Changes in carton converting become clearer in the pandemic

Talking to Prem Vishwakarma of Robus India

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Prem P. Vishwakarma, director, Robus India| carton
Prem P. Vishwakarma, director, Robus India

We recently visited Robus India at its Greater Noida plant to meet with the management team, led by Prem Vishwakarma. We learned that this is essentially an engineering-led and engineering-based company. Vishwakarma himself has extensive experience and knowledge of carton converting that he acquired in his many years in technical positions with one of the industry leaders.

The company is built on the insight that the Indian packaging market is entering a rapid growth phase, including monocartons, litho laminated cartons, and corrugated cartons with specific constraints and requirements. He feels that this market could be well-served by unique customized products such as die-cutters and folder-gluers that bring in new technology and automation but at prices that make the equipment viable for its useful life.

Robus folder-gluers are capable of executing variety of carton designs

In other words, a piece of equipment such as a sheetfed diecutter, if it works well, is likely to last for 20 to 30 years with routine maintenance, but its features and technology will likely become obsolete – or at least not state of the art in perhaps 10 or 15 years. Thus, Robus India, with its hands-on engineering design and maintenance support, sees itself incorporating some useful features incorporated into die-cutters and folder-gluers manufactured in China by leading manufacturers. The die-cutters, which include some design changes by Robus for the Indian and other emerging markets, are made by one of the largest manufacturers of such equipment in Guangzho – Dayuan.

The folder-gluers and film laminators, which include automation technology and components provided by Robus, are manufactured in Shenzhen by another manufacturer. The automation components are incorporated at the manufacturing site itself for complete integration and testing. Robus itself manufactures some ancillary equipment that makes various high-speed folders more productive on the delivery side. These are already performing well at a couple of the leading carton manufacturers. Vishwakarma tells us and asserts that the Robus supplied folder-gluers are extremely capable of executing a large variety of carton designs.

Learning in the pandemic

According to Vishwakarma, the pandemic has been an excellent opportunity for Robus in terms of service and support. He says packaging converters preferred suppliers with local servicing and engineering capacity and ready spare parts because of the travel restrictions.

He says that he could help many converters who had imported die-cutters and folder-gluers but could not get hands-on engineering support from overseas. Some of these servicing and maintenance customers have also become prospects and customers of equipment supplied by Robus. “These customers understand the meaning of service. We have been able to give these customers training, which we are very good at, even to major converters who have equipment from other manufacturers. The importance of having a spare parts inventory has also sunk in.”

He says that before the pandemic, there was some fear among converters about the complexity of automation. “However, Covid-19 has brought home to them the need for doing with less human resources. Now they are step by step wanting to automate more processes such as cutting and blanking machines because if a particular operator is not there for any reason, the less dependent and the work will not stop.”

Vishwakarma says the pandemic and lockdown have given some of the converters the time and space to rethink their business. He says, “There is a change in the way in the converters are looking at automation. They are aware that this is a huge period of growth, and at the same time, they see that technology will change 180 degrees in 7 or 8 years.

They are now looking for machines with the latest automation but with good local support at a lower price where they can realize their return on investment much sooner – since they may have to replace the machine in perhaps ten years or even sooner. This saving on Capex can be brought into their working capital and should have a positive effect on their balance sheets.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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