"We're a growing business and we've been doing so even through the difficult economic conditions of the past few years," says Nick Bramfitt, Operations Director of Kentmere Packaging. "In fact, over the past six years we have almost doubled turnover, which we've achieved by continuously investing in people and in plant."
The company's most recent purchase has been a new BOBST VISIONFOLD folder-gluer line, installed at the end of the summer, which followed a programme of investment in excess of two million pounds over the past five years. "As a privately owned independent we have to put a lot of thought into every investment to make sure they are absolutely right for us and our customers," says Mr Bramfitt. "That said, it's important that we do invest, otherwise we risk being left behind, particularly as the work customers want from us is becoming more complex. The new VISIONFOLD is already improving our efficiency, improving our productivity and helping us make those more complex products more easily and with even better quality."
Established in 1906 in the village of Staveley, which is near Kendal in England's stunning Lake District, the business was originally set up to manufacture photographic papers. As that business started to grow, the need for cartons to package and protect the papers grew and so the company established its own packaging department. Soon this not only provided cartons for the paper business but also for other local manufacturers, including K-Shoes, a major UK footwear manufacturer throughout most of the twentieth century. Having sold off the photographic paper business, and survived the demise of shoe making in the area, Kentmere Packaging has established itself as a national supplier of cartons, particularly to the food sector, turning out over 100 million cartons a year. "We make cartons for everyone from small local confectioners to national and multinational retailers," explains Mr Bramfitt. "Our customers come to us because we can cope with anything. We're very good at doing volume work, but we are also very good at handling short runs very cost effectively and turning them around quickly at the required quality."
Mr Bramfitt says that this is an area where the new VISIONFOLD - a straight-line and crash-lock version which compliments an existing BOBST multi-purpose folder-gluer - is particularly valuable. "We've now got one machine that can do all styles of carton really well and one that can handle over 95% of our production really well. Before we replaced it with the VISIONFOLD we were using an old, non-BOBST, machine as our second line. It was good at certain types of work, but struggled with others. The VISIONFOLD has given us more flexibility and higher efficiency. The vast majority of our work can now be run down either machine very productively, enabling a much smoother process flow through the plant."
First VISIONFOLD with Accufeed
The new machine is 1,100 cm wide, A2 version and is the first VISIONFOLD equipped with an in-built blank aligner to be installed in the UK. "The Accufeed blank aligning unit hadn't been available on the VISIONFOLD before we bought one," says Mr Bramfitt. "We liked it as soon as we saw it. It's a massive improvement when it comes to the set-up, because straight away you're reducing the complexity of making ready that part of the machine. Then it helps consistency during the run - if the cartons come out of the feed straight, they fold better."
Finishing Supervisor Bill Corbett says that the design of the new folder-gluer means it can be set and run much more quickly than the machine it replaced. "Crash-locks are much easier on the VISIONFOLD. We could do crash-locks on the old machine, but it could take four to five hours to set it instead of the 30-50 minutes on the VISIONFOLD - and they run much faster and more consistently now. That gives you much more flexibility to move between different styles of cartons."
It's a view echoed by Ian Hoggett, one of the operators running the new VISIONFOLD. "You had to know the old machine intimately to be able to set it, balancing the belts and things like that for every job. Even then, belts could easily run off the guides. The VISIONFOLD is quick and easy to set. Lots of the tools stay on it whatever job you're running and, any that you have to take off, can easily be moved by one person."
Capable of running cartonboard up to 800 gsm, and micro-flutes up to E-flute, the VISIONFOLD can produce cartons at up to 350 metres per minute. A long pre-breaking section allows for 180 degree pre-breaking of boxes at high speed, regardless of the substrate. Kentmere Packaging chose a Baumer hhs Xpect gluing system for the machine, to match that on the company's BOBST MEDIA II gluer. A Leary code reading unit can be moved between the VISIONFOLD and the MEDIA II as required.
Leading the way
Health and safety was an important issue for Kentmere Packaging when they were making their choice of folder-gluer. "Yes, we wanted a machine that would help us become more efficient, get more productivity and improve quality, but an important part of our business is to provide a safe working environment," explains Mr Bramfitt. "When we did a risk assessment of our folder-gluers we realised how many more safety systems the MEDIA II had in comparison to our non-BOBST machine. When we started researching for a new machine it became apparent that BOBST lead the way in terms of safety systems. As we trialled others we were thinking "it'll need additional guarding there" or "it'll need a cover there". But, when we looked at the VISIONFOLD it had all the protection already in place."
The trials Mr Bramfitt refers to were run at the BOBST Competence Centre in Redditch, near Birmingham, where the company took two of its most challenging jobs. "The demonstrator, Paul Helliwell, set and ran them without hesitation and he also took the time to explain what he was doing as he was doing it. The jobs ran 25-35% faster and made ready in two thirds of the time," recalls Mr Bramfitt. "We were very impressed by the VISIONFOLD, the Competence Centre and with Paul, so we insisted that he did the training here when the machine was installed."
Bill Corbett says that choosing a BOBST as the company's new gluer had definite advantages beyond the machine itself. "It meant the operators would find the training easier because they were already experienced on the MEDIA II. We also knew from the experience of the MEDIA and our two BOBST die-cutters that parts would be readily available and there would be a quick service response if we needed it."
The VISIONFOLD purchase is part of an investment programme that started in 2009 with a six colour manroland 700 press with coating and ColorPilot colour control. This was followed by the renewal of the company's fleet of delivery vehicles and the installation of a Fuji Screen CTP system. "The commitment from shareholders and the board to continue to invest has really benefitted the business," says Mr Bramfitt. "The addition of the printing press meant we had two complete production lines, giving complete flexibility throughout the plant. While something like the CTP improves our efficiency because we no longer need to lift a job and wait for a repro house to produce new plates if there's a problem during the night shift - the printers simply produce a new plate."
With a workforce of sixty, the Kentmere Packaging plant operates twenty-four hours a day, five days a week. Mr Bramfitt says that on their current site the company could handle an additional £5-6 million in turnover, after which it has options for expansion into nearby buildings and land owned by the business. "By always keeping some capacity unused it means we can respond at busy times of year and when the unexpected occurs, such when a customer needs a job turning around quickly. We can cope with any size of order from a cost-competitive point of view and also in terms of service. In many ways that's almost more important than price today. If a customer's job doesn't get to them on time or the quality isn't right, then the price is almost irrelevant. We have had customers who have moved all their packaging contracts to China, then brought them all back again, purely because of service."
Mr Bramfitt commends the whole Kentmere team as being behind the company's service ethos. "We've got a good workforce here - they're very positive and very helpful, which is why we can deliver the service levels we do. If you take as an example the new VISIONFOLD, they've taken to it quickly and well, getting involved with it and now working together to see how we can improve productivity even further. We have the same relationship with BOBST. They work with us to help us improve. We have a real partnership with them. It's one that is important to us and to our customers."
Bobst UK Ireland Ltd, Redditch