Carton converting specialist Marpak chose Bobst reconditioned folder gluers when it sought to extend its market without over exposing itself financially
Buying equipment second-hand, rather than new, has allowed Leicester, UK, based finisher and converter Marpak to enter the market for carton folding and gluing.
“We’re well known for window patching, guillotining and die cutting,” says co-owner Edward Wheeler, “but customers have increasingly been asking us to glue their cartons as well. Buying second-hand equipment meant that we could confidently enter this market without over exposing ourselves.”
Edward’s brother Matthew, with whom he owns the company, says they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to offer their customers. “Most people send their difficult jobs to trade houses either because they don’t have the skills or equipment to handle them in-house or because they don’t find it economic to stop their high speed lines to run a slow, difficult to set carton. Buying second-hand meant we could get a couple of good quality, versatile, multipurpose gluers that would profitably handle the work our customers don’t want to. We also felt that by buying Bobst gluing equipment, albeit second-hand, we wouldn’t be risking our reputation for service because they are known for their reliability and for service back-up.”
The equipment comprised two multipurpose Bobst folder gluers which were installed during November, 2003. The first, a Media 100-II, was sourced through the ‘pre-owned equipment’ arm of the Bobst Group, while a Domino 100-M was acquired from a carton company that had gone into administration. Both machines can handle straight-line, crash-lock and four and six-corner work and the company bought additional equipment, including buckle plates, an eight-gun HHS extrusion system and a mobile hot melt system, to bring it up to the specification it wanted.
In the first two months of operation, most of the work run on the machines has consisted of crashlock, four-corner or internal fitment boxes, particularly for the pharmacare and media sectors. “We’ve been able to run everything that’s come our way so far,” explains Matthew Wheeler. “That’s partly due to the capabilities of the equipment and partly because of the skill of the team. We recruited Dave Stanley, who is probably the best known name in UK carton gluing, to head up the gluing operation. Dave has overseen the installation, upgraded the kit and trained the staff, all of which means we got off to a flying start.”
The Wheeler family has a long association with the carton making industry. Ben Wheeler, Matthew and Edward’s father, owned volume manufacturer GCM until the late 1990’s, growing it from 20 to 240 staff before selling the company to Boxmore. Both brothers were on the management team of GCM and the experience gave them a solid understanding of the business imperatives behind any investment in new equipment. Nonetheless, the gluer purchase involved sailing into uncharted waters. “We had a gut feeling that there was a place for us in the gluing market,” explains Edward. “But we had no existing operation to launch from. That’s why, even though we normally buy new kit, it was prudent to buy second-hand in this case.”
To illustrate the point he explains that the company has just signed up to buy a new Bobst Evoline die cutter. “We’ve cut and creased work for our customers for many years and the new die cutter will improve our efficiencies in that area – as well as adding some versatility that we don’t have at the moment.” However, the key issue for the company was that, because they knew the likely minimum volumes they could expect to die cut, they were able to calculate an accurate return on investment. The new gluing operation, however, was destined to be filled by all new business and as such the potential exposure was much greater. “Thankfully the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since we started the gluing department, but it could have been very different,” says Matthew Wheeler with relief.
Proof that the Wheeler approach is working can be seen in the 40 per cent increase in the company’s turnover since the brothers took over. But they don’t plan to rest on their laurels. As Edward Wheeler points out: “With the gluers now in full production, I think we should be able to improve on that 40 per cent.”
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