Q&A with Jeff Damour

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As outgoing president of CEMA, the Converting Equipment Manufacturers Assn., Jeff Damour shares his thoughts about the state of the US converting industry today. Jeff, who is also engineering manager for Converter Accessory Corp., Wind Gap, PA, has been succeeded at CEMA by Ron Schmidt of Maxcess Intl., Oklahoma City, OK.

Q. As both CEMA president and in representing CAC, you had regular contact with key converters in nearly every segment of the industry. What is your assessment of the health of the industry today?
In general, the health of the converting industry is very strong in the US, mainly because converters have made key investments in technology.

Q. What are the main challenges and how are they being met?
There are several, including foreign competition and unstable material prices. An important challenge for converters is to find creative ways to eliminate waste in everything they do. That means producing high quality products with the least amount of material waste, vigilantly working to reduce downtime, and finding ways to reduce labor used for purposes other than actual production.

Q. Which US converters suffer most from foreign competition? And where is that competition coming from?
Converters whose products and/or processes rely heavily on employee labor instead of technology suffer the most from competition from South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Converters need to rely on superior technology; technology that delivers higher speeds, more automation, and delivers the ability to make shorter runs profitably.

Q. Where do you see the most opportunity for converters?
Converters’ greatest opportunity lies in product innovation. In order to stay competitive, US manufacturers must continue to lead product innovation in every manufacturing segment. The ability to develop innovative products for niche, lower volume markets, and produce those products profitably is where there is real growth potential. That means wider webs, faster changeovers, higher overall production speeds rigorous control of waste—downtime, labor, and material.

Q. What is the most rapidly growing segment of the industry?
Right now and for the last few years, package printing has been the fastest growing segment in the US. Advances in print technology have changed the face of the industry. Along with amazing graphics, converters are regularly achieving web widths, line speeds, and changeover times unheard of a few years ago. A lot of the converting strength derives from converters embrace of new print technologies.

Q. What CEMA accomplishments during your term as president are you most proud of?
The work of CEMA’s safety committee is truly outstanding. The committee has regularly brought “best-practices” knowledge to the converting industry through the CEMA Web site, seminars, and roundtable discussions. CEMA’s safety committee has contributed immeasurably to the converting industry.

Q. What role do you expect CEMA to play in the future?
Safety will remain CEMA’s focus. CEMA’s Slitting and Winding Seminar and Coating and Laminating Seminars are superb learning centers for converters and great ways to educate new employees. These seminars have seen steady growth in popularity.

Q. Any regrets?
I loved every minute of being CEMA president, and I’m delighted my term has ended. With Ron Schmidt at the helm, CEMA is in good hands.

Converter Accessory Corp.—handleyourweb.com
Maxcess Intl.—maxcessintl.com

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