Narrow Web Europe

Narrow Web Europe

November 2, 2007

Two plants are sold as Macfarlane gets back to basics

Narrow Web Europe

Two plants are sold as Macfarlane gets back to basics

By Barry Hunt

The Macfarlane Group, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of packaging for consumer products, has sold two “non-strategic” and loss-making operations in California and Mexico to Specialized Packaging Group (SPG) for US$7.73 million in cash. It will concentrate on developing its core businesses, including PSA labels and resealable products, for which the USA is a target market. The North American plants manufacture foam-based packaging components, mainly for the electronics, healthcare and fresh produce sectors. Based in Hamden, CT, USA, SPG is a leading converter of folding carton converters in the US.

Macfarlane Labels Ltd. has primary label plants in Kilmarnock in Scotland, and in Dublin, Ireland. They mainly serve the food, healthcare, toiletries, pharmaceutical, household products, beverages, and industrial sectors. They also manufacture the patented Re-Sealit products, which offer easy opening and repeatable resealability, while preventing oxygen permeation through the label to maintain optimum shelf life of the product. Macfarlane Group Sweden AB, based in Helsingborg, is more of an R&D facility.

The group’s services range from design to stock management. Production is centered on about a dozen narrow web combination presses, including two eight-color Nilpeter MO-3300 offset presses and several Nilpeter FA-Line UV flexo presses. A nine-color FA-4 with a 16" web width and sleeve/plate technology was recently installed in Kilmarnock.

First half results for the six months ended June 30, 2007 showed a pretax profit from the group’s operations of £500,00 ($1.01 million) compared with a loss of £400,00 ($814,000) for same period in 2006. Sales rose 12 percent from £51.20 million ($101.20 million) to £57.40 million ($116.82 million).

FINAT urges members to become World Class

In a bid to create a benchmark for the PSA industry, FINAT is encouraging its members to adopt World Class Manufacturing (WCM) standards. A pilot project that aims to build a format for its other printing members to follow was recently launched in Amsterdam with a small number of label printers.

Jan Frederik Vink, president, believes the adoption of WCM is vital as the label industry becomes increasingly globalized. Most converters run small- to medium-sized businesses, so he feels they will need the mutual help that a FINAT-inspired scheme can provide. Driving the project is the recently reorganized Label Printing Forum, which aims to bring together its printing and converting members in the spirit of mutual help. Part of its program is to provide a platform for keynote speakers from other industries to explain a wide range of management techniques that could help companies in their search for performance improvement.

“I call it the Weight Watchers’ principal,” says Vink. “Where we bring people in the same situation together so that they can help and encourage each other to find solutions. This is going to be important if the SMEs in our industry are to put themselves in a position to compete with the bigger companies.”

Madico introduces cryogenic labelstocks

Cryogenic labeling is one of the industry’s more esoteric applications. It is used by clinical and biomedical research laboratories, and in similar scientific environments, to identify plastic and glass vessels. These then undergo long-term cryogenic storage in liquid nitrogen or deep freezing. No prizes for guessing that polyester film is the only substrate that can withstand this and similar extremes of temperature.

For European converters these two factors combine with the introduction of two white polyester films by UK-based Madico Graphic Films, a subsidiary of the Japanese parent. The new labelstocks will withstand direct immersion into liquid nitrogen at -196ºC (-320.8ºF). They are said to offer a cohesive bond high enough to withstand thermal shock, eliminating the problem of delamination caused as a result.

Two 50-micron variants are available: one for desktop laser printing, and the other for thermal transfer printing using resin-based ribbons. Connection to a desktop PC allows the input of variable and fixed data from a laboratory’s database or other software application. As a substitute for traditional labeling methods and marking with a pen, Madico says combining desktop printing with the special polyester reduces the risk of human error caused by illegible marking or mislabeling. At the same time, users can print the extremely small batch and bar codes required on certain small vials and test-tubes, while ensuring the information remains clearly legible. The films were independently tested in accordance with the strict criteria of Southampton University’s specialist cryogenic department.

Multi-ply products boost for German label converter

To meet increased sales of multi-ply promotional labels, Rolf Ritter GmbH recently installed its fourth MPS UV flexo press, an EF 410 model. The servo-driven configuration includes 10 flexo units and a track-mounted rotary screen module. A laminator with register control aids the production of glue-free areas, adhesive spots and the varied opening or resealing perforations required for extended-text and other multilayer products. Main applications include brand promotions, multilingual product information and usage instructions.

The company is one of Germany’s leading PSA producers and is located in Enger in Westphalia. It was founded more than 35 years ago and now trades under the slogan “We make ideas stick”. Since May 2006 its major shareholder has been Rako-Etiketten GmbH. Products include film sleeves, RFID labels and holographic labels using combinations of letterpress, flatbed screen printing, conventional and UV flexo, offset, and full-color digital printing.

RFID growth down on the farm?

Animals, food and farming will represent the largest RFID market according to a report from IDTechEx, an educational, seminars and consultancy group based in Cambridge, England. Author Peter Harrop says, “RFID will benefit the food supply chain in a huge number of ways including livestock disease control and merchandising prepared food.” He says the market for RFID systems and tags could reach around $9 billion over the next decade. He adds that users will gain rapid paybacks from improved traceability, condition monitoring, crime reduction and error prevention.

Apparently less expensive RFID tags without silicon chips combined with Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) — a form of active RFID — will provide an increasingly affordable method of asset control and similar uses. Harrop says there are new advances in signal handling and readers at the favored HF frequency that increase the reading range by 50-400 percent. However, there is “temporary” disappointment at some consumer goods and RFID suppliers that cannot persuade certain retailers to share the considerable financial benefits of today’s UHF tagging of pallets and cases. Others are experiencing technical problems with this approach.

The report, titled “RFID for Animals, Food and Farming 2007-2017”, analyzes the technologies, solutions and markets. It is aimed at food processors, the farming industry, logistics experts and companies serving these industries. It includes detailed 10-year forecasts for 2007-2017 by sector, tag and system. Also included are several international case studies to illustrate best practice, ranging from tracing food in China to managing Starbucks deliveries in the USA.

The report examines current developments in the industry, such as the Electronic Product Code (EPC). Here it discusses the concern of many East Asian companies that the EPC global organization and product specifications are too expensive for management of the food supply chain. It also covers the resulting emergence of the locally managed Universal Product Code and specifications now being trialled by governments in seven East Asian countries.

Sales boost for GIDUE at high-end of press market

A sales growth of approximately 22 percent over the previous year helped GIDUE post a turnover of over 28 million euros (about $US40 million) for the year 2006/2007. “Our turnover shows a visible growth of sales in the high-end range of Intelligent presses like the I-Combat, Athena and the hybrid offset/flexo Xpannd,” says Federico d’Annunzio, president. “The strong financial situation allows us to invest in further new technology programs, and to start international expansion of service and manufacturing. This includes the creation of GIDUE do Brasil, GIDUE Australia and new facilities which will be announced in the following months.”

The company is optimistic about trading conditions in the current fiscal year, encouraged by orders for narrow and mid-web presses experienced at Labelexpo.

MIS vendor offers online ordering of labelstocks

European users of the Label Traxx management system from Tailored Solutions can now access the UPM Raflatac Raflink Business Line directly from their software. Said to be the first service of its type, it allow users to simplify and speed up orders for any of UPM Raflatac’s labelstocks.

The company, which last year opened a European support office in the UK, says the new feature eliminates double entries and greatly reduces the risk of errors. UPM Raflatac systems also provide immediate order confirmation and advance shipment notice data. By using the software’s bar code scanning feature, users can scan incoming and work-in-process of UPM Raflatac material to maintain an accurate inventory.
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