Pauline Covell reports on a gravure success story

Over the last decade Indian entrepreneurs realised there was an opportunity to supply the local market with western products, as well as to exploit both near and distant export areas. Mumbai based Positive Packaging Industries (PPI) is a good example of just such an operation. Its success since it was founded in 1994 has gone hand in hand with impressive growth. This year investments of some £8M have been earmarked.

Today the Enpee Group company boasts state of the art equipment focused on providing high quality packaging, not only meeting the standards of multinationals and adapting the product to the severe Indian environment, but also with the capability to run specialized products, at high speed to international standards, in order to compete for multinational or regional tenders. It prints and converts OPP and PE, and laminates with paper and aluminium.

Capacity doubled

Vice chairman Ashok Lakhani told Converting Today: “By the end of March 2003 we will have doubled capacity to 10,000t.” New equipment being installed this year includes two additional Cerutti gravure presses, an extrusion coater laminator from Thai company Fong Kee, two Nordmeccanica laminators (solvent based/solventless), a Waterline stand up/zipper pouch maker from Switzerland, and three additional slitters supplied by Bimec, Italy.

In October last year, PPI purchased vacuum metallizing specialist Sai Metaplast, of Taloja, some 45km from Mumbai. A doubling of its capacity is included in this year’s investment plans, although Ashok Lakhani was not prepared to reveal the supplier. It currently runs General Vacuum equipment and a Titan SR6 slitter. The company also owns a cylinder engraving unit – Acuprint Systems (also at Taloja). Here, too, capacity in electronic engraving is to be increased in line with demand.

Positive Packaging is a dedicated gravure house. “It is where our expertise lies,” says Ashok Lakhani. “We have no immediate plans for flexographic printing.” Its third Cerutti press – an eight colour machine commissioned recently – is to be followed by a fourth press, a 10 station R960 due to be commissioned in November.

Web width is up to 1,300mm and top running speed is 300m/min, with a realistic output of over 16,000m2/hour, claims Cerutti. It has in-line PVdC and coldseal coating capabilities. To transport the printing cylinder, inking unit and tank, the 960 features stainless steel trolleys that are raised by hydraulic pistons activated by a pedal pump. Alternatively, the printing cylinder can be left in the machine and the inking unit and tank moved separately. A bar located on the transmission side aids the movement of the trolley. Pneumatic pistons allow the cart to be raised on the transmission side and to be precisely guided in its movements. One operator can perform the change-over.

The drying system is designed for maximum efficiency, optimizing the thermal exchange coefficient between the hood and the web, so that the operating speed can be increased and the solvent residue on the printed web can be reduced.

Exports success

The US$25M flexible packaging plant exports its converted materials to 17 countries. “The demand has been tremendous,” he says. “Some 60 per cent of our production is exported, mainly to African countries, but in a small way we also export to Europe – our material is used to package Safeway’s crisps, for example.

“Our aim is to have a 50:50 split between export and domestic markets. That way we will keep everyone happy. We hope to fill our new capacity within six months.” Customers include some of the big multinational names, such as Bayer, Cadbury, Colgate-Palmolive, Dow, Frito-Lay, Sara Lee, Heinz, ICI, L’Oreal, Nestlé, Searle and Unilever.

David Campion, of Cussons Inter-national, says: “We have been buying flexible packaging materials from Positive since 1999 and we are delighted with the quality and service they have provided. Indian suppliers do not have the best reputation in these areas, but the commitment Positive management and staff have shown towards achieving world class standards has resulted in Cussons being able to rank them among industry leaders.”

As part of a continuing drive towards achieving international status, PPI plans to meet the terms of registration under the British Retail Consortium/Institute of Packaging standard by the end of the year, reports Ashok Lakhani.

In order to maintain quality, the company is practically self sufficient. It runs its own ink kitchen, for example buying in its basic colours from Coates, Sakata (Japanese with an Indian company) and Sun. It operates a multilayer PE blown film plant supplied by Nextrom, Italy. The high output equipment is fitted with an internal bubble cooling system and in-line gauge control. Film thickness can be down to 20 micron and film width up to 1,200mm. Polymer is sourced in India or from Dow, and OPP film is purchased from Cosmo Films, Dubai Polyfilms and Mobil Philippines. Rohm and Haas, Sovereign Chemical and Indian companies supply the laminating adhesives.

Cerutti choice

Current presses include the recently installed eight colour Cerutti gravure machine (1.2m wide) a 940 wide Cerutti with in-line coldseal, and a 960mm wide model also from Cerutti. They are fitted with Presstech Controls on-line web viewing, automatic viscosity control and in-line corona treaters.

Prior to the new investment, on the lamination front the company already has a Nordmeccanica triplex solvent based machine and a Schiavi solventless duplex line. The in-line corona treatment was supplied by Sherman. An Indian built hotmelt coating system completes the coating and laminating facility. The current slitting armoury comprises one Kampf and two Bimec machines with automatic setting from programmable controls. A Mamata pouch maker is used to convert centre seal, three-side seal and gusseted pouches.

The sister cylinder engraving company operates electromechanical cylinder engraving lines from Ohio Electronic Engravers, USA, and plating and polishing equipment from Dätwyler, and has a cylinder proofing facility (digital or on the actual substrate). The proofing press was supplied by J M Heaford, UK.

PPI has overseas representatives in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Africa. John Rumbelow, the company’s UK representative, says: “We are now setting up dedicated warehousing facilities for our clients here with a view to maintaining stocks locally”.