Meerut Packaging Industries: A lesson in being responsible

The newly-built corrugation plant of Meerut Packaging Industries is a fully automatic set-up, with a focus on reducing pollution and waste. “Being a socially responsible corrugator, no pollution is our main motto," says Sandeep Agarwal of Meerut Packaging Industries in an interaction with Rahul Kumar

03 Dec 2021 | By PrintWeek Team & Rahul Kumar

Sandeep Agarwal, a mechanical engineer owns Meerut Packaging which boasts of two five-ply automatic corrugation lines. One in Partapur and the other in Masuri

Established in 1996, Meerut Packaging Industries set up its corrugation plant in Masuri village, around 20 kms from Meerut city. The factory is walking distance from the national highway, and is surrounded by lush green agricultural land that grows sugarcane. Wild animals have been spotted at night, especially foxes and wolves.

Sandeep Agarwal, a mechanical engineer, started Meerut Packaging Industries when one of his well-wishers supported him in his venture. He was working as a design engineer at Sterling Tools, Faridabad, at that time.
Agarwal, the director at Meerut Packaging Industries, says, “It was a life-altering moment, from being an employee to an entrepreneur. We started with a manual corrugation plant and were converting around 100 tonnes per month. In this journey of 25 years, we have travelled from 100 tonnes per month to 200 tonnes per day and from manual to fully automatic operation.”

Agarwal put his experience and vision in the newly-established plant, and his work is visible for everyone. To avoid or minimise manual intervention, the factory is designed such that the raw material, especially kraft paper, can be unloaded from the trucks by forklifts directly and brought to the store, and then from the store to the corrugation line. Thus, the factory is developed in a ‘U’ shape to make loading, unloading and production easy.

Opting for automation
Agarwal believes that reduction of manual intervention will minimise mistakes, and that's why he opted for automation. "We could opt for Chinese and other more economical machines with less automation, but that wouldn't have served our purpose. So, we decided on European technologies," says Agarwal.

The production site, admeasuring around 2,50,000 sqft was constructed and developed by Kirbi, manufacturer of industrial sheds. The entire plant has a double colour theme of grey and red, inspired by the Fosber colour scheme.  

The plant is equipped with a 2,200-m wide and more than 100-m long five-ply fully automatic Fosber corrugation line. The corrugation machine is designed for a speed of up to 300-m/min, but 250-m/min is the operational speed. As it is a seven-ply ready machine, it can be converted from a five-ply to a seven-ply corrugation machine with a few additions. The machine is equipped with the technology to strengthen the corrugation boxes.

Another attraction of the plant is the Bobst FFG 8.20 Discovery. This flexo printer and folder-gluer can print, cut and fold the corrugated sheets of 820x2,200mm at a speed of 18,000 boxes an hour. The flute of the corrugation hardly matters with the machine.
The Fosber corrugation line and the Bobst FFG make the production easy with minimal or no manual intervention. From the insertion of kraft paper in a corrugation machine to dispatch of the material, corrugated sheets travel on conveyors.

Bobst FFG 8.20 Discovery can produce boxes at a speed of up to 18,000 boxes an hour

“We are the first Fosber user in India and were facing challenges because service engineers could not travel due to the pandemic. But the Fosber team supported us online, and we are using partial automation of the machine. We will utilise the complete automation of the machine once the travel restrictions are lifted, and service engineers can travel to our factory site,” Agarwal says.

He adds that the company decided to opt for Fosber because it offers advanced technology at an affordable price. “It was a win-win situation for both. Fosber got its debut in India, and we got the technology. We believe our suppliers are our business partners. We always push them to upgrade their quality. Our personnel are deployed at key customers to manage the demand and supply chain. Meerut Packaging cannot be the reason that they have to stop their production line because they work on zero inventories. Our vendor, customers and my team must synchronise. Otherwise, the system will collapse,” he says.

Being responsible
“Being a socially responsible corrugator, no pollution is our main motto. We recycle glues and printing ink wash. We even have an sewage treatment plant for human waste. We are committed to reducing carbon footprints,” Agarwal says.

“The heating system of our new corrugation line is based on steam, and Fosber made some arrangements so that steam consumption is reduced by 50%. We are using fuel made from wood and pulses waste. This is our initiative to reduce pollution. Because of our commitment towards society, we are not using any material which adds to pollution. We have connected with people who can provide us with organic waste, which we can use as fuel. We have tied up with a food company for peanuts waste and sarson ki tudi (mustard waste). Now, we are working to arrange ganne ki khoi (bagasse) as fuel, However as paper mills are deploying it, there is more demand than supply,” he adds.

The heating system of the machine is PLC-based and is fixed according to the processes. No manual intervention for heating is required. “The strength of our corrugation boxes has been increased because of appropriate heating. The heating is proportional to the speed of the machine. Our automatic glue kitchen needs only one person to pour the raw material when it’s empty; rest viscosity and pH value all are monitored automatically,” he says.

The company has also installed compressive machines at its fuel supplies, and its boilers are designed for multi-fuel consumption. The team of a global player visited the company and guided the company towards reduction of carbon footprint initiatives such as shifting all its commercial vehicles from diesel to CNG. “Our business partners, especially the MNCs, have taught us a lot. Even our forklifts are electric battery-operated,” he adds.

The company has also removed polythene packaging from its kraft, and its forklifts can handle those reels. All the paper scraps go to paper mills for recycling. “We are working on zero discharge from the factory,” Agarwal says.

He adds that the production shed is manufactured in such a way that it uses daylight for lighting. “We are working towards harnessing solar power, and the project is under discussion with the government authorities. We have ample land, and our constructed area is large and appropriate for solar power,” he says.

The Fosber corrugation line is equipped with technology to strengthen the corrugation boxes

Green plantation is Agarwal’s hobby, and he is planning to do a lot of infactory landscaping with it. He has a full-time gardener and intends to hire dedicated persons for plantation and gardening. “I love plants and farming, and fortunately, we have enough land. We have grown figs, red guava, black turmeric, sandal trees and are working on water farming. We have acquired around 20 acres of land, and discussions are on for more land.”

The company shifted to the plant, based in Masuri in February. Its earlier corrugation production unit in Partapur, Meerut, is still running and will continue to do so. Both Masuri and Partapur are five-ply automatic plants.

Agarwal says the business is based on the principle of togetherness, and profit is a by-product. “The basic principle is if our buyers grow, we will grow,” he adds.

Agarwal and his younger brother Mahavir run the family-owned business. “I am responsible for the production and new development, and Mahavir is responsible for marketing and business development. We are still working with our customers who have been loyal with us for the past 25 years, which is the real sign of togetherness,” he says.

Jaggery is one of the popular products in this part of the country. And in an example of collaboration and togetherness, the company educated the jaggery manufacturers. Now it is using white-sheet laminated corrugated boxes (specially manufactured for the jaggery manufacturers, with imported water-resistant material) instead of bags and gunny sacks, thereby increasing the life of products and keeping it fresh.

The operations
Agarwal says the present situation has been challenging due to the fluctuating paper prices. “We are facing heavy losses and have reduced production. We are supplying materials to our buyers in instalments so that they can continue their operations while optimising our operations. Since we work with MNCs, the credit cycles are long. We have asked them to pay the increased prices, and they have agreed, but it will take time. We have to supply without any interruption till the time we get the updated price,” he explains.

Agarwal adds his company cannot stop manufacturing because if they stop the supply, the customers’ entire supply and production chain will be stuck. “We can’t stop their supply for any reason, especially price. Our buyers supported us during Covid, and we ran our facility without interruption because of them and local government authorities. The paper mills have also supported us a lot. We have three kraft paper mills nearby,” he adds.

The 250,000-sq ft constructed production shed in Musuri was developed by Kirbi

According to Agarwal, the corrugation industry is growing, and buyers are educating the corrugators a lot. “Now we talk about compressive strength of boxes, the weight-bearing capacity of the boxes, life of the boxes, water-resistance quality of boxes, and not just thickness or flute sizes. We continuously offer corrugated boxes with less weight, thickness and more compressive strength with better quality,” he says.

In turn, the company is educating the paper manufacturers because the quality of the Indian kraft is a challenge. “To convert around 200 tonnes per day at the speed of 250-m/minute, we need strong kraft. Due to the present situation, we are utilising around 50% of our total capacity,” Agarwal says.

Due to bad quality, volatility of paper and uncertainty in prices, the company plans for an in-house kraft production mill. But the plan is on hold for the moment because of the market condition. “We may invest in a kraft mill soon,” he says.

For Agarwal, corrugation is a never-ending industry — it is a 100% recyclable, non-polluting and rapidly growing industry. “To achieve our goals, we have stopped using staples and are now using gumming. We are using food grade and ROHS-certified chemicals. The new plant will help us to grow. With the new plant, we are hoping to double our turnover,” he says, adding, “Meerut is one of the most important cities in NCR, and we are here with two corrugation plants and combined capacity to produce around 300 tonnes per day (200 tonnes at Masuri and 100 tonnes at Partapur). Road connectivity is fantastic nowadays. We have a huge vision for the future - and we are working on it.”