Bobst & Packages Limited get a crucial printing press up and running during COVID lockdown in Pakistan

Extraordinary solutions in extraordinary circumstances

A Bobst Lemanic 82 rotogravure printing press

When the COVID-19 lockdown struck mid-way through a major reassembly of a company’s printing presses, Bobst went the extra mile to resolve the problem. Imagine the situation. You are a major packaging converter and business is on the up. You are halfway through an upgrade to your gravure printing press to increase capacity. The machine will be out of action for a period while it is reassembled and upgraded, but no problem – they’ll soon be back up and running and even better than ever. Just in time to fulfill a large new order from one of your biggest clients. Then a global pandemic strikes. The engineers have no choice but to leave. Your machine is in pieces and now you are worried that parts of your business could be too. It is a nightmare scenario, but exactly what happened to Packages Limited, one of the leading packaging converters in Pakistan, which provides various industries with a wide range of folding carton board packaging solutions.

Coronavirus crisis

Bobst was in the process of upgrading the company’s two Gravure printing units and a new PLC system on the Bobst Lemanic 82 Rotogravure Press CH 82 – to extend from seven to nine printing units. When COVID-19 arrived, the company was forced into lockdown and the Bobst service technicians were repatriated via some of the last flights out of Lahore.

While the situation was out of everyone’s control, it was not tenable for Packages Limited to be left without such an important machine in production for a significant amount of time. The chief executive officer and managing director of Packages Limited, Syed Hyder Ali, picks up the story, “We were very concerned about the situation at the time, because we had promised to deliver a major order for one of our largest clients, and we were concerned that this development might lose us a lot of business. The situation was becoming absolutely critical. We asked if Bobst technicians could help us remotely, supported by our excellent engineering team. But ideally, we still needed a Bobst expert at the site.”

Syed Hyder Ali, CEO and Managing Director, Packages Limited

“We fully understood the urgency and endeavored to think of every possible solution to get the machine back up and running asap,” says Eric Pavone, Business Development director, Business Unit Web-Fed at Bobst. “Just as it seemed we had explored every option, our head of Services, Christian Falk, realized that one of our very able Field Service Technicians was in the process of repatriating to Pakistan from the UK due to COVID-19. It might be the breakthrough we needed.”

Falk contacted the technician – Haseeb Gull – to see if he would be willing to try to tackle the problem in a socially distanced way, and with full support from the Bobst Remote Service team. He was very happy to help – but he had absolutely no experience with these particular machines. “We had to get him trained up pretty quickly,” says Jean-Marc Aubry, Customer Service manager Web-Fed Solutions at Bobst. “But his attitude was so positive and helpful and he is such a skilled and able technician, that he was able to pick up the essential details in no time. Unfortunately, he faced a quarantine period when he arrived in Pakistan, so while we waited for him, we had other technicians working remotely to get some of the foundation work done.”

Thinking outside the (packaging) box

When Haseeb arrived at Packages Limited, he saw the scale of the task on his hands, but with the aid of the production manager, Shahid Islam and his team provided invaluable hands-on support throughout the process. With several other technicians supporting him remotely, he was able to reconfigure the machine to its previous settings. But the story didn’t end there.

“We were thrilled to be up and running again but desperately wanted to have the extra capacity provided by the extra printing units,” says Numan Noor, head of Folding Carton Division at Packages Limited. “Again, Haseeb went the extra mile and together with our team and the Bobst remote technicians, got to work and managed to complete the upgrade.”

With the extra printing units in place, the Packages Limited team was able to fulfill the order for its major client and is in excellent shape for the future, regardless of the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“The team at Packages Limited was very thankful to everyone at Bobst, particularly Haseeb, as they realized that everyone put absolutely everything in to find a solution to this extraordinary problem in extraordinary circumstances,” says Eric Pavone. “It demonstrated great outside the box thinking and exceptional teamwork between the Bobst team and our valued customers at Packages Limited. We look forward to continuing our successful partnership for many years to come. Take care and all stay safe!”

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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