Kartik Iyer of Proteck

Mitsubishi, the Japanese press manufacturing giant recently ended its 14-year old partnership with Chennai-based Proteck Machinery. During the 14-year partnership, Proteck installed more than 110 brand new Mitsubishi printing presses in India.

25 Jul 2012 | By Sriraam Selvam

To find out the reasons for the Mitsubishi-Proteck break-up, the growth outlook for Proteck, its immediate targets and what the future holds for Proteck, Sriraam Selvam of PrintWeek India spoke to Kartik Iyer, director at Protek. Read on...

Sriraam Selvam (SS): Your reaction regarding the new Mitsubishi partnership? What is Proteck’s role with regards to its existing clients especially the ones on long-term service and maintenance contracts?
Kartik Iyer (KI): We are very happy with Mitsubishi's decision to appoint Provin Technos as their new partner in India. Proteck was part of the transition to Provin, and Mitubishi continuously consulted and worked with us through the process. The new company has been formed by ex-Proteck staff, who handled Mitsubishi customers for the last 14 years. I think at this point almost every employee in Provin is an ex-Proteck - this basically means customers will continue to get service from experienced engineers and can rest assured that they will be well taken care of.
Proteck and Provin have jointly worked out a transition plan for customers on service contracts and maintenance plans that allow them seamless transition to the new services - all customers have been contacted and suitable proposals offered to them. Ultimately we are committed to our customers and this was one of the first things we ensured.

SS: Tell us more about the OEM business model for CTP systems...
KI: Proteck has been exporting equipment since 1990 – this included our pre- and post-press equipment for the printing industry. In the recent past we have cemented some long-term partnerships with plate and machine manufacturers across the world. This has been very good for our OEM business.

Today we export processors to all continents - specifically to companies like Southern Lithoplate (USA), IBF (Brazil), Basysprint (Belgium), Fuji reps -(Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia), Technova in India, Fuji-India. We have added more production capacity and have streamlined our support services to cater to these customers across the world. When OEM's buy our product we know it is a partnership for the long term; we have to ensure highest levels of support and services to give them the confidence to sell our products. We have to gear outselves to react quickly to their latest developments and have done so by investing in a larger R&D team. Finally, we have expanded our product portfolio to cover processors for flexo CTPs and processors for waterless offset plates developed by Toray.

SS: Can you elaborate further on the existing manufacturing operations and its plants?
KI: In March this year, we moved our production facility from a 2-acre site to a 20-acre site in Oragadam within the SIPCOT industrial park in Chennai, which is about 35km from the airport. With the likes of Renault Nissan, Daimler Benz, Apollo tyres setting up some very large factories here, we moved there to get access to better infrastructure, accessibility and to grow our business in the future.   We have added three hangars, a total of 1,00,000 sq/ft, and we have plenty more space to expand as we need it. We have retained some light-weight assembly in our original factory inside the city where we have total assembly/manufacturing space of about 75,000 sq/ft. We have added machines to our sheet metal and machine shop to meet the increased demands of production from our various product groups.

SS: Did the fluctuating Yen unsettle operations? Why and where do you think that Proteck hit a road bump?
KI: In this case it wasn’t really fluctuation but more a steady strengthening of the Yen over the last four years. The Yen definitely was a dampener on some projects but I don’t think it unsettled operations. We cannot base our business model on the exchange rate that is outside our control. It has been difficult for us to sell at the rate at which we did before 2008 but then again it has been the same for all press suppliers in India. However, printers continue to print and manufacturers have been selling. We were able to sell four Mitsubishi presses with high end configurations last year so it was a good year for us and we are happy to end on a high note. For us this change is more a strategic decision and our concern over the immediate ability to maintain the scale of our infrastructure, sales and service network with the diminishing number of presses sold every year. We are very thankful to all our customers who have believed in us and we are committed to continuing the support with world class products in the years to come.

SS: What is Proteck’s current portfolio? Any plans to add more brands?
KI: Our current printing product portfolio include - Proteck manufactured products like pre-press equipment - processors, exposure units, plate baking machines; screen printing machines; post-press products - cutting machines, UV coaters and automation equipment for paper cutters. Besides this represent companies like - Horizon (Japan), Hohner (Germany), Uchida (Japan), Komfi (Czech), Smyth (Italy), Grafcut (Poland), Sakurai (Japan), Unibind (Belgium), Introma (Poland) and Metamation (India) in India.

We have been working with a variety of post-press partners from around the world and we are putting in significant effort to be a one-stop finishing equipment provider.

We are also working with some reputed print equipment manufacturers from Germany and Japan and have been making their machines and sub-assemblies for their machines in our factory. We have set-up a state-of-the-art machine shop, sheet metal shop and paint line with several CNC machines that can manufacture high-precision parts. We have design, production and vendor departments that can completely source and manage the supply chain of these machines/assemblies that are then exported to the OEM.

Finally, besides the printing division in Proteck, we also have a machine tool division that makes metal cutting and metal forming machines that are used in the manufacturing industry. We have recorded steady growth in that division as well, and our customers include companies such as Toyota, Ford, Ashok Leyland, Bharat Forge, BHEL, BEML etc to name a few.

SS: Tell us more about the plans for Metamation?
KI: Metamation, our software division, has been selling software for the manufacturing industry for the last 17 years.  With our deep connection in the print industry, we branched out and started a graphic arts software division in 2007. Our first product launched in Ipex 2010 was IMP, an automatic imposition and planning solution for commercial, digital, publishing and packaging printers. IMP helps printers estimate jobs, improve their planning, reduce paper wastage and can seamlessly integrate with the pre-press workflow. All this is basically focused on reducing costs which is key in today's competitive market. At Drupa 2012, we launched StyleCAD, StylKit and 3DVu which are packaging softwares for design and visualization for the folding carton industry. This was very well received. We have started the process of installing the system at customer sites.

SS: Rumours of Proteck shedding staff, and unable to provide service and maintenance. How true are these rumours? Is there an internal restructure of the organization? Can you give us an overview?
KI: We have not really shed any staff till this month even when we transitioned Mitsubishi services to Provin. We continued to support our customers and with the help of Provin were able to transfer it very smoothly such that the customers don’t suffer on this account. Right now we are actually expanding our team and are hiring some positions across the country. We recently sent a team of engineers to Japan for training on some of the latest products. There is lot of activity and action within the team. We have offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Sivakasi and of course Chennai. Rumours are a part of the industry we are in. We are in touch with our customers and they are well updated about our presence.

SS: What are the immediate targets viz, next quarter?
KI: We have had great success with Horizon machines over the last eight years and have had record sales the first quarter of this year in spite of the high yen. I think this is mainly because of the level of automation Horizon provides and the difficulties printers are facing in getting quality labour in the finishing department. We have special products for the digital market and have had good response so far in that area as well. In the Proteck manufactured products, we have also been shipping quite a few of our latest XC Series (95, 116 and 137cm) mechanical cutting machines and have had good response for our screen printing machine as well. We installed the first paper counting machine from Uchida last month and that looks promising too.
Besides our existing product lines we are working on bringing some quality products to the Indian market; things that we feel are high quality and can benefit the Indian printer. Our targets for this year revolve around these product lines and at this point we are bullish on the sales for the year.

SS: What's the health status of Bala and his involvement in day-to-day operations?
KI: Bala is doing very well, health wise; still is often the first to arrive and last to leave the office. He is involved in different product groups in our company so his attention is accordingly distributed across the groups. With growth, we are moving our day-to-day operations to a more system- or process-driven rather than people-driven. This is the best solution to ensures quicker response and overall customer satisfaction.

SS: You say Proteck is 'quietly confident' for the future. In what way?
KI: Proteck has been in the print industry since 1984 and has moved from a manufacturer to a print equipment supplier. The ability to balance our in-house manufacturing to complement the products we represent has been one of our strengths.  We hope to build on that strength and are confident that even though markets go through their ups and downs with proper planning and innovation, we will do well in the market. Finally, we are also confident and thankful of the trust our customers put in us without which we cannot set out to achieve our goals in the market.