Processes can be set up for a quick approval system with a good ERP

Says Sangam Khanna of Komori India, in an interview with Rahul Kumar, as the company showcases its Komori KP Konnect to enable customers to identify the gaps in the production process at Pamex 2023

27 Mar 2023 | By Rahul Kumar

Sangam Khanna of Komori India

Rahul Kumar (RK): Can you share an update on the latest that you will be showing at Pamex 2023?  
Sangam Khanna (SK):
We are displaying a Komori KP Konnect at our stall. This is the core of management cloud-based MIS, which will enable customers to identify the gaps in the production process. This tool is important for customers to increase productivity and optimise machine utilisation.

RK: What are your sales numbers in the last 12 months (March 2022 to March 2023)?
We count our sales based on handover and not shipment. This year, our shipments may be more but we are targeting the handover of around 40 machines.

RK: A little ahead, we have the big shows – Labelexpo Europe in Brussels and Drupa 2024. Would your company be part of these shows?
Komori will be in Drupa 24. It’s too early for us to share the details but our wish will be to have visitors and customers to pre-Covid 19 levels. However, with the geo-political scenario, we will have to wait closer to the end of November and early December to get a clear picture.

RK: We have seen a few educational sessions for commercial and wide-format print service providers on how they can enter the packaging segment. But do we have the data and trends that can prove packaging business is an industry well worth exploring?
This is an area in offset printing that is opening up as more and more customers are demanding larger sizes to cater to larger size formats for corrugated boxes. However, we are yet to see any installation in this vertical.  

RK: Can you share an example of a customer of yours diversifying/ entering into commercial printing, packaging or labels, after seeing your kit in action?
We have a customer, Arunodaya Packaging, one of the leading label manufacturers based in Hyderabad. The company did a linear integration in the vertical of mono cartons, supplying liquor and pharma packaging. To the best of my understanding, the company has utilised the machine we installed from day one.

RK: Commercial printers often see themselves as marketing or advertising companies where as long as what they produce looks pretty, all is good. But in packaging, say folding cartons, it’s quite different. Good quality manufacturing is of essence… Could you share some pointers – for example, the importance of understanding the packaging market or digital package prints or the need for training and education in sales, production, and customer service, for those looking to diversify?
The mindset of commercial, packaging and publishing customers is completely different.

Packaging customers will be a bit easy to address as their work is based on consistency and standardisation set by the customer. So, there is no choice for them but to align with customers. Their customers are demanding in terms of delivery schedule, quality of the packaging of the product, quality of finish appearance, quality of consistency of print, and the paper and pre-press inputs, and last but not least, a regular update on the job process. It’s a value-based sale every time.

However, commercial and publishing fields are known to be price-sensitive with cutthroat competition, and thus, few print converters use value sales. The industry is based on price sales and the relationship one carries with the buyer.

RK: Is social media having an effect on the print and packaging industry? What’s the impact on the printing and packaging business?
To the best of my understanding both the media will co-exist. Nevertheless, social media is set to grow more. But print too is transforming and good growth in this is certainly fanning out, as we all experience the same in our daily lives.  

RK: Most of the CEO’s energy is focused on taxes. How does one try to find one focused on the business? Any learnings from CEOs in other parts of the world? Do they ALSO micro-manage their business as much as Indian print and packaging CEOs?
It may be true that some of the CEO energy is drained on issues other than the businesses. However, in Komori, one is supposed to allocate judicious time to all the departments of revenue generation, especially HR and the welfare of the employees. 

RK: Most companies PrintWeek/WhatPackaging? meet, and talk about growth but also say it’s essential to keep the machines running with wafer-then or no-margin jobs. Isn’t it a risky strategy?
As per a report I read just a few days back, Indian packaging is estimated to touch USD 125-billion in FY 2023 and the projection for 2025 is set to hit a target of USD 180 to 200-billion. This speaks volumes. Now, when there is a gap between demand and supply, I am certain that wafer-thin margins are unsustainable. With the retail eCommerce and other verticals of packaging on paper and board, India seems to be on the growth path for some more years.

RK: The number of levels in a factory almost always directly correlates to more bottlenecks. One simple step that everyone should follow in their factory that can benefit our audience?
To be honest, in my opinion, there is no way out. Unless one is running a mama-papa shop. Yes, processes can be set up for a quick approval system with good ERPs running, which map a timeline to every job. I know of many mid-size and large companies that are efficiently running them.

RK: Recently a few print companies informed us that there’s a spike in the cost of spares. An upward revision of service rates followed this. It’s become a cause for concern?
Please do understand that spare and service rates have been stagnant for a long period of time. There is pressure on manufacturers to procure raw materials and this has a direct impact on the output. When it comes to India, the forex too has gone up against the rupee by over 6% compounding year-on-year added to the cost of labour, which was stagnant for over a decade and the organisation were bleeding. This price increase is a forced measure for all the manufacturers globally. 

RK: Sustainability initiatives are on the rise. As a result, for the packaging, sustainability intertwines. As a policy and programme, sustainability has become a new way to do business for customers and service providers in the packaging industry. One of them is finding packaging materials and printing technologies that enhance sustainability. What’s the importance of digital printing?
Sustainability is a serious concern for the environment and Komori is committed to working on this. Komori is an eco-friendly machine and we achieved this in 2012. Now, Komori is working on the same project to define new levels of sustainability. We shall announce this once we are ready to roll out.

Packaging material constitutes over 80% of the finished product. We support working with materials which are sustainable and re-cyclable. Komori is committed to doing our best with like-minded suppliers globally to work as associates for a cause.

Digital will certainly have a big role to play in this as the amount of paper wasted is much less. But every technology comes with good and bad points. What makes digital printing technologies come closer to meeting lofty sustainability goals is less waste, reuse and such, than their conventional predecessors. Apart from the near-zero waste of paper and the clock costs getting cheaper by the day, I feel the day they cross the threshold.

RK: How is your company better placed than its competitors?
Komori tied up with Landa, and we too have transformed with digital machines of our own — the IS 29 and NS 40. We have the technology from Komori which is set to have a big impact on our customers. We have installed the first two NS 40 machines and customers seem to be very happy with them. To the best of my understanding, there are not many suppliers who can boost to have a NS 40-like competition at the cost of print which this will have.  

RK: And finally, the market is changing. Commercial print runs have declined, but it still offers better margins.
Yes, the efficiency levels too have improved and the margins too are better than pre-Covid levels. As I was speaking to a commercial printer in Delhi, he told me that the commercial printers in the area got together to brainstorm why they are working below cost. Most agreed not to work below their cost. God forbid, if another covid-like situation comes up, they will be forced to shut shop.   

RK: The other good news on the packaging front is nothing is going to replace packaging as far as we know. But, with change, inevitably come challenges. How should the print and packaging industry prepare itself for 2023 and the foreseeable future?
My advice will be to keep liquidity high as a business will need money to grow, and lease out equipment. When deciding on an expansion, look for automation to reduce costs. Retain manpower as much as possible and encourage them to do one more job, which is out of their core competency. Last but not least, incorporate training in your staff as it will drive efficiency.  

Rapid-Fire Qs

How do you prefer to start your day?

By hitting the gym for 45 minutes.

How do you cope when things get hard?
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

What's the strangest thing in your refrigerator?
My coffee beans which I am really fond of.

What is on your bucket list?
Hundreds of things. Just to name one, climb Mt Everest.

What is your favourite memory?
Throwing one of my instructors in a pool of frogs was a challenge.

Which is the book that you keep re-reading?
I don’t have one favourite one but a book I can read any time and as many times is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Miyamoto Musashi’s A Book of Five Rings: A Classic Guide to Strategy.

A movie or show do you keep rewatching?
DDLJ and James Bond movies.

What really frustrates you?

What would you do if you had a whole day to do anything you wanted?
Sitting on a seaside resort with cool breeze, and having a glass of beer.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Grilled Salmon with vegetables, with backed potatoes with a dice of butter and beans.