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Australian material scientist recognised with Global Lifetime Achievement Award

Group technical manager with Labelmakers Group, Graeme Lang, was recognised with the award after four decades of helping to shape the labelling industry.

Nerida Kelton, executive director of Australian Institute of Packaging and vice president Sustainability & Save Food – WPO

For the last thirty years Graeme Lang has held the position of group technical manager with Labelmakers Group and has been a significant contributor to the technical side of the labelling industry for four decades in the Australasian region.

Lang is a member of the WPO Member the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP).

Holding Patents for the formation of a 3D label from a flat web and a second patent for a removable label for returnable plastic crates used in the logistics industry (Crate Wash-Off Label), Graeme has certainly left his mark on the industry.

Over two decades ago Graeme established the pressure-sensitive label (PSL) coatings division for Labelmakers, creating one of the first vertically integrated printing companies in the world.

Achieving backward integration into materials coating meant that Labelmakers could develop adhesive technology specifically for Australia’s application requirements, and delivered a competitive advantage in terms of cost, speed-to-market, end-to-end traceability of materials and local new product development capability.

Labelmakers has since grown to become the largest label printer in Australasia utilising its own adhesive technology to support a range of market categories. Labelmakers is the only company in Australasia to be locally manufacturing pressure-sensitive materials.

Graeme is also busy commercialising a range of sustainable label solutions that have been informed by Australia’s recycling pathway. This range will include recycled and recyclable facestocks, de-bondable adhesive systems and dispersible ink systems – that are adapted to specific primary container types and local recycling infrastructure.

For the last two decades, Graeme has advocated for sustainability to be incorporated as an aspect of new product design.  He has fostered co-operation between stakeholders – raw material suppliers, brand owners and recyclers – to understand, educate and address the important role labels play in maximising the recovery of the primary containers to which they are attached.

Still wondering how this recognition is even possible for a material scientist Graeme Lang wanted to share what winning the WPO Lifetime Achievement Award means to him.

“First and foremost, I think it is just the greatest honour that somebody in my field of activity could hope to receive…to even be considered alongside the doyens of the packaging industry who have received this award in the past is a huge, huge personal thrill. It still feels like we are talking about someone else,” said Lang.

“I think the most important element in any job, or any career, is to have the sense that what you do makes a difference. In a big way receiving the WPO Lifetime Achievement Award gives validation to the effort that I have put in over the last 40+ years.

“My advice for future packaging professionals is to be curious. To borrow from the Kaizen philosophy, ask the five why’s in any new pursuit, problem solving or product development opportunity.

“Don’t limit focus to just what you need to know to complete your immediate task. Try to build a knowledge and an understanding of your supplier’s technology and your supplier’s suppliers technology for that matter. Do the same with customer and the end user.

“I would say look outside your direct industry for new solutions and new innovations. We are in quite a mature industry today – the probability is that if there was solution it would already have been created or implemented. For me the most significant product developments I have been associated with involved drawing from allied industries or other branches of the packaging industry I had been exposed to.”

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