How to painstakingly create a factory during these tough times - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

By 22 Aug 2021

Indore’s Vijayshri Packaging may well be the biggest packaging company in Central India, but its modern approach to doing business has allowed it to successfully compete in the fierce packaging converting market

Team Vijayshri Packaging: Ayush Jain, Pritesh Jain (c) and Prakhar Jain (Pritesh’s son)

In 2016, PrintWeek was very impressed with what Vijayshri Packaging showed when it inaugurated the new plant in Indore. The company had rolled out more than 40 packaging and corrugation machines – an investment of Rs 55-crore – which was then capable of converting 2,000 tonnes of paper per month. At that time, the factory was equipped to provide total solutions for all kinds of folding cartons and litho laminated cartons with an installed capacity of 1.25-crore cartons per month.

So, I ask, what were the stats with the present phase of expansion which began at the end of 2020, plans for which began in 2019 with a visit to the Komori factory in Japan where the decision to invest in a Komori press was made? “The intent was to invest in predictable quality and wastage control. These two things would vastly benefit our customer experience as well as help in engagement in coming years,” says Ayush, a director at Vijayshri, who, along with his father Rajendra, who helms the management team and uncle Pritesh, a director, manage the company.

The plan also included increasing its capacities up to 2,500 metric tons per month. However, a combination of a bad market and unfavourable investment climate caused a delay in ordering the machine.

The Covid-19 challenge
Indore was one of the earliest hotspots of Coronovirus back in March 2020. “The Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 will forever be remembered for a variety of reasons. Within our industry, while many businesses suffered, many flourished. Survival always depends on how fast you can change to the market demand,” says Pritesh.

Vijayshri, however, marched on, thanks to the future-ready manufacturing infrastructure it created in 2016. It included a positive pressured air circulation system, clean and open spaces, a hygienic cafeteria and in-house accommodation of more than 25% of the workforce. Pritesh says, “We were able to take on this additional challenge in 2020 without breaking a sweat.”

A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the city has come a long way in crisis management and has been able to get more than 80% of its adult population vaccinated in record time. So has Vijayshri, which has put into action the withheld plan of modernisation and upgradation.


Rajendra Jain (l) and Pritesh Jain (c): after inaugurating the brand new Komori GL 640 C, a six-colour press with UV

Vijayshri has recently installed a Komori GL 640 C, a six-colour press with UV, and the rationale behind the investment was automation. Since we were operating used printing machines till now, we never experienced the automation that can be achieved in current times. This machine is equipped with features like the KHS-AI automation and PDC-SX scanner, which enable seamless quality control systems from Komori,” says Jain. “We already have more than enough jobs to fulfil the capacity of this machine. Hence currently, we will be feeding this machine our existing jobs. The ratio will be a combination of 60:40 of conventional and UV jobs.”
30 years of Vijayshri

2021 marks 30 years of Vijayshri’s existence. When it started its operation in 1991, the team size was 25 people, operating from an old building in the inner part of the city, having a total area of 4,500 sqft.

Which was the first important investment for Vijayshri, I ask Jain, who replies, that would probably be the screen thermal CTP that we bought back in 2005. “This was an investment which helped us in improving our productivity and vastly differentiated us in terms of quality of print, consistency and reliability. It led the way for us to think of investments for competitive advantage rather than as a tool to stay relevant.”

The current floor area at Vijayshri is 1.4-lakh sqft excluding the 12,000 sqft of office area, plus the company has built a new unit with a floor area of 60,000 sqft, which is managed using a combination of two custom made ERPs for the printing industry for costing as well operations, while a third software is used for accounting.

Pritesh narrates the first challenging job he undertook when the company was not so big, but the team was dedicated. It was a pharmaceutical job for the Russian market, which Vijayshri took up in 1999. “It was significant because it was the first job which was to be printed with spot Pantone colours, aqueous coating and meant to be packed on a cartonator line,” says Jain. “I personally visited the site on numerous occasions over the course of the first year in order to get the colours, rub resistance and die-cutting right so that the cartons would run smoothly on the line. This job was a great learning experience, and we reap the benefits of that knowledge till date.”

Changing times, new logo
In the 1990s, the numbers of players in Indore were limited. Companies stuck to their core - commercial print, packaging print and corrugation. Only a handful operated in more than one segment. “Technology-wise, Indore has always been late to the party; but that has changed in the last three years,” says Jain.

The Indore market, like much of the print industry across the country, has converted itself from a commercial-heavy market to a packaging-heavy market. “This attributes itself to the increase in manufacturing and packing units in the area. It also helps that Indore being a logistical centre, we are able to transfer our goods at a fair price to various parts of the country. We are very lucky that we are only 600 kms (or less) away from 60% of the consumer population of India.”

And this change in the dynamics of the city is one of the reasons for Vijayshri to replace its old logo with a new one. “Our old logo was special and very dear to us. It represented the company’s prowess as a four-colour printing company. While that was of great importance in the ‘90s, it is not so today. The new logo is more corporate in feel and sets the tone of a growth story for Vijayshri in this new decade,” says Pritesh.
In addition to the brand new Komori press, a new corrugation line, flute laminators, two die-cutting machines and a folder gluer will round off this investment.

Customer recognition
Such recognitions are not accidental. A company has to consistently focus time and effort on strategic planning, invest in tools and machinery to help produce bespoke products.
Jain explains, “Every customer has different needs - some want value, some just want the lowest upfront price. We have to play each hand with what we are dealt. Our focus is to educate them about the lowest cost of ownership, which we can provide them with our expertise in structural design, proofing and prototyping, packing machine knowledge and of course; superior and on-time product.”

Like many converters, Jain also believes that upskilling is important, particularly where dies and tooling starting for makereadies are concerned as well as ways to reduce machine downtime.  “It is impossible to reduce your product pricing without upskilling. In our case, we have regularly identified our most frequently moving jobs and invested in very sophisticated tooling for embossing, foil stamping as well as die-cutting in order to save our set up time and increase our consistency of product.”

Vijayshri has been at the forefront of adopting Kaizen and training its team in the same. In fact, we won a National award presented by CICU India in the Kaizen competition in January 2020. “It’s an accolade we are proud of,” says Jain.

So how does the company manage its bottom lines in these tough times? Jain says, “We don’t usually get into dynamic battles and reverse auctioning. B2B trade is relationship-based, and it is important that your buyer understand what you bring to the table.”

2021 looks like an especially challenging time for businesses because the clients don’t even know what’s going to be on the presses in the next six hours, let alone the next day or next week. In such a scenario, Jain’s advice to his clients is: optimise pack sizes so that we have inventory and can service you faster. “Thankfully, most of them are listening,” he says on a happy note. 

Q&A with Ayush Jain

You have a combination of kit in your post-press department. What type of production outputs for mono cartons are you eyeing? Is the average around 2.5- to 3-lakh cartons? I remember Rajinder Ji mentioning 5-lakh cartons in one shift.
We classify our post-press department into three major product segments, that is, mono carton division, litho laminated carton division and the shipper division.
In terms of mono carton our current conversion capacity is around 10-lakh cartons with a mix of straight line cartons, lock bottom cartons, window cartons and liner cartons.
 
Many converters maintain 70% to 75% capacity right now. But during the pandemic months it peaked. What has been happening at the Vijayshri factories? 90% to 95%? Which sectors?
We normally run the plant at 60% to 70% of its capacity. Between the 1st and 2nd wave; business has been good and demand for multi-colour shipper cartons has sharply increased. Since we operated very close to the maximum designed capacity it was natural to expand the capacity for outer shipper cartons.
 
Do you see the possibilities of paper and paperboard replacing any flexible packaging? If yes, then would you need to make any additional investments to cater to this requirement?
Looking at the price sensitivity of the Indian market and the sheer size of its potential for growth, I do not see paper & paper board packaging replacing flexible packaging as a substitute for primary packaging. However, that being said, paperboard packaging especially litho laminated cartons are fast replacing flexible packaging as a more environment-friendly and more value-added package as secondary packaging especially for food items.
 
When do you plan to get certified for BRC/IoP: global food packaging standard and PS9000: pharmaceutical packaging standard? How difficult are these certifications?
The plant has been constructed to these standards and has been upkept the same way for the last 5 years. We will go for these certificates when a customer specifically asks them for it. So far; no one has.
 
How do you see the packaging landscape with respect to recyclable structures in the near future?
As we move ahead, many laminate manufacturers will offer mono-family laminates which should enable recycling. However, this will take time and increase costs. Paperboard then emerges as a natural choice to capture this requirement. The use of MetPET and overprint laminations hence must be minimised to achieve this.

 

The Beginning

  • Established in 1991
  • Location Operated from an old building in the inner part of Indore city, having a total area of 4,500 sqft
  • Specialised in Packaging
  • Employees 25
     

Expansion in 2020

  • Infrastructure A new unit with a floor area of 60,000 sqft
  • Equipment Installed Komori GL 640 C, a six-colour press with UV, Bobst Ambition. A new corrugation line, flute laminators, two die-cutting machines and a folder-gluer will round off this investment
  • Increased converting capabilities Up by 2,500 metric tons per month
  • Certifications plans BRC/IoP: global food packaging standard; and PS9000: pharmaceutical packaging standard


Expansion in 2016

  • Infrastructure A 1.4-lakh sqft plant excluding the 12,000 sqft of office area
  • Equipment Rs 55-crore in 40 packaging and corrugation machines
  • Converting capabilities 2,000 tonnes of paper per month / 600 tonnes per month in corrugation
  • Applications All kinds of folding cartons and litho laminated cartons
  • Installed capacity 4-lakh sheets per dat/1.25-crore cartons per month


​The team

  • Rajendra Jain
  • Pritesh Jain
  • Ayush Jain
  • Prakhar Jain
  • Jayant Jain
  • Employees: 375 (Associates and Staff) 

 

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