Meanwhile, Steven’s career was taking a parallel course. He started his apprenticeship as a flexographic machine minder at Bakke Versapak in 1983, and qualified in 1986. Thereafter he worked for Colpak and Kohler Flexible Packaging, gaining valuable experience in all aspects of flexible packaging production. By 1995 he was manager of Kohler’s flexo printing department and in 1997 he became a partner in Quality Flexible Packaging.
Over the years both Trevor and Steven have completed several training courses including a Damelin Fundamental Production Management Diploma (Trevor), and a Henly Management Course (Steven). Both have completed ISO 9002 courses, among other things.
‘Working for companies such as Safepak, Colpak and Kohler Flexible Packaging, we learnt a lot about both flexographic and gravure printing, as well as laminating and all other flexible packaging technologies,’ Steven recalls.
‘We were privileged to absorb strong flexible packaging skills at those companies where there was always a strong accent on technological excellence,’ he adds.
A top supplier of quality flexible packaging
‘When we decided to start our own company, our mission statement was quite simple,’ Trevor explains. ‘We aimed to be a top supplier of top-quality flexographically-printed and laminated packaging materials. And we’ve had no reason to revise that statement … it’s as valid today as it was ten years ago.’
So the new business was set up in Elsies River and for the first year the new partners worked a solid 18-hour days.
‘We started with one employee in 1999 and today we have 21 permanent staff members, plus two fixed term and two temporary workers,’ Steven adds.
Following their first successful year of trading, using the leased printing press and slitter, they decided it was time to purchase their own equipment. First they bought a six-colour Carint CI flexo press from Kohler Flexible Packaging in Port Elizabeth; and then acquired a four-colour Carint stack press from Colpak.
Between them, these presses are capable of printing on a range of flexible packaging substrates including polyester (coated and uncoated) and LDPE film, paper, aluminium foil, laminated materials and board.
The next major development was a move to their current 780m2 premises in Elsies River in 2001.
A significant investment occurred in 2007, with the purchase of a Nordmeccanica Simplex SL solventless laminator (supplied by Conequipt) which took the company into a new era of complex laminations. ‘We can laminate most substrates – for instance PET/LDPE, LDPE/metallised PET/LDPE, aluminium foil/PET – using solvent-free adhesives to ensure low-odour or no-odour, taint-free food packaging,’ Steven explains.
The company’s slitting machines can slit any flexible substrate in reel form, from 10µm PET to 500µm material – whether film, paper, board or aluminium foil.
In this department, pride of place goes to a recently-installed 1 250mm-wide Pelican Soloslit slitter (supplied by Adex Plastic & Machinery). ‘We bought this to alleviate continuous bottlenecks in our slitting department,’ Steven comments, ‘especially as our slitting department is fed by outside customers as well as our own printing and laminating machines.’
New press, new premises
And now, Trevor and Steven reveal, they’re considering the purchase of a new eight-colour flexographic or gravure press (they’re still debating which way to go), but their premises are too small.
‘We have to move to a new factory before we can buy a new press,’ Trevor remarks. ‘Our move will have to be carefully planned to ensure minimal downtime, but we intend to make this move sometime during the next two years. We know we’re losing business, as some customers have their high-quality, eight-colour work printed elsewhere, but we have their assurance that once our new press is in place they’ll move the work to us,’ he adds.
‘With our current equipment, especially the new slitter and the proposed eight-colour colour press, we’ll be serious opposition to the other major flexible packaging players in the Western Cape,’ adds Steven with a grin.
The message from the duo is clear – Allflex Packaging is highly successful. ‘We’ve built up an exceptionally good name with customers, suppliers and our financial partners. We intend to maintain this good name and to make our mark in the flexible packaging field,’ Trevor concludes. ‘Our objective is to maintain and increase our market share; to be sensitive to customers’ constantly-changing needs; and to build sound relationships with customers and suppliers.’
PACKAGiNG & Print Media looks forward to reporting further on this dynamic enterprise in the months ahead.