The perfect fit
In the market for an equipment upgrade, Redfern Labels turned to ROTOCON and MPS for a press that could live up to the same consistency as it’s ol’ faithful – a machine that’s been in the company’s service for 22 years. But once the next-generation MPS EF340 arrived at the factory floor, Redfern Labels hasn’t looked back since …
We’re often faced with good and bad choices in life. It can either have a good outcome or make a turn for the worst. In the printing industry, the principal remains the same. Choosing a reliable press that will deliver a quality and diversified offering while keeping with technological advancements, could make or break your company. There’s a sea of choices out there. But choosing the one best suited to your business, well, therein lies the rub.
For over 30 years, Redfern has been a key labelling partner to farmers, fruit exporters, educators, entrepreneurs and many other household brands, offering a comprehensive range of labelling solutions, including self-adhesive, wrap-around, shrink sleeves and flexible packaging.
The company started out as a label print broker in 1995, and in 2001 progressed to a manufacturing facility. In July 2017, Long Run Labels and Laminates merged with long-standing customer Redfern Print Services SA to become Redfern Labels. The acquisition enabled the company to be competitive in multiple label markets.
Since 2001, the bulk of the printing jobs at Redfern was done on a Mark Andy 250 flexo press. For 22 years, the press has served the company faithfully (and still going strong!). Redfern has relied heavily on the press to get the job done. But over the years, Redfern has seen its customers’ printing needs change drastically, compelling the company to evolve and diversify its offering, including the development of more sophisticated colour work along the way. Managing director Teresa Adinolfi felt it was time for an equipment upgrade, and it was decided to semi-retire Redfern’s ol’ faithful, and replace it with a more modern machine capable of carrying the new workload.
‘With limited eight colours, we’ve experienced some challenges over the years, and we realised that we needed that extra ninth colour. The delamination and re-lamination on plastic material was also big deal for us. We found that the polypropylene material stretched on the UV press,’ Teresa comments.
As brand owners require more information on a label, Redfern has noticed a growing demand for reverse printing among its customers. Reverse printing on labels is a process in which the image or text is printing on the underside of the label material so that it’s visible through the transparent or translucent front of the label. ‘We’ve never been able to do it without the process slowing down the press.’ Redfern went in search of a machine capable of overcoming these obstacles.
The company also required a press that could help reduce energy costs, and an LED curing system was a requisite. ‘This was non-negotiable for us,’ states Teresa. ‘It’s not that the machine consumes that much energy, but if you look at UV versus LED, there’s a significant cost-saving on energy.’
After more than two years of careful deliberation, Teresa and her team eventually turned to their long-standing print technology partner, ROTOCON, who introduced them to the next-generation MPS EF340. The deal was done, and Redfern replaced its first-ever printing press with a new, state-of-the-art machine. It’s also the 30th MPS press installed in South Africa, signifying a significant milestone for the manufacturer. Redfern’s MPS EF340 was dubbed ‘Marvel’ due to its strength and endurance, and because of its black and red colour scheme. ‘It’s the factory’s new superhero,’ Teresa quirks. It might have been the end of an era for our first press, but a new dawn was beckoning for Redfern with the addition of Marvel …
MPS EF340: A helluva machine
To help customers unleash their printing potential and get maximum results from the press, the MPS EF340 is based on the successful foundation of six previous generations of EF platforms. The EF340 comes with a host of new improvements and advancements.
Now standard on all MPS presses, the slide-out ink drawer allows for shorter changeovers and shortened preparation time. A full aluminium sleeve and mandrel (no air) delivers predictable print quality, easier and faster job changeovers, as well as increased longevity of tooling. Improved robust rail units for different converting and embellishment functionalities, a standard finger bar safety protection that allows for the cleaning of plates during production, and ergonomic improvements for better handling and higher output are all new features of the MPS EF340.
But the most noteworthy standout on the MPS EF340 is its new range of connectivity and automation features. The MPSConnect function combines sensor technology with the internet for real-time data collection and valuable 24/7 fast-based insights. ‘The automation and connectivity functionality gives us new perspective on the overall performance of the press and the operators, as well as response from our maintenance and production management,’ Teresa points out. ‘I’m a systems-driven person, so the fact that I can double-check the human factor is a big plus for me.’
The MPS EF340’s Performance Program puts the control, monitoring, management and improvement of printing production right at the fingertips of the press’s operator or owner. ‘The machine’s capability of providing this level of data is phenomenal,’ she adds.
The EF platform offers endless functionality for converting, such as UV, LED hot air drying, adding various printing technologies, including screen, gravure and monochrome inkjet. The press also has multiple options for multi-layer printing, die-cutting for flat, rotary or semi-rotary, various embellishment option (embossing, foiling) and many more.
Another advantage of the MPS is the fact that it can delaminate and re-laminate on paper as well as polypropylene plastics, another big advantage for Redfern.
A turnkey service offering
‘The Redfern management team is self-motivated to find the best solutions for customers and in terms of our needs analysis, did a lot of the research themselves, carefully weighing up the three options against historical production challenges and shortcomings,’ she states.
The team drew up a pros and cons list in terms of technology and presentation, and according to Teresa, the MPS presentation stood head and shoulders above the rest. ‘From start to finish, the MPS team – in particular MPS’s regional sales director Marius van Lith and engineer Rene Surname (who had previously worked in the South African market and conducted the operator training with a deep cultural understanding) – really went the extra mile for us,’ she explains. ‘I’ve never experienced this level of service with any other press manufacturer. We received regular progress updates, and they even sent us video of how the machine was being constructed. The project was given a number, H975, and that was the number on the machine when it arrived.’ Teresa says she’s never been a mother, but she felt an instant connection, almost motherly-instinct, with the machine. ‘It was like witnessing the birth of child. I know machines don’t have souls, but it felt like the machine had a soul, and I definitely felt a connection. This was largely thanks to the exceptional service of the people behind the project.’
Teresa also feels that MPS made the right choice in selecting ROTOCON as the press manufacturer’s official and exclusive distribution partner in South Africa. ‘We felt that we were in good hands right from the start. It can only go from strength to strength from here.’
According to ROTOCON director Patrick Aengenvoort, they knew that the MPS EF340 would make a great fit for Redfern. ‘They required quick changeovers when the workload got heavy. They have a standing contract with a major retailer, so it’s a lot of short runs. The MPS is designed in such a way that you can actually set up different jobs while the machine is running, and allowing quick changeovers.’
ROTOCON has a long-standing relationship with Redfern, supplying the company with consumables and tooling since 2001. ‘They sold us our first ROTOFLEX rewinding machine. They’ve bulked up their technical service offering and their local die-manufacturing facility, which is great. They’re just always been there for us. ROTOCON shares our work ethics and really works hard to provide an exceptional service to us,’ explains Teresa.
Patrick and his team have also upgraded the MPS EF340 press with a WINK SmartGap Advance system that eliminates problems with deviations between the magnetic and anvil cylinder. The WINK SmartGap ensures smooth runs without vibration, and requires minimal maintenance.
This highly-automated press includes the country’s first Phoseon Nexus ONE air-cooled UV LED curing system, which enables high-quality printing of substrates at maximum press speeds, energy savings of up to 70% compared to Mercury lamps, environmental benefits, immediate press uptime because there’s no waiting for lamps to warm up and reduce scrap rates with increased yields.
Patrick explains that the lamp has a low intensity but a strong curing power. Additionally, no ducting is required for the system, the airflow is very well controlled, which means that the system can go directly into the machine at a low heat.
The Nexus ONE is also very operator friendly – the Phoseon swirl colour serves as an indicator of the lamp state: a white swirl shows that the LED station is disabled, a green swirl that the station is enabled, a purple indicator light means that the LED is on, an orange indicator light shows that the LED is in a warning state and a red indicator light means that the LED is in a fault state.
Teresa mentions the support and assistance that ROTOCON offered Redfern has been immense. ‘It’s more than just a supplier-customer relationship, it’s a partnership. With advanced technical know-how, and high levels of aftersales service, ROTOCON is a company that truly cares about the customer.’
Teresa emphasises that this was a collaborative effort. ‘The ROTOCON and MPS teams knew exactly what we expected from them. Therefore, they could do the installation as quickly and efficiently as possible. The communication, as well as the project management was outstanding.’
Patrick states that ROTOCON supplies a full-on label printing production line with all the necessary equipment needed to fulfil any label printing and finishing requirements. ‘We offer turnkey, holistic solutions, whether it’s printing and finishing equipment, consumables, tooling, or 24/7 technical support.’
Patrick adds that part of ROTOCON’s service offering is to incorporate technology that’s in line with modern developments in the label printing space. ‘With our vast international network and experience, we strive to stay ahead of the market, and keep a watchful eye on emerging trends.’ With an undeniable reputation for delivering superior aftersales services, he mentions that ROTOCON customers benefit from the company’s appointed specialists capable of providing them with best practice advice on various print and finishing options.
‘The MPS press filled the requirement of the customer,’ says Patrick. ‘The customer bought into the Performance Program, and immediately realised the value it offered in terms of operator efficiency. It’s a bit like playing golf. You play against yourself. Did I hit the one-hour target again? Did I run the same base wastage for the exact same job? The machine can tell you whether you’re experiencing issues with the dies or the plates. It’s a very clever piece of technology. We’re excited, and can’t wait to see what successes will roll off Redfern’s MPS machine in the future. Watch this space …’
Teresa adds that there’ll be a follow-up, refresher training session. ‘We believe in continuous training. The data will start revealing what the operators’ limitations are.’ They will also be assisted by the VirtualCoach, a real-time training and continuous improvement tool, driven by MPSConnect data and the artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that monitor and respond to processes every five seconds. These can be related to register settings, machine speed, pressure settings, job preparation, job memory, web tension, service feedback and more. VirtualCoach therefore provides operators with personalised insights on the quality and efficiency of all the activities they are performing on the press as well as real-time guidance on how to operate the press more efficiently. In the live feedback and tips box, operators will receive feedback on how they performed steps within the job. For instance, how fast the sleeve change was compared to operator benchmarks and which steps could be improved in the printing process.
Instead of running the risk of damage by baptising Marvel with a bottle of sparkling wine Redfern went a different route. The factory’s self-appointed ‘choir’ performed a rendition of Shosholoza to make sure the unveiling of the MPS EF340 marked an auspicious occasion for the team. They described the performance as ‘welcoming’, heart-warming’ and ‘spirited’. Teresa says, ‘I love music. We decided to christen Marvel with a song instead of Champagne. It’s a lot more memorable. Shosholoza means ‘work hard’ or ‘go forward’. Our purpose is to print and deliver quality products. We’re not perfect, but we aim to be, and we work bloody hard to achieve that. We’re committed and we’ll always keep on working.’