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Andrew Matthews Wins NPIRI Technical Achievement Award

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Feb. 2007 — Andrew Matthews, Co-winner of the 2006 NPIRI Technical Achievement Award, didn’t originally plan to enter the ink business. He was attending school in England where he grew up when, in 1973, his father made him aware of a potential job opportunity. Matthews’ father worked for Purnell & Sons, which owned a subsidiary called Western Ink. Matthews’ father heard of a position in the ink laboratory of Western, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“As I had always been interested in the sciences, I decided to go for an interview,” he remembers. “What a shock it was to see how different an ink lab was to the chemistry labs that I was used to at school! Despite this, I accepted the job.”

Building a Career
Western Ink was, as Matthews points out, the perfect place to learn the ink industry. With only 40 employees total, there were eight people who worked in the laboratory. Western Ink made sheetfed, heatset, water-based, and solvent-based flexographic inks, as well as publication and packaging gravure inks, and everyone in the lab was expected to know how to troubleshoot and work with every product type, giving Matthews a well-rounded ink education.

“One of the pivotal moments in my career happened when I was 20,” Matthews said. “I had been in the industry for four years, and was called by the Purnell & Sons’ sheetfed printing department to help with a printing problem. A short walk later, I was nearing the sheetfed press in question and I noticed the pressroom manager walk away as he saw me approach. I helped solve the problem, and returned to the ink lab.

It was only later that I found out that the pressroom manager had called Gerry Burdall, the Managing Director of Western Ink, and told him that he shouldn’t be ‘sending a boy to do a man’s job.’ Gerry supported me, and told the pressroom manager that if he didn’t want me to help solve his problems then he wouldn’t be getting anyone. What a great message of trust and support to give a young ink technologist!”

He was still with Western Ink in 1983 when Fishburn Ink, a Division of Inmont, purchased Western and closed it. He was offered a job with the new company, but, three years earlier, he had created a relationship with Flint Ink Corporation, which was then located in Redborn, Michigan, when the two companies had created an exchange of technical information. Matthews had been asked to lead the exchange of technical information between Flint and Western Ink and, as part of this, he visited Flint Ink’s Technical Center in 1980. This relationship led to a second job offer with Flint Ink Corporation at its facilities in Michigan. Matthews decided to accept this second offer.

After spending several months obtaining a work visa, Matthews arrived in the United States in June of 1984. He began his tenure with Flint Ink as a chemist in the heatset laboratory, involved in both formulation and technical service. When Flint moved its Research Center to Ann Arbor, Mich. in 1987, Matthews became an Assistant Technical Manager for a newly formed Ink Research group that worked on varying projects pertaining to multiple product lines.

His rise after that happened quickly, when he was promoted to Technical Manager of the Heatset Lab, and later the Technical Director of that lab. Later, he moved from the research and development side of the business back into the heatset ink division, where he headed up the technical activities.

Over the past several years his primary focus has been on raw materials, and the issues the ink industry has faced as the price of crude oils and other chemicals have risen dramatically.

Getting Involved
Matthews began attending the Web Offset Conference in 1993, and has attended every year since. He has served on many panels at the conference, and has aided the moderators in matching the right people to the right sessions. He has spoken at the Spectrum conference, and has spoken at both the NAPIM conference and the Chicago Printing Ink Production Club.

In addition to heavy industry involvement, Matthews has also taken time to think about the customers. In fact, he notes that the customers are one of his favorite parts of the job. “I’ve always loved the interactions with customers. Whether it’s matching a spot color during my early years at Western Ink and seeing it run successfully on press, or solving print problems at a heatset customer today, the sense of satisfaction remains the same.”

At the NAPIM Convention in March, he received the Ink Pioneer Award. The icing on the cake came with his winning the NPIRI Technical Achievement Award at the Conference held in Florida. At the ceremony, he was honored for his long service to the industry.

“I feel honored,” Matthews said. “However, as in anyone’s career, the support and hard work of many good people is what makes your own career successful. I have been privileged to work with some of the most dedicated people in the industry throughout the last 33 years and, most importantly, they have made working in this industry an absolute pleasure.”

Matthews has been married for 22 years—they got married the month before he came to work for Flint Ink Corporation in the United States. He has three children, and still enjoys playing soccer, as well as working and playing on computers.

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