Within a company that has been established for almost fifty years, it’s no surprise that we have a good few long term members of staff. Much of label production has advanced over the years but there are skills and knowledge that sometimes only comes with a long time in the industry and a lot of experience.
Our fiery resident Greek, George Gounaris has the skills, knowledge and experience vital to Bakers. Throw in a bit of bullish Greek charisma and stubborness to the mix and you have a unique and valuable member of staff. As he marked 30 years at Bakers recently we take a closer look at his time here.
Name: George Gounaris
Position: Flexo Operarator
At Bakers since: 1989
How it all began
George moved to England from Corfu 35 years ago after falling for a holidaying English woman and following her back to England. He arrived in August 1985, he proposed to Liana in September and they were married by the following February. They now share 4 daughters and 3 grandsons.
George joined Baker Labels shortly after arriving in the UK with little English but with a drive to work hard and learn.
I couldn’t speak much English and Steve [Baker] really helped me. After a year or so I remember I asked Steve if I could learn how to work on a press. I remember we printed labels for the Gillette packaging on a really old press.’
After moving on from despatch George worked on various presses including slitting the materials for a short while. But it was on the flexographic press that George found his calling. He has worked on all the flexographic presses we’ve had at Bakers over the years and looks back fondly at the early days when the first one was installed.
When Steve invested in the first Flexo we did a lot of water-based inks. Then, because we had a lot of trouble and the demand for better quality was picking up we had some UV lights fitted to the press to cure the ink.
Over the many years at Bakers George has seen first hand how vastly printing standards have developed.
We used to be able to get away with a lot of stuff, there wasn’t so much fuss. The customers were a lot more tolerant but nowadays the standard is so much higher and expectations from customers are even higher.
As a trade label supplier, the majority of Baker Labels’ customers are printers themselves and need to know the work we are doing for their customers is the best it can be. That’s why they trust Bakers.
As business and facilities expanded to digital production at Bakers, George wasn’t the only operator keen to work on the new HP presses that were installed. However the skills required for conventional flexo printing are not always directly transferable to digital production and Steve Baker knew George’s skillset were more valuable in flexo, particularly as we also continued to invest in new flexographic presses that required experienced operators..
‘When we installed the current FB3 Nilpeter I knew straight away it was going to take more than one person to run it. There are so many different things you can do on it, so many different processes. We can do what other printers can’t do but to do that we needed another set of hands.’
Can you describe a “typical day”?
‘Some days I run five jobs in one day and sometimes we do one job in two to three days but I prefer fast paced work. When I operate the press I love to work fast, I want to keep the production going. I can’t stand around doing slow work.’
However, he acknowledges there is great satisfaction when a more detailed and challenging job is successful.
‘I must admit I do feel proud when everything goes well, especially a trickier job that takes time to set up. Once I know the end is good I feel good.’
George is confident in his colleagues at Bakers, especially in his own department (shown above with the rest of the flexo and rewind team.)
In the Flexo department I believe we are the best team here. We have good vibes and we understand each other.
George understands that although he has been at Bakers for 30 years there is always more that can be learnt from his colleagues.
Barry [Kent] is amazing. He has a lot of patience, never loses temper, will help you and sort out any issues. He’s a very good professional guy. I’ve never seen anyone like him here – I can’t speak highly enough of him. His attitude is incredible. Everyone needs Barry. He helped me a lot to be more efficient on the Flexo he also taught me how to do the multilayer labels and how to position everything.’
George is highly regarded by Steve and his colleagues. Due to George’s skill and experience over years and means he often looked to to train others.
I hate mistakes, I get angry with myself, I get the hump really bad. I’m passionate about getting the work done well. But I know that as an experienced employee, people look to me to learn and for attitude. I don’t want to teach mistakes!
I’ve enjoyed training Adam. He’s got a great attitude and he wants to learn and he appreciates what we’ve done from him. It’s easy to press a button but it’s all about attention to detail and how to get the right colour and maintain it. Flexo is conventional printing. You have to get your hands dirty, mounting the plates, mixing the ink.
However, there are sometimes challenges when it comes to training:
If you have people that are experienced and know their job it makes things easier. Those that are inexperienced need time to learn and make mistakes but in today’s environment the pace is too fast and we have to train and learn quickly. The young guys have to understand how us old guys work. I’m a fiery person and I have to be careful not to teach that to the young guys!
The support from others is essential at Bakers and George feels as though this is a significant factor as to why he has been with us for so long.
Anything you need to get the work right Steve will always buy for you. It’s always been like that. Steve and his Dad would always look to help and had the patience of a donkey. They understand that sometimes you need time to get it right. It’s better something takes longer than you panicking and getting it wrong. You don’t get many bosses like Steve. He’s got patience and time for you if you need it. He lets you get on with your work and trusts you to get the job done.
George is a self-described ‘big family man’ and appreciates the importance of that within a family business like Bakers.
Steve and Mandy are good people, they’re fair. It’s been a good 30 years for me, Steve helped me a lot back in the old place and his Mum and Dad were really good bosses, really clever with engineering and business. A very good family company.’
‘You don’t get many people staying with one company for so many years. There must be something right here.’