for sure, probably after the summer. That's the current intent,” Payne continued.
When asked what the upcoming product might be, Payne remained tight-lipped, hinting that it is an application that can help both new and existing customers: “We’re going to extend how we actually use our system to print, so the capability to print is more efficient. We believe we can still do that virtually with our imaging system and not a piece of hardware - without being more specific.”
Miraclon introduced the aqueous flexo plate making solution, Kodak Flexcel NX Ultra, which has been awarded the FTA Technical Innovation Award. The Flexcel NX Ultra Solution is the first aqueous solution that can provide consistent, high-performing flexo plates in a high volume, low maintenance environment, eliminating the hassle of solvent processing.
It has already launched in the US and European markets, and has its first set of customers in the two continents at the moment. The solution’s launch in Asia has met a slight delay due to the current pandemic.
“We've had a lot of interest from the region, particularly in India, Japan, and Australia, and also some of the Southeast Asian countries,” said Payne. “We were going to look into bringing that product to the broader Asia region later in 2021. With COVID-19 now, it's not clear when that will happen, as we're not able to travel to support the launch and the customers. We'll have to look at the revised timing of that once we can really get back to travel.”
Payne highlighted the innovation that he is witnessing in the flexo industry: “Our customers, as we've gone through the year, have continued to innovate. It's not just Miraclon that is innovating, it's seeing what the customers are able to do. Even in COVID-19 times, we have customers around the world that are now using the scrap plastic that comes off the back of the plates to create visors for hospitals in places in Asia and Europe.”
“It’s been really exciting as a new company with the ability to transform flexo with a unique technology. It’s good to see the progress of the industry, our customers and our partners,” said Payne. “Given the COVID-19 situation, we hope everyone and their families stay safe, and rest assured we will continue to provide product to customers to keep the stores full of food. It’s as simple as that.”
First published in Issue 05/2020 of Print Innovation Asia.