SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Norman Joseph Woodland, co-inventor of barcode, RIP!

Norman Joseph Woodland
On the 15th of December 2012 I came across a small news item, somewhere on the 17th page of the Delhi edition of Hindustan Times, it reported the demise of a man who made path breaking contribution by inventing the barcode which has since evolved over the years to change the way products are labeled and packed for modern day retail. His invention has facilitated not only quicker point of sales invoicing but also inventory management, track and trace operations and many other industrial processes. Norman Joseph Woodland, the co-inventor of barcode, passed away in Edgewater, New Jersey, USA on the 9th of December 2012 at the age of 91 years.
Born on 6th September 1921 to Jewish parents, Woodland earned his B.Sc in Mechanical engineering from Drexel University, where he later joined as a lecturer in 1948-49. One day his colleague Bernard Silver heard a super market executive asking their dean to develop a system to automatically capture product information at cash counters to facilitate quicker sale process. While the dean refused yet Silver found the idea extremely appealing and also convinced Woodland to join him in creating a viable product. Woodland quit his job and moved to Florida to spend time on the project. One day sitting in a chair on the beach he pondered over the project at hand. To represent information visually, he realized, he would need a code. The only code he knew was the one he had learned in the Boy Scouts. What would happen, Woodland wondered one day, if Morse code, with its elegant simplicity and limitless combinatorial potential, were adapted graphically? He began trailing his fingers idly through the sand.  “What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Woodland told Smithsonian magazine in 1999. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ” He along with Bernard Silver patented the barcode in the shape of conclavic rings of varying widths. Unfortunately, since they could not develop a cost effective or viable scanning device and being pessimistic of the way forward, they sold their invention for 15000 dollars, which was all the money they made from this patent. Woodland thereafter joined IBM in 1951 and remained there till his retirement in late eighties. In between in 1960 his patent had expired. Almost 20 years after he joined IBM his colleague at IBM George Laurer with support from Woodland created the present day barcode. It is the zebra like band of vertical lines of varying thickness. These could be scanned with the help of microprocessors and laser scanners that had been developed by that time and made the product viable and cost effective. On the 26th of June 1974, a supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, USA became the first person to scan a barcode on a 67 cent pack of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum.
The technology has since evolved and changed the way how products are retailed and supply chain is managed. Now an estimated 5 billion barcodes are scanned in millions of retail outlets around the world. A man whose pioneering effort has impacted the label and packaging industry positively and to gigantic proportions adding to its growth has passed away. We salute the noble soul… Norman Joseph Woodland “may your soul rest in peace (RIP)”
Successful exhibitions are normally linked to the cities and the venues where they have been traditionally held and found success. Drupa, the biggest printing industry show has always been held successfully at Messe Dusseldorf, Labelexpo Europe continues to attract the world of labels every two years to the expo centre in Brussels and all editions of Auto expo are destined at Frankfurt. India has lacked exhibition venues and New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan is the only destination which has most of the successful and large shows. Unfortunately the state owned venue with it monopolistic attitude has rubbed many a show organizers on the wrong side. Due to this reason many organizers who had successful shows at this venue seem to be moving to the new and more international Greater NOIDA Expo center even though it has locational disadvantage. In recent times two of the major print and packaging related shows that were highly successful at Pragati Maidan have moved away. PackPlus was recently held at Greater NOIDA Expo Centre and the huge IPAMA organised PrintPack India 2013 will also be held at the same venue from 23rd to28th February 2013.  The venue has a disadvantage as it is far from New Delhi and has no airport, train or metro station in its vicinity. Even no organized or government sponsored/owned regular bus service is available. Persons from Delhi or those arriving from other cities have to hire all day taxis to reach the venue. Defying all disadvantages the organizers of these events have shifted the shows to this venue. In clear contrast the organizers of Labelexpo India, the UK based Tarsus Group, who had an extremely successful show in the end of October 2012 at Pragati Maidan despite indicating a change of venue for future shows decided to announce the next show two years hence again at Pragati Maidan.
Anil Arora
Anil Arora of PackPlus was beaming after the show ended. He was pleased that he successfully blasted the myth that visitors will not come to Greater NOIDA. He had advertised and arranged transportation from metro stations in NOIDA to bring visitors comfortably to the venue and also for return. With a footfall of 5213 visitors who made the effort to come, he is happy that they were an extremely focused lot who came and his show has delivered the results expected by over 200 exhibitors showcasing at this event. The bigger and established printers and those from the established packaging companies were not very evident at the show however many from the end user segment marked their presence adding value to the show. It is a show with lot of promise and the next editions are bound to grow bigger. The exhibitors were a mixed lot catering to many segments in the print, packaging and product packing industry. The label industry was also present. Those from the label industry, who exhibited included Reynders, Anygraphics, Pacedge Labels, Saiprographics, Insight communications, Weldon Celloplast, etc.
Dr. Ramani Narayan
On the sidelines of PackPlus, a very successful International Packaging Conclave was organized on the second day of PackPlus at Radisson Blu, Greater NOIDA. It received a good response with 110 attendees arriving from all parts of the country. The conclave started with the key note address by Prof. Ramani Narayan, distinguished Professor, Michigan State University. I and all other delegates were very impressed by the presentation of Dr. Narayan, the clarity of his expression left the listeners spellbound. His pleasant nature was experienced by many who interacted with him during the networking sessions.  The Conclave proceeded towards the first panel discussion on ‘Packaging Solutions: Benefits of Integration & Collaboration across the Value Chain.’ The second panel discussion delved deep in automation highlighting ‘Future Demands on Automation for Packaging- to which Open Technology is the Answer’. The third and the final panel discussion focused on ‘Sustainability- the Future Imperative: Approached & Case Studies’. Concluding with the roundup by Mahendra N Patel, Chairman, Mamata Machinery, the Conclave summed up to big success. It was very interesting to see the delegates were glued to their seats even till 8.45 PM when the last presentation ended. The conclave was attended by known names in the Packaging industry and senior level executives from Coca Cola, Nestle, Kraft Foods, Castrol, GSK, etc. The evening ended with a networking dinner leaving fond memories of comradeship.
 Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 December, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Labelexpo-India 2012; Amazing, Vibrant and Rocking!

“Labelexpo-India 2012, was an amazing and vibrant show. One stroll around, left visitors in awe! The quality of the spread, ambience, and the diverse offerings from a global list of renowned suppliers of materials, toolings, equipments and printing presses made it a wholesome treat for the label printing fraternity. Truly a show, that was the best Labelexpo in India so far”

In these few words I summed up my comments on the recently concluded Labelexpo India. It is a show that has gradually grown to a standard that was missing in the previous editions. One could hear the visitors expressing satisfaction at the quality of the exhibits. As many as 20 label presses were working at the show and were catering to the needs of a multitude of printers from various segments. There were those who looked for the state of art high-end expensive equipment and there were also those whose who had smaller budgets and wished to buy value in what they could afford. The show offered options to all. I would like to commend the organisers for the diverse mix of focused exhibitors at the show, such that it did certainly contribute to the vow factor. The layout was well spread and the warmth of the label industry's fellowship emanated a great feeling of comradeship. Even the founder of this show Anil Arora commented, "It is a very good show" Anil and his wife Neetu founded this show as India Label Show and later, UK based Tarsus acquired it in 2007. While the 2008 show in the aftermath of Mumbai terror attack was held as India Label Show, in 2010 edition they renamed the show as Labelexpo-India. The 2008 show was held at the onset of the economic slowdown yet it did pull through well. In the 2010 show, the euphoria did buildup well as the slowdown was tapering off and now in 2012 it has reached a pinnacle with the markets expanding and consumerism on the rise. The Labelexpo-India has become an important marketplace for the label industry in India and South East Asia where printers converge to witness and check on their imperative needs to aid their expansion plans at one place. The quality of exhibits was excellent and we can expect the show to be bigger and better in times to come. The Tarsus team was well synchronized and did their work in an efficient manner without any serious snarls which are normal at busy shows. The weather was also conducive with temperature a little lower than what it is at this time of the year, making it very comfortable for visitors at the show.
Inaugurationof Labelexpo-India 2012
The labelexpo-India 2012 was inaugurated by on the morning of 29th October 2012 by Mike Fairley, The LMAI team, Tarsus officials and members of Delhi Printers Association. The final numbers from the organisers state that 8,037 visitors came to visit the show which is 33% up from the previous Labelexpo. 53% of the exhibitors have confirmed participation in the next edition with a commitment for bigger stalls.  

Mike Fairley Inaugurating Weldon's Stand "Technology Bar"
After the inauguration of the show Mike Fairley inaugurated the “Technology Bar”. Weldon Celloplast had put up a unique stand labeled “Technology Bar”. All their principals were serving technology from bar counters allotted to them. At this time Mike also released Weldon’s 120 page hard-bound Technology Brochure.

Ferdinand Ruesch with RVS and Gururaj of ITW
With India’s growing literate population expected to drive in high demands, the international suppliers of materials, consumables and equipments are very focused in their attempts to get a bigger slice of this market. The importance given by these leading suppliers was evident by the fact the senior level managers and owners of many companies were personally present to meet the Indian label printers. From amongst the leading European label press manufacturers, Ferdinand Ruesch owner of Gallus was seen not only interacting with visitors at his stand where Gallus ECS340(sold to Wintek, Division of ITW) was displayed but also visiting other competitors stands observing different technologies being offered. In words of Sudhir Sawant at Gidue, “None other than Ferdinand, Ruesch owner of market leader company like Gallus visited Gidue stall multiple times to see live demos of Gidue Combat I” Federico Annunzio and Cristina Tofollo the owners were present at Gidue stand.

Mike Fairley and Roger Pellow in discussion with Omet
President Antonio Bartesaghi
Antonio Batesaghi, President Omet and Marco Calcagni Sales Director, despite preoccupation made sure to be at the “Technology Bar” the branded Weldon/Omet Stand where their Omet X4 label press was on display. Peter Erickson COO Nilpeter and Jakob Landsberg Marketing Director Nilpeter were conspicuous by their presence to promote their Nilpeter FB3300 assembled in their Chennai facility and sold to Ajanta Packaging. Even though they did not bring a press this time, Bibiana and her mother owners of the Spanish press manufacturer Rotatek were at the Creed stand. Mike Russel and Mary Sullivan, senior managers of Mark Andy lead the team at their stand showcasing MA-P5 sold to Wonderpac, Delhi. Canada based ETI, UK based Edale and MPS though present at the exhibition, did not display any press. There was a host of Taiwanese and Chinese equipment suppliers.

Multitec Stand
Indian press suppliers put up an impressive show! Multitec showcased two presses, one the regular entry level flexo press with hot air and the second a new launch VSI which is all UV with chill drums and a short web path of 1.10 meters between two print stations. This company is progressing very impressively and I see them growing technically each year. Other machine builders who showcased presses were Faridabad based Webtech and Alliance Printech. Ahmedabad based R K Machines displayed their flexo press and other equipment. Other Indian press manufacturers Jandu and Apex Rotatech did not have working presses in their stands. Other important exhibitors at the show include Xeikon, EFI, Epson, Martin Automatic, Dupont, Esko, Matho, Rotometrics, Lartec, Electro Optics, Nikka, Berhalter, Vetaphone, Ace, etc. 

Jussi Vanhanen President UPM Raflatac 
Anil Sharma MD Avery Dennison
Top management of both Avery Dennison and UPM Raflatac were present at the show throughout. Indian material suppliers included SMI, Stayon Papers, Sticon papers and Weldon. The list of exhibitors was 200 strong and it is difficult to list all.

Gautam Kothari (Interlabels),
Gururaj Wintek, Karl (Reynders)
Sanjeev Sondhi (Zircon) & Harveer Sahni (Weldon)

Indian label printers came from all corners of India. With market being in a growth curve suppliers were seen wooing the industry’s leading printers. I was able to identify many of them. From North Sanjeev Sondhi of Zircon, Ajay Agarwal from Syndicate labels, Prem Khanna from ROPL, Karl from Reynders, Priyata Raghavan from Sai Packaging, Kusum Dunglay from Reydun, Sudhir Jain from Jain Transfer, Pavail Jain from Monarch, Kulbhushan Gossain of Unipack, the Holostik team, Rajesh Chadha Update Prints, Kuldip Goel from Anygraphics, K K Bajaj of Regal, Mahajans from Prakash Labels and Gaurav Goel of Gopsons are some of the printers who I met personally.
As from East India I could only spot only Rajneesh Jain from Secure Print Kolkata. West India probably had the biggest contingent with representatives from Interlabels, Webtech, Ajanta, Creative Labels, Sicon Packs, Superlabels, Mudrika, Total Print, Printmann, Synpack, Tayabi, PPL-Huhtamaki, Precise Labels, Janus, Renault, Mahrishi, Astron, Letragraphix, and a more. The contingent from South had representatives from Seljegat, Wintek (ITW), Pragati, Arunodaya, Team Labels, SGRE (Positive Packaging), SPP, Better labels and Sai Security, etc

At the end of second day of the show leading suppliers threw parties at various venues in the city for their customers.
Vivek Kapoor President LMAI

The third evening was another fun part of the show. The entire label fraternity converged to Hotel Le’Meridian for the LMAI awards night.
LMAI Executive committee on the stage
The organizers emphatically state that they gave only 500 passes for the event which was by invitation only but they had over 700 guests! Obviously no one wished to be left out and miss the fun. The evening was compeered by actress Pooja Bedi and there were lively performances by Punjabi folk dancers. The awards were given to printers in some 27 categories. Roger Pellow in his speech declared that this was the last official visit of the Label Guru, Mike Fairley due to his progressing age. I personally was overwhelmed when Mike in a nostalgic speech that evening, reminiscing old times he said, “My relationship with the Indian label industry started some thirty years ago when one afternoon the doorbell of my home in London rang. I opened the door; there was this gentleman from India standing in front of me. His name was Harveer Sahni, he wanted to subscribe to my magazine Labels and Labeling and also share with friends in India….” I was so stunned by Mike’s sharing the memories of my first meeting with him that I was speechless for a while. Douglas Emslie the Group Managing Director of Tarsus who was sitting next to me, had a smile on his face and asked, “Did you know Mike would say this?” I just shook my head, I had no words.

As the evening progressed while the last of the awards were being given to the executive committee of LMAI, the music came on and while still on stage the LMAI team broke into a dance. Thereafter there was no stopping. One by one, people were heading to the stage and the party was in full swing. It also happened to be the birthday of Gallus owner Ferdinand, I had the pleasure to shake a leg or two with him.

Roger Pellow adding fun to the evening!

Roger Pellow is always a hard working professional but when he parties, it is fun all the way! He was dancing his heart out and pulling all to the floor. All young and old were having a fun time, forgetting the competition they were all comrades enjoying the fruits of companionship!

Chandan Khanna and KD Sahni of Weldon in lighter moments

Written and reported by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited

Friday, November 9, 2012

Huhtamäki Oyj acquires controlling stake in Webtech Labels in India

Amar and Jitesh Chajjed receiving the Technology award at Weldon
stand at Labelexpo India, from Ivan Bonev, Nikka Reserch for being
the first in India to invest in online inspection systems.
Mumbai based Webtech labels lead by Amar Chhajed and cousin Jitesh Chhajed is yet another leading label company that has been acquired by an internationally renowned company Huhtamaki Oyj's subsidiary in India PPL Huhtamaki. This is in line with the trend, that international label and packaging producing companies continue to consider India as their most important destination for market expansion. In my last post two weeks back titled, "Joint Ventures, Mergers, Acquisitions & International Partners, still Positive in labels" I mentioned, "Meanwhile constituents of the label industry are talking in hushed tones about another deal that has taken place but since the stake holders do not confirm publically, it remains gossip that goes on." This was it! I could not disclose the names as ethically it was wrong to disclose while the formalities were in progress. It is now official.
Webtech was established by Amar Chhajed in 1998 and in just fourteen years he built the company to international standards, fit enough to be invested in by world leaders in packaging. I wrote on Amar Chajjed in August 2010 in my post titled, "AmarChhajed…we are available 24 hours!" I could forsee at that time this company rising to global levels. I reproduce below the official press release;

Suresh Gupta, CEO
PPL Huhtamaki
Huhtamäki Oyj's subsidiary in India has acquired 51% of the shares in privately held Webtech Labels Private Limited for a debt free purchase price of approximately EUR 7 million. Webtech Labels Private Limited is specialized in manufacturing high-end pressure sensitive labels, especially to pharmaceutical customers. The annual net sales of the company are approximately EUR 10 million. The acquisition complements the Flexible Packaging segment's existing product portfolio. "We continue to implement our growth strategy, and we are pleased to add this expertise to our offering in a fast-growing market such as India," says Jukka Moisio, CEO of Huhtamäki Oyj.
For further information, please contact:
Jukka Moisio, CEO, tel. +358 10 686 7801
Timo Salonen, CFO, tel. +358 10 686 7880
Katariina Hietaranta, Head of Group Communications and IR, tel. +358 10 686 7863
Group Communications
Huhtamaki Group is a leading manufacturer of consumer and specialty packaging with 2011 net sales totaling EUR 2 billion. Foodservice and consumer goods markets are served by approximately 14,000 people in 62 manufacturing units and several sales offices in 31 countries. The parent company, Huhtamäki Oyj, has its head office in Espoo, Finland and its share is quoted on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd. Additional information is available at

Reported by, Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi

Friday, October 26, 2012

Joint Ventures, Mergers, Acquisitions & International Partners, still Positive in labels.

Joint Ventures, Mergers and Acquisitions, etc. seem to be the topic of discussion when different members of the self adhesive label industry meet these days. These takeovers and alliances happen or become predominant in different situations and circumstances. In a particular scenario when times are bad, demand is down and business owners find that operating margins are low, demanding a need to restructure, look for an exit route or join partners who can bring in value to the operations. In another scenario when the going is very good, the growth is consistently in double digits and larger players are eyeing the market, at this time business owners either get a good price and call it quits or partner with the larger players with global presence to achieve a situation of monopolistic leadership. In India the situation is slightly different, the basic concept of double digit growth is relevant yet the industry is in a rather nascent stage as compared to international markets. Single owner companies, who are rather small as compared to large international label printing entities, are at the forefront of this industry offering a readymade platform to those who wish to enter the Indian markets. Big international label printing and packaging products manufacturing companies who realise that the large Indian literate population is turning out to be one of the biggest consumer product segment in the world, are considering investments in ventures here, to access these markets. To get a slice of this lucrative market they are on the prowl looking for ventures they can acquire or partner with, for an immediate entry into Indian label printing industry. It happens to be the quickest route as they take over or partner with existing successful label companies, already servicing large fmcg and multinational users.
International players have been in India for long. Johnson & Johnson are linked to history of label in India. They started to produce labels way back in 1978. Then there is CGPPI at Goa and Birla 3M in Bangalore but these were planned ventures set-up long years ago. The Joint Ventures, mergers and acquisitions in the current scenario all started when Kusum and Kartar Dunglay of Goodwork Company Delhi met Marc Reynders at a show in New Delhi. They eventually started their joint venture Reydunn at Manesar, Gurgaon in 2005. Unfortunately the partners later fell apart and both went their own ways. Reynders now run their wholly owned label unit at Chopanki in Rajasthan and Reydunn is a part of the Goodwork group operating from Naraina, New Delhi. In 2006 Brady Corporation headquartered in Milwaukee USA employing 6500people and  sales of 1.34 Billion US dollars setup a wholly owned company Brady Company India Pvt. Ltd. in Bangalore to produce labels for safety, security, identification, die-cut profiles, and specialty products. A little later my friend Mikael Dahl of Nordvalls Sweden joined hands with Venu Ayyar of Laxmi Compugraphics to enter into a JV. Nodvalls is an over 100 year old company with a turnover of over 19 Million Euros and over 105 employees. This venture too did not take off. I quote Mikael in an email received on 12th October 2012, “Unfortunately we had to terminate the cooperation with Laxmi, press is for sale”. In the meanwhile Nordvalls has bought over one of their national competitors  to grow further and become the No.1 label company in Sweden. Just a year later in 2007, Printcare Srilanka, a 27 Million Dollar Company started their unit Printcare India Pvt. Ltd. at Coimbatore. The unit as I understand is doing well. Until this time, given the track record and business model of such JV endeavors, the growing and enterprising label printers were not worried.
 It was only on the 21st of March 2011, that a press release from CCL Label Worldwide ruffled many feathers and set the ball rolling towards the current trend of JV’s and acquisitions. CCL label headquartered in Canada, employing 5800 employees at 61 locations around the world, acquired 50% stake in Dubai based Label Co. Pacman. In the same press release a line read; “The partners have also agreed in principle to a prospective future Greenfield investment by Pacman- CCL in India.” If the world’s largest label company was planning to invest in India, it was time for Indians to take stock. They had to consider partnering with other international partners to face the challenges coming from such large entities. Though CCL has yet to announce their entry into India in label production, yet leading Indian label manufacturers have opened their doors by either selling out or partnering with larger players.
Early this year in February 2012 the industry was surprised by the news that Bangalore based Wintek Flexoprints had been acquired by Hyderabad based ITW Signode, ITW India Ltd. a subsidiary of multi-billion dollar fortune 200 global industrial products company ITW, with headquarters in Illinois USA.
A few weeks later one of the Europe’s largest label producing company Skanem with headquarters in Slavanger, Norway, acquired 51% stake in India’s largest label company, Mumbai based Interlabels with sales of over 19Million Euros and 220 employees. The new entity is renamed as Skanem Interlabels. This has definitely triggered a trend in the label industry. Just six months later, we have the news that Bangalore based SGRE labels, has been fully acquired by Mumbai based Positive Packaging Industries Ltd. the flagship company of Enpee Group, an international conglomerate with over 50 years of business experience. Positive Packaging is a pioneer in flexible packaging with state-of-the-art facilities located strategically in India, Nigeria and the U.A.E. They offer packaging solutions to customers in various countries through a robust international sales and service network, catering to diverse sectors including FMCG, Agro products and Pet food.  The acquired business is now named as Positive Labels. This trend seems to be on the increase, more and more Indian printers are looking for partners. Some admit it others like to keep everything secret. However there are quite a handful of them who would like to have international partners to expand their businesses with global presence. Meanwhile constituents of the label industry are talking in hushed tones about another deal that has taken place but since the stake holders do not confirm publically, it remains gossip that goes on.
The industry is undergoing a fast transformation from being small, single owner, mostly first generation entrepreneur owned enterprises with one or two label presses to larger companies with diverse product offerings like labels, flexible packaging and cartons. These companies have made huge capital investments and are in the forefront of the label industry. The single owner family managed companies who have made rapid strides by investing in multiple label presses to expand and grow to meet the current demands of their end users include companies like Update Prints, Regal Creative, Syndicate labels, Anygraphics and Zircon in North India, Classic Images in East India, Webtech, Ajanta, Mudrika, Mahrishi, Letragraphics, Renault paper, Unique, etc. in western India and Seljegat in South India. Two of the others who expanded in South India have been already acquired. Larger professionally managed companies who have presence in offset printing, flexible packaging or carton manufacturing, who have invested in label printing include Uflex, PPL-Huhtamaki, Positive Packaging, Shree Rama Multitech, ITW, Pragati offset group, ITC, etc.
Definite segmentation has taken place in the Indian label printing industry. At the lowest end is the biggest labelstock consuming segment of the industry. These include companies who produce plain labels, barcode labels, gun labels, computer labels, EDP/VIP labels, etc. In the middle are the printers who cater to the unorganized sector and smaller manufacturers of consumer goods mainly in the MSME (Micro Small & Medium enterprises) sector. The top end that drives in the highest revenues caters to the larger companies, FMCG sector, multinationals, pharmaceutical companies, organized retail, etc. They are the ones producing the highly decorative and complicated labels on their state of art equipments. It is this top end of the label companies where all the JV’s or acquisitions are taking place. With FDI(Foreign Direct Investment) in multibrand retail permitted in India, growth rates in label consumption will rise.
With volumes expected to increase and come from the need of packaged goods that will be retailed to a young and large population, the sentiment in the industry will remain “Positive in labels”.
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 October, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Show time and Celebration time, in Label industry!

The festival season in India begins by the end of September and goes on till the middle of April. This is a time when people in general are in mood to celebrate. The weather also gets cooler and helps. During this time the Label printing and packaging industry also has a series of events in their industry to keep them busy because it is show time!

The biggest label show in India, Tarsus UK owned Labelexpo-India is to be held in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan from 29th October to 1st November 2012. The show is just days away, the hype is already there and the Label printers are looking forward to a good show. The virtual who-is-who of the label and packaging industry in India and the surrounding countries will converge to meet at this four day event. The show intends to empower the visitors with knowledge of the latest trends and technologies evolving around the world. State of art label presses, inspection systems, equipments, toolings, software and materials will be on display. As many as 23 working presses are likely to be showcasing their printing capabilities at this international event. The last edition of the premiere show was held in 2010 when the economic slowdown was just tapering off and the indulgence of printers may have been a little restrained. The industry is now buoyant, growing and expecting a surge in demand due to a spate of economic reforms initiated by the present Government of India. FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in multi-brand retail has been allowed and is expected to bring in an imperative need for shelf ready attractive packages. Labels are the face of any fast moving branded product and better labels with good aesthetics not only liven up the shelves but also tempt the consumers to lift the products and add to the retailer’s turnover. The Label printer has to continuously invest in upgrading his capabilities to print, decorate and convert. The general sentiment indicates the printers will be serious this time around and exhibitors will woo them with their best offerings. The event also accords opportunity to label printers and other stake holders in the industry to meet their peers in the industry share thoughts and knowledge. It is also time renew the bonds of friendship.

Harveer Sahni Weldon, Mohd. Nadeem CEO Paharpur-3P,
Alan Barreto MD Nilpeter India
Less than two weeks before Labelexpo opens another event was organized also in New Delhi. “Packaging Summit-Challenges and Opportunities” by Assocham (Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry in India) and supported by the Ministry of MSME (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises) on the 17th of October 2012.  Assocham is the highest body of the Chambers of Commerce of India, providing a forum for dialogue between business and government. The summit had speakers from the label, packaging industry and the Government. Speakers from Labels and packaging segment were Allan Baretto MD Nilpeter India, Asim Dutta Head of packaging development at JubilantLife sciences, Mohd. Nadeem, CEO, Paharpur – 3P, V B Lall, V.P., Indian Plastics Institute and Director, SCJ Plastics Ltd., myself; Harveer Sahni from Weldon Celloplast Limited and N C Saha Director Indian Institute of Packaging. Senior officers from the Ministry of MSME and other departments also spoke at the event.  One week after Labelexpo ends in Delhi, International Packtech, organized by Messe Dusseldorf will be held from 6th to 8th of December 2012 at Bombay exhibition centre, Goregaon, Mumbai. This event has a limited participation from suppliers to label industry. Therefore I do not expect many label printers travelling across the country to visit the show. However the packaging industry including suppliers and end users are likely to visit the show.

“Printpack” is the largest show for printing and packaging industry in India and also the 4th largest in the world. This time the show is being held at the Greater NOIDA Expo Center from 23rd to 28th February 2013. It will be the first time this show is not being held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. Generally shows get popular and recognized with the venues that they have found success at. This is an important show that caters to the printing and packaging industry, demand in which, according to the organizers is likely to cross 27 Billion US Dollars. At their last showing at Pragati Maidan, they reported a visitor turnout in access of 50,000 in numbers. I wonder if they can repeat that success at a changed venue, only time will tell. In between the shows that I mention above, there are a lot of small regional shows in smaller towns spread over North, West and South India. With the number of shows going on increasing coupled with already existing successful and important shows in Europe, USA and now China, the pressure on printers, suppliers and visitors has also increased. Signs of discontent are already showing. Competition and market demands create paucity of time. Printers need also to invest with caution. The no. of genuine visitors to shows is likely to decline. Drupa is a classic example of falling No. of visitors and if this trend continues, it may lead to losses for organizer and deterioration of standards at these shows. However for growing economies like India and China, the show culture has become a must for entrepreneurs wanting to expand. The better organized shows at popular venues are more likely to succeed. The content and visitor profile of any good show ensures good bookings for the following edition and vice versa is also true. We do hope that these shows deliver the promise to empower the label and print packaging fraternity with technical up gradation and opportunity to select technologies for their future expansion.

Narendra Paruchuri, M D Pragati
Pragati Offset Hyderabad celebrated their Golden Jubilee recently at Hyderabad. Being invited to the event I was surprised by the commitment, involvement and participation of the entire team. I have already written about them in this column last year. The team Pragati is now 1800 in numbers! The founder Mr. Hanumantha Paruchuri and his wife were on stage. At this age the man was in the midst of the party enjoying his guests which included customers, suppliers, media and friends in the industry. The evening saw almost 1000 guests sharing the joy of having excelled in print for 50 years! Pragati’s trophies, awards and works of excellence over the years were also on display. The following evening another party for the team Pragati with 1500 employees in attendance is the real essence, of celebrating success with those who contributed to the excellence that delivered.

The Indian Label press manufacturers are creating another story that is unfolding and appears to be having a bright future. Leading the pack is Amit Ahuja of Multitec Aids, a qualified design engineer. His last showing at Labelexpo 2010 Delhi, then Labelexpo 2011 Brussels and now in Labelexpo 2012 Delhi later this month is all the firsts that any label press manufacturer in this country could dream or achieve. He is producing machines that stand up to challenges and exacting demands in the international marketplace. I am not allowed to disclose but as he says he will surprise the label industry with his latest offering on display at his stand at the show. I look forward to the product that he will showcase. He has installed 14 machines in the last twelve months.
Jandu Label Press
Baldev Singh Jandu from his modest beginnings has come a long way. He has catered to the needs of the label industry in more than one way. His label printing machines are a must for any small entrant in the industry. Barcode labels, gun labels, computer labels EDP labels, toll tickets, etc., Jandu is the name that will deliver. He also supplies coater laminators, slitters, sheeters and other converting machines. He too has installed 14 label presses in the last twelve months. R K Machines in Ahmedabad is another machine supplier who continues to service the entry level printers. I will attempt to estimate imported presses including the used ones at another time as it is a difficult exercise. The agents of foreign press manufacturers do not like to disclose the figures for obvious reason. Considering the installations of these three Indian leaders in label press manufacturing,  and if I add another similar figure coming from other smaller regional players, the Indian label printers seem to have sold over 50 label presses! Truly the Indian label industry is shifting gears!

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 October, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

SGRE Labels Bangalore, acquired by Positive packaging!

Mumbai based Positive Packaging Industries Ltd. the flagship company of  Enpee Group, an international conglomerate with over 50 years of business experience, has in a recent move acquired Bangalore based SGRE Labels Private Limited. Positive Packaging is a pioneer in flexible packaging with state-of-the-art facilities located strategically in India, Nigeria and the U.A.E. They offer packaging solutions to customers in various countries through a robust international sales & and service network, catering to diverse sectors including FMCG, Agro products and Pet food.
This acquisition is a part of a series of moves in the Indian label industry, which seems to be undergoing a transformation by partnering with larger players to meet the challenges of globally active label printing companies indulging in domestic markets. This also provides the companies so acquired an access to international markets. I reproduce below the press release from Positive Packaging;

Positive Packaging continues growth and diversification, acquires Label manufacturing business: Move to address demand for superior, multifunction labels, from existing clients and add new customers.
Mumbai, India, 18 Sep 2012: Positive Packaging Industries Ltd. is pleased to announce the acquisition of Label manufacturing business of “SGRE Labels Pvt. Ltd.”, in a bid to offer its customers single stop packaging solutions. This acquisition follows the recent integration of ICM Packaging and is part of Positive’s vision to have the ‘Preferred Supplier’ status with its customers and equips Positive with state-of-the-art label packaging equipment and infrastructure.

Pranesh Kankanwadi, Group MD Positive
 Explaining the strategic acquisition, Mr. Pranesh Kankanwadi, Group Managing Director, Positive Packaging says, “We have observed the increased scope of requirements of our customers, who prefer to deal with a single supplier for a wider range of their packaging requirements. One of the requirements is labels. Being prompt to react to our customers’ needs, we clinched the opportunity to provide superior labelling solutions at par with global standards that Positive is known for.
The label manufacturing business of “SGRE Labels Pvt. Ltd.” is located at Bengaluru. The Company has state of the art European machines with additional equipment scheduled for commissioning in March 2013. The company has in house design facility, managed by a experienced technical team. To facilitate the quick turnaround of short run jobs and product sampling, company is also equipped with HP Indigo Digital Printing/Converting equipment.
The continued significant investments underline Positive’s commitment to all stakeholders to grow the relationship in a mutually beneficial manner.
Positive Packaging, a part of the international conglomerate, the Enpee Group; is a one-stop source for quality, printed and laminated, barrier-grade flexible packaging with manufacturing facilities in India, Nigeria and U.A.E. In India, Positive Packaging is a leading player in the flexible packaging space.
To know more about Positive Packaging, visit the website: Media Contact: Mr. Nem Kumar Jain - Sr. Manager - Corporate Communications | +91 – 22 – 39211400

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mudrika Group; Stickers to labels and beyond…

Manish Desai
It is generally perceived in India that a doctor’s son will become a doctor. Traditionally Indian families follow the rule that the sons take up a profession similar to the one that their father has pursued. This is more so because the father wishes it so. Also the nuances of the profession or trade that they have been in, is firmly entrenched in their minds. They are able to train and advise their off-springs when they inherit or for that matter, indulge in a similar profession. The joint family system is also responsible for such decisions by the or for the, generation next. Mumbai based R N Desai, a finance manager with Johnson & Johnson, had a different vision for his inheritors. Contrary to the above, he wished and emphasized that his sons will never be in service. They have to be successful businessmen. His children accepted his advice earnestly and worked hard to prove him right. The family prospers and grows in business due to the vision of this man. Sandeep, Vipul and Manish have given their best in building the Mudrika group to what it is today. The group continues to expand giving credibility to the motivation of their mentor. While Vipul and Manish are R N Desai’s sons, Sandeep who started it all is their cousin yet they are always seen as real brothers who are exceptionally well bonded. Manish, the youngest of the three fondly remembers that he was so influenced by his father’s decision that during his vacations in school, he used to trade in small things to make some extra money. The inclination and indulgence in trade at such tender age was definitely the reason for them to be so committed to their work.
In 1975 Stickers, was a relatively new development that was drawing attention and interest of many people. A time when people were using a gum bottle to squeeze out that little amount of glue from a squeezable bottle and spread it on the paper label and stick! It was an exciting innovation, just to peel off this paper label from the release paper and press it on to where you want to place it. Simple, neat and clean! Sandeep was working for a greeting cards company at that time. This new innovation, excited him and caught his fancy, he started to experiment with it. He would get these stickers made on job work basis and sell to customers. The project worked and a year later Sandeep left his job to plunge full time into this activity. In 1976, he started to screen print at home with 3-4 workers. The youngest brother Manish was just 10 years old then and was excited to see the stickers being made. This must have been the basis of his aggressive involvement to build the label business in later years. 1977, Sandeep moved his production from home to a proper 500 square feet facility in an Industrial Estate in Malad, Mumbai. From screen printing, he shifted to getting the paper printed on offset on job work basis, applying gum by screen, drying and then die-punching. After seven years in Malad, in 1985 Vipul joined business. As the self adhesive labelstock industry evolved, pre-gummed sheets also became available easily. Sandeep changed his business model yet again. This time around he would buy pregummed sheets and send them out for printing on sheet-fed offset presses and then he would die punch them in his factory at Malad to finish the stickers. This became a regular business and some amount of stagnation did move in. When a business delivers the desired results and takes care of one’s immediate needs, the resistance to implement change is evident. The foundation had been laid and it was time to move ahead and at this time infusion of young blood is like a shot in the arm! Manish Desai, after completing his B.Com from Mumbai University, joined Mudrika. It was time to shift gears and put Mudrika into the fast forward mode.
By 1991 the manufacturing space at Malad had swelled to over 7000 square feet however still all the printing was being outsourced from various offset printers in Mumbai. The need to have own captive printing operations became imperative. A 2500 square feet factory with an offset printing press was setup at Mahalaxmi in south Mumbai. In quick succession Mudrika expanded into packaging as well. They started to produce micro-flute monocartons, corrugated shipper cartons and folding cartons. In 1996 Manish Desai with his fondness for stickers made Mudrika labels a more indulgent and active organization. The first label press, a refurbished Kopack was installed at the Malad factory. Mudrika had moved from stickers to labels!
HTL Labels
The fast forward mode was starting to show. Just another year later the Desai brothers setup a 20000 square feet, 300 tons per month corrugated master carton manufacturing unit at Daman. Though the decision to setup a facility at Daman was due to the tax benefits available there but that reason alone does not make industry to prosper. It is the motivation, dedication and hard work of the promoters and their team that brings the fruits. All along Manish Desai had his heart in labels, in 1996 he took a very strategic decision, even though he had just one label press, he did a backward integration exercise and initiated the captive manufacturing of self adhesive labelstocks. Besides giving him an edge over his competitors, it also became another profit centre. Between 1996 and 2000 Manish increased his involvement in labels and was instrumental in installing a total of four Kopack label presses. He reminisces that the first press was virtually idle for a full year because it was a period of learning and settling down in a new manufacturing process. Understanding label printing to achieve was a very crucial part that lead to his success in years to come. He was lucky to have found crucial support from his supplier of machines in the early days. The supplier, who became a dear friend, would send his engineer from UK at short notice when ever Manish ran into a problem and would not charge him for that. Manish went on to buy five machines from him.
Manish with his new Gallus!
By the start of the new millennium the brothers divided their responsibilities to take the group forward in a systematic way. The eldest Sandeep, a B.Sc from Vidya Nagar Gujarat, became the face of the Mudrika group in corrugated board packaging, Vipul, an environmental engineer, took responsibility of building the offset printing business as also taking care of the labelstock manufacturing and Manish took responsibility of leading Mudrika Labels where all the expansion and quality up gradation came by because of his initiatives. In 2004 another 12000 square feet factory was setup at Vasai to produce labels. Four Gallus label presses were installed in this unit to catapult Mudrika labels in the select group of big label printing companies in India. Meanwhile the labelstock manufacturing was also expanded as need for stock grew with their expansion. They now have three coaters out of which two are for emulsion adhesive coating and one 1000mm hotmelt coater. In 2011, the Desai brothers took another pioneering decision of expanding into gravure printing to produce highly decorative HTL labels with Korean knowhow. All three brothers are looking after this unit to take it forward and plan to expand this business as well.
The Mudrika group has ambitious plans to expand further into manufacture of packaging products that have synergy with their present business and customer base. They will be making capital expenditure where ever they find necessary and are evaluating the way forward. They also plan a five colour intradeck UV press to produce metalized paperboard cartons. The label unit is again under an expansion programme with another 45000 square feet factory being planned again at Vasai near Mumbai. The land has been purchased, government permissions have been obtained and construction at the site is likely to begin soon. They also plan to add 18000 square feet space for offset printing business and 8000 square feet for expanding their labelstock manufacturing operations. The present scale of Mudrika group’s business emanates out of production at various facilities spread over a combined aggregate space of approximately 75000 square feet with over 300 employees. Manish is very bullish about his group’s expansion plans. A new logo is planned and a makeover is being put in place to build the brand, “Mudrika”. Manish Desai has worked his way up in the Indian label industry and has been the past president of LMAI (Label Manufacturers Association of India). He is confident that the three brothers will be able to grow the business to at least twice the size of its present operations in the next five years. However they have no intentions of patronizing the much fancied digital printing in any of their manufacturing operations. As regards their commitment to the environment, he feels they need to do more. At present they send all their label waste free of cost to the boilers at some paper mills for incineration.
The generation next in the Desai families is all girls and it is unlikely or too soon to say that any of them will join the family business. Manish has two daughters, Stuti the elder one is in class 12th and wishes to pursue medicine while Astha, his younger daughter is in class 8th and unsure on what she will do in future, Sandeep also has two daughters both of them are married and live outside India and as for Vipul, his only daughter is in class five. The brothers have decided to gradually professionalize the group and as promoters they would eventually one day into the future, withdraw from the day to day management. They wish to see their Mudrika group which started with stickers and moved to labels, to go beyond…into packaging and more.

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 September, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nine Months! Delivered and here to stay…FDI.

On the 10th of December 2011, on this blog of mine I uploaded my post, “FDI in retail, Government defers it, Industry gives a thumbs-up! This was a post that the industry appreciated and lauded. The industry leaders who gave the thumbs up were those whose opinion matters! The industry did miss a heart beat when the decision was put on hold due to political compulsions.

Industrialists pour in investments into manufacturing facilities foreseeing the growth in market and expecting the surge in demand. Expansion and capacity enhancement with focus on producing world standard products does not come cheap! In a country like India that is home for over 1.2 Billion people most of whom are educated, young, earning more and expected to spend more, the demand for consumer goods is bound to surge upwards. The expectations of growth increases to higher levels when government decisions like allowing FDI in retail become a reality! At such times going by their projections, stakeholders do make the investments to enhance capacities. Capacities cannot emanate immediately when demand arises. They come around when manufacturers assess demand based on government policies, decisions and make projections that prompt them to invest in state of art equipment to enhance quality production. If at this stage, the government reverses decision in FDI, it would be a deterrent to growth. The pause button is pressed instantaneously. As an equipment supplier to the label industry I and my colleagues did experience the impact of this pause last year. Ordered equipment was put on hold. We lost crucial time…nine months, perhaps.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh
Last week, the Manmohan Singh government in India, finally stood up firmly and faced the opposition to declare that FDI in retail is a reality. Also emphatically, they asserted that the decision now was here to stay. The catch that looks to be a deterrent of sorts, is that the states still have the choice to block this process. However, one can see the steady transformation to big time internationally participated retail already initiated. Opposing states will fall in line as they witness the results in states that accept the process. The controversy is that the Mom and Pop store around the corner will suffer and wind up. A mild protest also says that the farmers may also suffer. However all know once the middleman is out the farmer will get better realization for his produce. The politicians will be left assessing who to back, the mom and pop stores or the farmers. The eventuality will happen and change the lifestyles in this country.

Change does worry and is difficult to accept but when you see your neighbor progressing, the me-too factor makes an impact. Imagine a Wal-Mart store at the Delhi border adjoining the state of UP (Uttar Pradesh) where FDI in retail is not accepted. When people in UP in the NCR (National Capital Region) start to patronize such stores in numbers that process cannot be ignored, the evident will happen, Wall mart will also cross the border of these states that are resisting now. The loss of revenue due to tax collections will trouble any state government. Once retail grows, manufacturing has to grow to fulfill the demand. Demand for labels growing is just a matter time. With that will grow the demand for equipment, toolings and materials.

It has been a few days and the opposition parties are mounting the political pressure for a rollback but this time around the decision seems to be firm, the Government is ready to face the music as it comes. The prime Minister says if we have to go down we might as well do that fighting. The industry has already given their thumbs up. The government is committed now, finally it did take them those magical nine months to deliver! As also to ensure that FDI is here to stay!!!

Written By Harveer Sahni September 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sustainability, with self adhesive linerless labels

Silicon release paper
Some thirty years ago, when I was just a commercial siliconiser, people at large did not understand what release paper or silicon paper was. It is normal for people when they meet someone for first time to ask, “What business are you in?” Whenever confronted with such a question I would say, “I siliconise” or “I produce release paper” or “I produce silicon paper” instantaneously I was confronted with another question, “what is that?” On being asked repeatedly, I formulated an answer adding a little fun to my response. I would say that I produce something that eventually lands up in the dust bin. This, as intended would confuse the person and I would be prompted to go on to explain further. Those days very few people related label to the self adhesive product that we see now. People did understand what a sticker was, so I had to explain, it is the glazed paper that you see behind a sticker protecting the sticky adhesive on it. Many a times these new found friends would comment, that it must be a very good business because you produce something that goes to the dustbin so quickly, creating repeated demands for more. Those days nobody would like to produce something that could be used repeatedly resulting in reduced demand. Labels were generally recognized as the unsupported printed paper labels produced by the sheet-fed offset or letterpress printers. Glue was needed to be applied on backside of these labels before application on the final product. These are what are now referred to as wet-glue labels. The glue application and fixing on the product was done either manually or by automatic machines. Such automatic labeling machines are still extensively used by the beer and liquor industry. With time stickers evolved to become self adhesive labels and eventually settling down to a sticker being simply called a label. These labels that had a pressure sensitive adhesive on the reverse, imperatively needed to have a protective release liner to protect the tacky adhesive until the label was required to be applied on to the product. The release liner, as I mentioned earlier would be left redundant after removal of the label, would actually land in the dustbin and then be disposed off in a landfill or burnt adding smoke to the environment. It was easy those days to joke about a product being successful even though after use it was being dumped in the landfills impacting the environment adversely. Time now has changed. Concern for our environment is a matter that has become an absolute necessity. We cannot joke about the success of a product that pollutes. We have to be responsible for leaving behind a legacy of a cleaner and livable environment for generations that follow us. We have to make our manufacturing programs, sustainable.

Sustainable or Sustainability! What it means? Well for a simple answer it means the capacity to endure but in wider terms it is the process that will enable our planet earth to support human life. In simpler terms it means that we need to give back to mother earth what we take from it or else we stop or reduce drawing the resources that we cannot replenish forthwith. If we cut trees to build homes, manufacture paper, produce furniture, etc. we are reducing the forest cover, deforestation impacts the environment and climate adversely. So, for the sake of sustainability, we need to plant many more trees to maintain the ecological balance such that the benefits of these resources are available to our next generations. Similarly potable water is also an absolute necessity for human consumption and survival. Underground water table has been a reservoir for continued supply of this vital necessity. Unfortunately as a result of rapid urbanization this resource seems to be depleting due to unorganized and excessive pumping of underground water. For this reason the government has made water harvesting compulsory for all new construction activity in an effort to replenish this vital need for human consumption and attain sustainability in urban living. Now coming back to self adhesive labels industry that uses a vital resource, trees for manufacture of paper. Unfortunately 50% of all that this industry produces goes as waste. The liner as explained earlier goes to the landfill via the dustbin, and the waste matrix further adds to the wastage. The industry needs to dwell on management of this waste. It is either burnt or dispatched to the landfill. It is time for all the stake holders in this industry from siliconisers, labelstock manufacturer, label printers to end users, to take stock of the situation and influence the manufacturing programmes towards sustainability by either reducing waste, recycling it or eliminating it substantially. Label industry around the world has already started to debate on this problem. FINAT, the International association on self adhesive labeling, has already initiated many debates and programmes on this problem. The label industry in India will also have to soon follow the trends elsewhere in the world, whether it is by sending the used liner and the waste matrix for recycling, or by reducing the thickness of the liners by opting for thinner filmic liners that can be reprocessed after use. However it would be ideal if the industry could indulge in the evolving the concept of making self adhesive labels “Linerless!”

A linerless label can be or I would say, it is like, a printed packaging tape, which instead of having continuous printing would have labels printed on it such that they could be cut and applied. The manufacturing of such a product is done by printing on the substrate, siliconising it, adhesive coating on the opposite side and then rewinding it like a tape. A fire mark at each label can aid a dispenser to sense the mark and dispense the label for application. However in such a scenario one cannot have special die-cut shapes that contribute to the aesthetics and shelf appeal of consumer products. Since the media in the western world has been highlighting linerless labels consistently, a lot of label producing companies around the world have started to work in this direction, making linerless labels a definite segment. Interesting developments are taking place in this upcoming segment and many companies are doing pioneering work to produce linerless labels that will perform effectively. One of the most active equipment suppliers who has been working and developing technology for producing such labels is ETI converting based in Montreal, Canada. For the past many years they have been exhibiting at Labelexpo’s, their equipment that can siliconise the base-paper, adhesive coat face paper, laminate the two, print, decorate, die-cut, finish labels and rewind in line in a single pass. For them it is a matter of shifting and adjusting the web flow at various modules to produce linerless labels. It would need one to simply print the labels on a regular label press, turn it around with a turn bar and siliconise it, turn it around, adhesive coat it and rewind it, the label roll Is ready. In case of clear films one could use a pre-silicone coated film and reverse print eliminating one more process in producing linerless labels. As a labelstock manufacturer myself I have been wondering what the labelstock manufacturing business will experience once linerless starts to grow. Last year in Brussels at Labelexpo 2011, during a brief interaction with Dean Scarborough, President and CEO of Avery Dennison, I shared my thoughts about linerless labels. I questioned Dean about the future of Labelstocks. Even though he felt that this technology will evolve but for the present the demand for the pre-die cut labels cannot be catered by the linerless technology. He stated that the conventional labelstock business is here to stay and will grow. I did agree with him at that time but a year down the line I feel while the conventional will grow yet the linerless label technology will soon make a big impact as up-gradation of this technology goes on. I am sure Dean must be having an ace up his sleeve!

There have been many interesting developments in the processes to produce linerless labels. I will dwell briefly on some of them. While the basic concept on most of the developments being made by different companies remains printing the substrate, the application of release coat on one side and then applying adhesive on the reverse, yet there are companies that are modifying equipment and processes to meet requirements of customers. For customers who need to over print, the substrate is pattern coated with silicone and adhesive so as to provide an uncoated area where overprinting can be done. In case of variable data printing the silicone coating is replaced by a special release coating which can accept thermal transfer printing. For printing on these linerless substrates special barcode printers are employed. Care is taken that the backup rollers are kept clean so that they do not result in paper jamming due to adhesive transferring on to the backup rolls. The technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. I would like to draw a comparison of the linerless label printing and regular linered label with the digital and conventional offset printing process. The way digital is growing, similarly linerless will grow.

ETI Cohesio
  The more startling innovation in linerless labels is coming from ETI converting about whom I have mentioned earlier in this article. In their endeavors on sustainability they first produced an equipment to produce labels on what they termed as the mini-liner. Labels produced on a multiple-reusable release liner are die-cut to special shapes and transferred to a 15 micron PET liner which is recyclable. This process helps in reducing the impact of waste as the there is lesser tonnage of the leftover liner and more over it is possible to reprocess it by re-molding. However this product does not fall into the category of linerless labels. ETI’s most interesting development is that of equipment to produce linerless labels that are pre-die cut to special shape and dispensed with the aid of a customized label applicator. The patented technology is now on offer. ETI has signed many non-disclosure agreements with companies that have decided to invest in their state of art equipment and path breaking technology. It is a matter of pride for me that my company Weldon Celloplast represents ETI for this green technology. Another interesting linerless label technology that I have come across is the one developed by US based Polykote Corporation in association with Arca Automation. They have developed a linerless label with no tack! The tack of the pressure sensitive adhesive has been deadened by an overcoat and the label appears to be like an unsupported wet glue label. However on the applicator once the label is exposed to an energy source like high energy light, radiant heat or hot air, the labels regain tack and the pressure sensitive nature of the label is re-activated.

While there appears to me, absolutely no indulgence in this linerless technology in India, yet the interest is positively stirring up. I have spoken and discussed with some of the leading label printers across India. It is difficult to report detailed individual responses in this article yet I give herein the gist of what the industry feels. 50% of all the printers that I contacted had not studied this concept and that they all had a problem disposing their waste. Gautham Pai led Manipal technologies and Chandan Khanna led Ajanta Packaging are extremely interested in this technology and are confident that it will grow in times to come. Sudhir Jain at Jain Transfer, Rajesh Nema at Pragati Global Indore, Shakti Jain at Great Eastern Gurgaon, Himanshu Kapur at J K Fineprints Mumbai and Sandeep Zaveri at Total Print Navi Mumbai all feel that the technology is still at a nascent stage and that for the present it is not a threat to the conventional label printing business. However they are still interested to indulge and take it forward if their customers take the initiative to go green in this direction. I was surprised by the comments of Yogesh Aggarwal of Printpack Delhi, he says, “There is no doubt that Linerless PS label stock would be a revolution and it should grow in time. It will obviously be a threat to conventional sticker with liner due to the reduced cost and environment friendly material. It should have good future.” There are other leading printers whom I spoke to and are quite knowledgeable on the subject but they decided to keep their cards close to their chest and not divulge their plans in this direction.

The linerless label technology is likely to take the self adhesive label industry to another level. In times to come, it will be a subject that is difficult to ignore. It cuts down the cost of a release liner from the ultimate cost of the laminate, there is no waste liners to dispose off, there will be more labels per roll thereby increasing production efficiency and also providing safety at work place because release liners are slippery and lying on the shop-floor, they are a risk where workers can slip on them and get injured. The summation on linerless labels, comes from non other then the person who has proven he can take pioneering and daring decisions. Decisions that can change the way the industry thinks and evolves! He is Narendra Paruchuri and in his words, “Apart from the cost benefit, I am very happy that this is a greener product. At present few companies are practicing being green with lower carbon foot prints. Soon Government legislation will force us to be Green. Linerless gives us a win-win situation where we are greener and we are cost efficient.”

In such a scenario when the same existing printing presses will be used in conjunction with some additional converting and dispensing equipment, it creates a win-win situation. It is a matter of time that the end-users will see the benefits of using these labels not just due to the price but also because they are aiding sustainability. The linerless labels will arrive and continue to grow!”

Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008 August, 2012