PrintWeek's Power 100: Let’s celebrate India’s brightest and best - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

The last two years have been tough. Defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian packaging and print industry too has faced a series of cascading crises – from the shortage of raw material to its price hike, to supply chain chaos. With the third wave of Covid-19 tapering, businesses have returned to operating at close to normal.

On cue, the search for the 100 individuals has begun. The Power 100 will be a show of packaging and print power – of those that beat the pandemic odds and are thriving

17 Apr 2022 | By Noel D'Cunha

How would you define a successful candidate for the Power 100? A person with a degree from a top university, with a strategic vision and one who even when under pressure, can make the right decisions?

Yet in our conversations and meetings, and plant visits since 2008, we have found how few successful leaders fit this profile. That led us to embark on the Power 100 project, which PrintWeek has been celebrating since 2018. We found that these leaders seem to know exactly how to steer their companies to success, in good and bad times.

PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? spoke to business owners during the recent Mumbai Mudrak Sangh Sangh’s conference, to find out if the year 2020 and 2021 were one of the toughest years, and how did they cope? One CEO said the last two years were a roller-coaster ride for everyone – businesses, families. “People suffered and had to face the pandemic and live with it,” he said, adding, “For me, keeping a positive attitude towards life, families and employees was the need of the hour. Strategic financial decisions and discipline we managed to sail through the tough times and are now bouncing back into action.”

On another note, one print company, which recently added packaging business to its portfolio, especially high-end packaging for cosmetic companies, faced a shortage of consumables. “We require a lot of Pantone inks for metPET and faced problems with UV gold for metPET. With some smart buying decisions, we could acquire the supplies from the local dealer. But, in such cases the turnaround times can be low and may not be conducive for all customers, especially with tight deadlines,” he said.

So this time, while the parameters of the voting for the Power 100 are subjective, PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? magazine readers should keep in mind that we are selecting the companies (and their business owners) based on the 7Ms. These are Machinery, Materials, Methods, Measurement, Manpower, Money and Mother Nature.

Here’s how.

Who can stop an asset from getting older? An ageing machinery can create a number of challenges for the business, such as breakdowns, inefficiency and the like. How do you create new value for an ageing plant's assets? The answer is: by replacing or adding new machinery; or modernising without buying new equipment.

KR Chandrashekhar, Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical), along with BV Shashidhar, a diploma holder in printing technology, are two partners of the Bengaluru-based Esscee Enterprises. He says, "We would classify three machines as our best purchases at those particular points of time. Firstly, it was our Heidelberg five-colour with a coater printing machine." Prior to this machine, the team at Esscee Enterprises had to do separate passes for five-colour jobs, and as and when the coating was involved, it needed to be done offline. Chandrashekar says, "This machine really boosted up our production capacity and also improved the quality of the final output."

Chandrashekar of Esscee Enterprises added, "When we purchased our Bobst auto die-cutter machine, it helped in "fast conversion of printed sheets and enhanced productivity.” Before this, Esscee was using seven manual punching machines. Today Esscee Enterprises have three Bobst auto die-cutter equipment.

Thirdly, Esscee focussed on its printing and punching capacity. Having enhanced multi-fold, the Esscee team didn't want a bottleneck situation at the carton pasting. So the company procured a Bobst folder-gluer kit which, according to Chandrashekar, is "a very high-speed machine and helped us to replace five domestic-made folder-gluer machines being used." These three folder-gluers have paved the path to increase the capacity at Esscee Enterprises.

In March 2021, Trigon Digital installed the HP Indigo 25K to meet its growing flexible packaging demand. This was the first customer installation of the flagship HP Indigo 25K digital press across Asia. Anil Namugade, founder and CEO, Trigon Digital says, "Our new HP Indigo 25k latest purchase was not a quick decision." He adds, "The decision was placed, well in advance as part of our business strategy. It was just that we were waiting for the right time."

Namugade adds, "When e-commerce exploded in India, it was led by small and medium enterprises, who took advantage of the reach and scale of an online business. These businesses were innovating at a rapid pace. They were looking for a packaging converter partner, who could keep pace with their innovation and growth. That’s what fuelled the trend of short-run, quick turnaround projects." So, adding to Trigon's success with proofing and mock-ups for large customers, the company added, "this exciting new emerging segment since it wanted to be a pioneer in creating a solution".

Rising material prices and its shortage have had the print service providers in an uproar. However, in the print business, while designing a product, it’s the material used that holds the key.

Sahil Rao of Akruti/Unbox shared a case-study his company did a year back. “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 lived in Paris. We did a lot of proofings, and shipped the boxes to respective countries many times. After trying for almost a year, a few months back 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.”

During the Telangana Offset Printers Association (TOPA) conference Narendra Paruchuri, chairman of Pragati Group, shared a personal experience, when he was faced with a challenge while fulfilling a packaging job, and how alternate material came under the spotlight. "Last year we (Pragati) produced the Johnny Walker box containing one bottle of whisky and two glasses. We used plastic molding to hold the bottle and glasses. The next year they did not want plastic. So we developed a system with board and rubber bands that could hold the bottle and was 100% eco-friendly. We sent it for patenting too. Unfortunately for us, the alco-bev brand opted for tin and we lost out. But we are still in the race and we will get the contract someday."

For Baddi’s Mark Emballage, controlling waste through training and process standardisation is a method to getting the perfect print and running a successful plant.

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. Chandrakant Ghadia, the president for business strategy - finance and operations at Marks Emballage who was an expert during one of the InkWeek days, says, imaging 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.

So what did Marks do? It implemented the Idealliance G7 certification, the first UV flexo facility in India to achieve Idealliance G7 Master Facility certification on 25 January 2020. “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.”

Shail Patel, director of Gujarat Print Pack, says, make standard operating procedures (SOP) a method. “It is one of the best tools that you can use to ensure consistency, reduce wastages, improve efficiencies and reduce your manager’s stress levels.” He says, the other is focused on continuous improvement. “Tweaking a machine/process/system to keep moving in the right direction, is our way of continuous improvement,” he says.

As a print company, each one has to know how well it is doing and if the strategy is working or not?

When we spoke to Vinod Vazhupully, managing director of Skanem India, a Rs 140-crore company, he said, keeping a focus on strategy development and measurements are linked to the performance of the company.

According to Vazhupully, if you want to reduce the load problem, for example, the first thing you need to know is: the reason for the low-load situation – is it because you don’t have enough raw material, an operator, or a machine downtime? “You need to know the actual reason, and if you don't know how much of that percentage is getting affected on the total shift time, you will never be able to prioritise the first step that you need to do. With the IIoT, the sensors automatically start capturing the data,” he says.

He adds, “You know when the machine has stopped and what is the reason for its stoppage. It shares that information with the MIS, which is on the cloud-based server, and you get the data in real-time. You don’t have to ask the operator, or the supervisor or even the plant head to give me an update on key issues. I can go online and find out what exactly is going around with the machines.

Vazhupully cites an example of a specific project of wastage reduction that Skanem had undertaken in the latter part of 2019 and the whole of 2020. “We have our presses, which, on average, are 10-14 years old. We haven’t invested in a new flexo machine for quite some time now. But for me, one thing is very clear – you must milk the cow to its maximum, rather than put another asset on the job for the same purpose. Until 2019, the proportion of waste was around 23%.

Now when we talk about waste, it can be attributed to factors such as – short runs, lack of efficiency, lack of knowledge of the operator, and trial and error while set-ups. But the point is, there was a tremendous amount of wastage that we could see against our global average of 12% to 13%. We looked at the OEE sheets, and we put a define, measure, analyse, improve and control (DMAIC) plan. With the data available with us, we just took out the guesswork. And believe me, today, after one-and-a-half years of hard work, our average waste is down to 16%, and that has been because of meticulous planning, owing to the clear data that was available to us right from the start.”

During Print Summit 2018, Paul Bradley, chief executive of ESP Colour said that around 2006, UK’s print industry was having a tough time. It was also the time when the print sector across the printing industry faced a decline in profitability as they aggressively slashed prices.

The challenges that companies in Belgaum faced on a day-to-day basis are no different from that he faced. But he countered them with a very simple project that drove everything since.  He devised a Project 2.5K. It was to produce 2,500 good sheets for every set of plates that went on the presses. It was focused on the market, focus on a product type, and focus on the perfect run length per set of plates.

Eleven years on ESC has two automated B1 multicolour presses, one is a three-year-old and the other a four-year-old. Three men run the two presses – one each on the two machines and a boiler to make the marks. Each of the machines averaged 62-million impressions per year on triple shifts (111 hours) in 2017. “Our presses run at 18,000 sheets per hour (sph), every job, every day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year,” said Bradley.

How did Bradley achieve what he did? With people and cost. Efficiency can always be improved, but we have to have our 3M’s – man, machinery, and materials. Run the machine at the speed it is brought for; employ the right people to run the machines – and they are also rightly paid, and present the paper in a way that can let the machine run at that speed.

While sales and profit margins are key metrics for any business, a balanced cash flow should be an equally important indicator of financial well-being.

Nimesh Bheda, director at Navin Trading Company, a supplier of plates, blankets, inks, coatings and chemicals in Hyderabad, has this to share. He says, "Print business in India is largely credit-driven. The payment pressure is always huge. During the lockdown, the government has requested the companies to pay wages to its workforce. Plus there were other expenses and overheads like rents, power bills, and government taxes to be paid. “But where was the inward revenue,” asks Bheda.

The industry in India is part of "a rolling economy", and one can pay the vendors, suppliers, staff, and service providers on time as per due dates and not delay the payments. “But then, where do I get the funds from remains a question,” says Bheda.

One way is to get the funds from your customers. Bheda says, every business has inflows from customers, and outflows to vendors. “If everyone sincerely tries to clear the outflows, the inflows are automatically generated. Although at times they may not be in proportion to the value you need, and this is where we have to look at banks for additional help,” advises Bheda.

“Print companies that focused on cash-flow challenges and laid out measures to mitigate the damage that the long lockout had caused have come out better from the lockdowns,” says Bheda.

Mother Nature
Today, brands demand that print has to go beyond the functions of the product or service. One school of thought is that the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. Further, the consumers are actively engaging with sustainability (77% of young Indian middle-class consumers say this is top priority). These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good.

There are companies that have implemented excellent recycling and waste management systems in their factories. According to a print equipment supplier, there are examples of some companies having re-examined the nature of printed materials along with electronic media as a means of conveying information and products reliably.” These firms have achieved results by focusing on advanced direct mail and home delivery products. During the Covid-19 pandemic, a printing company improved productivity by promoting multi-tasking through employee training while keeping employee attendance down for the satisfaction of employees and their families. Another printing company improved productivity, working hours, and labour saving by actively investing in double-sided, one-pass presses.”

It has been an extraordinary year, and there is no harm in reminding ourselves of the resilience and innovation our industry has shown in the past 12 months.

Share the Power 100 among your peers and make your vote count. Celebrate the power of  packaging and print.

Extended Deadline: 25 April 2022. Click here to vote

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