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Paper and board producers are proactive in coming up with a range of products and services to provide the converter with a more streamlined production process as well as meeting environmental demands. Sally Cousins reports

The need for fast turnaround and short runs is causing a ripple effect in the converting industry – from paper and board innovation and manufacturing, down to the requirements on the part of converters for a more efficient production process.

Turning around work at fast speeds is not a new thing. There’s a shopping list for converters when it comes to paper and board specification: does the paper or board fulfil the requirements of the brief; will it perform as well as it should do in production; will it meet environmental requirements; and ultimately how much will it cost me?

The demand for fast turnaround was a driving force behind the development of Stora Enso Speciality Papers’ MediaSet product, produced at the company’s mill in Germany from sustainably produced virgin fibres. Specifically for high-speed converting, the paper was developed for the production of packaging wrappers such as those used for confectionery, as well as for the labelling of cans and jars. It is specifically aimed at meeting the requirements of all in the supply chain – brand owners, printers, packers and fillers.

The high-white glossy surface of MediaSet in conjunction with what the company claims is an "outstanding offset printability" is designed to enhance presentation at the point of sale (POS). MediaSet’s performance on the converting line has also been given careful consideration. It has high bulk, excellent runnability qualities and very good glue adhesion, and is cited by the company to be ideal for high speeds on printing, converting, packaging and labelling lines. According to Stora this makes MediaSet an economical choice for packaging production and labelling.

Board production
Stora Enso’s other significant investment regarding its Tambrite board has also paid off with the material being a number one choice amongst converters, according to a recent survey.

The board experienced an upgrade in quality as a result of an investment programme carried out at Stora’s Ingerois Mill in Finland. The product, which is a fully coated folding boxboard with a cream reverse, offers high performance in dry and frozen food as well as confectionery and pharmaceutical packaging solutions. Its excellent stiffness, smoothness and printability makes it an ideal board for applications where laser or inkjet coding and Braille embossing are required.

A Cartonboard Brand Tracking Survey carried out last year by the research agency Opticom International Research showed surprising results. Tambrite was revealed to be ‘the most acknowledged virgin fibre cartonboard product brand among converters in Central European markets’.

Michael Eriksson, sales director Stora Enso renewable packaging, general packaging board says: "Tambrite emanates the functionality and the performance needed in every stage of the packaging value chain."

Sheeting expansion
Offering converters paper and board products that can cope with the peaks and troughs of scheduling is essential. Metsä Board recently opened a new Express Board service centre at the Gohrsmühle mill in Germany, offering shorter lead times for all of Metsä Board’s folding boxboard grades. Sheeting is already underway at the centre, with a full service for all grades now being carried out.

Sheeting capacity at Gohrsmühle will be 60,000 tonnes per annum, with the potential for future expansion. The Express Board centre is situated to serve European customers, and will offer service all year round. "We know there is more demand for our sheeted folding boxboards and we have made significant investment to improve their availability," says Markku Romano, VP cartonboard sales in Europe and MEA.

"There are many short-term promotions and special occasion packs in today’s market, all of which need extra flexibility and fast response. The new Express Board Service is also ideal at other times of peak demand and for just-in-time delivery."

Although the company continues to recommend direct mill orders for customers who know their product specification and volume well in advance, the new service is designed for orders with short delivery lead times and for smaller orders.

The move represents a further step in Metsä Board’s ongoing service development to provide more folding boxboard in sheets for customers.

Two sheet cutters at its Äänekoski mill came on stream at the end of 2012, providing annual sheeting capacity of 70,000 tonnes with further potential for growth too.

Fast turnaround and greater flexibility doesn’t just stop at paper and board supply. Paper and board converters and finishers are also offering customers greater flexibility by investing in machinery and streamlining production facilities.

Digital carton cutting
Being able to offer greater flexibility and cost savings on shorter runs were key requirements for Glossop Cartons. Its purchase of a Highcon Euclid digital cutting and creasing machine was the world’s first production order for this much talked-about system.

Glossop’s decision to be the first company to confirm investment in the new technology was an essential move, rooted in its aim to improve its products and services for customers.

"The Highcon Euclid opens up a new range of possibilities for our customers," the company says, "in bespoke packaging, for short runs, pushing design boundaries and being able to respond to seasonal product changes cost effectively."

The Highcon Euclid combines patent-pending DART technology to create the digital crease lines, with a unique high speed and high quality laser cutting solution. It does not require a conventional die, removing time associated with die production and additional machine set-up.

"This direct-to-pack concept fits perfectly with our company values of innovations, responsiveness, competitiveness and customer focus," Glossop says.

"This has been key to Glossop, as it enables greater versatility and flexibility to respond to customer needs, meet tighter deadlines and deliver short and medium run length jobs profitably."

Capital corrugated investment
Often expanding or adding to existing production lines is what is needed to keep up with the fast turnaround brand owners are demanding. Coventry-based Carton Edge has added extra capacity and capabilities to its confidential trade finishing service in direct response to the needs of its customers.

This includes its first cut-crease press – a Brausse 1050 SHE, with the second of its new investments being a TA1100 folder gluer from the same leading manufacturer.

Chairman of Carton Edge Eddie Owen says: "Every day our converter and carton maker customers have to cope with shorter and shorter lead times and more complexity. Adding die-cutting gives us an extra dimension in the services we offer. Also, with the prevalence of ‘just in time’ manufacturing among packer fillers and brand owners we have to keep investing in equipment, people and systems to give our customers the service levels and turnaround times they need."

The new die-cutting service at Carton Edge extends the company’s services, which includes gluing, window patching, carton edging, over-labelling and tray forming. Ensuring the efficiency of these services was the driver behind the purchase of the new systems.

Owen adds: "At our busiest times of year these two processes have been bottlenecks to production. Rather than downgrade the level of service we offer, we have chosen to increase capacity well above what we need day-to-day. In that way we can ensure the service response our customers expect."

Being able to offer more to end-users and brand owners is also increasingly necessary, due to the growing demand for board and paper that embraces environmental and sustainability concerns.

Smurfit Kappa has addressed this by now supplying Chain of Custody certified packaging throughout Europe, after completing the extensive three-year certification programme required.

The company, one of the largest manufacturers of paper-based packaging proudcts, has announced that all relevant packaging operations in Europe are now Chain of Custody certified. This is in line with the company’s long term sustainability commitment and covers 19 European countries where Smurfit Kappa is present.

This ambitious programme started more than three years ago with the certification of all Smurfit Kappa virgin paper mills, followed by all recycled paper mills, and has concluded with every relevant packaging production operation being certified.

The granting of these certificates is the result of Smurfit Kappa’s plans to fully comply with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Chain of Custody Certification schemes.

The certificates enable Smurfit Kappa to assure its customers that its packaging is produced from solely sustainable raw material. Packaging materials can now be traced and the Chain of Custody certification guarantees that no unsustainable material has entered the supply chain.

Smurfit Kappa COO Tony Smurfit says: "By completing our Chain of Custody certification programme for our entire paper mill system, we demonstrate our commitment to supplying our customers with sustainable packaging solutions. We believe that Chain of Custody certification throughout the entire chain should be the standard in our industry."

Avery Dennison Corporation is also following a similar thread. It has just formalised a company-wide policy to promote responsible paper and sourcing and procurement. Avery Dennison chairman, president and CEO Dean Scarborough says: "As a leader in labelling and packaging materials and solutions, we recognise that we have a responsibility to help our customers and our industry become more sustainable."

The new policy was developed with the support of US-based non-governmental organisation Rainforest Alliance.

Avery Dennison materials and solutions that provide sustainable advantages include a new portfolio of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper label materials, and a wide range of apparel labels and packaging made from recycled material and recyclable papers.

Scarborough concludes: "Our policy will guide us in sourcing materials responsibly, using them more efficiently in our operations and developing greener products from them."