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Flat sacks boost flat sack market

A huge investment at the UK leading paper sack converter has assured its future

Mention paper sacks and most investors would shake their heads and mutter something about a declining market. But not so for Rob Mabbett, managing director of East Riding Sacks. Making the right capital investment decisions to match customer needs has been crucial in taking the company to the number one slot in the UK.

“We had to decide whether to sit still and watch the market disappear or move forward with our customers,” he said. That translated into an investment of some £2M in a new roll bottom (double fold bottomer) sack line especially designed by German specialist Kochsiek and delivered in 2000, and in 2002 a further £1.8M in a Fischer & Krecke 16S 10 gearless central impression press. In addition, this year the company has spent £100,000 on print support equipment including a Sun 16 head computerized ink blending department and Bieffebi Omnius 335 pre-press proofer dedicated to the F & K equipment.

Just what was the justification of this investment – which followed a previous capital tranche of £4M in the 1996 installation of a specially designed Kochsiek pasted valve sack line? “When we first starting in this business in 1968 there were 17 sack manufacturers in the UK. Now there are eight and we are number one. We are a success in a mature market. Where the industry has halved we have grown by 100 per cent.” In 1996 the company sold 53M sacks. The projected figure this year is 90M.

“We are a major supplier to the flour milling industry – with customers such as Rank Hovis. The fully automated roll bottom sack line – the only one of its type and certainly the fastest in the world – is capable of meeting the needs of that industry. It has a capacity for producing 30M sacks a year,” revealed Rob Mabbett. Total capacity on the company’s two high speed production lines is 55M. But there is far more to it than pure numbers, although, clearly, large customers have to be supplied with sacks in the numbers they want in the time they need. “Our end users want flat sacks – sacks that suit their modern filling lines. Really, that is why we bought these new converting lines,” he explained.

Faster fill

“Sacks can be filled far more effectively and productively if they are consistently flat.” The line comprises two colour line work flexo print capability, anti slip station (it is important that filled sacks don’t slide on the pallet leaving the packer) tuber, an extensive ‘S’ press (heart of the production of those flat sacks) and an impressive in-line robotic collator and palletizer. It also incorporates a metal detection system. He added: “We hope to achieve the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Institute of Packaging (IOP) food packaging standard by the end of this year.”

The Kochsiek line delivered in 1996 for pasted/valved sacks comprises a tuber type 61 with polyethylene sealing equipment, a pasted valve bottomer type 66 and the robot palletizer. Major customers for this type of sack are Glanbia, Express Dairies, ACC and Caledonian Cheese.

Gearless

Investment in the new F & K 16S-10 press brings the new gearless technology into the print armoury at East Riding. It already has two Windmöller and Hölscher presses – a four colour and six colour. In the specially built version of the press the 10 colour central impression drum hosts only six colour decks with room for the intercolour air dryers with nine air jets. “Basically this allows for the maximum use of the print repeat – between 370 and 1,020mm – and the maximum use of the heating system using water based inks,” added export manager at Fischer & Krecke Ralf Bendler. “It means it can also run at high speeds” – 500m/min when Converting Today saw it.

As the ink is dried through the air jets between the print decks, a final 5m long drying tunnel on the bridge can be dedicated to drying any lacquer used. And if in the future demands from customers mean more colours, further decks could be added. Heating is by thermo-oil.

Designed for printing on paper or similar substrates (70 –130g/m2) within the web tension range of 20-600N, the press features Spanntec shaftless unwind and rewind technology, and is capable of handling up to a maximum 1,300mm and has a special web infeed traction device. Length slitting can be achieved with three disc knives. Print width is 1,270mm (web 1,300mm).

Extended market

Sleeve technology for the plate cylinder and anilox roller with four sets of carbon fibre intermediate mandrels, the Access system for job preparation and change over during a run and Auto-clean with integrated viscosity control complete the picture of this state of the art gearless flexo press. Web viewing is achieved through a BST Genius digital system.

“The new press brings improved productivity, it helps us in our move to high quality sacks and in the future it will allow us to move into another market – high quality flexo printed contract preprint for corrugated,” explained production director Peter Payne.

The company holds around £1.4M of paper stock – some 18,000t of up to 110 different grades in a warehouse that was extended in 1997 at a cost of £150,000.

“For the future I see a paper sack industry which supports four multinationals and around one or two large independents in each country. We will continue to expand as we have done in the past by quality and service,” said Rob Mabbett.

Naturally, staying competitive has to be another reason for the company’s success. Since the installation of the first new sack line in 1997 to today, the number of sacks produced per employee has increased by over 30 per cent, he reported.

Capacity at East Riding for the roll bottom sacks is 55M out of a UK market of 85M. It can produce some 21M pasted/valve sacks a year and around 55M sewn sacks.

“Our philosophy is that we are already the leading paper sack converter in the UK. Our intention is to be market leader in print in two years time,” predicted Rob Mabbett.