The European Adhesive Tape Association’s (Afera) premier yearly event took place from 9th – 11th October at the Pestana Palace Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal, boasting the highest attendance rate ever; ten intriguing future focused presentations; and numerous networking opportunities.
Focusing on ‘making the tape business future proof’, including its effect on the workforce, business models, supply chains, sales channels, technology, product development, and the application process, the conference provided over 150 tape industry professionals with the opportunity to interact with tape industry leaders, sales and technology drivers and field expert speakers.
Attendees came from 15 European countries as well as India, Turkey and the USA, and included delegates from businesses along the entire adhesive tape value chain – tape manufacturers, suppliers (raw materials, machine and packaging), converters, distributors, research institutions, national tape organisations and other international counterparts.
“I keep saying it every year, but it is true – this is one of the best annual conferences Afera has ever put on. The event showed that there are a lot of topics and issues moving in the adhesive tape industry, and we were able to harness them for this event. As Afera does, we will continue to build on them,” reports Evert Smit, Afera president and head of R&D at Lohmann GmbH & Co KG.
“Year over year, the annual conference increases in quality and value to our members. It is the perfect platform from which ‘competitive colleagues’ can form their opinions, and our participant survey feedback enables us to continue fine tuning the event,” explains Jacques Geijsen, Afera marketing committee chairman and managing director at American Biltrite Inc, EMEA and ABItalia.
A plethora of buzz topics headed the conference working programme, which took place over two days. “We started and ended on topics involving millennials, going full circle with both positive and negative outlooks. Also, what we all have in common is the future – the opportunities and many considerations of human nature, ethics and technology. Afera delivered the whole package,” comments Bert van Loon, marketing innovation expert and independent strategist, who was one of the masters of ceremonies.
Market trends and data
There is a lot of intelligence on the market of how customers and regions are behaving. Collecting and analysing this optimally may require computing beyond human capacity. Matthias von Schwerdtner, Afera marketing committee member and corporate vice-president of development at tesa SE, presented the bigger picture to the conference, explaining: “The adhesive tape industry globally remains a highly fragmented and heterogeneous market, and growth over the next few years is predicted at between 2% and 5%. Speciality adhesive tapes market growth is linked to expanding electronics and healthcare industries.”
Master of ceremonies Melanie Ott, Afera steering committee member and business manager of tapes and labels at H.B. Fuller, agreed with Mr von Schwerdtner, stating that global growth rates for tapes are moving faster than the economy. For the tape business, there is a slightly reduced volume of adhesive raw materials.
“What is key: We are very irrelevant to crude oil output, as only a small portion of this goes into adhesive raw materials. But the tapes business needs this feedstock, such as solvents, acrylic monomers and synthetic rubbers, to make adhesives,” comments Melanie Ott. “Over the last few years, there has been a shift in cracker output from heavy to lightweight materials. Although oil prices should stay stable over the next few months, the world economy is slowing and demand is down. What would happen to our industry if the feedstock became unavailable?”
Among other current tech trends, Mr Smit discussed regulatory legislation in Europe, North America, and China, including the increasing importance of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and individual company sustainability programmes and products. He also warned: “Polymer REACH” is coming.
“Regulatory issues are a power around us,” Mr Smit continued. “There’s nothing we can do about it, except to pre-empt it by starting to act on them now, like a predictive maintenance for our own industry.” Why adhesive tape related companies were successful over the last 3 or 4 decades is not necessarily the reason they will be thriving 5 years from now.
“Making sure our business is future proof is not a simple concept,” explained Mr Smit. “You cannot assume tapes will always be used for bonding. Many great technologies have disappeared very quickly.”
Outside of the conference room
Attendees of the Lisbon conference also enjoyed cocktails in the hotel gardens and dinner in the old stables attached to the hotel on the first night. A gospel choir added to the ambience. On the second day, all participants got to discover Lisbon’s waterfront by GoCar, electric bicycle, Tuk Tuk and speedboat, then had drinks and dinner at Kais Restaurant. During the alternate social day programme, partners were treated exclusively to tours of Lisbon’s historic centre and the Belém district (including the Jerónimos Monastery), painting tiles at the National Tile Museum and a cooking lesson.
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.