by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
FLEXO Magazine : August 2009
PROCESSES and perfectly smooth vignettes can still be had through lithography easier than with fl exo. Secondly, one can make a case for “one and done” runs, PLANTS & Economic growth, and in the current environment, eco- the kind that could leave substantial un-used tooling life when the job is completed. No one wants to get stuck with a bunch of expensive tooling after the job is fi nished. Since plates and dies are considerably less expensive in offset, this makes the single-run jobs economically viable. Many converters who have both processes under roof will produce a carton on the offset side until it becomes a steady, “mainstreamed” job, then move it to fl exo to take advantage of the economies there. That’s a perfect example of the complementary properties of the two technologies discussed above. Thirdly, because of the cheap and easily-made plate and die tooling available in sheetfed, the process affords opportunities for gang (or combination) runs that enable a converter to fi ll up a press that might not exist otherwise. Most general folding carton shops have become adept at collecting orders and production releases and quickly formatting plates and dies to make such runs. This is a time-tested technique that has helped many carton converters stay competitive. FLEXO’S PLACE The title of this article suggests four areas—effi ciency, pro- ductivity, value-add and sustainability—in which fl exo excels. Let’s have a look at each individually to explain how they can work to a converter’s advantage. Effi ciency. Everyone knows that doing more with less is expected these days. It’s not enough to deliver the best quality OR the best price. To succeed one has to do both. By making most cartons in a single pass, in-line fl exo can deliver very good quality for less. Conceding, again, to offset the very top of the quality scale still leaves perhaps 80 percent of folding carton work, across a wide spectrum of niches. In addition to the broad swath of general folding carton work, pharmaceutical/ nutraceutical, health and beauty products, all kinds of food and beverage packaging (including liquid packaging) and QSR products are all produced successfully using in-line fl exo. Single pass productivity, perhaps the dominant mantra of the fl exo sector, allows converters to produce using less paperboard. This is mostly due to the in-line rotary diecutting process that squeezes the most out of every square foot of paperboard (see my articles in FLEXO Nov. 2008 page 32 and Jan. 2008, page 50 for more details on this issue). Varying surveys and studies conducted over the years reveal that an average of 10 percent paper savings are possible using this method, and every converter knows that paperboard is the single largest component of cost. Using a rule of thumb that paperboard is approximately 70 percent of total cost, a 10 percent reduction yields a 7 percent boost directly to the bottom line. Productivity. Another outgrowth of the single-pass idea is that fewer workers can produce the same output, increasing competitiveness and reducing cost. Three to fi ve workers typically man an in-line fl exo press, making a gluer-ready carton. A sheetfed setup commonly requires six or eight employees (and more if offl ine stripping and in-house sheeting are required), so consequently the revenue per labor hour fi gure is quite a bit lower in fl exo. This fi gure varies considerably depending on the individual confi guration of any given plant, so an across-the-board fi gure isn’t readily available. However, my own research and experience in production cost analyses has shown a 50 percent to 150 percent advantage for in-line fl exo compared to sheetfed. 64 F LEXO nomic recovery, has always been driven by productivity gains. The industrial revolution showed how mechanization could increase productivity, drive down costs and ultimately lead to higher standards of living. The computer age ushered in similar gains for information-sensitive industries (which pretty much describes us all nowadays). The leading economies of the world always lead in worker productivity, and the situation is much the same in the production of folding cartons. Value-Add. This is today’s buzzword for doing more in-line. Foil stamping, screen printing, embossing, laminating and other decorating processes make folding cartons look better than ever. However, in a sheetfed environment it’s diffi cult to string these processes together. Web-fed in-line fl exo, by contrast, lends itself to much easier integration due to the nature of the machinery. Continuous webs have always made it easy to add modules, and the advent of individual servo-driven stations has virtually removed any barriers to what a machine supplier can put together. Modern-day lottery ticket presses are perhaps the best living example of this ability to put many operations in a single line. Lottery ticket production involves a considerable amount of security, much of it embodied in the ticket itself. Multiple printing operations combine with laminations and variable data printing to make the ticket look good and be resistant to fraud. In recent years, numerous such presses have been delivered to the gaming industry. These presses include up to 24 stations all in sequence in a single machine. Sustainability. Environmental concerns have taken center stage on the agenda of many industries. Packaging in particular has been hard-hit by public perceptions that it is wasteful and needless, and so this idea has leaped to the forefront of many discussions. While the paperboard industry has for a long time stayed silent on the topic, recent intensifi cation of the debate has prompted industry leaders to step up efforts. Beyond discussions of recycling versus virgin fi ber, in-line fl exo makes a large contribution to the idea of sustainability. By using less paper, it requires fewer trees. Fewer trees means less fuel used for transportation of trees from the forest to the paper mill. This puts less exhaust into the atmosphere and reduces wear and tear on our roads. Mills can produce less tonnage and still meet demand. This reduces energy consumption and puts less into the air. Fewer machines mean less energy spent to power those machines. It also means smaller factories which require heating and cooling, so less energy gets consumed there. So, by making cartons in a more productive, effi cient way, in-line fl exo makes a positive contribution to the notion of “sustainability.” In-line fl exo and sheetfed offset don’t have to be at each other’s throats. They can complement one another quite nicely, as quite a few forward-looking converters have discovered already. Having both technologies under one roof gives a printer the best of both worlds, and, in an era where one never knows where the next opportunity will come from, that’s a tremendous asset. ■ ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael R. Pfaff is president, Folding Carton Division for Gallus North America. AUGUS T 20 0 9 www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g