Hang around the North American label industry long enough and at some point, you’re bound to run into Denny McGee. The venerable label industry veteran has earned his stripes at nearly every major press manufacturer and left an indelible mark on the industry’s educational efforts.
McGee has 45 years under his belt, making him one of the more well-versed technological experts in the North American label market today. In 2000, he was named salesman of the decade, and at the time told L&L: ‘The greatest challenge facing flexo printers as we look toward the future is the availability of trained people to grow their business with. I strongly believe that continuing education and training are the key to positing the label industry for continued growth in the new millennium.’ Though he gave that statement 18 years ago, McGee says it’s never been truer today.
‘Flexo got a whole lot better from a quality standpoint,’ he says. ‘Now the trend is these printing presses are becoming easier to operate. The big problem today is the lack of people to operate these presses. Everybody is looking for operators.’
This trend, McGee believes, is part of what’s fostering greater digital adoption and leading more label companies to look at automation to drive efficiencies in their plants.
As digital printing continues to penetrate the market – one that’s dominated by flexo printers – McGee believes that more commercial printers will enter the label printing market. This is already being seen as more big names in the commercial printing industry are exhibiting at Labelexpo, such as Konica Minolta, Canon, Epson and others.
‘Brother, Canon, Kodak, Xerox, Konica Minolta, they’re all coming into the label business,’ McGee says. ‘I think the label printer might buy some of their equipment, but who I think is going to buy it is the commercial guys because they already have that relationship established.’
Where we’ve been
McGee started his career in 1973 working in sales at DuPont, selling a replacement to rubber printing plates, DuPont’s Cyrel, a job that put him in front of many label printers. McGee so admired this group, he decided to become one of them. In 1981 he founded Olympic Label Systems in Neenah, Wisconsin.
The North American label industry back in the 1970s and 80s, McGee says, saw the boom of label start-ups, many spurred by a move from glue-applied to pressure-sensitive labels
‘It probably doubled or tripled in size in that time,’ he says. ‘There was a tremendous amount of paper labels out in the market, and pressure-sensitive label applicating equipment was becoming less expensive, becoming better, faster, so people were switching to pressure-sensitive.
‘A sales guy would take a press guy out of a business and they’d come together and start a new one, oftentimes right down the street from the old company. They had a used Webtron or a used Mark Andy and away they went.’
Soon enough, the decoration methods in North America shifted to pressure-sensitive as the quality of this format caught up to that of offset. Here McGee found his niche, selling flexo presses.
McGee later sold his interest in Olympic Label Systems and joined Nilpeter to launch the Danish company’s North American presence. He soon was approached by Gallus to sell its recently acquired relationship with Comco flexo presses. He held that role until 1992, when the breakup for Gallus and Comco gave him the opportunity to head Comco’s North American sales team. In 2001 Mark Andy bought Comco and McGee stayed with the company until 2004. In 2005 he started MPS America and served as its North American president until 2015 when MPS Systems BV established its own North American operations in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Today, McGee operates in a sales role with MPS and Rotocontrol, the latter an EMT International company manufacturing label finishing equipment.
For McGee, he’s living proof of what many describe the as the ‘sticky label business.’ ‘Once I got in, like so many others I just moved around within, I didn’t’ leave,’ he says.
The secret to his many years of success? ‘Mentors freely sharing their knowledge and experiences with myself and others in the industry. There are no strangers in the label business, only friends that you have yet to meet. I have been blessed to make a living in an industry that has been so very good to me, I can only hope that I have said thank you enough along the way.’