EPL’s giant stride towards product innovation, sustainability

EPL (formerly Essel Propack), one of the most innovative packaging companies globally, is betting big with its environment-friendly Platina and Etain range of tubes/plastic packaging

08 May 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

EPL has been constantly bringing innovative products to the market for the last four decades

Packaging major EPL has been constantly bringing innovative products to the market for the last four decades, with the help of strong innovation programmes. The company says it engages with its customers, co-creating ideas, consulting on product and process, and hand-holding right through the delivery of viable solutions.

Barrier science, product resistivity, product migration, sealability, and regulatory compliance are some of the key areas where EPL conducts its research. With further help from its customers, the study is then metamorphosed into an innovative product that is functional as well as different from its competition.

According to EPL, a large percentage of its revenues come from smaller players who do not have the technological reach and resources of a large multinational corporation but are just as keen to compete with agility in their respective markets. This is one of the company’s winning strategies of sorts.

The Etain range of tubes are manufactured with up to 50% post-consumer recycled resin content

Product innovation is ever so relevant in today’s day and age of sustainability. Eco-friendly and recyclable materials have taken the centre stage, as brands and governments are busy scrambling to find environment-friendly ways to tackle global waste and warming. Thus, the company has introduced its new environment-friendly and recyclable plastic tubes and packaging – Platina and Etain – with big yet promising hope.

Sudhanshu Vats, managing director and chief executive officer at EPL, says, “Innovation is about transformation. Our innovation around sustainability – Platina, a range of portfolios, which we are developing for recycled laminates.”

“Ultimately, innovation for us is a curiosity with purpose. We are determined to stay alive through ideas and be curious about them. But more importantly, we are determined to bring in a meaningful change in everything which we do – for our customers and clients and through them, for our consumers,” he adds.

In fact, EPL has been pushing for a fully recyclable product manufacturing process. Based on the principles of 3Rs, the company promises to deliver products that are durable and eco-friendly.

Sudhanshu Vats: Innovation for us is a curiosity with purpose

Hariharan K Nair, head – creativity and innovation, EPL, explains: “We offer products designed on the principles of 3Rs of sustainability. In ‘recycle’, our Platina tubes, certified by the Association of Plastic Recyclers, is the world’s only tube with a barrier line shoulder that is totally recyclable in the HDPE bottle stream.

“In ‘reuse’, we have the Etain range of tubes, with up to 50% post-consumer recycled resin content, enabling reduction of virgin raw materials. Our innovative tube designs enable weight reduction up to 25% against conventional tubes in' reduce'. Further, we are also offering tubes with up to 50% sustainably sourced resins to reduce the carbon footprint of tubes.”

Nair believes that these new offerings are “stretching the boundaries” in its quest for greener solutions. “Our strengths in tube technology allow us to lead the pack in this crucial area of moving the world towards 100% sustainable tube packaging by 2025,” he asserts.

For MR Ramasamy, chief operating officer at EPL, product sustainability is not just a buzzword. “It’s imperative for us,” he says. “Not just us; the entire industry, consumers and customers demand sustainable products as we go forward.”

He feels that it is “our duty to adhere to our customers’ needs” on sustainability as a responsible supplier. Ramasamy also divulged EPL’s effort in converting its customers from aluminium-based laminates to plastic barrier-based laminates, “which are comfortably recyclable”. “We are hopeful that we will have all our products completely recyclable,” he adds.

EPL claims that Platina is the world’s only tube with a barrier line shoulder that is totally recyclable in HDPE bottle stream

EPL has also been pioneering the idea of ‘zero defects’ for incoming quality to clients. Pramod Menon, head – quality and process improvement, EPL says that it is not just a more stringent quality standard.

“‘Zero defects’ is an obsession for us at EPL, because there’s no better way to eliminate cost and pain to our clients. It is EPL’s absolute commitment to customer quality and why we constantly invest in state-of-the-art equipment and a dedicated workforce to achieve this,” explains Menon.

Meanwhile, Shrihari Rao, head – printing technology at EPL, feels that innovation is a process of product configuration and offerings to the customers. “We at EPL have everything in-house that is required to deliver an innovative, high-quality product to our customers,” says Rao. “90% of the time we are ahead of this curve. This means in-house pre-press, flexo, and the digital presses, which offer effortless personalisation to our customers.”

EPL has also been investing in the latest technologies. It has partnered with some of the world’s best machine manufacturers, which has led to the installation of several digital printers. For starters, its factories sport the latest 12-colour printers.

Additionally, the company also has an Artwork Collaboration Tool – a cloud-based approval system – which is very secure for co-creation and artwork approval. “We also develop 3D simulation, which helps customers to visualise their end products with real print effects,” says Rao.  

In terms of process innovation, EPL has strong programmes in several areas. The company has been moving away from the six-Sigma quality approach to ‘Zero Defects’ quality, which has so far yielded the desired results. This is in addition to driving technological upgrades to reduce costs, co-developing machines with suppliers, enhancing flexibility through proactive investments in digital printing, improving throughput with minimal wastage, including reuse of laminates, and innovating packaging materials to enhance sustainability through material reuse

With these technologies in place to gain a competitive advantage in the industry, the four-decade-old company is indeed set to lead the pack.