Print's creative creators: How to make an impact - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

InkWeek hosted by PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? magazines with support from Siegwerk India and Hubergroup India was hosted from 21 to 25 March 2022. 32 print experts and industry icons talked about carbon emissions and supply chain plus new models of return on capital. Sustainability was a keyword. Noel D'cunha spoke to Chandrakant Gadhia of Marks Emballage, Faliith Pandyaa of PrintVision, Rohit Badlani of UVbiz, Sahil Rao of Akruti/Unbox, and Shail Patel of Gujarat Print Pack Publications

27 Mar 2022 | By Noel D'Cunha

Learning index 
We were in the midst of a disruption. Something that was unprecedented in our lifetime, and it was tough as hell, says Chandrakant Gadhia, the president for business strategy - finance and operations at Marks Emballage. But contrary to the belief about the slowdown in business, Gadhia's company (located in Baddi) used this crisis as an opportunity to press the accelerator.

“Our take was – how can we respond faster to new demands in the market much before our competition,” Gadhia says. The first wave of Covid-19 meant lots of work for Marks. It meant fulfilling a sudden spike in hygiene and sanitiser products - with a very lean team. “We delivered millions of labels overnight to almost all big brands in the country during the lockdown,” says Gadhia. Also, there were lots of learnings from its customers for Marks. In the last 12 months, the company has been working with one of the most prestigious global FMCG companies. “We got to learn a lot. Our company and team did a Harvard MBA course on the job.”

Shail Patel, director, Gujarat Print Pack Publication, who presented a Show & Tell on Day Four of InkWeek, says, 2020 and 2021 weren’t the toughest years, but certainly, he learned the most and grew a lot. “Having an unpredictable supply chain, and disruptions , was a 24/7 masterclass in business administration.”

Patel, who holds a print media degree from Rochester Institute deploys his print media degree from Rochester Institute to make the most of the technology. How so, Sunday Column asked him? During the last 12 months, Patel was engaged in a substrate, inks and varnish standardisation project for a global company. “The customer had specifications for eight different grades of varnishes, more than 12 grades of substrates and three grades of inks. We helped them to bring this down to two grades of varnishes, three grades of substrates and one grade of inks.”

At InkWeek, Patel presented a case-study on efficiencies of off-press colour matching. Patel has one suggestion for the ink manufacturers. He says, “Make features such as high light fastness, chemical resistance, scuff resistance, and such as standard features, rather than a separate grade of inks.”

 For Sahil Rao, director at Pune-based Unbox, the past two years have been one of the most successful packaging business years, though the commercial print business at Akruti took a hit of 30%. “However, Unbox tapped a lot of new clients, our payment cycles improved and there was a rise in the bottomline.” Rao adds, “We started saying no to extremely low-profit orders and introduced strict payment terms. This proved to be an important step.”

Sahil Rao: Show & Tell during InkWeek

Sahil Rao of Unbox

A year ago, we had developed a top-bottom rigid box for a saxophone instrument for an export client. It was a decently high-priced order where the customer was in NYC and the designer was based in Paris. We did a lot of proofings, shipped the boxes to respective countries many times. After working on the project for a year, a few months ago, we got the purchase order for the most challenging packaging that we have done till now. The box has two Pantone colours of a similar shade running throughout the box and a very critical design with a lot of running elements that would challenge us while wrapping the paper on the board. It had a lot of gold foiling and spot UV on the top tray which made the box look very premium. To give it a better unboxing experience, we had curated a two-tier compartment of foam+paper in the base tray, the top would smoothly slide down like an iPhone box and the product would get revealed in the top compartment. After lifting that compartment, you reach the base compartment where you would find the accessories and the manual. This marked our journey of a sizable export order and was the first job that we carried out on our new wrapping machine.

This was a case-study which Sahil Rao presented during his Show & Tell on Day Four of InkWeek.

The culture of quality

There is little doubt that the word ‘quality’ is deployed rather casually. Gadhia of Marks Emballage says he believes in what industrialist Henry Ford said – Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

But the importance of quality is never so apparent when it falters at the customers' site. And the price of poor quality is becoming more visible – from product recalls to court plaints. One quality management survey stated that 96% of manufacturers have had a product recall in the past few years. Gadhia agrees and talks from the print’s point of view. “Imagine a label printer with the best in class equipment, printing a different shade of red every time they print a Coke label. This will be suicidal.”

One of the reasons that Marks implemented the Idealliance G7 certification, the first UV flexo facility in India to achieve Idealliance G7 Master Facility certification on 25 January 2020, was to ensure accurate and consistent colour reproduction first time and every time. “It’s a data-driven approach to managing quality, so that production is not just measured according to how quickly products are produced, but on their level of quality, along with the quality of every related item and transactions – input and output.”

Besides the G7 process, Gadhia advocates that one must-have item in every print factory should be the Spectrophotometer. “This is one of the least costly investments but often ignored. It is magical equipment which can help control wastage, deliver consistent print quality and add to a printer's bottomline.”

Patel of Gujarat Print Pack concurs with Gadhia, saying, for him, quality is a way of life. “If you make excellent quality a baseline de facto requirement, it becomes routine, and you do not settle for anything less than excellent. If you tend to allow a compromise in one area or for one customer that will become the routine.”

Shail Patel: One improvement that your team is working on?

Shail Patel of Gujarat Print Pack

Making data-driven decisions. We are collecting data on every process on our shop floor- from machines to supplies and human resources. Now we are working on organising ourselves better to make use of this rich dataset.

Patel says, standard operating procedures (SOP) are one of the best tools that you can use to ensure consistency, reduce wastages, improve efficiencies and reduce your manager’s stress levels. “We also focus on continuous improvement. “Tweaking a machine/process/system to keep moving in the right direction, is our way of continuous improvement,” he says.

Sahil Rao of Unbox tries to achieve better quality by using good quality raw material. “More than 50% of the quality issues are taken care of there. Paper, board, inks tend to become ingredients, but even small things like good quality adhesives, tapes, magnets, and films, play a major role. We love investing in new technology, to reduce the turnaround time and achieve better quality.”

Chandrakant Gadhia: Feedback for ink makers

Chandrakant Gadhia

Create a chain of training and ink mixing centres in all major towns of India to train people in the science of colour matching and ink mixing. It can generate a large number of employment, as every printer needs to hire trained personnel to manage inks and also help the industry improve on wastage control, consistent quality and better margins. Any company which can do this can change its game in the industry.

Clients and trends

Today, what we have observed is that the print service provider is focused on helping its clients succeed in all the ways that are important to them. It then digs deep into its resources to help its customers meet their business goals and add value.

The increasing pace of localisation is driving the clients to seek deliveries just-in-time. “Therefore, the customers are looking for more and more suppliers within the close vicinity of their factories,” is a trend that Patel sees in the market. “The other thing is to push towards being sustainable and environmentally sensitive and take the necessary steps.”

Also, consumer behaviour is rapidly evolving. “They want to experiment plus they seek a bigger basket of products. This means shorter runs for printers, but more potential for value additions and value creation,” says Patel.

But all this means cost. Gadhia says, the clients don’t look at the cost of production, but want the products at lower cost, the lower the better. “In our business, the balance of power is tilted towards brand customers and machinery and material suppliers. Printers are the smallest, weakest and most insecure link in the packaging business. We need to size up and have a better say in the business.”

Rao thinks a lot depends on the kind of marketing you do. “Customers are still spending on packaging, you just need to deliver the right product.” He says his company faced competition and price issues, but inked the deal with value-addition (embellishments and personalisation).

Rao says, “I feel this is a good time to be in the packaging business.”

Faliith Pandyaa of Print Vision, Ahmedabad

Faliith Pandyaa 

Feedback for the ink manufacturers. How can they help you future-proof your businesses? One suggestion.
An intensive and extensive campaign by the ink manufacturers for both commercial and packaging printers to educate us about the various types of inks, such as innovative inks, food-grade inks and inks that should be used from an export perspective such as soy-based inks for books, food-grade inks for packaging.

One project that you were part of in the past 12 months that was important and challenging?
Recently, we have started packaging and especially high-end packaging for cosmetics companies. We require a lot of Pantone inks for metPET and we are facing problems with UV gold for metPET. Our local supplier managed to provide us with the inks, but the turnaround time was lengthy and may not be conducive for all customers, especially those projects with tight deadlines.


 Q&A with Rohit Badlani of UVbiz, Indore

Rohit Badlani

One project that you were part of in the past 12 months that was important and challenging?
All projects that help us improve the mindset of a customer towards flexo quality and process are challenging. We have successfully accomplished 100’s of such jobs.   

Was 2020 and 2021 one of the toughest years for you? How did you cope?
Yes, these years were extremely challenging. We had just entered the industry in late 2019. Our investment in an in-house pre-press set-up helped us cope with the emergency demands of many customers.

Everybody uses the word "quality" very casually. What is your quality mantra?
The sincerity of each and every team member in performing their own role and responsibility is our mantra of quality.

What’s one thing people should know about your company?
UVbiz is synonymous with short-run flexibles. We bridge the gap between digital and gravure.

What does SOP mean to you?
SOP means everything to our process because of our lack of experience. We have standardised all processes to try and eliminate the variables.

Must-have items everyone should have in their factory?
A good inventory management system with an efficient material handling infrastructure.

Which aspect of your ops did you focus on during the past two years - factory or new products or R&D or talent pool …
Capitalising on our niche.

You have a one-on-one connection with your customer. What are the top three things that you are picking up from the market?
One, sustainability is on everyone's mind; two, product differentiation through innovative packaging; and third, as always, cost.

Reader Reaction: Three learnings from competitors.

  • Have a thorough understanding of your pricing, never sell at an uncomfortable price and always focus on the customer’s needs / wants.
    Shail Patel of Gujarat Print Pack
  • One, reducing prices even further in a rat race market is not a good business strategy. Hence, you need to develop a niche product. Two: online marketing plays a crucial role to procure good sales; and three, having a bouquet of products that helps in retaining key clients.
    Sahil Rao of Unbox
  • I learn and admire achievements from fellow printers and suppliers in the industry: global expansion by Indian giants – Uflex and EPL; strength of joint ventures – TCPL Halma; and market dominance, branding and pricing strategies – Avery Dennison.
    Chandrakant Gadhia of Marks Emballage
  • Three points. One: Working with fellow printers if their core competency is better than yours. Two: social media management. Third: strategic growth.
    Rohit Badlani of UVbiz