PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months. Your learnings from 2021...
Christian Burattini (CB): High demand for hygienic and sustainable unit dose packaging in general, but especially hand sanitisers. I know this is happening, because about 90% of the enquiries I am now receiving have a key sustainability component. We think this will continue to be a driver for brands in the coming years. While we have offered recyclable laminates to customers almost from the outset, we expect to ramp that up to the point that by mid-2022, we are convinced that 75% of our sold laminates will be the recyclable version.
PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 era?
CB: We have experienced broken supply chains as one example. Our R&D strategy has been effective in addressing this issue.
PW: Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
CB: For the past 24 months, we have been developing innovative and digital inkjet print modules using Memjet Duraflex fully integrated with our six-lane high-speed Alpha packaging machine. This development has been greatly appreciated by customers because with this integrated solution, they do not need to use external printers, cutting transport time and cost for short to medium production batches. They are able to produce everything on-site in a single workflow with a relatively compact footprint, and with equipment that is easy for one operator to manage.
PW: The pandemic has impacted India’s prospects to become a USD 5-trillion economy by FY25. However, has the last quarter numbers reposed faith in the Indian market?
CB: V-Shapes has several projects in India, from food and beverage to the medical device and cosmetics market. We see an increased demand in the area with a growing number of projects. We see India as a very important market, for us and for the industry as a whole.
PW: Brands (FMCG and non-FMCG) are seeking more and more from print and packaging. As a global manufacturing brand, how can our industry cater to the new normal of - gaining speed; more flexibility; profit-centric approach; and lower carbon footprint?
CB: Fillers/converters and brands alike should be seeking vertically integrated solutions that are in line with the technologies available today. That includes using recyclable/compostable substrates, minimising the total amount of packaging required, using packaging that minimises product waste and/or deterioration due to oxidisation, enabling on-demand manufacturing to produce exactly what is needed, and in a small footprint that has optimum energy and labour requirements.
PW: What do you feel are the operational benefits of such an approach?
CB: This approach provides producers and brands alike with shorter cycle times, faster time to market, and an innovative approach that will attract loyalty from eco-sensitive consumers, less waste, and a much smaller carbon footprint in the overall life cycle. If printing, converting and packaging can take place at the same locale, there is no need to ship heavy substrates around, from the supplier to the converter to the printer and back to the converter. Plus, more efficient packaging takes up less space in shipping, further reducing the shipping carbon footprint as well as costs.
PW: How should print adopt marketing strategies that promote the print brand beyond the function of product or service?
CB: We believe the key is to meet consumers’ immediate and emerging needs – often needs they didn’t realise they had until they experience innovative packaging. As with any transformational technology, end users, and even brands, often do not know what is possible. Thus, converters/fillers need to educate their brand customers about the possibilities, many of which we have laid out in this conversation. And brands, in turn, have a responsibility for helping to educate consumers about the availability and benefit of more sustainable packaging.
PW: One school of thought is, the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. What is your view?
CB: Digital technologies enable a seamless, end-to-end production process, from order entry through production and shipping all under one roof, with a substantially smaller cost and environmental footprint. We believe eco-conscious consumers, of which there are a growing number around the world, are very open to accepting a different type of packaging that meets these immediate and emerging needs once they are made aware of the possibilities.
PW: 77% of Indian consumers are actively engaging with sustainability. These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good. Three sustainable actions you have undertaken in the past year that you can share with us?
CB: We developed a new fully recyclable mono-polymer polypropylene laminate for our sachets. The recyclability of these sachets has been certified by Interseroh and verified by Tomra. Second, as described, with our digital inkjet solutions we can cut the amount of transport required across the product lifecycle and therefore, offer a reduced environmental footprint.
PW: And the third?
CB: Our machines are low energy consumers; our sachets are efficient in terms of transportation, with less air both in sachets and packaging boxes for transport. This not only delivers a reduced environmental footprint, but it also ensures that the packaged product lasts longer with no risk of oxygenation as can occur when air head space is required. Plus, because a single operator can easily manage the entire process – even an operator who is not highly skilled – labour costs are reduced and it is easier to find the necessary labour even in a tight labour market such as the one we see today.
PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms such as “biodegradable” and “circular economy”…
CB: Educating consumers in a transformational environment can be a challenge. It takes efforts on the part of the entire supply chain, from sustainable material providers such as Sihl, technology partners such as Siemens, and equipment manufacturers such as Trojan Labels and Memjet to fillers/converters and the brands they support. These stakeholders should work together to ensure accurate, understandable messaging gets out to consumers in the places they frequent – online and in person.
PW: How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
CB: Too often, we are talking to ourselves, and that doesn’t help bridge the gap. But if done right, the rewards are there. The online economy and social media offer one avenue for this education, especially if the stakeholders can create viral promotions. At the same time, there is for sure plenty of green washing occurring in the market. And that is counter-productive. At V-Shapes, we follow directions from Ceflex, working with third-party certification bodies like Interseroh, TUV Austria, partners like Natureworks and Tomra, to mention a few. In this way, we make sure that we follow the best guidelines and get support from market leaders. We believe this is the best model and we wish more participants in the market would follow this lead.
PW: Any lessons you can share from a customer that have been resilient or innovative (and flourished) during the past 18 months?
CB: Health Supply US (HSUS) acquired two of V-Shapes Alpha single-dose packaging machines and a V-Shapes Dflex nearline digital printing solution. Managing partner of HSUS Cesar Garcia had this to say, “Our original plan was to contract out the manufacture of single-dose branded sachets of hand sanitiser we could hand out at events and for other uses. But it quickly became evident that it made more sense to actually install the equipment in our North Carolina plant. And once we installed our first Alpha and were on our way to our second, it also became clear that we could easily do on-site printing rather than outsourcing it with the VS Dflex printer.”
PW: Please explain the technology that is being referred to…
CB:AlphaFlex print-FFS machine from V-Shapes, developed in partnership with Memjet and ColorGate enabled an on-demand production of single-dose sachets for Air Canada’s use, with high-quality synchronised printing on both sides. The sachet structure also provides one-handed opening.
PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come...
CB: Sustainability and hygiene will dovetail to create a new set of demands on packaging providers. These will become more important than fancy graphics and bright colours. That being said, high quality printing will still be required but may not be the driving force behind shelf appeal that they have been in the past.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
- How do you unwind?
I play the piano.
- One piece of music you love?
Anything by Debussy.
- Favourite film?
The movie I remember a little linked with printing / printing presses, is 7 Pounds with Will Smith, but, my favourite movie is Interstellar.
- Three books by your bedside?
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics by Paul CW Davies and Julian Brown and The Biography of Mario Draghi.
- One thing about print you always utter in a public forum?
That printing is the most problematic part of the flexible packaging.
- Recent packaging innovation that you loved?
I have not physically seen new things around for some time. Maybe the Winpak flexible PET with a coating that automatically sterilises itself thanks to a micrometric texture that doesn’t let the virus stay on the surface.
- One tech-guru (past or present) you want to meet - and why?
Thomas Kurian, the chief executive officer of Google Cloud. He is the epitome of innovative thinking, and he is from India.