Husband and wife team Chris and Susan Ellison also double as the Managing Director and Chief Disruptor of OPM Group. Over more than three decades, they’ve seen the labelling industry undergo a remarkable transformation.
Tell us about the history and background of The OPM Group
We’re a privately owned, independent company established over 40 years ago. Initially, we began life as an engineering firm turning over £300k per annum manufacturing small desktop printing machines.
After I (Chris) bought the company in 1986, we changed course, producing plain and printed self-adhesive labels under the new name of OPM.
In 2013, we relocated to our current site in Leeds. Since then, we’ve never looked back. We invested over £6 million in the latest label and packaging technology, including automated MIS and pre-press systems and servo-driven printing presses. Our revenue stream nowadays is generated by 50 percent labels and 50 percent flexible packaging. Despite that growth and our modern day global footprint, we’re still a proud family business powered by continuous investment in people, process and innovation.
What was the biggest single breakthrough on your journey?
Our relocation was the key turning point in our journey. It meant we could create a base that is a highly automated, manufacturing site of excellence. It’s a home and headquarters from which we can grow, innovate new products and welcome new people to join our team, as we continue to expand.
What has been the biggest challenge moving forward?
Retailers, brands and print converters are facing intense competitive pressures and having to adapt to new consumer behaviours – including the way people evaluate, bond with and purchase products. The basics of speed to market and cost are the same – the cloud just made it faster, and raised demand for more innovative products that capture the audience by expressing personal ideals and identity. The challenge is charting the most effective path from today’s technologies and best practices to tomorrow’s. Staying ahead of trends to ensure we create labels and packaging with multifunctional capabilities, consumer and supply chain interactivity as it evolves keeps OPM inquisitive and solution ready.
What’s on the horizon for the business?
We’re eyeing international expansion with an additional site and further investment. We are also working in collaboration with our suppliers to present more sustainable ways to protect and brand products.
What does The OPM Group aspire to be, 20 years from now?
The one thing that will undoubtedly shape OPM’s work trends -and future – is smart technology. More and more things in our daily lives are now driven by automation, improving technologies and the internet of things. Print will also have to innovate and adapt to stay at the forefront. We’re seeing it already: labels and packaging will become ever-smarter in how they communicate with the consumer. We have more insight than ever before into how our business can not only interact successfully with its customers and suppliers – but also help to find the right people for our teams.
Do you think your younger self might have struggled to comprehend the innovation and general change that’s transformed the industry over a relatively short space of time?
Definitely – because so much has changed: technology, machinery, packaging types, materials. Even the way we do business has changed: many years ago, we used to write letters. Now we send e-mails and everything’s done online. The industry in general moves at a much faster pace. We can work on a product this week and manufacture it the next. It’s in the shops the week after and advertised, across countless platforms, simultaneously. The product gets consumed, the consumer needs another. It’s a self-propelling industry that provides an opportunity for almost everyone to express themselves along the way. How fantastic is that?
It’s no secret that the labelling industry needs to attract more younger people. What would you say to someone from today’s younger generation, who is considering climbing aboard?
I’d assure them, they’ve come to the right place. It’s a fabulous industry which provides young people with the perfect platform to express themselves, via print. Look at the movements within the packaging industry at present. It’s a sector consumed by challenges. But from those challenges flow limitless opportunities to develop. Young people are influenced by technology, in everything they do. They want to innovate, they want to be part of something meaningful. They love to be challenged and they want to make a difference. Not only does print tells the story of a brand, it touches everyone every day. Print is everywhere. We need to make the industry as visible as its products.