WICMA: Reshaping the brown box

Anand Srinivasan and Rushikesh Aravkar spend a day at WICMA’s R&D centre in Mumbai to find out how the lab has been promoting research and enhancing quality for Indian corrugators.

13 Oct 2014 | By Anand Srinivasan

Consider Indian corrugation industry: More than 10,000 corrugation units with estimated market value at Rs 10,000 crore.

Today, there are 150 automated corrugating printing plants in India. This market is planning to add another 100 corrugation machines in the next 24 months. The prospect of growth is good. Even today 85% of the liner boxes are produced single or two colours. There is a demand for colour jobs in beverage and vegetable oil industry and here the boxes are first printed in offset and then laminated.

There is a distinct shift from semi-automated operations to a Chinese line which is capable of 1200-1400 mph, while a Taiwanese machine can offer 2000-2500 mph. A Bobst Quatra (installed at Pyramid Packaging) can notch up twice that speed.

Corrugated packaging plays a pivotal role in the supply chain for all manufactured products. Especially, all the manufactured products like engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, processed foods, textiles and garments, beverages, FMCG products, consumer durables and fruits and vegetables, this mode of packaging is expected to get a big boost.

This indicates the pulse of an industry?

Undoubtedly, testing laboratories hold the key to the industry’s health. Lab test results play a crucial role in technological decision-making. It is an integral part of research and development phase of any organisation.

Which is why, the Western India Corrugated Manufacturers’ Association (WICMA) has set up a testing laboratory and R&D-cum-training centre in Mumbai. The aim according to Pankaj Shah, chairman, WICMA is to enhance the quality standards of the corrugation industry in India.

Testing laboratory
WICMA testing laboratory was established on September 16, 1998 with a one-point agenda of enhancing the quality standards of the corrugation industry across India.

Y M Rao, who has been heading the laboratory activities since then, says, “When I joined the industry, 16 years ago, there were issues with the quality of kraft paper supplied by the manufacturers. They were not able to provide consistent properties beyond 180-200gsm.”

WICMA has been educating the corrugators about the quality parameters. Over the years, the industry has seen rise in awareness and the corrugators have started demanding standardised raw materials.

“One technical aspect that I have observed is the burst factor (BF). Earlier the kraft paper had a BF between 24-28 but today kraft paper is manufactured with a BF of 35,” he explains. He attributes it to the availability of testing facilities across India.

“This testing lab is one of its kind laboratory focused only on kraft paper. Out of all the tests we do, 50% are from the customers,” says Rao.
He adds, “WICMA’s laboratory offers mechanical and chemical tests on kraft paper and corrugated boxes.” In a month, WICMA processes about 500 different tests.

The test evaluations go through a systematic procedure which is standardised by the FCBM for testing procedures and there are pre-set values for the tests. The equipment present at the laboratory facilitate the industry, right from basic raw material testing to industrial box testing.

Initially, the corrugated sheet or kraft paper to be tested is processed through a humidity chamber at 65+/-2% relative humidity and 27+/-2 degree Celsius temperature prior to testing. This is in accordance with the Federation of Corrugated Box Manufacturers of India (FCBMI) standards which help in normalising the values. Then, the grammage for the sheet is tested using the grammage tester. With the help of the bursting strength tester, the resistance capacity or bursting strength (BS) of the kraft paper and the corrugated board against rupture is calculated. The BS value is used to calculate bursting factor which in turn is used to make a perfect corrugated box. The COBB tester permits the determination of the quantity of water that can be absorbed by the surface of paper or board in a given time.


It is the Ring Crush Test (RCT) of kraft paper and Edge Compression Test (ECT) of corrugated board, which can be directly co-related to the Box Compression Strength  (BCT) of the corrugated box. The samples are held in a ring shape by a special holder and a load is applied to the ring until the sample buckles.

When it comes to corrugated boxes,  BCT is the crucial factor determining strength of the box since the box is primarily used for stacking in warehouses. The BCT tester at the lab determines the resistance of the box to the vertically applied compressive loads during transit and storage.

Several application tests like drop test, vibration test, puncture resistant test are also carried out at the facility to test the quality of the box.

WICMA’s activities can be divided into three wings; technical, market development and commercial fellowship.

The technical wing of WICMA is the laboratory and R&D department. It contributes to the industry by organising educational courses and technical seminars, apart from the testing.

WICMA has been promoting corrugation in India through continuous research and technical seminars. “We have successfully completed research on five different projects which was authorised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR),” says Pankaj Shah. Several of its projects have also been funded by the Government of India.

-    Contribution of fluting medium to the overall strength of the corrugated board. This was sponsored by FCBMI
-    Study of important properties of paper in different climatic conditions funded by Government of India
-    Impact of climatic conditions on corrugated boxes
-    Preparation of colour standards for flexo inks in CFB industry
-    To study the strength of stitched joint boxes v/s glued joint boxes

Educational seminars
WICMA pioneered the certificate courses in 1991. It offers two levels of certificate courses, for semi-automatic machines and automatic machines. These week long courses happen once in a year with a student capacity close to 35 students. The faculty for these courses are either from the industry or abroad.

Courses for automatic machines have been organised by WICMA four times, and starts every May. The automatic machine course have Technological Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) approval since 2009. “Recognition from TAPPI means, we have recognition among end users and that we have students from all over the world for the courses,” says Rao.

Semi-automatic machine courses are held jointly with the aid from Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) and so far the association has successfully organised the course 29 times in Mumbai and Indore. Apart from this WICMA also has a laboratory training course that is held at their laboratory facility once every  two months and is a three day course on quality control.

The market development wing provides workshops for a product. “We have undertaken projects on packaging oranges and mangoes in corrugated boxes and the parameters of the container.”

Shah adds, “In recent times,  ‘Quality Certificate’ is considered necessary for all consignments of corrugated boxes to ensure consistent quality. In order to satisfy full compliance corrugators have set up their own testing laboratory.”

Such laboratories perform test as per Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), FCBMI or standards such as ISO, TAPPI. As a measure of assistance, WICMA R&D centre offers an laboratory auditing service. “The idea is to look at equipments at their laboratory and grade them on the basis of the sampling and test procedures performed.”
Codex is a standardised index for costing developed jointly by WICMA and Crisil in 2010 to ease the costing process due to frequent price hikes. At the price front, Codex serves to guide, point-out or otherwise facilitate references to the corrugators during costing.  “This is a price indexing structure similar to SENSEX which tracks cost. It is similar to the tracking of stocks in the BSE,” says Shah. The Codex unit is evaluated every three months and is independently generated by Crisil.

 Basic steps involved in developing a codex value are; preparing a list of components to the cost of the corrugated box, to assign a weightage, to assign a definite limit for each cost item, obtain a reliable source for cost updates, and evolve a counter-checking mechanism.

Pankaj Shah, chairman at WICMA and one of the brains behind establishing WICMA laboratory facility says, “The main objective of WICMA is to promote trade, commerce and industry connection with corrugated boards and boxes and to promote and advance commercial and technical education of corrugated packaging.”

WICMA has been present in India since September 1967. Being one of a kind association in the corrugation segment, the association hosts a range of activities for the benefit of the industry. The activities include technical seminars, symposiums, financial seminars and certification courses.

It is affiliated to FCBMI. WICMA is among the 12 regional associations of FCBMI. WICMA board currently has 2300 members. The Mumbai division hosts corrugated players from Maharashtra and Goa which has 500 members on its books.