Manu Choudhury: We are a new born baby in the massive world of packaging

CDC Printers is set to chart a new path by boosting the litho and post-press capacity with technology spend. One tip that Manu Choudhury took to heart was,don’t do anything half heartedly

23 Sep 2019 | By PrintWeek India

Q: What does it require to set up a plant, being an engineer or an architect or neither?
A: At different stages, one has to don different caps. The list is not limited to an architect or engineer but goes way beyond to the level of operators, helpers, material handlers, etc. Being an engineer, I was more of an engineer at most times.

Q: When was the idea of this factory born?
A: The thought of getting into packaging was lingering at the back of our minds from a long time. We heard that packaging is a growing segment. Moreover, a lot of innovations were happening in the packaging space. So, we decided that if we do not take the plunge into this world, we may not be able to sustain the growth rate that we want. It eventually went on to paper and reality in May/June 2018.

Q: How many people did you consult? Best tip you received?
A: We discussed about our idea of packaging with almost everyone related to this space. I remember having very long discussions with Mahesh (ST Reddiar) and Ankit Tanna (Printmann) about almost anything and everything. 
We discussed how we should position ourselves in an already crowded space. Two of the most important tips we received were ‘don’t do anything half-heartedly’ and ‘innovation and value addition are the keys’.

Q: Which factories did you visit?
A: Edelmann, Baddi; Pragati, Hyderabad; JC Graphics, Vijayawada

Q: Looking back, what advice would you give to someone starting off to create a packaging unit?
A: The same two we found to be most useful, ‘don’t do anything half-hearted’ and ‘innovation, value-additions are the keys’.

Q: Why mono cartons?
A: Compared to flexible packaging, printing on paperboard is a known devil. Additionally, we will be able to use the new print infrastructure to provide innovative solutions to our customers in commercial printing as well as publishers in children’s book segment.

Q: What are the things that CDC will be focussing on in the next two years?
A: Currently, we are like a new-born baby in the massive world of packaging. We would be focussing on establishing ourselves as a problem-solver, experimenter, the go-to team for anything beyond ordinary.

Bobst Novacut 106 E: CDC die-cuts one-lakh sheets per week 

Q: How did you create a CDC team for packaging?
A: West Bengal and Odisha have always been a hub of talent, lacking opportunities. The people from here migrate early to other parts of the country and yet are very attached to the roots. They were the people we scouted for, as they would be a great fit to our new plant. We sent a few people from our existing team to Bobst’s extensive training programmes as well. 

Q: What is your favourite process in packaging?
A: It has to be the use of the folder-gluer, one machine and crazy possibilities at crazier speed. 

Q: What is the first thing you notice when you walk around in the factory?
A: Decently clean with epoxy flooring at several places, clear lane-marking, limited WIP with each of them at their appropriate waiting spaces, and giant, beautiful looking machines. 

Q: Indian board versus imported board?
A: Till now we have been using only Indian board. We are waiting for fascinating jobs where we will have to use Invercote boards. 

Q: Which is the last job you produced? Which job will you be producing next?
A: We did a machine proof of an export job for RSH Global. It was printed on a board with matte metallised film with highly attractive design giving a very sophisticated look to the mono carton. The next job is a calendar with a rich image of Lord Ganesha on PET film. This will be our first experiment with PET films.

Q: Your take on closed-loop colour system and double coaters?
A: Closed-loop colour system is a fascinating piece of equipment. It is probably the most important piece of equipment for process control during printing. One of the primary requirements in packaging is repeatability, and this ensures total repeatability. Whether printing according to standard colour values or to match to client’s reference, whether reproducing Pantone shades or any special colours or any other colour library, closed loop colour systems can handle all and guarantee repeatability if used with proper settings.

Our press is equipped with closed-loop system and we are using it rigorously even when printing on metalised boards. The only disadvantage is the 5-mm space the colour bar requires.

Q: Your take on double coaters?
A: We have not yet come across a requirement where double coaters are essential. We even went through the entire catalogue of Schmid Rhyner Coatings. Out of the entire catalogue, there was only one effect than cannot be reproduced on a press with single coater. Wherever double coaters are required, one can achieve it in double pass. So unless one has a lot of jobs which require double coater, one can live with a single coater press. 

Q: Last time you spoke to PrintWeek India, you were bothered by gripper settings and rollers?
A: We have one of the best in-house maintenance team. And I never really got my hands dirty with gripper settings and rollers. I was always more of an electrical and information systems, and colour guy.

Q: How do you cope with quality expectations and the constant deadline pressure from your clients?
A: On time delivery and standardised and repeatable quality are our strengths. We want our customers to be more demanding  than ever.

Q: If you were an ink, which colour would you be?
A: I think I will be blue, composed of cyan (representing peace, tranquillity, inner joy) and magenta (representing excitement).

Q: Your view on the six- and seven-colour process sets to replace the need for spot colour inks?
A: Currently, I am not in favour of six- or seven-colour processes to replace the need for spot colour. Of course, one can reproduce most of Pantone shades using six- or seven-colour process. Also, one can reproduce many Pantone shades using CMYK process, and yet why use spot colours to print them. One has to understand that spot colours in packaging printing are used not just to print colour beyond CMYK colour gamut. They are used to ensure less variation during printing. Six- or seven-colour process will be a good idea, when printing very short runs, each sheet has several Pantone shades and it’s being printed on a very reliable machine like Indigo or Heidelberg Anicolor.

Q: Best part of a pre-press workflow today?
A: Theoretically, in the area of commercial printing, the current workflows have reached the stage of file upload by customer to online approval to plate without a single touch point of the pre-press team (provided no errors). It still requires more AI/ machine learning to be implemented practically. We wish to get there soon. In packaging, we are currently not using the entire workflow of Esko. So we are yet to experience a seamless packaging flow as it is advertised to be.

Q: How many samples on the Kongsberg sample table yet?
A: Since we are new and hardly have repeat jobs, most of the times we are developing new samples. Kongsberg sample table is full of it.

Q: One design that was a total googly?
A: We are babies in this world. Right now, we are being thrown underarm bowling on a flat pitch. Waiting for googlies. 

Q Able to feed the Bobst Novacut 106 E?
A: On an average we are die-cutting one lakh sheets per week. It’s way less than its capacity. We haven’t tried stripping on the machine yet, but it will happen very soon.

Q: What type of work on the Bobst VisionFold thus far?
A: For experiments and trials, we have done several conical boxes, boxes with inner partitions, boxes with hook in the top. In production, we have been doing stand straight line and crash-lock boxes only. Four–corner, six–corner attachments are yet to  be added. 

Q: Hot foil or cold foil?
A: Cold foil seems to be a very promising innovation. Wonders can be done.

Q: MetPET. Your view?
A: It’s one of the cheaper ways to make your product stand out. Flexo silver, gravure silver, cold foil etc, can be used to give it a metallic look. One day MetPET will be replaced. I am not sure how long it will take.

Q: Maximum gsm of carton board you can produce on?
A: According to the brochure, 1-mm.

Heidelberg CD 102 six-colour plus coater

Q: What type of quality control systems for ejects skewed cartons or where glue has been missed or not applied?
A: We contemplated quite a lot on whether to go for quality control systems in the folder-gluer right from the beginning. Eventually, since such systems can be added anytime on the machine, we decided to spend the money on other important areas. We will get to it once our basic systems are set.

Q: Does a closed-loop system assure colour consistency for every job?
A: Closed-loop system assures colour consistency. We can prepare colour reports for every job printed. We plan to attach this colour report along with other QC reports for every packaging job.

Q: How do you manage to reduce setup times and control your waste?
A: Since there are not enough similar jobs that can be batched together to reduce overall setup times, and most of the times we are printing a new job and not a repeat job, setup times are currently longer than what I would have liked. But within six month’s time, we would like to bring down our setup time to lowest possible in our industry.

We wish to produce a lot of short-run jobs rather than printing 50,000 sheets of the same design. This can be economically achieved only with really short setup time.

Q: Average job size? 2,000 or 20,000?
A: Currently 2,000.

Q: Which special talent does CDC have?
A: We are an experimenter, total believer in lean production systems and we have the approach of a problem-solver.

Q: What does innovation mean for CDC?
A: A company not innovating is a company not future-proof. Innovation can be of either product, or process or offering. Not being a very creative person myself, I would rather try to bring about innovations in our production/ business processes and our offerings. Because historically, the print industry has been dedicated to bringing in innovations to our products, there is a sea of improvement that can be achieved towards the other two.

Q: Which awarding-winning book is CDC printing in its city factory?
A: A catalogue for Seagull is under production. Like every year, it is going to be an award-winning book.

Q:The update on the educational book market, and your journey since 2012?
A: We started our book production unit in 2012 and saw very good growth in the first three-four years. We became the most preferred vendor for publishers around our area. The childrens book segment is still growing rapidly. It definitely requires another printing machine to fulfil their demand but with all funds gone into packaging unit, we have to let go of several customer requirements. 

Q: When we walked around your press, you mentioned automation as a way of life now. How does this work in a business that’s seen as a combination of art and science? 
A: Unfortunately, on the production floor, I am trying to kill the art aspect of printing and converting everything into measurements. I want the artists to do their magic on the computer, and science and measurements take over during the production stage.

Q: Finally, what is your message for the Kolkata print industry which used to be fantastic and vibrant?
A: A song from Rabindranath Tagore comes to my mind, ‘Jodi tor daak shune keu na aashe tobe ekla cholo re’ (If there is no one responding to your call, then go on all alone).