Narrow Web Profile: Novelprint

By Jack Kenny | September 7, 2005

In Brazil, one of Latin America's great innovators seeks ever-distant technological horizons.

Novelprint manufactures label stock on its own

The São Paulo taxi driver needed only one English word to illustrate the difference in attitude between his city and Brazil's other two major coastal destinations. "Bahia? Samba! Rio? Samba!" These descriptives were delivered with appropriate body movements and a big smile. Then his bearing shifted. "São Paulo? Work!"

He is so right. São Paulo is vast beyond description, and growing. It hums with an urgent pulse. The urban agglomeration of the city is the world's third or fourth most populous, home to more than 20 million people. Viewed on descent into the airport, it seems never to end. On the ground, it seems never to sleep.

For nearly half a century, one company has been a part of this urban hum, creating a presence as one of the foremost label printers in São Paulo, in Brazil, in South America. The company is Novelprint. It began in 1958 as a provider of cloth labels and ribbons. Today it is a group of three companies - label converter, pressure sensitive materials supplier, and labeling equipment manufacturer - whose leader is making Novelprint known across the globe.

The president of Novelprint is Jeffrey Arippol. Since the 1970s he has been a familiar presence at label industry events in North and South America and Europe. Novelprint is a member of TLMI and of FINAT, and Arippol has taken the podium at more than one industry event to expound upon developments in his company and in his marketplace.

Novelprint's newest press (shown here under construction by a Brazilian manufacturer) is a 16" 10-color machine tht includes gravure, UV flexo, rotary screen, and hot and cold foil application

In 1967, Jeffrey Arippol joined the family business. He had received his undergraduate degree in Brazil in electrical engineering, and a graduate degree in industrial engineering at the University of California in Berkeley. He started on the technical side of the operation, eventually becoming general manager. In 1999 he became the owner of Novelprint. Throughout the years he has constantly pursued new technologies and has striven to turn crises into benefits. And he has succeeded.

The year after Jeffrey Arippol joined the company, Novelprint imported its first flexographic press, launching the foray into self-adhesive labels. In 1972 the company began manufacturing its own rotary dies, and two years afterward introduced its first line of label applicators. This last project has evolved into a business unit - NovelTech - which develops custom applicators for a wide variety of containers and packages.

The year 1973 is one that Arippol will never forget, the year that the Arab oil embargo rocked economies the world over and shocked Latin America. Prior to that, in the 1960s, Brazil had opened some economic doors and permitted the importation of raw materials and machinery, and Novelprint was busy writing checks to foreign suppliers for all of its necessities. Most of the label stocks were bought from the USA.

"Back then the imported products were the best," Arippol says, "and the local products were not very good. But then the first oil shock hit in 1973, and the imported materials were unaffordable. We were left with a choice: Buy domestic products, or do something ourselves, something different. Do we settle for what is available, or do we develop our own material?" Novelprint took the second road.

At work on a Mark Andy press.

By 1975 the company was manufacturing its own label stock. It had acquired a Faustel coater, built its own coating operations, both for silicone and adhesive, creating release liner and face stock laminates to make the labels that kept the company afloat. Soon the company was formulating and producing its own adhesives.

Available liner materials, kraft and glassine, worked fine for label applications that were not automatic, Arippol recalls, but automatic application grew in demand. Polyester was not cost effective for mass production, so Novelprint's technicians began experimenting with biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) as a release material.

At first they were discouraged. "The only available BOPP on the Brazilian market was for the cigarette industry, available in thickness of 30 microns - too thin," he says. "The arguments against using it for liner was that it would not resist heat during the curing process, that it would not permit diecutting, that it would stretch on the press, that it would be affected by the drying process, and that it would not be adequate for applicators. All of these turned out to be true."

Novelprint's CEO Emanuel Silveira, left, and Jeffrey Arippol, president and owner.

Arippol didn't give up. At a TAPPI conference in 1979 he brought up the issue and was ignored. Almost. A man from Mobil Films approached him at the end of the seminar and said that his company was working on the same idea.

Soon 40-mil BOPP became available on the Brazilian market. Novelprint began to substitute BOPP for paper in the face material, "and eventually it became a preferred construction for many products," Arippol says. Soon came the move from white BOPP to metalized.

"Yes, there are challenges," he states. "But we have been working on this for 25 years, and have succeeded in overcoming them." And the advantages are great: There are quality benefits, lower cost benefits, and environmental benefits." On the quality side, he says, the release performance is improved, they are ideal for hygienic or sterile plants, and there is no paper dust particles that can hamper labeling machines. Cost-wise they are lower than glassine paper, perform at higher speeds with less web breakage, and more labels can be produced from a roll because of the thinner gauge.

On the environmental side, BOPP is recyclable.

Today the materials division of Novelprint is called PAC. It is not looking to sell its pressure sensitive materials to its competitors in Brazil. Rather, it is pursuing opportunities elsewhere in the world. Debby Forman, a consultant to Novelprint for many years, has been actively pursuing partnerships on other continents, educating converters about the benefits of PAC's materials, and educating the end users as well. "We are breaking a few barriers," she says. "What is wrong about partnering with competitors? Nothing. You both will get more business. The material is the catalyst to a bigger business model, and we are capable of developing that model."

A new operator is trained on one of Novelprint's five Ko-Pack letterpress machines.

Non-stop innovation

On the printing and converting side, Novelprint makes labels using five Ko-Pack letterpress machines and 11 flexo presses: three from Mark Andy, five Webtrons, and three GGS presses from Brazil. It uses water based, solvent based and UV curable inks. In July the company takes delivery of a new press, a 16" 10-color machine that includes gravure, UV flexo and screen printing capabilities. The press, built by a small local manufacturer to Novelprint's requirements, has two overhead Stork rotary screen units, plus hot and cold foil application capabilities. It is shaftless, and driven by 16 servo motors.

The company overall employs just under 200 people. Novelprint is among the top three label converters in Brazil, out of an estimated 600 or more. "About half of them are in São Paulo," Arippol says.

Novelprint pursues innovation, and Arippol is out in front around the planet, handing out business cards and making new friends. The company strives to educate both its employees and its customers. "We believe in communication," the president says. "We analyze conclusions in a critical, scientific manner to meet our clients' expressed needs. We use our technological innovations to close many deals."

A few examples: Novelprint developed its own UV letterpress inks in 1977 because they were not available in Brazil at the time. It began producing multi-page leaflet labels in 1988, squeezable labels in 1989, sealable closures in 1996, pharmaceutical safety seals in 1998, booklet labels in 1999, shrink sleeve seals in 2002, high-shear hang tags in 2003, dry peel technology in 2004, and shrink sleeves this year.

A small sampling of label applicators in Novelprint's showroom.

Although he remains president of the company, Jeffrey Arippol recently hired a chief executive officer - Emanuel Silveira - to run day-to-day business at the multi-tiered company. Also on the management team are Osvaldo Belentani, the technical director, and Daniel Arippol, head of marketing and strategic development.

"We are restructuring on all levels," says Silveira. "Our main objective is to maximize the markets that we are in, through the improvement of our people's knowledge, and improvements in our processes: technical, financial, industrial. We believe in entrepreneur leadership, and we have a group of managers and directors who are charged with discussing the big issues, the strategies and objectives."

Arippol and his team are conscious that Novelprint is a strong player on a continent that is made up of "developing" economies. It is a point of pride for all employees, but it also makes them eager for greater achievement.

"Last year we had a 50 percent increase in sales," says Arippol. "We are becoming a professional company. Before, we had almost too many customers. We have reduced our customer base, and now we can serve them better."

In the spirit of work that defines São Paulo, the people of Novelprint know in whose hands the future lies: O futuro está em nossas mãos.

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