The role of coatings in building new packaging structures

Interview -- Shailesh Nema of Michelman India

Coating machine at Michelman Innovation Centre for Coatings in Mumbai

Sustainability has been the hot topic of discussion in flexible packaging for several years. Due to the government’s regulations being put in place and the increased awareness of consumers, brand owners are increasingly compelled to live up to their commitments to come up with recyclable packaging solutions.

Coatings play a vital role in building sustainable and recyclable packaging structures and to ensure the standard of barrier properties. Recently, Michelman India talked about coating technologies and applications and how they can contribute to developing recyclable, environment-friendly packaging structures for flexible packaging and paper-based packaging and products such as paper bags and cups. The informed discussion took place in a webinar titled ‘Coating Technologies and Applications for Flexible Packaging and Paper’ organized by Pack Meets.

Michelman discussed its barrier coating solutions that include oxygen barrier coatings for films, which improve the oxygen barrier properties of BOPP or PE laminates. These coatings help in down-gauging from multi-layer packaging and in attaining mono-material packaging structures. The company also highlighted its food compliant solutions for paper cups, takeaway containers, paper bags, and paper plates, which mainly require oil and grease resistant, water repellent and heat seal coatings.

Michelman India operations back to normal

After the webinar, Shailesh Nema, managing director of Michelman India, talked to Packaging South Asia about the Indian packaging industry’s current situation given the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that despite the uncertainties created by the spread of Covid-19, brand owners continue to focus on offering sustainable packaging.

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Shailesh Nema, managing director of Michelman India

“The Covid-19 situation has definitely impacted the packaging industry to a certain extent. However, it is very encouraging to see that brand owners and converters continue to focus on developing recyclable packaging solutions,” he said.

Michelman India, too, has adapted to the new market conditions created by the Covid-19 outbreak and the ensuing lockdown. For the first few months of the lockdown, the Michelman India team worked from home. However, its manufacturing plants remained operational.

“We have now reopened Michelman Innovation Centre for Coatings (MICC) in Mumbai and have resumed all operations. The center-piece of the MICC is the state-of-the-art pilot coating machine that allows packaging manufacturers to test new concepts without stopping their production lines. This space is strategically designed to substantially assist the flexible packaging converters, film producers, paper converters and brand owners in innovating a sustainable future for packaging and allow for fast and efficient development of sustainable packaging solutions,” Nema said.

Inaugurated in January 2018, the MICC met with great success from film producers, paper mills, and packaging converters. The aim of providing a scientific and industrial testing site with skilled technical resources hit a sweet spot in the Indian market, allowing fast and efficient development of sustainable packaging solutions. The Michelman Innovation Centre in Mumbai has a range of testing equipment such as Mocons OTR/MTVR instruments, Gelbo tester, hot tack testing machines with the center-piece a dual-station pilot coater laminator. The coater laminator allows brand owners, converters, and film manufacturers to economically test new concepts in coatings and structures without stopping their much more massive scale production lines.

Nema adds that in the industry, the situation is limping back to normal or the new normal. “The packaging industry is doing considerably well, and as things slowly progress to normalcy, we expect a full recovery in the coming months,” he concludes.

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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