“Coping With The New Normal!”

In conversation with Mr. Venugopal Menon, Business Director BU-Sheet Fed, BOBST India on the post COVID-19 challenges and plans for 2020.

1. Tell us about the vast profile of BOBST product and services?

BOBST, with more than 125 years of history, is the market leader across packaging segment’s for product and services related to Folding Carton, Corrugated Board, Flexible Packaging and Labels industry. We have always believed in innovation and technologies which befit customers’ expectations, help them grow and deliver value to their end customers.    

Under the Folding Carton segment, we have the product portfolio in the post press segment like the Hot Foil Stamping, Flat Bed Die-Cutters, Folder Gluers and Peripherals like Easyfeeders, Handypack and Cartonpack offering end to end Automation. The other innovative technologies offered are for Braille Embossing on pharma cartons with Accubraille and Inline inspection of cartons with our Accucheck ensuring ‘Zero Defect’ packaging.

Under Corrugated Board business we offer equipment to print and convert the multi layered corrugated board into boxes, namely FFG machines (Flexo Folder Gluers) which are inline print to converting for producing RSC brown boxes to high graphic printed RSC boxes. Under and the DRO product range we have the printing and rotary die cutters for converting corrugated board to die cut trays (like for Fruit & Vegetable) to wrap arounds, etc and Peripheral Equipment like Pre Feeders and Palletizers for end to end Automation.

Under the Flexible and Labels segment we have a wide range of machines offering end to end solutions for printing and converting materials like paper, paper board, film, foil and laminates. The printing capabilities range from Rotogravure to CI Flexo presses, Hybrid and Digital printing presses. We also offer Vacuum Metalizing machines to metalize film and paper. The other solutions include Specialised Coating Lines and Laminating solutions with water / solvent / solvent less adhesives.

Under the Connected Services help us serve our clients in the shortest possible time. We offer Helpline plus services for remote assistance 24/7 for mc break support and services like Remote Monitoring Apps and Down Time Tracking Apps that enable customers to visualise and get data of their machine remotely and track equipment OEE, Mc stoppages, productivity, etc. Our BU- Services offers service and process support through a team of 50 technicians spread across India and spare parts support through our robust supply chain hubs located in Singapore and Switzerland at the shortest possible time.

2. What challenges do you think COVID-19 will bring before the industry?

I feel it will bring different challenges to different business verticals in the print industry. The immediate challenge will obviously be to kick start the business keeping in mind all safety protocols in mind since safety of the employees will be a key challenge. Then the obvious is to get back the business and recover the time lost. It remains to be seen how the demand cycle will emerge after the initial surge in business due to inventories stock out at end users. There is definite uncertainty in the short term and it will take some time for the economic cycle to revive and to get back consumer confidence to the pre-COVID era.

We can anticipate many changes going forward post COVID which will become the new normal. Safety, Hygiene, Digitalisation and Automation will be the key way forward whether it is in terms of the way you produce and deliver your products or the way you communicate and engage with your suppliers or customers. 

3. Have the operations already started? Going forward what are the changes we will see at BOBST post COVID-19 in the way you communicate and market?

Yes, we have started operations in all our manufacturing sites across the world. Our Indian operations is also up running since mid-May.

I feel all companies across the globe will re-adjust the way they operate, communicate and engage with all their stake holders. There will be a new normal and I feel it will touch in some way or the other across the industry segment. For example, we did a few Webinar’s at BOBST in India with our customers which was not a medium of communication from our end earlier, but we found it useful during the lockdown days where travel had come to a standstill. It was a great way to engage and communicate with a selected audience by bridging all distances digitally.

Similarly, BOBST Group issued a press release end of May 2020 and put forward our industry vision to shape the future of the packaging world.  BOBST has Competence Centers evolving to Smart Factories (connected factories) in the key geographies and we will look at how to cover more geographies in a relevant manner.  Smart Factories, Technology Lounges and Customer Reference Sites are set to be the preferred engagement model with clients. We will communicate in coming months on how we will start to virtualize the customer experience with live streaming demonstrations – across all equipment in our existing Competence Centers, providing an engaging customer experience with less traveling constraints.

In addition, we are also virtualizing equipment demonstrations to reduce the need to travel as frequently required by many clients.

4. What are the sustainability initiatives taken at BOBST that aim to reduce environmental impact. Could you tell us something about it?   

As one of the global industry leaders, we at BOBST have always been committed to implementing initiatives that advance globally relevant sustainability subject. Sustainability is the key in the way we operate, produce machines and offer technologies which produces and handles products that are sustainable. 

Whether adopting clean energy generation through solar technology in many of our manufacturing plants to rain water harvesting in our factory in India, to reducing carbon footprint by adopting manufacturing processes using sustainable resources, we have been adopting and following the best practices and initiatives to have minimal impact on the environment where we breathe and live in.

Also, to address innovative, recyclable and durable substrates our latest state of the art Metallizers and Wet Coating equipment makes it possible to greatly reduce the thickness of aluminium applied to packaging films without altering their barrier properties and makes Recycling feasible. At BOBST we are committed to print that respects environment. With less ink consumptions and reduced colour changes, BOBST THQ Flexocloud printing process delivers highest print quality while offering substantial cost and consumable savings which in turn brings a solution which respects environment and is more productive.       

5. Talking about the Indian Corrugation industry, what are the latest technological developments?

We have seen in last 5-6 years the Corrugated board industry in India has made phenomenal progress and has changed for the good by leaps and bounds. Whether it is in terms of product quality, providing value to the end customer or in terms of manufacturing processes the corrugated industry has changed for the good.

Quality of the box required by end users due to automation in packing lines, just in time deliveries, better strength, quality parameters of the box, increasing variable cost, shortage of labour, increasing consolidation of the market has pushed many convertors to adopt better and world class technology when it comes to manufacture board or in the printing and converting process. I remember that it took us almost 15 years for BOBST to sell its first FFG Flexo folder gluer line in India in 2013 and now we have almost 20 lines which will be installed and running by the end of 2020. Though 90% of the corrugated boxes in India are still brown RSC boxes but off late we also seen trend of value added boxes for the exploding E-commerce market, for Food industry like wrap around’s to rotary die cut trays for fruits and vegetables for domestic and exports and also sooner than later we will see emergence high graphic multi coloured Flexo printed corrugated boxes which will be a replacement to the traditional Litho laminated offset printed boxes and will be more sustainable and environmental friendly with water based flexo printing.

6. How would you comment on the adoption of automation by Indian Converting Industry?

Automation in printing and packaging industry was already well entrenched amongst organised players having invested in state-of-the-art equipment installed for both printing and converting whether it was for folding carton, flexible packaging, label and off late in the corrugated board industry.

Going forward post the COVID-19 era automation will be the key driving factor which will enable one to be more cost efficient and productive which have less dependence on manual labour. I feel there is great scope for adopting automation wherever there is dependence on

manual labour or where you want to make the processes much faster and efficient like in material handling or storage or in packing. Automation comes at a price and in a price sensitive

market like India the cost –benefit analysis will be done before adoption of any such process. But having said that, the success mantra going forward will be to ‘produce more with less’. Infact we will be conducting an exclusive local Webinar soon to offer our solutions which enable automation in carton converting processes in packaging like Collection Table, Mini CLB to process automatic small CLB boxes, Quick set tools for CLB and In Line Blanking process to name a few.

7. Do you think exhibitions will be useful in helping the industry come out of present slowdown?

The main idea of the exhibitions is for companies to showcase their novelties and to capture a larger audience in a short and dedicated period. I feel there are far too many exhibitions these days with substantial logistics involved. We hope only the ones which have a wider reach and are more focussed will survive in near future. PAMEX should be one of them.

8. Plans for the rest of 2020 … 

This year till now and going forward will be an unprecedented year in many ways. One’s perseverance and resilience will be put to test. I remain very optimistic and hope for the best!

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