Major transformation in corrugation

Maturing Indian corrugated market

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Bobst team at IndiaCorr Expo
Bobst team at IndiaCorr Expo

The Indian corrugated industry has undergone a significant makeover in the last 4 to 5 years as corrugators have increasingly adopted latest technology and upgraded their equipment, Venugopal Menon of Bobst India told Packaging South Asia during the IndiaCorr Expo that was held in October in Mumbai.

“Since 2014, we have seen corrugators upgrading their machinery and equipment and adopting latest technology whether they are board-lines or converting lines. More and more players are opting for automation in terms of inline operations. The shift is seen to reduce number of operations, multiple handling, machines and manpower to more efficient process with less machine and less manpower with better output with minimal wastage,” Menon said.

According to Menon, when corrugators are crossing a certain threshold of volume of paper converted per month, they are now not thinking twice to look at investing modern corrugated 5-ply board-lines from Europe which can produce almost 4,000 metric tons or more of board per month. Their intention is to produce higher volume in a given location and offer much better quality of board and minimize wastages.

Multiple reasons for the transformation

This recent shift towards high-end, faster machines has been driven by multiple reasons. According to Menon, these reasons include increasing demand for quality, shortening lead time and cost optimization, among others.

Menon shared that increasing number of brand owners are demanding high quality boards and well glued boxes. This demand stems from the fact that most of these brand owners are adopting automatic case erecting lines and hence the need for well glued boxes. Brand owners in specific segments of vegetable oil, fruits and vegetables, and confectionary are also demanding a greater number of colored boxes with multi-color printing, boosting the demand for better technology.

Similar to other packaging segments, corrugated box customers want the delivery in the shortest possible time. “Corrugators say that they get a call in the afternoon for delivery next morning. Lead time in corrugated industry is much less than folding carton and flexible packaging industry. To service such orders, you need the best technology available,” he said.

Labor cost and labor supply uncertainty are the other reasons driving corrugators to opt for automation solutions. Another point that Menon raised is that a lot of corrugated boxes are now shifting from 5-ply to 3-ply, lesser grammage paper and glued boxes, which increases the challenge of handling such boxes in multiple operations and still produce good quality folded boxes with minimal fish-tailing and gap; this has also led to inline flexo folder gluer (FFG) operations to produce such boxes and Bobst can offer currently with their unique features on folding section the optimum folded quality.

Menon argued that upgrading to faster and modern equipment becomes a necessity for corrugators who are converting more than 1,000-1500 tons of board every month. This is needed because corrugators with such higher volumes have many SKUs and they need machines that offer fast changeover time, and faster throughput.

Bobst benefitting from this transformation

The transformation that has been witnessed in the Indian corrugated industry, where corrugators have been moving to better technology, has benefited solutions providers like Bobst who can offer various options befitting customers’ needs. According to Menon, the number of Bobst FFGs that have been sold in India has been very encouraging and the company has sold top of the line models like FFG 924 NT, 1228 NT and 618 and also the current best seller in the world FFG 820.

“Corrugators want to move to the next level and this is where Bobst comes in. Industry’s response to our solutions has been fantastic. We have 14 FFG lines currently installed or sold since 2014 and the year 2019 looks encouraging,” concluded Menon.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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