LAST month, readers were given a sneak peek of the latest round of investments undertaken by Shave & Gibson (S&G), with a tantalising picture of the arrival of covered containers in Durban’s South Coast Road. Now all those items of equipment are unpacked, installed, commissioned and operating at full tilt . . . and the full story can be unveiled.
Undoubtedly, the star of the show is a new Bobst Visioncut 145PER die-cutter. In traditional S&G style this machine is already amusingly and affectionately known as ‘the beast’, and, judging by a video of its remarkable performance, it’s an apt sobriquet!
Although the Visioncut is the centrepiece, the extensive shopping list also included a BW Papersystems sheeter, a Heiber & Schröder window patcher, a Focusight Technology carton proofing system, and Solarco box-making technology.
Following last year’s extensive factory reorganisation that improved material flow – including the creation of a separate Sheeting Department and a new Die-Cutting Hall – this impressive line-up is taking S&G to fresh levels of competence and quality when it comes to the production of folding cartons.
Nabbing the world’s first Bobst Visioncut 145PER is another triumph for S&G. Bobst had already sold 300 of its highly-successful Visioncut 160 models (into the corrugated sector) and decided to extend the marque to include the latest 145PER; S&G ordered the first one prior to its official launch. At the time of going to press, it remains the only one of its kind installed in the world.
Comments S&G executive chairman, Simon Downes: ‘We operate in a cut-throat environment in South Africa’s folding carton sector, and appreciate the need for fast response to our customers’ expectations. It’s vital that our infrastructure and equipment enable us to deliver the required standards. The Visioncut 145PER ensures high-quality products, precisely tailored to customers’ needs, supplied at truly competitive prices.’
Its short changeover times also help S&G to maximise uptime and enhance productivity, while providing an advanced print-to-cut register system that delivers total accuracy. ‘With this installation, we’re not only able to improve production planning but also to deliver excellence to our customers,’ adds national sales manager, Bill Furniss.
As mentioned last month, installation of the Visioncut was challenging under Covid-19 restrictions, with Bobst specialists unable to travel from Switzerland, but thanks to Beswick Machinery personnel and online tuition, the machine was swiftly up and running.
‘We’re proud of our achievements; everything went like clockwork,’ comments Bruce Beswick (MD or Beswick Machinery). ‘Our installation team was led by Tyrone Wallace (engineering manager), ably assisted by Xolile Dada (electronics specialist) and Theo Kapratsis (mechanical technician).
Immensely proud of their first-in-the world Visioncut 145PER are Bill Furniss (S&G Packaging national sales manager); Richard Downes (S&G Packaging MD); Simon Downes (group executive chairman); and Heino Deist (S&G Packaging operations manager). Covid-19 inspired masks are, of course, de rigueur!
Window of opportunity
‘When it comes to window patching, our choice of equipment was ultra-critical considering the large sums already invested in leading-edge printing and die-cutting technology,’ remarks Simon Downes, turning the spotlight on to S&G’s newly-installed Proliner window patching machine from Germany’s Heiber+Schröder (H+S).
Also supplied through Beswick Machinery, the 1 100mm wide, double-lane Proliner produces 72 000 blanks/hour and features digital setting of film cutting length.
As Richard Downes (newly-appointed S&G Packaging MD) affirms, it delivers the ideal combination between productivity and ease of use, allowing the creation of an unlimited array of carton designs, and the flexibility to stay abreast of current market trends.
‘This purchase decision was based on H+S’s 30 years’ experience as an engineering pioneer in the field, the machine’s solid performance, and numerous worldwide success stories,’ Richard relates. ‘It undoubtedly fits the need to make smart, sustainable investments to provide us with a competitive edge.’
The Proliner’s die-cutting unit and hot-creasing module allows inline application of die-cut and creased windows at high speed without the need for additional processes or tooling.
According to Bruce Beswick, the Proliner is a first-of-its-kind machine and the most advanced and versatile window patching machine in South Africa.
Being loaded with such options, however, posed some commissioning challenges. As with the Bobst installation, H+S specialists were unable to travel to South Africa, but using digital links, and helped by S&G’s experienced technical personnel, Beswick Machinery’s technician, Henry Scholtz, started the machine and took it up to full production without a glitch, even running its most complex options.
The Proliner’s incorporated die-cutting unit and hot-creasing module allow inline application of die-cut and creased windows at high speed, without the need for additional processes or tooling.
Sheeting and proofing upgrades
Two of Alliance Machinery’s principals – BW Papersystems in the US and Focusight Technology in China – have supplied further systems for this latest plant upgrade.
They are, respectively, a new sheeter and a carton proofing system.
BW Papersystems eCon sheeter replaces an outmoded Muller sheeter that’s now been put out to pasture.
In true S&G style, prior to making this important purchase decision, Jim Short (MD of S&G Security Printing) and his colleague, Mike van der Westhuizen (S&G group technical manager), witnessed a similar machine in faultless action at the Smurfit Kappa folding carton production facility in Holland.
The new sheeter has pride of place in the revamped Sheeting Department, where it feeds reels up to
1 650mm wide from two unwind stands allowing for quick changeover of reels.
Fitted with automated tension control and a motorised de-curling mechanism to produce flat, ready-for-press stacks of cartonboard, it’s also fitted with side trimmers and a centre cutter, allowing the production of two sheeted stacks from the reel, and enhancing productivity.
The eCon’s splice detector and rejecter gate automatically detects spliced joins in the reel and rejects any spliced sheet. The main cutting blade is designed to self-sharpen, reducing downtime for the removal and refitting of blades for traditional sharpening.
‘The new sheeter has enhanced our in-house sheeting operations, in order to reduce material costs and be more flexible in the execution of orders,’ explains Heino Deist (S&G Packaging operations manager). ‘Combined with our skilled workforce, this new sheeter improves our ability to quickly and efficiently deliver folding cartons to our customers.’
The new eCon sheeter has enhanced in-house sheeting operations, resulting in reduced material costs and enhanced flexibility in the execution of orders.
Focusight Technology has gained a global reputation for its online and offline inspection systems, for applications from prepress to post-press.
The Focusight carton inspection machine now operating at S&G individually inspects folding cartons to identify any products that don’t meet stringent quality criteria, inspecting up to 80 000 cartons/hour.
Apart from providing consistent and stringent quality control, statistical reports are fed to management allowing for further fine-tuning of production processes.
Again, remote support from the Focusight factory in China came to the fore in facilitating the installation process during the pandemic-induced restrictions on travel.
The Focusight FS Shark-650 in operation
Completing this round of investments is a Solarco Boxmatic 18DC. ‘We’re hugely impressed with its rugged build quality, as well as its ease of set-up and high levels of output,’ says Simon Downes.
This automatic machine for the production of boxes, trays and partitions also includes an additional die-cutter for cutting and creasing corrugated containers for S&G’s own use.
It’s also equipped with an automatic loading table (for up to 6m long sheets and 1.8m high stacks) and an automatic unloader/stacker that minimises the number of operators required to handle the machine, further enhancing productivity.
Parameter settings are quick and easy thanks to the PLC touchscreen, only requiring the insertion of basic information – everything else is calculated by the program itself. Based on data provided by the program, manual adjustment of die-cutting formes, knives, etc, is a simple matter, allowing job changeover within minutes using just an Allen key.
And, thanks to remote diagnostics, Solarco technicians can connect to the machine, locate any issue and advise S&G directly.
Solarco, based in the Czech Republic, is pleased to note that this is the fifth Solarco machine sold in South Africa. Conceding that these are challenging times, the Solarco team is proud to have installed its most innovative machine on the African continent.
‘It’s an excellent machine and our operators have quickly got to grips with it, thanks to the extensive training offered by Solarco. A great installation all round,’ Simon reports.
Bottom line results?
So – bottom line – what is the result of this massive spending spree?
‘Our factory reorganisation and latest acquisitions, which have taken us the best part of a year, enabled record production volume in June 2020,’ Simon replies to this journalistic query. ‘Our new Bobst Visioncut 145PER started to bite in its first month of production through its hyper-efficiency, continuous running speeds and automatic blanking capabilities,’ he adds.
‘But now, despite our 24 000m² finished goods warehouse, we’re constrained by a lack of space (the curse of our industry). So, in certain circumstances, we’ve had to hold back on production because of our inability to store inventories!’
According to Simon, reasons for this higher-than-usual stock of finished goods is two-fold, and both are coronavirus-related.
‘Firstly, some customers’ supply chains have been severely disrupted through uncertain or government-constrained demand,’ Simon explains. ‘And, secondly, we’ve ramped up production for customers where we vendor-manage their stock in order to alleviate any out-of-stock situations that might arise from temporary production hiatuses owing to inevitable virus outbreaks in the factory.
‘The past five months of the Covid-19 crisis have changed the way we approach every aspect of life, and, certainly, we’ve all become more introspective,’ he continues.
‘The word “crisis” is etymologically derived from Latin, and ultimately from the Ancient Greek “krisis”, meaning “a separating, power of distinguishing, decision, choice, election, judgement, dispute”. So, in this unprecedented period of unsettlement, we all need to decide what we make of this opportunity to change the surrounding dynamic. As Winston Churchill famously remarked during the bleakest days of WW2, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!” We’ve certainly elected to follow that edict, and intend to emerge stronger, leaner and better than we were before this dreadful pandemic,’ are Simon’s philosophical closing words.