Afera Annual Conference ends successfully

The European Adhesive Tape Association’s yearly event took place last week in Lisbon, Portugal, and attracted the highest attendance rate to date. 10 future-focussed presentations provided an environment for fruitful discussions.

About 150 people attended the 2019 annual Afera conference. -

Focussing 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.

The two-day event offered many talks about buzzing topics for the industry. Bert van Loon, marketing innovation expert and independent strategist, was one of the masters of ceremonies. “We started and ended on topics involving Millennials, going full circle with both positive and negative outlooks,” Mr. Van Loon shared. “But what we all have in common is the future: the opportunities and also many considerations of human nature, ethics and technology. Afera delivered the whole package.”

Future of Workforce

“I saw many new faces—young faces in the audience,” commented Evert Smit, Afera president and head of R&D at Lohmann GmbH. This was fitting as future workforce is one of Afera’s newest foci. According to a recent survey of the association, 65% of Afera Members say that talent retention is a serious challenge in their businesses.

The European tape industry is specific in its field parameters, characteristically low in unemployment and fluctuation, and high in competition. Because experts are hard to find and European geographics can prove difficult, working in the tape value chain needs to be made attractive to various target groups. To this end, Deloitte Consultant Christiane Schober discussed the annual Deloitte Global Millennial Survey and what businesses should do to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generations.

Disruptive technologies

According to TU Wien Professor Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Schlund, implementation is still at the micro level, and experts predict that 60-70% of human jobs will be taken over by robot systems in the next 25 years. In the short- and medium-term, assistance systems will shape future workplaces; however, “workplaces and skill sets willchange,” Mr. Smit emphasised. “Nobody can predict when disruption happens.”

Many are in search of hard data and facts, so they can run figures and arrive at conclusions like accountants. CREAX’s presentation on using AI data research demonstrated to Afera Members that what counts is what is being spoken about by scientists, consumers and corporates. What are your customers speaking about? Global auto-topicing “adhesive tape” can lead to interesting soft data gained from papers, blog comments and patent families—things you may know, but things you may not know about discussions and trends.

Nature inspiring the industry

Geckos, velvet and sandcastle worms, fly larvae and muscles are amazingly stirring research in marine environments and also in the field of medical tape applications. Professor Dr. Marleen Kamperman explains a bioinspired polymer-based adhesive system that is easily applied due to low viscosity, easily manipulated because of immiscibility with water, effective in the presence of water, strongly adherent to diverse surfaces, fine-tunable in its cohesive properties, and limited in swelling in situ.

In his presentation “Life, the universe and everything”, Ian Grace, Afera Technical Committee vice-chairman and business development manager at Loparex B.V., challenged the auditorium to take stock of the toll of our outlook and our daily habits on the environment. Deforestation and degradation and animal extinction rates are haunting. Current data on the presence of CO² in our atmosphere can be misleading, even higher than the 300-400 ppm Mr. Grace estimated. If we must change the way we’re living, is this also a wakeup call for our industry?

“The futuristic programme on Day 1 got me thinking,” commented Christian Gromes, head of sales and business development of the thermal management division at CMC Klebetechnik GmbH. “To be successful in the future, is your business willing to do a little more to make things happen, or do you want to stay comfortable in your current way of doing things?”

Regulatory trends

Among other current tech trends,  Evert Smit discussed regulatory legislation in Europe, North America and China, including the increasing importance of the E.U. Circular Economy Action Plan and individual company sustainability programmes and products. And, he warned, “Polymer REACH” is coming, so he encouraged all Afera Members to start talking with each other about this.

“Regulatory issues are a power around us,” he said. “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.

Remark: A more comprehensive version of this article can be found at the Afera website with more information on market data, Artificial intelligence, raw martials and much more.

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