SPA 88th Conference June 2015 - Report

16th July 2015

The SPA’s Chairman Tim Gray opened the 88th Conference. This was hosted in beautiful Stratford Upon Avon (see picture below) and was attended by 77 delegates from 44 organisations.

Tim Gray started proceedings by congratulating SPA members on raising £14,000 at the recent UK Corrugated Industry Trade Show and invited the SPA’s Vice Chairman Ken Shackleton (who managed the charity initiative) to present the cheques to the two nominated charities. John Ellison of Climbers Against Cancer (pictured below with Tim) thanked the SPA for its support and gave an inspirational update on his own situation; he cheerily raises many tens of thousands of pounds each year with an impressive blend of enthusiasm and tenacity despite being terminally ill with cancer himself.


The Macro-Economic Outlook Update from KPMG was delivered by Raj Bhardwaj (KPMG’s Tom Hooper remained away on secondment), who summarised their view that:
• After nine consecutive quarters of GDP growth, the UK is in the midst of a well-established recovery driven by strong consumer demand.
• Wages are now rising faster than prices, thanks largely to low inflation.
• Exports are being supported by a relatively weak pound (although it is now appreciating).
• However, the UK has seen disappointing improvements in productivity.
• We have medium term risks from continued austerity and the forthcoming EU referendum.

Raj Bhardwaj gave a Market Update for the Corrugated Industry:
• Recycled and Kraft containerboard prices look likely to rise by late summer / early autumn.
• The corrugated market continues to consolidate through acquisition. Also, some of the largest sheet plants are growing by 10-30%, where the common theme is best practice in sales and marketing.
• There is more sheet feeding capacity to come, which will help to improve quality and service still further and will offer the potential of a modest reduction in unit conversion cost.
• The UK economy is in the sweet spot of its recovery and this is likely to be as good as it gets. If you’re not doing well…it’s time to do something radical.

The SPA’s AGM approved the accounts (which showed another modest surplus) as well as the auditors; the SPA continues to deliver significant benefits for members on a relatively modest income stream of circa £50,000 pa. The forthcoming business plan was also approved as well as the budget for the coming year.

We continue to raise the profile of the SPA and attract new members. There have been Masterclasses in Sales Management and Digital Marketing. We also continue to develop the website and of course are vocal in standing up for our members and the wider corrugated industry.

Thanks to a hitherto unprecedented ‘dead heat’ in the vote among the converter members, the SPA’s Supplier of the Year Award was shared by Abaca Systems and KM Software Systems. Congratulations to the worthy winners (the first picture is a presentation by Tim to KM Software’s customer Rachel Latham of B M Packaging. The next picture is a presentation to Abaca’s Sales Director Graham Dickinson).




David Parr (Technical Sales Manager OEM) gave a Supplier Spotlight on Pamarco Global, which was founded in 1946 and is a privately owned $50 million global business with 250 employees. It has 13 manufacturing sites in the USA and UK, with a focus on printing, packaging and converting industries. They supply:
• Anilox, glue and meter rolls to the corrugated industry.
• Rubber rolls (for flexo and offset printing) and ink management systems.
• Rolls for gravure printing, embossing technologies and industrial roller solutions.

Specifically for the flexo printing industry, Paramco Global supplies: flexo printing rolls; doctor blade systems; wash-up systems; sleeves and mandrels; roll cleaning systems; flexo press accessories; flexo pressroom chemicals and flexo technical courses.

Pamarco Global’s European region is led by their General Manager, Nick Walker. His management team has over 150 years of flexo and anilox experience between them. Their pedigree is evidenced by the stable of OEMs they partner with, including: Bobst; MarquipWardUnited; Göpfert; Curioni; Mitsubishi, EMBA and LMC.

The wise owl that is Neil Osment of NOA Ltd gave a presentation on the importance of knowing the facts when you have key investment or marketing strategy decisions to make. To help support key decision-making in the sheet plant sector, NOA now offer market research.

Neil gave an example from his days as a Sales Director at what was then Linpac, where he was initially advised to go and find some new business for a Martin 924 case maker they were about to buy. However, his intuition gave him pause for thought and he promted some in-depth market research that led to the acquisition of a 5-colour Göpfert rotary die-cutter instead. They filled the machine with significantly better margin work than a case maker would have yielded in only 18 months. Other case studies included research projects that covered: geographical analysis; market sector analysis; container type analysis and print type analysis.

Neil also touched on likely future changes in the retail sector that are likely to have a material impact on the wisdom (or otherwise) of investing in further SRP capability. He also gave an intriguing breakdown of the box plant sector where site turnover exceeds £5m. He then left us with a question: “…can you afford not to have the facts before making important decisions?”

The wholly engaging speaker and e-marketing expert Grant Leboff followed up his morning Digital Marketing Masterclass with a summary presentation to the conference that answered the following questions:
• How can a business justify time and effort spent on digital marketing when it cannot see the return on investment?
• Without the correct metrics to measure and manage the effectiveness of digital marketing how can any spend be justified?


Grant opened with: “It’s not enough to be really good at what you do. What differentiates you is how you do it and who you do it for.”

If you’re not persuaded that e-marketing is the future, Grant noted that no less a marketing luminary than Coca Cola has diverted 75% of its marketing budget to digital channels. Grant’s advice is:
• Understand your value proposition to your customers (why should they trade with you and not others?)
• Start to data capture in earnest so you build a database about your market.
• Ensure that your marketing has a value in its own right and should be about people (i.e. centred on the customer).

The inestimable Andy Barnetson of the CPI gave a summary of corrugated promotional activity:
• Two press releases a month.
• A focus on market development and innovation.
• A social media presence that includes a conventional approach on Twitter (@CorrugatedCPI where the CPIS has 837 followers) and a ‘quirky’ content on Facebook for a younger audience (
• Packaging News features. N.B. Sheet plants are encouraged to put forward good corrugated stories for inclusion in future features; Andy will be delighted to receive them via
• The Paperworks, Design and Technology website ( Everyone is encouraged to talk to the Design and Technology teacher at their local school about the Paperworks initiative for 11-14 year olds. With 10,000 people working in our industry…we have a large pool of potential ambassadors. Please contact Andy for a copy of the Ambassador’s Guide.
• A new group – the Paper Packaging Forum – has been formed. The aim is to bring together all UK-based packaging associations, understand each other and what do we do. As well as a wide range of legislative and promotional projects to then get under way, we may, at any time, need to make a response to Government so it’s more powerful if we do so in a united way.

Adam Kene of Alma Consulting gave an update on the impressive progress made with R&D Tax Credits on behalf of SPA members. To date Adam has signed up 32 SPA customers, for whom Alma Consulting has already saved £2.1 million in the form of tax benefits; with a forecast of £2.35m for next year. Hence the tax saving will be an average of £95,000 for each client.

Potentially eligible activities where there is typically a 25-32% saving to be had for SPA members:
• Specialist packaging design.
• Ink manufacturing.
• Software Development.
• Mechanical Engineering.
• Innovative Packaging Design.
• Corrugator upgrade.
• Significant Machine Upgrade.
• Precision Engineering.
• Technical Consultancy.

Those desirous of saving money should contact Adam via

The reassuring height of competence that is Anita Coaster of Coaster Legal gave an update on best practice in the areas of fitness for work, bereavement leave and right to work checks. Usefully, Anita reminded conference of the existing management tools for sickness absence which can help to dramatically improve the situation:
• Deploying a sickness absence policy.
• Having different procedures for malingerers and those with genuine illness.
• Bench marking absence in the industry with your own business.
• Having a contract of employment in place.
• Return-to-work interviews are highly effective and strongly recommended. Knowing that you have a 100% chance of facing one-to-one questioning on why you were absent is a proven deterrent for ‘duvet days’.
• Using the disciplinary procedure where necessary.

She also highlighted the new Fit for Work service which has been launched:
• This is a Government sponsored fit for work assessment service; an online and telephone referral for employers and employees.
• There is free referral for an OH assessment which is managed by an Occupational Health Service Provider and has a phased roll out that started in Sheffield.
• There is a £500 tax exemption on recommended medical treatment to enable a return to work.
• Please note, this complements the employer’s independent OH service and does not replace it.
• You can access more details via

Stuart Lotherington of SBR Consulting gave a thought-provoking presentation on developing your sales staff. The focus was on initiatives / tools for liberating the sales potential within your team.

For example The Habits Triangle looks at:
• Skills and process (including the sales process).
• Motivation (rewarding the right behaviours).
• Systems within your organisation (including the importance of time management).

The Eisenhower Box helps to prioritise tasks based on their urgency and importance:


The key principle of pipeline management looks at the buying cycle (see below) as well as the funnel concept (which should understand the client and track the relationship).

Buying Cycle
It’s important to spend time to give your sales team feedback (positive and negative) and direction. You also need to appreciate the key behaviours and competencies that make an excellent sales person (e.g. phone skills, administration, achieving their activity metrics)? Score each of these from 1-4 to build a subsequent ‘radar’ view of their development needs.

Conference voted to invite Stuart to deliver a Sales Management Masterclass at the next conference on the 12th of October.

Andy Ely of TUV Ltd gave an engaging yet sobering Health and Safety Update, which included:
• An update on legislation changes, including Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015. Also, Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 - CHIP – has been replaced by the European CLP Regulation and revoked from 01 June 2015.
• An overview of some recent accidents. There was a particular focus on the importance of effective guarding.

The day was rounded off by a river boat cruise followed by an evening’s networking (see picture below).

Copies of all the presentations are available to download for members from the SPA website.

Boat Trip

Conference was closed by Chairman, Tim Gray reminding delegates that the SPA 89th Conference will be held at the Forest of Arden Marriott Hotel and Country Club on 12th October 2015. The event will be preceded by a new Sales Managers’ Masterclass delivered by Stuart Lotherington of SBR Consulting. There will also be an opportunity for SPA members to enter the SPA Open Golf Competition on the following day…