In an ever-evolving label scenario, the need to produce more efficiently, reduce wastage, shorten downtime, reduce interest and financial stress due to big inventories, reducing manpower and achieving more revenue per asset are necessities that will add to financial health of companies. To achieve the here mentioned imperatives, many companies are increasing the use of digital technologies, automation and artificial intelligence. This not only helps them to be system driven rather than being human driven but also empowers them to add to their bottom lines with peace of mind. Chris Ellison the 20th President of leading global label association FINAT has transformed his company OPM Group, Leeds UK, to be a lean manufacturing one with increasing use of automation and digital MIS system to put in place a workflow that performs efficiently and delivering the desired results. This leaves the management in a comfortable managing environment, their customers happy and results in better relations with all stakeholders including suppliers and customers. A walk through the OPM facility is a delight. There is perfect workflow with no bottle necks or stagnation of materials. A very neat and clean unit where every process leads to the next with aid of an IT enabled workflow and automation. The MIS system has been created by involving the internal team, all suppliers, prepress developers, logistic partners and customers as well. Generally, printers do not share information with their vendors, here the vision of the Ellison family has created a system that makes the unit to work with perfect harmony and the appreciation they get helps in better relations with their customers.
In most printing companies the sales force is nowhere in sight and the general perception on the shop floor is that sales people have all the fun travelling and partying with customers. Chris’s vision is to inculcate a sense of togetherness and team work in the entire workforce. Each shift when workers enter the factory, in the first room they get to see behind a glass wall, is the sales force working hard at their desks preparing for yet another gruelling day with customers creating a continuous flow of order. This also instils a sense of bonding as Chris feels that all the workforce needs to feel committed and create success with the inspiration, “Together we will”! Each order that is entered into the system goes through a digital workflow that is available on screens throughout the company and every department can see the progress without any hindrance. From costing, quotation, order approval, pre-press, inventory management, delivering raw materials to presses, finishing, packaging, despatch and invoicing goes on in clockwork precision. All staff, vendors, transporters and customers are hooked on to the system for the information that they are required to access and react to. It is an information highway created for smooth travel of all orders from initiation to delivery.
One cannot see any congregation or unnecessary movement of workers in the factory or over loaded warehouse. A company with 20 million pounds turnover has just 73 employees. Chris says, “implementation of these system has helped us achieve a high turnover of 4 million pounds per asset or per Label press” he further adds that trained and efficient people are scarce to find so they must invest in an IT department and in training people, which is expensive, but it is justified for them to be more efficient. Subscribing to principals of Total Quality Management, all products at OPM are produced to ISO 9001:2015, BRC/IoP Global Standard Food Packaging standards Grade AA and PS9000:2016. They are printed using low migration/ Food Grade Inks. Truly, Chris Ellison as industry leader is setting examples for peers to follow.
Jack Ellison and his three partners ran a small engineering company building overprinting machines. His 20 years old son Chris wished to have his own business so started importing Dot Matrix printers from Germany and selling in UK. While in school Chris did not really excel in academics but was very inquisitive about how things worked, enjoyed creativity by changing things and wished to do something different and innovative. After finishing school education, he went on to a technical college to study engineering. He had two brothers and a sister. Both his brothers died due to cancer, one passed away at the age of 34 when Chris was just 15 years and the second at the age of 40 when Chris was 20 years old. These losses left a void in him and he vowed never to waste a day in his life.
One Christmas a person made him a good offer and Chris sold his Dot Matrix business. Mean while one of the partners in his father’s company died in 1986 and discontent started between the partners creating uncertainty. His mother too was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 64 however she passed away much later at the age of 93, just one day after Chris moved his operations to the present facility. His father Jack Ellison could not take the stress at that time, so Chris first took over his father’s share in the business that his father was in with partners and later, since he had the cash from sale of his own business, he bought over rest of the partners. The company had at that time just installed a small Tackiboy label press. Operating out of 1000 square foot factory, 95% of the business was coming from the label press, machine manufacturing was terminated making them primarily a label manufacturing company.
The company was renamed OPM Labels & Packaging group as Chris wished to produce labels and flexible packaging which till date remains their core business. In 1989 OPM bought their first flexo press Propheteer the very first one to be sold into UK. By 1999 OPM flexibles was in place to produce printed films, filmic laminates and sachets. They had by then acquired 6 Nilpeter label presses. As time went by OPM have upgraded their machines by replacing the old ones with new machines. This was done to achieve better efficiency, low wastages and faster production, the number of presses remain; 6 Nilpeters. A seventh Nilpeter is expected to be installed in the last quarter of 2018. About waste management Chris Ellison says “OPM take their environmental responsibility seriously, we are proud to assure our customers that their label products are being produced with as little impact on the environment as possible”. They have recently been awarded their Zero Labels 2 Landfill Certification.
OPM is jointly owned by Chris and his wife Susan Ellison. Susan is active in business, looks after the human resource functions, Manage and organise implementation of MIS and Automation systems, Project Managing, R&D alongside with Chris, offers inputs from a design and repro background, takes initiatives for new developments, marketing-Communications and strategic planning. She came to the business with reprographic experience having worked with various companies in the field. Their daughter Charlotte 28 and son Arnold 26 are also working in OPM making it a totally family owned and managed company.
Chris feels it is challenging to keep pace with your business as it evolves. One must rely on people and motivate them to grow with your business, the leadership must have the desire, passion and will to take it further and pass it on to his team. Chris and Susan also are involved in a lot of charity work investing time and money in cancer research and aftercare. His elevation in FINAT as president has helped him to get a broader perspective of international label trade. It has helped his expand his knowledge through the global networking platform that FINAT offers. He tries hard to connect with the large spread out membership base and create value for members.
Written by Harveer Sahni, Chairman, Weldon Celloplast Ltd. New Delhi India September 2018