‘Our success lies in a simple strategy – to be in the vanguard of trends rather than a follower, to provide reliable and knowledgeable support, and to produce top-quality products that address consumer needs,’ he states. ‘It’s a philosophy that has stood strong for 47 years and has enabled us to expand our presence into 28 countries throughout Africa and the Middle East – even as far afield as the UK.’
Boasting an enviable product and service portfolio, encompassing R&D, packaging design, cylinder engraving, film extrusion, gravure printing, inline embossing, wax coating, cold sealing, laminating, slitting, pouch-makiing, label punching and die-cutting, GPL’s Kenyan operation enjoys annual revenues exceeding US$30-million, 45% achieved from exports. The group also holds myriad accreditations including ISO 22000 and 14001, HACCP, OHSAS 18001and BRC-IOP. The latter, it claims, makes it the only BRC-certified flexible packaging converter in East Africa.
Steady growth path
Established in 1967 as a commercial and book printing enterprise, GPL diversified into flexible packaging during the mid-1970s, pioneering the use of UV technology and later becoming the first East African packaging converter to produce three-layer laminations.
By 1994, other printing activities were disposed of, in order to concentrate on gravure-printed flexible packaging. Since then, others have entered the market but GPL continues to dominate the East African territory.
Staying on top requires constant improvement and GPL’s management team has made impressive investments, including the 2003 installation of a nine-colour Rotomec ELS gravure press and East Africa’s first electronic line shaft. Another first was a five-layer barrier film line, commissioned in 2005.
Between 2008 and 2010, a further US$5-million was invested to establish an integrated robotic cylinder engraving plant, supplied by Hell.
More recently, a whopping US$15-million has been spent on the latest Rotomec nine-colour press, Nordmeccanica Duplex laminator, a Windmöller &Hölscher (W&H) Varex five-layer blown film line, and a custom-built solvent recovery plant.
‘With the Varex line, GPL has increased its lead in high-end packaging films, providing innovative solutions for extended shelf-life packaging,’ comments Peter Daniel, W&H area sales manager, Africa, who has built a strong relationship with the GPL team. ‘Using minimum energy consumption, it also provides a significant environmental benefit.’
While these installations have been underway, Ketul and the GPL team have been working tirelessly to maintain an eco-friendly operation.
This includes establishing two horizontal boilers to heat oil for the whole factory and introducing in-house shredding. Perhaps the most ambitious project thus far, however, has been a solvent recovery plant. Scheduled for completion in August, it’s said to be the first of its kind in Africa.
‘The solvent recovery plant truly is the “jewel in the crown” in our green campaign,’ reckons Amit Sodha, head of marketing and special projects. ‘When fully operational, it will allow us to recover and recycle 98% of solvents used in the printing and laminating process. This translates into major cost savings, while significantly improving our environmental impact.’
Providing a consistent, world-class product is top priority and a sophisticated ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is employed.
‘Our ERP system integrates all facets of our operation, including product planning, development, manufacturing processes and sales and marketing, ensuring a lean manufacturing model and complete material traceability,’ Amit continues. ‘Furthermore, each production run undergoes a comprehensive quality inspection before dispatch. We work closely with customers to ensure that what they receive meets their requirements and we collaborate constantly on R&D projects, producing products with value-added features.’
‘We’re constantly evolving and challenging ourselves to improve all aspects of our operation,’ adds Ketul Tanna. ‘Leading the way is what we do best and, among our many development projects, we now provide an exclusive inkjet coding service that any brand owner can access. Codes are printed inline on our presses, which means we can add specific direct marketing information without delaying our production schedules. It’s all part of our strategy to maintain the highest standards and provide expertise in the African market to assist our partners’ growth in this exciting yet challenging market.’
But perhaps the most important element to GPL’s enduring success is its people.
‘At GPL we have qualified, highly-trained personnel in every department,’ remarks Ketul Tanna. ‘We focus on enhancing our production capabilities with the best, most experienced staff available and this extends to all employees, including our team in KwaZulu-Natal at GPL Flexibles SA. Steered by MD, Loxy Padayachee, staff have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide the right technical advice and service and has access to GPL’s unparalleled R&D and manufacturing capabilities in Kenya, ensuring that each product destined for South Africa is manufactured to the highest global standards.’