‘The biggest asset is the quality and experience of our employees’

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general factory manager

Huhtamaki PPL’s Thane plant is its oldest, and like all its 15 plants spread across the country, it is equipped with state-of-the-art tools and machinery — from design to printing to laminating to slitting. Packaging South Asia’s Shardul Sharma visited the sprawling campus to get an inside view of the plant in operation and met with Suhael Pereira, general factory manager of the Thane plant.

“This is a well laid down plant structure which is very lean and highly organized. Not only this, one of the biggest assets is the quality and experience of employees that we have at the plant,” says Pereira, who has been working with HPPL for almost two decades. There are 315 employees currently working in the Thane plant which, at the time of our visit, had 2,137 accident-free days, pointing to the fact that employee safety is of utmost priority for the company.

The plant serves high value flexible packaging needs such as cold seal laminates, soap wrappers, shrink sleeves, battery labels applications of some of the biggest brands in the food and FMCG industry, such as HUL, Nestle, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Colgate Palmolive, and Mondelez. Being close to the port, almost 70% of the plant’s output is exported to markets in North America, Latin America, Africa, Middle East and North Africa.

On the shop floor, there are two gravure printing presses, a 9-color press from Cerutti and an 8-color press from SAM and a flexo press from Aquaflex. There are two Nordmeccanica laminators and three slitter-rewinders from Atlas. There is a hot melt machine for soap wrappers as well. In the past year, the company has made additional investments in the Thane cylinder making division and commissioned an engraver and a coppering machine. One of its several cylinder making plants, the Thane plant makes cylinders for the Thane and Silvassa plants.

Regular interaction with customers is a vital exercise for HPPL. There are ‘customer champions’ who often interact with customers. Pereira himself looks after customers from Latin America.

Huhtamaki 2

HPPL’s Thane plant

Capacity expansion 
“There is no concrete decision when it comes to capacity expansion of the Thane plant. The issue is just at a very initial stage of discussion,” informs Pereira. Nevertheless, with the total capacity at the Thane plant of 600 tons of flexible packaging a month there are plans to enhance the capacity in the near future by adding another line consisting of a printing press, a laminator and a slitter. Once this line is purchased, installed and commissioned, the capacity is expected to increase by 200 tons to reach 800 tons per month.

In-house design and graphic excellence 
HPPL’s in-house design department, also known as the graphic excellence cell, is located on the campus of the Thane plant and takes care of Silvassa, Thane, Hyderabad and Rudrapur plants. Dedicated to gravure technology and prepress, the responsibility of the graphic excellence cell is to convert input artwork received from customers and apply it as per HPPL’s gravure printing capabilities; it changes or modifies the artwork as per HPPL’s printing machine requirements. However, it is ensured that during the modification process, there is no deterioration in the quality. Rather, the cell makes sure that the quality is improved if it is not up to the mark. If there are any changes in the artwork, HPPL informs the customer about it as an ethical business practice

 

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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