This spectacular event, attended by international and local suppliers, customers and media representatives, also provided the perfect stage for unveiling a spanking-new three-layer coextruder from Reifenhäuser Kiefel Extrusion, further strengthening Tropic’s extensively-equipped flexible packaging operation.
Following hot on the heels of the purchase of South Africa’s first new-generation Comexi FPLUS ten-colour flexo press (PPM July 11, p85), the coextruder is set to raise the bar in environmentally-friendly production.
Situated in Durban’s industrial area of Jacobs, Tropic’s somewhat unassuming exterior belies the comprehensive operation within. An impressive array of world-class extrusion, printing, laminating and bag-making technology fills the halls of its ever-expanding premises and the company is firmly focused on producing all manner of high-quality packaging films, including shrink films, snack food laminations, tea bag laminations, printed and/or laminated form-fill-seal material, and much more – as well as many different styles of bags. A workforce in excess of 200 people underlines the sheer extent of Tropic’s business.
During the recent celebrations, a special tribute was paid to the vision of the company’s founder, the late Ebrahim Bhabha, who in 1963, under tough apartheid trading conditions, established a family-owned company to provide quality packaging materials at an affordable price coupled with personalised service excellence.
The company has grown exponentially over the last 48 years but Ebrahim Bhabha’s legacy lives on. Now under Fazel Bhabha’s leadership, Tropic undoubtedly counts among market leaders in South Africa’s flexible packaging industry.
According to Fazel, this ongoing success results from Tropic’s family ownership, stable management structure, an ethos of close personal customer relationships, fast turnaround times and top-quality products. The ongoing support of customers, suppliers and staff has further facilitated this continued growth.
A clear vision
Situated in a specially-built wing of the premises, Tropic’s Customer Experience Centre, incorporating the ThinkRoom, has been established with the support of Sun Chemical, and Reifenhäuser Kiefel Extrusion and Comexi with their local representatives, Ferrostaal and Advanced Packaging Technology respectively.
The ThinkRoom is a high-level office at one end of the factory with a bird’s eye view of Tropic’s new coextruder and flexo press. This special meeting area, right at the heart of the production hall, is a place where customers can review and discuss print proofs during production.
‘Partnering with the team at Tropic and helping them realise their vision for this printing hall has offered us a special opportunity to develop our in-plant competencies and bring the ThinkRoom brand to South Africa,’ states Gerrie Odendaal, Sun Chemical’s key account manager. ‘Tropic’s customers can check colour passes in the comfort and quiet of the air-conditioned ThinkRoom while remaining in contact with the heart of the operation.’
The Sun Chemical ThinkRoom provides everything required for colour matching and testing (colour guides, proofing equipment, viscosity measurement cups), and a colour computer for colour measurement, essential for quality control purposes, colour prediction and speedy colour change formulations.
The operation has a network connection to the Sun Chemical base factory in Prospecton (KZN), which allows the in-plant team to leverage the extensive knowledge and resources of the technical development team, including formulations, technical data sheets, material safety information and stock information without leaving Tropic’s site.
‘The ThinkRoom format now allows Tropic to take a first press pull, measure colour, acquire a correct shade prediction and conduct a swift check weigh, take a laboratory proof, re-measure the outcome, and then confidently adjust the ink on the press and print to standard, without wasting time and material through the usual trial and error approach,’ Gerrie sums up.
Efficiency in technology
Mohamed Timol, Tropic’s operations director, has been instrumental in the establishment of the Centre and the various purchase decisions. He’s firmly focused on propelling Tropic into the higher end of the flexible packaging market – through the development of technically-advanced films.
‘We’re very proud of our new film developments at Tropic,’ comments Mohamed. ‘Every product is produced with excellent characteristics and properties, tailor-made for various applications and industries.’
Senior sales manager for Reifenhäuser Kiefel Extrusion, Sascha Skora, has visited many extrusion operations in all corners of the globe. Since Tropic installed its first Reifenhäuser Kiefel extruder in 1987, he’s watched the company’s swift growth and believes the company can compete with any top-grade enterprise on the global flexible packaging stage. Speaking at the recent launch party, Sascha stressed the weight of the occasion for Reifenhäuser Kiefel: ‘It’s a huge honour for me to be here tonight,’ he said. ‘In 1963, Ebrahim Bhabha had the vision to be a market leader and we have been fortunate to contribute to this growing business since 1987. Tropic lives by the highest standards and values, as do we, and this has steered its continued growth. Fazel Bhabha and his team can be very proud of what is being achieved at Tropic today,’ Sascha declared. ‘Success is all about teamwork and partnerships and just like Reifenhäuser Kiefel, Tropic’s long-established family roots and commitment to investment in innovative technology have great appeal in the marketplace.’
Also present at the celebration was Manel Xifra, Comexi chairman, and Aleix Mas, Comexi’s MEA and India area manager. South Africa is a strategic market for the company and through local representative, Gary Kieswetter of Advanced Packaging Technology, Comexi has developed a strong alliance with Tropic.
Pondering Tropic’s strength, Manel echoed Sascha Skora’s views on family ties. ‘Both Comexi and Tropic share common values,’ he remarked. ‘Ours is also a family-owned business, established in 1954, and we’ve built a strong reputation based on our customer relationships and innovation. To be a part of the new Customer Experience Centre is our absolute pleasure and a symbol of our commitment to investment in Tropic’s future,’ he pronounced.
Already operating eight flexo presses, Tropic’s decision to choose Comexi FPLUS ten-colour high-speed press, installed in July, was based on Comexi’s superior technology and Gary’s dependable and experienced local support.
‘The FPLUS is a thoroughbred. It reaches print speeds up to 500m/min, with exceptional print result,’ confirmed Mohamed happily. ‘It’s certainly taken us to the next level in high-quality film printing.’
The new-generation FPLUS adds an efficient dynamic to Tropic’s print operation. With built-in auto adjustment, set-up is quick and efficient, with very little film waste. Web-based diagnostics and in-line web-cam also allow for swift fine-tuning by Comexi in Spain.
Once the evening’s formalities were over, guests watched in awe as the new Reifenhäuser Kiefel three-layer Evolution coextruder and Comexi FPLUS ten-colour flexo press purred into action. Both machines revealed fast, clean processes and noise levels were minimal. Judging by the nods of approval from industry experts, it appears that a new era in flexible film production has dawned.
Tropic Plastic & Packaging
T +27 031 4681534
Advanced Packaging Technology/Comexi/Hudson-Sharp
T +27 021 5552825
T +27 0860 999222
The management and staff of Beith Process congratulate Tropic on the spectacular launch of its world-class machines. Tropic has supported Beith Process, a Level 2 BEE audited printing plate supplier, for 25 years. During this period, Tropic has grown to become one of the market leaders in quality print and packaging.
Stanley Govindsamy, director, Beith Process
Reifenhäuser Kiefel Extrusion and Ferrostaal South Africa are proud to be the long-term extrusion partner of Tropic and will support Tropic to achieve its ambitious goals in order to strengthen the flexible packaging market of South Africa.
Sascha Skora, senior sales manager
The management and staff of Tropic Plastic & Packaging would like to thank all local and overseas suppliers for attending the launch of our Customer Experience Centre. We hope this area will enable customers to gain a better understanding of what our company can offer and allow us to assist them in their new product developments. May our company grow from strength to strength.
Farouk Motala, Sales Director
Tropic and Hi-Tech Inks have enjoyed a healthy 20-year relationship. As the challenges of running higher speeds and more complex designs have increased, Hi-Tech Inks has supported Tropic on its journey by providing solid engineering printing solutions. With an on-site ink store and an experienced technician to provide daily support, as well as our Hi-Tech development laboratory, we can provide valuable advice and solutions for all packaging and printing challenges including estimations, product costing and more.
Ricky Alli, director, Hi-Tech Inks
Sun Chemical is proud to be associated with the launch of Tropic’s impressive Customer Experience Centre and provide a key feature with the Sun Chemical ThinkRoom. We look forward to continued innovation and growth with Tropic and we’d like to congratulate them on hosting a professional and spectacular launch event.
Gerrie Odendaal, key account manager, Sun Chemical
The Polyflex team congratulates Tropic on its world-class installations and Customer Experience Centre. Polyflex proudly supplies Tropic with design, origination, reprographics, and printing plates.
Brett Pollock, MD, Polyflex
Upgrade with Evolution
WITH a respected 65-year history in the plastics sector and more than 7 000 installed blown film systems, Reifenhäuser Kiefel Extrusion continues to provide leading-edge equipment solutions to a global network of top-quality film manufacturers.
The Evolution coextruder 70/90/70-30D is the very latest profile-controlled technology. Highlights of the three-layer coextruder include special low-temperature barrier screws and a low-pressure, low-volume computer-optimised three-layer that provides fast job changes and optimum individual gauge tolerances. There’s also a non-contact ultrasonic bubble diameter control to allow for loss-free production.
Additionally, an oscillating Evolution TR 2200.2 take-off has a special robust design to avoid wrinkles on thinner gauges or during high-speed production.
An Evolution W-S 2200.2 automatic double-station surface winder with taper tension control and precision tuning capabilities allows Tropic to produce high-quality reels, and the Evolution C Base Automation is the central line control with a user-friendly 24” colour touchscreen and Smartphone-like intuitive operation.
The entire system is designed for a low carbon footprint and is therefore supporting the sustainability trend.
A PRIME component of Tropic’s busy business is bag making where the company operates two distinct divisions.
The first produces a variety of bags from boutique to side-seal and gusseted bags, and the second is a speciality division that makes bread, fresh produce, poultry and hygiene bags for automatic filling.
Supplied by local representative, Gary Kieswetter of Advanced Packaging Technology, Tropic’s machines include single-lane, double-lane, jumbo and patch, side-weld servo wicketers, all capable of sealing LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE and PP coextrusions and blends in different gauges.
Vivian Auer, sales and marketing manager for Hudson-Sharp worldwide, has championed Tropic’s operation since day one and is proud of the company’s achievements in bag making. ‘Tropic is an exemplary customer and has been a pioneer in the use of Hudson-Sharp wicketing equipment for many years,’ states Vivian. ‘Tropic is an innovator in this arena and has worked alongside us to develop specific machinery attachments to produce square-bottomed bread bags. My thanks go to Fazel and all staff at Tropic and also to Gary Kieswetter, for developing such a strong Hudson-Sharp presence in South Africa. I wish Tropic the very best for the future and I know the Customer Experience Centre will only add to the company’s success,’ sums up Vivian.