SMI Labels and Packaging Materials

Monday, June 25, 2018

Make in India: Producing Magnetic Cylinders and machines for labels

Pioneering efforts and firm dedication, established Sanjeev Atre of PGI Technologies Pvt. Ltd. as the first Indigenous manufacturer of magnetic cylinders in India. Sanjeev belongs to a typical Marathi Brahmin family from Pune. His father Prabhakar Atre, an accountant working with a CA firm in Pune got transferred to Aurangabad just one year after Sanjeev was born in 1957. Aurangabad eventually became the family’s Karmabhoomi (land where fate locates a person to work and be active in). Even though his family had no experience in running a business enterprise, Atre left his job in 1964 and decided to try his luck in business. Initially he tried his hands at book-binding but soon moved on. Those days, people were using treadle letter presses to print letter heads, bill books, posters, etc. and for printing variable information they would lead typefaces that were typeset or assembled as a block that would finally be used for printing. Prabhakar Atre started a type foundry to produce typefaces. This was the family’s first tryst with the printing industry. Integrating forward, he bought a treadle press to start printing as well.

Sanjeev after completing his schooling, finished college with B.Sc in Physics and took up a job in 1976. Just 2-3 months later he gave up his job to join his father and help him in business because his elder brother Bhalchandra, instead of joining the father’s business had preferred a job in bank. In 1980 Sanjeev wanted to invest in a small offset printing press but his father was worried how the money could be raised. They somehow managed a loan from NSIC (National Small Industries Corporation) and since he was very active in the printer’s association, friends helped him raise the Rupees 10,000.00 margin money. They acquired their first small offset printing press, a single colour Swift of size 15 inches X 20 inches. To start with they got some small odd jobs from Brooke Bond India Ltd. who had a meat exporting unit at Aurangabad. An opportunity came their way when an order for labels came from Brook Bond for 500,000-600,000 labels each month. Nostalgically Sanjeev remembers that he produced the label in 5 passes and got his first regular label business. By 1986 the father son duo, were ready to invest in their second single colour press. Five years hence in 1991 they further upgraded by investing in their first multicolour printing machine, a two colour offset. They followed it up with yet another similar machine two years later. All this business was under their company titled Mudranika, Aurangabad.

The label industry in India started to evolve and grow around the mid nineties. Sensing the future trends, Sanjeev decided expand into self adhesive labels. In 1996 they finally made their entry into production of self adhesive labels in roll form by investing in a pre-owned 7 inch wide 5 colour CI letterpress Kopack machine. Sanjeev worked hard to succeed in this new venture. He was committed to serve his customers with timely deliveries. For a particular job, he needed a different magnetic cylinder. The supplier quoted him a price that was high and Sanjeev was not comfortable with it. On repeated requests for a lower price, the supplier knowing Sanjeev’s dilemma, did not relent. An annoyed Sanjeev decided to make his own magnetic cylinders and started work on the project. In the same year 1996, Sanjeev Atre made his and India’s first indigenously manufactured magnetic cylinder! Proudly Sanjeev reminisces that the Cylinder worked excellently. Kopack on which he installed it, on was sold in 2005 and he proudly says, “It must still be working well on that machine, wherever it is working now”.

In 1994, Sanjeev Atre’s elder brother left his job in a bank and together they setup another sheet offset printing unit in 1998 under name and style of Prabhakar Print Pack Private Limited. They started with a four colour machine and all allied equipment. Sanjeev continued to concentrate in the self adhesive label business. In 2004 a 10 inch Mark Andy 2200 flexo label press was acquired and a year later after selling their Kopack they acquired yet another Mark Andy 2200, 13 inch press. Even though Sanjeev was expanding in labels yet in his heart he still wished to replicate his success in manufacturing magnetic cylinders. In 2005, he again indulged to produce these under his new enterprise Precise Graphics.  In his early days on entering the self adhesive label industry with a Kopack press, Sanjeev got a lot of help and advice from Manish Desai of Mudrika Labels in Mumbai. Mudrika already had three such Kopack presses and mentored Sanjeev to success. When he initiated his new venture he apprised Manish Desai about the magnetic Cylinder produced by him. Manish was excited on hearing this and immediately asked  Sanjeev to produce one for him, even though when offered by Sanjeev to supply on cost, Manish insisted and prevailed upon Sanjeev to add his margin and supply, also assuring to refer him to other fellow printers. So Mudrika labels became the first customer of Precise Graphics for magnetic cylinders. Sanjiv remains indebted to Manish Desai who has been instrumental in his success because of the support provided to him and proudly says, “This was an encouragement of Make in India concept”.

The initial success was followed up with support from another industry stalwart Vijay Jain of A and A Labels Delhi. Thereafter there was no looking back and Precise Graphics started to exhibit their products at domestic and international exhibitions. They now have customers spread all over India, USA, MENA region and other countries. They sell between 750-800 units each year and aspire to keep increasing their footprints in the growing industry. In 2008 they developed and started marketing plate mounters followed it up by offering rotary die cutting machines for blank labels in 2012 and slitting and intermittent die-cutting machines in 2014. 

Encouraged by his success Precise Graphics was in 2014 renamed PGI Technologies Pvt. Ltd. to concentrate in producing engineering and technology driven products for the label industry at large. In 2015 Sanjeev Atre quit the printing business, leaving that to his elder brother. A year on he launched his first flexo rotary 6 colour tower type label printing press, a machine that he displayed at Labelexpo India 2016 was self designed, built in their factory with CNC machined parts and not copied from any other press. This, Sanjeev says, is conforming to the Make in India concept to which he is committed. The machine as displayed at the 2016 Labelexpo India in Greater Noida was running at 60 meters per minute, however this has been further improved and in their factory the press has run at 80 meters per minute with water based inks and hot air drying. Also at the same event they showcased a new development that they were taking up, a turret re-winder with die cutting and rotary slitting for non-stop production of blank labels. The final version of this machine will be displayed at the upcoming Labelexpo India in November 2018.  Even though demonetization and implementation of GST did impact business adversely yet PGI Tech was able to sell eight machines in one year to satisfied customers.  They endeavor, as also continue to upgrade their products on an ongoing basis adding new features and automation to them. They presently operate out of a factory admeasuring 6500 square feet with 26 people. Expansion is in progress and they are in process to acquire a 1.25 acre plot with 18000 square feet built up area, enough for the immediate future plans.

Reminiscing a challenging situation in his early days in printing labels and the innovative streak in him to solve the problem, he narrates a time when a customer rejected a whole lot of 10-12.5 million labels due to over punching because the web was breaking on automatic label dispensing equipment. He took back the entire consignment, laminated the liner with BOPP film and returned to the customer. The shipment was accepted!

This year after renewing business strategies to escalate the fast growing domestic as well as export business of tooling, Sanjeev has consolidated the Tooling division within the manufacturing with the entire operations under one roof including gear tooth profile grinding facility as well. While there is push for increasing the prices in the industry, Sanjeev has publically announced a price reduction in tooling owing to the savings from of this strategic initiative.

Sanjeev has active support from his wife Namita who is a home maker. His elder son Pinak decided not to join his business and moved to Pune taking a job in IT, planning to launch his own venture in partnership with a friend at a later date. His younger son Ajinkya has joined PGI Tech and is still under training in the company while pursuing a course in architecture alongside. With Ajinkya also in business, Sanjeev has more time on his hands and has tempted him to pursue his hobby of photography and presently he is studying different birds and their migratory streams. He travels to bird sanctuaries and patiently indulges in catching in his camera, the unique images of birds in their natural habitats. It helps him relax, unwind and return to work rejuvenated to indulge yet again in creativity.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi April, 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mark Andy’s Mike Russell- Manual Labor to flying planes and selling label presses!

Mark Andy, Vice President of International Sales, Mike Russell was born in St. Louis where he grew up and went to school in the suburb of Kirkwood, Missouri. After completing his undergraduate studies from WestminsterCollege, Fulton, Missouri in 1974, a college where Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain Speech in 1946, Mike encountered a problem of acute unemployment. America and the western world were at that time facing recession. As per Wikipedia; 1970s recession was a period of economic stagnation in much of the Western world. It differed from many previous recessions by being a stagflation, where high unemployment and high inflation existed simultaneously. Unable to find a regular office job Mike took up his first job doing manual labor of laying rail tracks for Norfolk and Western Railway. Son of a Self employed lawyer, who also sold life insurance, and mother being a home maker, he aspired to succeed in life despite the challenges this earlier part of life threw at him. Six months after his first manual job stint, he joined a small company which supplied air pollution filters to Monsanto Enviro-Chem Systems as their lowest paid employee. At this company he did all kinds of jobs that included managing receipt of materials to quality control. 3 years later in 1978 Mike Russell left this job and joined ALCO Controls division of Emerson Electric, to look after production and inventory control. Those days of recession it was the job that was important and not what duties came with it. While at this job he worked during the day and later attended night school for four years finally receiving an MBA degree. Fortunately the company paid for this study. Another 7 years later it was time to move on and he started to apply in various companies, on basis of a good CV and armed with an MBA degree he got selected for a job to look after planning and production in the module assembly department of Mark Andy Inc. He had on 4th of November 1985 finally reached the company where has spent the next 33 years of his illustrious career.
Mark Andrews Sr.

In 1946 Mark Andrews Sr. started to print scotch tapes and also built a tape printing press in his basement machine shop. Mark Andy named after its founder Mark Andrews was started as a small family venture. With Mark’s hard work and foresight, the company went on to invent, develop and build rotary label presses that were called Aniline presses prior to be named Flexographic and becoming the leading name in flexo printing and converting presses. So as to grow the market Mark Andrews Sr. with help of one of his machinist, Richard Roseman developed rotary dies to run on presses manufactured by him. He later encouraged Richard to start his own company to produce rotary dies which he did and Roto Die Company Inc. was founded in 1957. Roto Die Company subsequent to its merger with Micrometrics Inc. was renamed Rotometrics.

Mark Andrews Jr.

Mark Andrews Sr. passed away in 1980 leaving Mark Andy Inc. to his son Mark Andrews Jr. who had been at the helm since the late 1960s. While the father was an innovator, the son was a businessman. Having no secession plan for his family, and realizing the company needed to invest more that he was willing toward the future, Mark Andrews Jr. sold his stake in Mark Andy Inc. to Dover Corporation in 1995. In 2006 the company was acquired by Morganthaler Partners, an Investment group and then in 2008 Mark Andy Inc. was acquired by American Industrial Partners (AIP) and MAI Holdings. In the summer of 2014 former Mark Andy CEO P.J. Desai and the Desai Family, along with the Mark Andy Management Team and two co-investors, completed the acquisition of Mark Andy, Inc. from American Industrial Partners (AIP).

Mike with the plane that he co-owned with his friends
After Mike Russell had spent two years in Mark Andy, Dale Bunell Vice President Sales brought him into the sales Department. Dale who is the recipient of the first ever R Stanton Avery Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2004, had a liking for Mike. Dale found out that like himself, Mike was a Private Pilot, a hobby which they both enjoyed. Mike reminisces, he loved everything with a motor, may that be trains, planes, automobiles or motorcycles. Mike along with six other partners, owned a single engine Cessna 172 four place airplane.

The plane flying over Missouri Countryside where Mike lives

Gourav Roy, Mark Andy’s Indian agent ecstatically remembers the time in 2000 when Mike flew him in that plane to Cincinnati to visit the Comco factory, which Mark Andy had acquired in 2001, for a plant visit and sales training on the Comco line of presses.  

Mike Russell and Harveer Sahni during
Labelexpo Europe in Brussels

Though posted in sales department yet Mike did not have to travel much as he was looking after sales administration making contracts and quotations. In 1995 when Mike became International Sales Manager looking after sales in Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific that he started to travel around the world. Before this Mike’s only interaction with customers was when they would come to the company for trials. His first international sales trip was made to Australia where he could register the first sale under his leadership, an MA 4150 Label press, followed by visits to Malaysia, India and China.

Mary Sullivan and Mike Russell of MA with Mike Fairley
visiting Formula1 in greater NOIDA during Labelexpo India

Mark Andy was earlier represented by EAC Graphics, the graphic arts business division of Denmark's East Asiatic Co. Ltd. which was subsequently acquired by Heidelberg. With Heidelberg buying 33% of Gallus in 1999, Mark Andy parted ways with EAC as business interests clashed. Mike Russell’s second international sales visit to Malaysia was due to Claus Larsen who had joined Mark Andy because of him and earlier worked for EAC Graphics in India. This also led to Mike’s next visit to India in 1996 when EAC was still their selling arm there. Here he came into contact with Indian label industry veterans Sudhir Samant, Gourav Roy and Vijay Pareek, all three were employed with EAC Graphics India Pvt. Ltd. to sell Mark Andy presses. Now Mark Andy is represented by Flexo Image Graphics led by Gourav Roy. Talking about his first visit to India “This was perhaps the most challenging time” says Mike. Flexo was not developed in Asia, letterpress was the dominant printing process employed in label printing in this region. Mike soon realized that India followed by China were more likely to accept the flexographic printing technology. This made him indulge extensively and succeed in selling the presses making the brand Mark Andy popular in India. Following the initial ground work, there was no looking back and Mike would travel extensively at least once or twice each month to different parts of the world finding success in promoting sales of Mark Andy products. He asserts that in last 5 years the biggest growth has come from the re-established Europe. It accounts for the highest number of presses sold in any region even including the United States. However, the US market still brings in the most revenue due to a higher percentage of complicated configurations, along with the parts, consumable and service revenues inherent to the US market. During his career, Mike has never been part of the North American Sales team.
In an evolving market scenario and intense competitive situation, to remain in sound health Mark Andy has invested in new printing converting and decorating technologies. The major addition was the establishment a little more than 5 years ago their Digital Division making their own Mark Andy HD inkjet hybrid press in San Diego, California. They have also added finishing and other offline process equipment to their product program. In 2008 they acquired Rotoflex International (established in 1973), substantially expanding their brand portfolio to include the inspection and rewind solutions. Subsequently to retain a continuous sales and cash flow they decided to set up a consumables division to expand outside the conventional press selling business as well. In 2012 they acquired Print Products Inc., a distributor of flexographic supplies and in the following year in 2013 they acquired the offset supplies portion of Presstek, Inc., establishing distribution of a variety of prepress, pressroom supplies, consumables, and chemistries which includes the renowned A.B. Dick brand. They intend to be the total solutions supplier to the global label industry.

The Russell Family
Mike Russell is blessed with two daughters. The elder Ashley is an economist in the oil industry and located in Houston. The younger Lauren is married and works as a nanny or a care taker. Michele, his wife worked in the insurance industry until Ashley was born and later preferred to remain a homemaker. The Russells live in Chesterfield, Missouri, USA, which is very close to the Mark Andy facility. Due to problems with his back he underwent an operation last November, because of which his travelling is reduced now. Mike is starting to think about retirement, as he now wishes to spend more time with wife and children and elderly parents. Since he has never been in charge of the USA market, he has travelled the world but has not had a chance to see as much of the United States as he would like to. Once he retires and has more time on his hands, he and his wife Michele wish to explore their homeland in leisure with an occasional international trip.

Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi India June 2018
Printing Magazines are permitted to reproduce this article giving credit to author.