Keynote speech on the shape of tape in 2030
At our recent Valencia Conference, Afera President Evert Smit delivered the keynote speech, focussing in on important messages and advice about the future of the tape business. Mr. Smit, who is also director scouting at Lohmann GmbH & Co. KG, said that because the pre-Covid, pre-Russian-War, pre-Supply-Chain-Crisis and Pre-Energy-Crisis future to which we were looking no longer exists, the strategy most companies had in place a few years ago is no longer valid. Without being able to predict what the future holds, we must look at “the shape of tape” tomorrow, and Afera offers a variety of support in this.

For his New Year’s message to Afera Members, Mr. Smit wanted to take his key points and learnings from the last year, as well as the Annual Conference, and build on those:

The limits to growth
According to Porter’s 5-Forces Model (1979), industry moves to the forces of suppliers, buyers, who both have power; new entrants and substitutes, who are threats; and industry rivalry—competition. This no longer applies to our current situation. The Club of Rome already predicted fifty years ago what is happening now related to climate change. I think we need to extend Porter’s model to include the forces of supply chain, workforce and societal and political pressure bringing about regulation. These new issues in themselves are on such a scale that individual companies simply cannot tackle them alone. They need the support of an industry collective such as ours. Within the framework of E.U. Competition Law, we have to work on these things together.

Patents force openness
Is there a need for a review of the intellectual property system? Are the faults in the system a sign that it is rotten? On this point, presenter Cornelia Peuser (“What is wrong with the patent system these days?”) and I agree to disagree, but this is where progress comes from: fierce debate. I believe you need to show your innovations to the world to inspire others to create, collaborate, modify and improve products and solutions, and the original German term for patent, Offenlegungsschrift, referred to this. Interestingly, patents seem to block innovation as much as they protect innovation nowadays. If we are going to work more closely together, we are going to have to visit this issue.

Less is more: growth and de-growth
Are we all trying to grow our market shares? What does “growth” really mean? We may have to re-define it. What growth can we still have in the future? It is most likely not just monetary.

Co-creation and co-operation
Only with co-operation can we innovate and build complex products. We saw this on a global scale with our innovative reactions to Covid-19 and the Russian-Ukrainian war: vaccinations, digital banking systems, etc. Change is good. We have witnessed that if the pressure is great enough, anything can be achieved and with surprising speed.

Sustainability is an industry effort and even a cross-industry effort, such as in the case of our collaboration with CELAB Europe for recycling of release liner and matrix material/tape waste.

Afera’s Flagship Sustainability Project (AFSP), dedicated to translating the European Green Deal (EGD) to Afera Members, is truly ground-breaking on a global level, making us part of the solution when it comes to climate change and meeting the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals. I am excited that in the coming year we’ll be making and announcing great strides in the AFSP in launching an Afera web-based tool to calculate the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) for tapes, as well as drafting guidances and position papers on developing E.U. legislation. And I plan to take all of this international, as I will speak about Europe’s progress at PSTC’s Tape Week in Orlando at the beginning of May.

The power of intelligence, thinking about the future
The future is not an extension of the past—far from it. How can I distil, from the knowledge I have now, what I need to do for the future? The tools you need to utilise have advanced a lot. By using foresighting, for example, you can think about and plan how to make a profit from what you do in this very collaborative and competitive world. You can distil from the huge amount of noise the millions of signals out there, figure out which ones are relevant, how to make sense of them and how to respond, both as a company and an industry. We will be reviewing Conference presenter Panu Kause’s software tool, which provides required deep futures insight and discussion of key issues, in an upcoming edition of Afera News.

We are part of the solution
Afera’s goal is to communicate this to industry, businesses, consumers and regulatory authorities in making the adhesive tape business futureproof, and this should be goal of every Member Company! Tapes have an environmental burden, but in all honesty, their benefits are far greater.

We recently received an early Christmas present from the E.C. After Afera’s October statement expressing concern over the E.C. plans to propose a negative list of packaging characteristics within the revised Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the negative list was omitted from the latest draft on 5 December. We intend to realise many more victories like this by communicating our relevance as an industry (actually with a market cap of billions of euros) to all possible influencers, because working with tape moves the world forward.

In Valencia, IFAM’s Prof. Andreas Groβ explained to us how we can leverage “monitored longevity” to expand application areas for adhesive bonding in the 21st century. We intend to work on this in 2023.

My goal for you in 2023
Fill your minds with pressing thoughts. Feelings of confusion, worry or both, because this is the world we live in. But as an Afera Member, I hope you are also full of inspiration. We are all in this together. Get some joy out of what you do and the solutions that you bring to market and society, and if you do, you will give your best.

Have an enjoyable and prosperous year!

Evert Smit
Afera President