Flexible Packaging Round Table Podcast

Podcast: Episode 4 – Joe Kubasiak from Wikoff Color Corporation

What is inks role in the flexible packaging industry? Tune in to hear what Joe Kubasiak, Director of Flexible Packaging at Wikoff Color Corporation has to say.


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00:00:00 Sara Januszewski
Alright, well I’m just going to hop right on into it. I want to welcome everyone to the 4th episode of the Flexible Packaging Round Table. If anyone is new here, this is a series that we created to educate consumers on all the great things that flexible packaging has to offer. Today we are speaking with Joe Kubasiak, he is the Director of Flexible Packaging at Wikoff Color Corporation, and we’re going to be talking about inks role in the flexible packaging industry today and I am your host, Sara Januszewski.

00:00:58 Sara Januszewski
So, are you ready to hop right on in Joe?

00:01:00 Joe Kubasiak
Let’s go get it.

00:01:01 Sara Januszewski
All right, so to start, can you tell us about Wikoff Color Corporation and what it is that you do?

00:01:11 Joe Kubasiak
So, Wikoff Color is an employee-owned manufacturer of inks and coatings for the printing industry. In particular, I cover the packaging side. We were founded in 1956 by a very interesting gentleman, Fred Wikoff, who really founded the company on the principle of working with our customers to offer solutions, as opposed to just trying to ramrod things through. So, we really have grown as a solution provider in the industry, and you know our mission is very simple, we aim to provide exceptional service and inks for technically demanding print and packaging applications. And you know, giving the best service we possibly can. I’ve personally been with a company for about 29 years now and looking forward to a few more.

00:02:05 Sara Januszewski
Awesome, that’s great to hear. Can you explain how inks within the flexible packaging industry changed or evolved? And with those changes, are there any challenges that you are facing?

00:02:22 Joe Kubasiak
So, when it comes to flexible packaging and how things have changed, obviously being in the industry for just a couple years like I’ve been, you know, things have changed a lot over the last, even just last few years. You look at press speeds, you look at the thinner ink films, the demanding graphics, the new adhesives and lamination, you’re looking at new coatings. There’s just a lot of things that have changed and evolved. A lot of it’s very customer but a lot of it’s how much more efficient can we get? How much better can we make the packaging look and as we go forward, I think you’re going to see more and more of the short runs that we see because, you know, we like to see our private packaging coming through specialized for small companies And as far as challenges that we’re facing in our industry, I believe is going to be very similar to a lot of other companies, not just in packaging, but there’s a lot of issues after COVID with us our global supply and transportation, things that we’re all facing. I will say that our purchasing a procurement group has done a really good job of taking care of that and with some very rare exceptions we’ve gotten things done where they need to be done, so I have to take my hat off to our group. They’ve done a nice job to make sure that we’re keeping everybody supplied.

00:03:59 Sara Januszewski
And building off that, can you explain inks role in sustainable flexible packaging?

00:04:10 Joe Kubasiak
So, you know when it comes to flexible packaging, a lot of it’s going to have to do with the films themselves, but it’s our job to make sure that we have aches that are going to be sustainable. When we’re working with these films to make sure that they can adhere, they can run on the speeds that they need, and develop inks that have sustainable materials. A lot of our resins are going to have sustainable components to them as well as a lot of our solvents. You know, ethanol can come from corn and different natural, sustainable products like that. One of our bigger contributions comes from our investments that we make in how we actually manufacture our inks. So, we’ve invested a good amount of money into making sure that we can grind our pigments and resins using newer Miller milling technology, and what this does is we’re doing it in a fraction of the time. We’re getting actually a better, more quality product but we’re reducing the amount of energy we’re using, which really helps with the environment and our carbon footprint. But even taking things further, we’ve developed and worked with a new electron beam, Flexo Ink that can actually produce a 100% recyclable package when printed on PE. The other thing that this can do is also possibly eliminate lamination and reduce the amount of film in a structure so, it’s a lot of good things that inks can do and we continue to work in that direction.

00:05:47 Sara Januszewski
That’s awesome, and then building off that. Can you just talk about some of the newer technology and things you have like haptic coding or gel flex?

00:06:01 Joe Kubasiak
So, some of the newer things that we’ve been working on, the haptics coatings, so you’re looking at products that can give you a matte look, so you make it nice and dull or extra shiny to give you the nice, soft touch. If you go through and see how the dog food bags that have that nice touch, you know, things like that, and then even something to make the plastic feel like a canvas or like Kraft paper, so you can make that granola and a plastic pouch feel like it’s in a natural pouch, so it’s a lot of things that you can do there. The Gel Flex is pretty cool because it is an electron beam cured ink system, and what this means is that we’re turning off all the heat on the dryer, so we’re reducing all that gas that you normally would use to cure or dry the materials and you’re able to save a significant amount of energy as you’re running through there. This also couples with being able to print on PE and get a recyclable product and then also even taking it a step further, reducing that lamination and being able to do everything in line. So not only are you reducing the lamination, but you’re also reducing the amount of machine passes that you have to make, so there’s an energy savings there as well. And then also, if you’re looking at sustainability and you’re reducing solvents from a printing side, you can go down the lane without different photopolymer products. Asahi has a new water wash photopolymer product with no solvent whatsoever, there’s just a filter and then the water goes down the drain from there it’s all very sustainable.

00:07:57 Sara Januszewski
Awesome, I have a question that came up when you were talking about the matte, I’m very new to this industry and don’t know too much about ink, but I’m curious, does ink and the colors, matte versus glossy, all that, does the ink have to change or any factors go into the different materials of the packaging?

00:08:26 Joe Kubasiak
So, what would actually change is if you’re going to do the surface print products where you would use a coating those links will be particular to the surface print and may have a high heat resistance if it’s going through the pouching. Second system where you’re doing your seals versus if you’re doing a lamination product where the product actually has to have the good bond strength. So, whether it be a solventless lamination or be a solvent-based lamination or even an extrusion lamination. So, you’d have to use different inks for different types of structures.

00:09:06 Sara Januszewski
Got it, ok right on. Can you tell us more about Wikoff’s new construction project that you have going on?

00:09:16 Joe Kubasiak
Ok, so this is one of my favorite subjects right now, for obvious reasons. We’re building a new manufacturing facility just outside of the Milwaukee area to do solvent and the water-based inks. But this operation is not going to be just manufacturing, we’re going to have R&D for new developments. We’re going to have a brand new graphic center in there. All the latest equipment from Asahi and ESCO for imaging, which is really great. Then we’re also going to have a training center where we can do training for customers, so we can do internal training to train our own folks, but also to bring folks from Glenroy over to teach them about the difference between what we’re doing for lamination and surface print inks, and things like that. So, in color and all the other fun stuff. What’s even better about this is, we’re going to have room to grow from here. We’ve laid down a very strategic plan that’s going to make this work very well. So very exciting stuff.

00:10:31 Sara Januszewski
That’s fantastic and I wanted to point out down below we got someone that says, “Joe K best in the business.” But besides that, last question here, is there anything else that you would like to add?

00:10:49 Joe Kubasiak
You know, we appreciate the opportunity to speak with you guys today and hop on this. If anybody wants to know anything more about Wikoff or the inks or anything that we can do to help or work with anybody. Please contact me through LinkedIn or on Instagram here. I’d be more than happy to talk about my favorite subject of inks and packaging.

00:11:13 Sara Januszewski
Fantastic, well and to put it back on you, thank you Joe so much for joining us today. You know it was really great to hear about all the great things that Wikoff Color Corporation is doing for the flexible packaging industry. And I just want to put a plug out there for next month in July, we will have Matt Reynolds, the Editor of Packaging World at PMMI Media Group joining us. So, we got some good things coming up here and again, Joe, thank you so much for joining us.

00:11:50 Joe Kubasiak
Thank you very much.

00:11:51 Sara Januszewski
All right, take care, bye everyone.


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