Factory 50, a tribute to India’s print and packaging powerhouse - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

PrintWeek embarked on writing success stories of print companies, and its print converting prowess with the Factory 50, because great work deserved to be acknowledged and celebrated – to inspire others to be better, think bigger and begin the journey of its manufacturing.

We have decided to make it an annual feature as part of our Annual Issue of the year to salute the print firms and packaging converters who are aiming for excellence.

Read on...

27 Nov 2022 | By Noel D'Cunha

Since May 2008, PrintWeek has written about the struggles the print industry has faced running its operations in the past – from printing four-colour print on a single-colour press, the bromide to film to platemaking, and how print-ready files were sent for platemaking, where printers often waited for the plates to arrive at the bus stand or railway stations.

The Factory 50 in the Annual Issue, December 2021, was our first attempt at chronicling, but we also know that there are probably many such factories out there, which we haven’t been able to feature.

PrintWeek’s experience
During the plant visits, Team PrintWeek meets many CEOs and their teams, who are intent on improvement and involved in making their print floor more competitive.

One big lesson we picked up was. The number of levels in a factory almost always directly correlates to more bottlenecks. Remember: brown box production is non-creative. It is a science. It follows steps: A B C D ... And so, one big lesson during Covid was don't play with the parameters.

One of the things we keep a keen eye is the certificates for a print-packaging factory. Be it: IGBC standards for a green building; GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice); BRC standards; and FSMS ISO 22001, QMS ISO 9001, SMS-ISO 45001.

For example, Vinod Vazhapulli, managing director at Skanem India, says that the equipment efficiency (OEE) sheet of the machines on your assembly floor determines the productivity and throughput of any company. “That's the heart.” He adds, “So when you pick an OEE sheet, you specifically look at the downtimes. There were times when there was a lack of data or, better, a lack of sanctity of the data presented, because of which the management was unable to come up with a proper strategy to solve the challenges. Even if they did, it would not be highly effective or result-oriented, as the data given is purely manual and would have an element of ambiguity.

What Vazhapulli is saying is that you can only draw up a good strategy if you have real numbers.

The game has changed
EPL’s managing director and global CEO, Anand Kripal says that packaging has become a B2B, personalised selling game. “There’s a real opportunity to digitise and be more effective and more efficient through end-to-end connectivity - right from the shop floor to the manufacturing line, to the machine, to the operator, all the way up to how we consolidate our performance across regions.”

Recently EPL has upgraded its whole IT system to SAP S/4 HANA, and are now among the very few packaging companies to have this latest IT system. “It is for us now to leverage this platform and digitise the company,” says Kripalu.

The other aspect of EPL is its R&D centre, which has been one of the backbones of EPL’s manufacturing. “I think we have a very competent R&D centre. Barrier science, product resistivity, oxygen and moisture migration, sealability, and regulatory compliance are some of the key areas where EPL conducts its research. There is a big opportunity to keep leveraging the work at the centre,” explains Kripalu.

Among the PrintWeek Awards 2022 winners were New Delhi-based SB Packaging (SBP) and Bengaluru-based Manjushree Technopack.

SBP has grown steadily, winning the trust and market share with marquee global customers with a high threshold for quality and consistency. Innovation and sustainability have been the core pillars of SBP’s business model. The company calls itself the numero uno in polybag manufacturing in India for hygiene products. This translates into a range of 100% recyclable bags and pouches of PE. The key is: water-based O2 barrier coating, which can help replace PET.

Manjushree caters to packaging requirements across FMCG, F&B, home care, personal care, agrochemicals, pharmaceutical and liquor industries. It is one of India’s largest rigid plastics packaging companies. The group has an ESG initiative called, Born Again. The group has commercialised and invested in recycled resin plants, gradually becoming a trusted source for eco-friendly packaging in India.

The Matrubhumi Printing & Publishing, the Kozhikode-based company, won the PrintWeek Award for Green Company of the Year – Large. There are reasons why it won the Awards. One is its Seed (Student Empowerment for Environmental Development), launched on 5 June 2009. The outreach has been stupendous. More than eight thousand active schools have been tapped in 14 districts of Kerala. Second, Mathrubhumi’s Kozhikode plant in Ramanattukara, spread across 1,20,000 square feet (on approximately seven acres of land), is a tiny oasis with a natural pond created through rainwater harvesting as a grove of trees.

Mathrubhumi has embarked on constructing a butterfly park in 2022. And the Group has a proper waste management policy. It has signed an agreement with KEIL (Kerala Enviro Infrastructure Limited) for the processing of hazardous wastes. Plus, the Group has invested in a Hunkler AG baling plant to handle paper waste management systems.

These are a few of the case studies.

What it is
As one expert said, “After a series of wake-up calls, many of today’s leading print companies have responded to the challenge, embracing new technologies, quality management, just-in-time and best practices that are at par with the best in the world.”

At the PrintWeek Team meeting to discuss planning the next edition of Factory 50, I asked my colleague Rahul Kumar what he thought was the term “in pursuit of operational excellence”.

His reply was: “There are UV machines that run 15,000 sheets per hour with online data checking, to training rooms for two to three training sessions per day. So much so, even the uniform of the shopfloor team members are given as per zones – the colour on the collar matches the colour band on the wall. Well-maintained spare room with all manuals kept in one place.” He added, “All inputs are given to the machine so that operator doesn’t hunt around. And above all, the 12-week concept of planning. These are a few of the many we should look out for.”

We also spoke to industry experts for their input and found these eight secrets to any company’s pursuit of operational excellence.

  1. Print CEOs must understand the importance of best practices - and for starts, they must implement Kaizens and Six Sigma projects. Plus ISO 22001, QMS ISO 9001, SMS-ISO 45001
  2. Look at standards like IGBC plus GRI, TCFD, SASB, CDP, EcoVadis etc.
  3. Anyone and everyone who is looking at downgauging, renewable raw materials, recyclable process, and circular economy.
  4. Feed your best employees with bigger tasks. Create a company work culture around your best. Ensure there is a process
  5. When training, tell them (verbally), show them (visually), and let them (tactically)
  6. Promote constant change, and remove resistance.
  7. Too many business owners talk about their machines and investments. Too few, focus on soft power. For example, housekeeping, plus how to get superior conversion and be much-more efficient; also how to organise your spare capacities.
  8. And finally, it is not the smartest BUT the dumbest person in the room, who decides the price in an auction

These are but eight tips which we gathered. I am sure there are more, and PrintWeek invites you to join the Factory 50 club.

We know many Indian print-packaging companies are doing wonders when it comes to designing, establishing, manufacturing, and obtaining the processes and best practices at shopfloor. However, unfortunately, most of us still need to be made aware of it. With the Factory 50 – 2022 edition, we hope to show how the industry is utilising its synergies and ensuring technology, market knowledge, financial and human resources, and process advantages) can ensure better market penetration as well as superior leveraging of all these advantages.

Please share your best things with us at rahul@haymarketsac.com or call +91-9868351211.

Click here to view the factories that made it to the last edition of The Factory 50.