Kumar Printers installs highly configured Heidelberg 7-color plus coater UV press

Expansion in litho-laminated cartons requires extensive ancillary postpress

Kumar Printers MK Bhargava
(L-R) Sandeep Bhargava, Manmohan Kumar Bhargava (sitting) and Harsh Bhargava of Kumar Printers. Photo IPP

Kumar Printers, known mainly for its pharmaceutical cartons at one time, has over the years become a full-fledged supplier of both monocartons and litho-laminated cartons to a broader range of FMCG and Alcobev industry segments. It now supplies monocartons, litho-laminated cartons, and various types of hard boxes for gift packaging and shelf displays. 

As Sandeep Bhargava, the company’s managing director says, “There is an important place for the normal cartons that provide volumes, but it is the specially designed value-add cartons where the runs are smaller, that the margins are more interesting. However, these require a host of processes such as foil stamping, embossing, and other value-adds for which one has to have a host of ancillary equipment that may not be used every day.

The new Heidelberg CX 104 7-color plus coater UV press was recently commissioned and while some of its components are still to come and be integrated, for Kumar Printers bringing it into production is not a great challenge. The new press will have IST UV curing decks and Version 4 of the Heidelberg Image Control system. Bhargava says the company is used to adding multicolor presses in its pressroom and the process of sorting out the new press’s operational features is to some extent fairly routine, alongside the three other Heidelberg 6-color plus coater presses that are already running in the same pressroom.

Kumar Printers
A sample of a carton printed at Kumar Printers

However, Bhargava is excited about the Prinect Image Control 4 quality control system for scanning the printed sheet output for uniform inking over the entire sheet. Heidelberg claims that it is perhaps the only system available that spectrally scans the whole print sheet and balances out even the smallest deviations in the print image – automatically by detecting not only all measuring elements but also solid areas using the prepress data and incorporating them into the control process. CMYK images and halftone areas can be perfectly corrected using print samples and proofs. 

As Bhargava explained at our recent meeting at the plant, the new Image Control 4 is able not only to measure opaque white but also to control it. “This permits much more reliable control of the chromatic colors when printing on foils or metal surfaces such as metpet (metalized polyester laminated paperboard stock),” he said. 

When not only perfect color but also flawlessness on the sheet is to be achieved, the option of ‘offline Inspection’ is available for inspection at 200 dpi for PDF matching and for sheet-to-sheet inspection. The system can work at the extremely high resolution of 50 million pixels or CIEL*a*b* values. And while the standalone color measurement system can be connected to as many as four Speedmaster presses, Bhargava says that after it is commissioned with the new CX 104 7-color plus coater UV press, he plans to connect at least one more of the Speedmaster presses in the pressroom to it. 

The Plus feeder and Plus delivery on the new CX 104 and the Prinect Color Control 4 should help the press operators reduce make-ready times by up to 70%. The new coating unit with the lighter weight should also reduce the change over time of easily removable and replaceable anilox rollers by up to 50%. It is clear that Kumar Printers is looking at this investment for a jump in quality and efficiencies. 

Next generation challenges

In this expansion phase, Kumar Printers has extended its space by another 30,000 square feet with a building adjacent to the current plant. This already has several of the new laminating and folder-gluers recently purchased for its corrugation and litho-laminated corrugated carton operations. It is planned to move all the corrugated related postpress, laminated and converting including die-cutters and folder-gluers to this new space. 

Other developments include the induction of the next generation into the business in the person of Harsh Bhargava. Although we met him briefly on our visit, he was quite absorbed in the integration of the new ERP system that Kumar Printers has acquired. His father Sandeep Bhargava says the integration of the ERP is perhaps more challenging than that of commissioning the new multicolor press. 

He says, “For us installing and commissioning new presses and converting equipment is almost routine now but when we are moving further into the areas of newer management techniques, automation, advanced technology and efficiency, we are facing the human resource crunch. It seems that our educational and training institutions are not really producing the trained talent that can help us integrate our processes as easily as we had hoped. This is also going to be one of the challenges that the next generation faces. In our generation, we have taken on the technology challenge but for the next generation, the challenges are perhaps going to be more complex and laterally across knowledge domains – the human resource issues and then the further challenges of creativity and innovation.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels 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. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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