The Tushar Dhote Column: Two manufacturing plants in Pune: inspiring leadership

Last week, Tushar Dhote discussed the potential of print-packaging in Uttarakhand and how the print-packagers in the state have built infrastructure and adopted technology, which could impact the growth and development of the print sector. In this seventh edition of his column, Dhote shares his insights into how the machines have been designed and manufactured domestically to meet international quality standards

24 Feb 2023 | By Noel D'Cunha

During the Pamex roadshow in Pune, I had the opportunity of visiting two packaging finishing equipment manufacturing plants – Pratham Technologies and Bobst India, which are, in a true sense developing indigenously world-class equipment, which is essential for promoting local manufacturing, innovation and economic growth. Today, we call it – vocal for local, even if these manufacturers are international companies, because these companies have set up plants in India, develop equipment for Indian needs, and employ locals.

It was amazing to see how these two companies are leveraging the latest technology to make their product more efficient, reliable and cost-effective. The manufacturers seemed very keen on understanding customer requirements and providing solutions tailored to their needs. They have taken a number of innovative steps to ensure that their products meet and exceed customer expectations.

The roadshows also gave me the opportunity to connect with local distributors and dealers, who have been instrumental in helping customers throughout the country acquire the best equipment for their needs. Through the roadshows, I was also able to understand the challenges faced by the industry, and the solutions they are working on to address them. This has enabled me to better understand the industry and how it works.

Pratham: Eager to lead
Pratham Technologies’ chairman Datta Deshpande and chief technical officer, Sanjay Dandekar opened the doors of the company’s new plant in Bhor taluka on the Mumbai-Pune-Bengaluru highway, offering a glimpse into its advanced facilities.

Pratham came into existence in 1988. Its journey began modestly, more specifically in a garage near Pune. Deshapde’s efforts during the last three decades have made the company reach the global number two position in the pharma folding machines, catering to the folding of inserts and outserts.

In 2021, Pratham moved into a brand new 44,000 sqft plant which houses almost all services from testing lab to R&D and assembly section and spares maintenance.

The compact and well-planned shopfloor had an uncanny similarity to SS Swiss Thal - a screen printing cloth manufacturing company in Switzerland, a place where I had received a short training back in 1986. The Pratham plant was an example of a clean and neatly designed shopfloor with a seamless workflow.

Pratham’s focus has always been the folding machines which could do inserts and outserts for any complicated pharma client’s requirement. It did dabble in variable data printing and inspection machines which they successfully developed. “We could not match the competition on price,” Deshpande said, admitting that the venture was unsuccessful. “We moved on, concentrated on the art and science of folding while innovating and improving their product range,” said Deshpande.

This resetting of priorities did a world of good for Pratham, accelerating its learning and business performance. Today, most of the pharma insert folding machines in the US are supplied by Pratham, making them globally second only to Guk, the manufacturer from Germany.

Deshpande’s elder son, Varad, has joined the family business as the chief operations officer (COO). The younger one, Yash, is doing his PhD in AI-based smart factories at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Soon we may see Pratham launch bigger-sized folding machines for the book print segment, which is a larger market than pharma but has more established players.

At the Pamex 2023 show, Pratham plans to display its recently developed, patented and affordable automatic folding pocket technology. It’s a 130-panel folder with tape/label to close the open side and will be displayed with an in-line serialisation with size inspection. Pratham’s job recall system that reduces the settling time of the folder substantially will also be on display, as will be its patented technologies like sliding right angle machine and deflecting in knife.

Bobst India: The glocal mantra of success
Manufacturing excellence is an excellent topic for conversation, but nothing beats a hands-on look at how a top company make their products. I got one at the Bobst India plant in Pune’s Pirangut area on Lavasa Road, built on a 23-acre site.

Sachin Patil, technology sales manager, Bobst India, before a tour of the plant, gave me a briefing on the complete activities of the global organisation.

Bobst is one of the world’s leading suppliers of substrate processing, printing and converting equipment and services for the label, flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated board industries. Founded in 1890 by Joseph Bobst in Lausanne, Switzerland, Bobst has a presence in more than 50 countries, runs 19 production facilities in 11 countries and employs more than 5,800 people worldwide.

Bobst made its direct presence in India in 1996 and began manufacturing equipment in 2003. On 20 January 2021, Bobst celebrated the journey to the 1,000th machine from its plant in Pune.

After the introduction, Patil led me to the state-of-the-art assembly line and spares and tools section.

In India, Bobst India manufactures 126 models of folder-gluers which are exported to 50 countries across the globe from India. The plant also assembles its corrugated auto line. Some of the equipment comes from France and is seamlessly installed at the client’s factory as a full auto line consisting of printing, converting and inline production.

Bobst workshop environment is designed to be a safe, inclusive, and inspiring space for everyone. It values the contributions of each individual and strives to create an atmosphere that encourages creativity and innovation.

Bobst India offers factory training at its manufacturing plant in Pune, India. This factory training is designed to help operators and technicians enhance their knowledge and skills in using Bobst machines and equipment. The training covers machine functions, maintenance, safety, and troubleshooting. Participants learn about the various Bobst machines and their components and how to operate them properly and safely. They understand the basics of machine operation, including setting up, adjusting parameters, and performing maintenance. Participants also learn about the tools used to troubleshoot and maintain Bobst machines.

At Pamex 2023, Bobst will showcase the latest addition to their range of folder-gluers from their Nova series. Bobst is using the Pamex 2023 to debut its new folder-gluer, Novafold.

Launched in 2022, the Novafold has a brand new design and look, a new HMI man-machine interface and a competent speed of up to 350m/min. It offers full flexibility to process all types of simple and complex cartons – solid board and litho-laminated corrugated.

Incidentally, the world’s first Novafold was installed in India recently.

At the Pamex 2023, the Novafold will run live, showcasing how specialised and complex designed boxes can be produced using the machine’s functionalities and capabilities.

The learnings: you don’t stumble into excellence
Manufacturing plant floor is a continual work in progress. During the visit, I was informed of the many vagaries of the manufacturing process. It included people, customer demand emergencies, or sometimes a bad batch of critical components. That is one side. On the other hand, as an equipment buyer, I order what I need and never wish for surprises. I want quality, and the product delivered on time, with no excuses. These are two sides of the coin.

At the two plants – Pratham and Bobst India – I could see why running a manufacturing production operation with a sustained level of excellence is such a challenge. I also saw how the two companies employ practices that reap performance rewards in terms of quality, safety, delivery, and customer relations.

As printed product manufacturers, can we learn from them? Yes, the practices that help them manufacture and deliver successfully.

I am on my way to Bengaluru for the fifth and penultimate Pamex 2023 roadshow to be hosted today at the Sir M V Auditorium, FKCCI. The last stop will be Haridwar, where the event organised with Devbhoomi Printers & Publishers Association will take place on 3 March 2023 at Yashail Hotel.

In the meantime, the online visitor registrations for Pamex are in full swing, and the invitations are already in post. Convergence is gaining momentum, and the industry will get its preview at Pamex 2023, scheduled from 27-30 March at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, Mumbai.

(Tushar Dhote is co-chairman of Pamex. This is the seventh in a series of weekly Tushar Dhote Columns, which will continue till the commencement of Pamex 2023 in Mumbai. In his next, Dhote will share my experiences during the visit to TechNova TOUCH Centre at Turbe, Navi Mumbai. Stay tuned in…)