Providing Solutions in Challenging Times - The MacDermid Way

As we navigate these times during the COVID-19 pandemic, MacDermid Graphics Solutions is proud of our global team for following local health safety guidelines while continuing to support our company and customers. Ivan Rozo, Business Development Manager, MGS Latin America, wrote this blog to reflect on the changes and challenges that we are all experiencing in the packaging supply chain. With this article, Ivan wants to thank our LATAM team; he and the rest of MacDermid stand behind them as they work to stay on top of the current situation.  

Image 1. Planning and Solutions

To start, we must travel back in time to the fall of 2019...businesses were budgeting and organizing sales plans for 2020. Having a string of continuous growth, it seemed logical to project a new year with bigger goals and more significant challenges. For MacDermid, the differentiation in our value equation always seeks to provide operational advantages that allow us to solve business problems for our customers and our customer's customers. Therefore, an analysis of the market and our capabilities comes into play when evaluating the upcoming year's plan. This proves to be extremely interesting since the sale of photopolymer plates can become a commodity if no strategy supports a quality product. The proliferation of knowledge through the internet allows for quick, easy, ever-expanding access to information on procedures, problem-solving techniques, and training that are promoted by prestigious suppliers in the packaging sector. In the end, we have a sophisticated and educated customer base, technological advantage among manufacturers, and needs that change at a faster rate.

MacDermid Graphics Solutions is known as being a flexographic industry leader and is recognized for innovative technologies, like the LUX® lamination process in 2010 – Happy 10-years LUX! – along with the first inherently flat-top dot photopolymer printing plate, LUX ITP™ 60, in 2014.
Image 2. MacDermid's History of Innovation

MacDermid continued to innovate in the last five years, based on the knowledge acquired from each previous development. We have proven that keeping our customers' needs and pain points at the forefront are essential to success, even more so since we are part of the supply chain for many critical consumer goods. Greater customization, product variation, eye-catching graphics, shorter time to market, environmentally friendly initiatives, and cost reduction are all targets for our innovations throughout the years. Achieving these requests is no longer a choice, but the standard by which many printer/converters are leading the way. We recognize consumers' purchase decisions can vary, and benefits are not always equal among consumers. Therefore, we develop solutions that help our customers make money, save money, AND add value to their organization. We haven't mentioned photopolymer plates in this entire paragraph, WHY? MacDermid manufactures plates, but our success is more than plates. We can't survive without supplying, servicing, AND educating our customers so they can thrive. I like to think of MacDermid Graphics Solutions as a company that partners with our customers to find comprehensive, end-to-end solutions to all problems and applications, oh, and we happen to manufacture the best photopolymer plates and provide the ultimate platemaking equipment in the industry. 

Going back to 2019, with the market analysis complete, we developed our sales plan for 2020; however, no one knew the significant factor that would change the way we do business: COVID-19. At the time, it's doubtful anyone imagined how drastically our lives would change in 6-months – a global pandemic that limits human contact due to its high level of transmission and with a mortality rate that has reached 5% of those infected in some Latin American countries. The measures put into place by governments and businesses were swift, and several companies saw confinement and closure of their activities to reduce crowds. Airports and border closings were among other decisive measures to control a virus that does not give up and is capable of remaining on different surfaces for hours or days (Image 3) Hashtags #StayAtHome and #FlattenTheCurve trended on social media around the globe, and people began to realize their actions could affect thousands, if not more.
Image 3. Source: Business Insider

COVID-19 & MacDermid Graphics Solutions
How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact MacDermid specifically? Well, essential goods related to food and medicine have been protected by governments from the beginning. The vendors for these industries, like the suppliers in the package printing supply chain (that's where MacDermid comes in!), are crucial to ensure the production of packaging to protect and transport valuable goods. Tradeshops, printers, and converters for all segments - labels, flexible packaging, corrugated, etc. - are facing this crisis head-on. These companies are meeting increased demands, all while ensuring employee health and safety, implementing selective shift reduction, and enabling teleworking for administrative personnel, among other precautions. 

When this current challenge started, we knew we had to adapt to continue supporting our customers. Consistent, sometimes daily, communication with our customers, plus collaboration across various regions, has proven to be the winning formula allowing us to move forward in tough times.

The MacDermid LATAM Team Adapts
So, what have we done in Latin America? The quantity and quality of the time dedicated to our customers and distributors are essential; but, understanding our new reality and being sensitive to the situation was our first priority. Subsequently, understanding how our business is being affected by an increase or decrease in packaging production and the dynamics of our current projects required a new list of priorities. Customer relationship management tools such as SalesForce ensure we can maintain the service and support we are known for. Plus, video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business, have replaced in-person meetings overnight. We have also taken steps to educate our technical team further with the FTA FIRST Level 3 Specialist Certification Program, which broadens and validates their knowledge in process control, standardization, implementation of best practices, and more. We are sharing our knowledge with our distributors and customers with frequent online training that seeks to reinforce basic concepts, implement new methodologies, and, most importantly, create a strong line of communication. "From my point of view, the positive side of this is the commercial and technical teams using this unprecedented time for speeding up self-development through internal and external training, including achieving specialist certifications," stated Karina Kunha, Sales Manager for MacDermid Graphics Solutions, Brazil.

"Specifically, in Brazil, our team is working harder than ever. Customers have implemented protocols that have brought obstacles along with them, including meals at alternate times with a maximum of 5 people together and with a distance of 2 meters; compulsory use of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizing gel; face-to-face meetings are prohibited; production personnel works per usual, but there can only be a maximum of two people per machine. As a result of the inability to make commercial and technical visits to our customers, technological creativity has been used to mitigate the physical distance. Constant telephone calls have become the norm – our goal is to find out how our customer is doing and what their expectations are in this challenging period so that when this phase ends, strategic projects can be resumed. This time is also being used for internal development, for example, using video conferencing to successfully mitigate technical issues, such as problems inherent to plate processing," comments Marcos Araujo and Rosana Fassicolo, Sales Representatives for MacDermid Graphics Solutions, Brazil.

Moving north to Mexico, "From the beginning, we placed particular importance on the care of our employees, suppliers, and customers, even though the local authorities were not imposing the substantial restrictions seen in other countries around us. Society, as a whole, has adopted the most active precautionary measures. Employees at risk were the first to begin working from home; sales and technical teams followed shortly after. One of our main priorities has been to strengthen communication with customers so that we can anticipate possible implications by local authorities, as well as market actions. We have all seen examples, both in our countries and in many others, of the panic purchases initially made. These types of activities tested the reaction capacity of the entire production chain, especially the producers of necessities. MGS participates in this chain, and we can proudly say that we are 100% operational. Beyond being able to fulfill orders on time, we have taken proactive steps to maintain the production chain at an increased demand level," stated Alejandro Viveros, Sales Manager for MacDermid Graphics Solutions, Mexico. He added, "The new work dynamic has been a challenge for everyone, having to modify our daily routine. In these uncertain times, it is important to stay focused and try to find a balance between productive work life at home, and leisure or recreational activities, which are limited in many cases. Quarantine also imposes a new family dynamic that, for many, has been stressful and not always easy; however, the challenge is to adapt and learn a new way of living together that results in stronger ties and a new wave of collaboration."

Final Thoughts
In conclusion, not only throughout Latin America but around the world, MacDermid's goal has been to adapt and evolve so we can serve our customers and industry the same, if not better than before COVID-19. No one knows how long this situation will last, or if our world will return to the way it was previously. Our reality is that the packaging business is essential and will continue to provide solutions, even in times of crisis. As I sometimes say: "We are not in the world of flexible packaging for nothing, so we have to live up to its name. We have to be flexible." I hope that everyone reading this blog is safe, healthy, and well, and making the best of this tough situation. MacDermid is open for business, and the entire Latin American team is ready to serve you.

Written By: Ivan Rozo, Business Development Manager, MGS Latin America

Ivan Rozo is the Business Development Manager for Latin America. Ivan is a Chemical Engineer with a Master Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing. He has more than ten years of experience in the Flexographic industry, working in roles of sales and technical support in which he has led optimization projects. Ivan's is responsible for attracting new business and consolidating strategic accounts at MacDermid in Latin America.


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