This giant can also sprint…

For Bobst, 2020 also happened to be its 25th year of inception in India. Having started with a small sales and service office way back in 1995 in Pune, it later established a small workshop to refurbish Bobst die-cutting machines in 1999 at Pirangut, Pune. With the Indian market taking shape for the better future and a vision to become a leading supplier of equipment and services for the packaging industry locally in India, Bobst inaugurated its manufacturing plant at Pirangut, Pune in 2003.

The sprawling  22-acre campus became one of the key manufacturing units for Bobst SA to manufacture machines for both worldwide and local markets.

“We initially started manufacturing equipment for flexible packaging and pre-feeders for the corrugated board industry in the new factory and then later diversified into manufacturing folder-gluers for the worldwide market from the year 2010 at our Pune plant,” says Venugopal Menon, zone business director, BU-printing and converting at Bobst India. Menon joined the company in 1997 and was one of the key members instrumental
in finalising Pirangut as the location for the plant.

“Looking back it’s easy to say – a journey begins with one step,” says Upendra Deglurkar general manager at Bobst India. “But then from attracting the right talent, to sourcing quality material and vendors, we were uniquely positioned to use the value and brand of our parent company in Switzerland. From initially starting with manufacturing machinery for flexible and corrugated board industry and now becoming a significant centre for folder-gluer manufacturing, the Bobst plant in Pune with its in house research and development activity as well as manufacturing using specialised skills and sophisticated technology has scripted its success.”

Upendra Deglurkar on Bobst mission
Bobst’s mission then was to enable its clients to provide reliable and attractive packaging that is eco-friendly as well as cost-effective. Today it is to shape a new reality where connectivity, digitalisation, automation and sustainability are the cornerstones of packaging production. We are also adding intelligence, software capabilities and cloud-based platforms, to make packaging production better than ever.

1,000 folder-gluer in a decade
Bobst’s rise as one of the world leaders in manufacturing equipment and services for the folding carton, corrugated board, flexible packaging and label industry can be attributed to its steadfastness and continued focus to innovate and provide value-based solutions for their customers.

Menon says, “Bobst as a company does more than just selling machines. We try and understand customers’ pain points and their challenges, track new industry trends and market needs and accordingly innovate and design our solutions for the packaging industry.”

Before 2010, the main manufacturing hub for folder-gluers outside Switzerland was in China and Brazil for a certain range of machines. But in 2010, Bobst decided to start manufacturing folder-gluers in India for the worldwide market for the range of machines such as Ambition, Visionfold and Expertfold.

The first India-produced folder-gluer was rolled out in April 2010, and installed at TCPL’s plant in Silvassa and now 10 years later, the 1,000th folder-gluer is ready to be shipped out to Mumbai’s packaging specialist, Ajanta Print Arts.

It’s a great achievement, but what is so unique about Bobst machines that the packagers are willing to invest in it?

Ajanta Print Arts takes delivery of the Visionfold 110 A2: (l-r) The Khannas – Vikas, Vinod and Vivek

Menon says, “Bobst equipment is always a long-term investment, not a spend. Our equipment helps our customers grow, capture new businesses and eventually help them add value to the products of their end customers.”

The Bobst Ambition 106 folder-gluer, one of its popular models is capable of processing different range of boxes and substrate and has a max belt speed of 300 m/min. The straight-line boxes, depending upon its format, can touch up to 90,000 boxes/hr and crash lock bottom boxes up to 40,000 boxes/hr.

A small packaging company with lock bottom job run lengths of 5,000-10,000 cartons or more would need 10 people doing this job manually in an hour. “With the Bobst Ambition, we are able to complete the job in less than 30 minutes,” a packaging company’s executive told PrintWeek a couple of years ago.

Menon says, “If someone is looking at cost optimisation, which is reducing cost per unit of production, then there is no challenge to a Bobst converting equipment. In the end, the cost is directly or indirectly linked to productivity and efficiency and minimising wastage. Thus the investment helps in the long term profitable growth of our customers in the ever-challenging and competitive environment of packaging converting. Bobst has always believed in innovation and has kept pace with the ever-changing needs of our customers and brand owners and this has helped in turn our customers to innovate and time the market when it demanded the most.”

For Ajanta Print Arts, where the 1,000th folder-gluer is being installed, the packaging journey with Bobst began in 1998 when they bought their first Bobst pair of SP 102 SE die-cutter and Media 68 folder-gluer. However, it’s packaging journey picked pace in 2010, and the company now owns seven Bobst converting lines.

Vivek Khanna, partner at Ajanta Print Arts, speaking to PrintWeek at the Bobst India plant in Pune, says, it’s a matter of national pride that Bobst is manufacturing in India and exporting it to the world. “When Bobst actually started manufacturing in India, for converters like us, it was a great opportunity. We could share our problems and find solutions, all this locally. It could not get better than that.”

Ajanta Print Arts is a seven-decade-old company, run by Vinod Khanna, the second-generation entrepreneur and his two sons, Vikas and Vivek.

Local to global
Bobst’s also exports folder-gluers from the Pune plant. It would have been a challenge to convince customers in Europe and the rest of the world, to accept a made in India product.

There were some initial hiccups and challenges, says Deglurkar. “But the performance speaks for itself. When the machines supplied from India ran as well as those supplied from Switzerland to our customers, the matter was settled.”

Menon adds, “We took utmost care and gave attention to details and endured the pain to ensure that whatever we produce out of Bobst’s India plant is up to the Swiss quality standards that Bobst is known for. As Upendra mentioned, the machines’ performances spoke for itself when these were delivered to our customers’ plants.

From zero to hero
From zero employees to over 400, from initial start-up to becoming the largest centre for folder-gluer manufacturing and further becoming a centre for excellence equipped with research and development unit, Bobst has expanded its plant almost three times since the first phase of 2013. “We moved our canteen three times. There’s a joke in Bobst, whenever there’s an announcement that the canteen is moving, next in line will be expansion,” says Deglurkar in a lighter vein.

Getting more than 400 people to work at the plant, a bit remotely located out of Pune city, with a team of 45 service engineers and over 40 in the R&D is no small feat. “A lot has to do with the reputation of the company and the culture. There’s tremendous trust, respect and passion, which results in performance and we have one of the lowest attrition rates as well. By far we would be the only graphic art company in the world having such a large manufacturing footprint based out of India,”  says Deglurkar.

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