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Article by Nampak 12 June 2013

Nampak cements its flexibles market

Recently, Nampak Flexible made two important investments: purchasing a 7 Layer Co-extruder in partnership with Ipex Machinery, the local distributor of Windmöller & Hölscher (W&H, [Status]) equipment, and, last year, adopting laser technology.

According to MD Clinton Farndell, Nampak Flexible has faced an increasingly competitive market due to increased imports coming in from Asia and the Middle East. ‘Quite a bit has happened in the flexible arena in the past few years, and we’ve had to structure our business accordingly to maintain our edge,’ he states. As such, the company has made several large financial outlays in order to focus on planned strategies, including maintaining its leadership in Africa; cementing its world benchmark performance; and ensuring that it’s ‘the place to be’ for its employees.

Considering the division’s performance since 2005, these goals aren’t out of reach. In a move to become leaner and smarter, eight flexible sites within the Nampak cluster were reduced to four. The company also starred as Nampak’s 2010 Business of the Year and received the Group’s 2012 Business Innovation Award. ‘This all complements our recent investments. We see ourselves partnering with A customers and to do that efficient, we need to be able to offer them the best in technology and innovation.’
Leader in Africa

Although Nampak Flexible is the biggest flexible packaging supplier in Africa (despite the aggressive and widespread competition, particularly from China and India, [Status]), it has no intentions of resting on its laurels. ‘Our key initiative has been to partner with A-customers – the multinationals with big brands – and we’ve accomplished that quite successfully,’ explains Farndell. This is apparent in the division’s 40 per cent share of the local market, and roughly six per cent share in Africa. One of the biggest opportunities Nampak has is its footprint in Africa – including operations in Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania – also proven by the fact that 25 per cent of the entire Group’s turnover is earned from the continent, outside of South Africa.
‘The second part of our strategic initiative is to cement our world benchmark performance as leaders in the pouch and liquid bag sector, particularly growing selected market segments through a more extensive e-business. We obviously needed to invest heavily in order to show how serious we are about our intentions to continue to deliver the return we’re already known for.’ Farndell maintains that the company is looking to continue in this vein, and is planning more significant investments within the next year or two.
‘Last – but in no means the least important – is our cultural initiative, which encompasses skills retention and attracting the right skill in this highly technical arena,’ he states.

The new 7 layer Co-extruder is about responding to the global market and securing the speciality films and niche markets that the company wasn’t previously able to tackle. ‘It’s the most advanced extruder of its kind in Africa, which certainly differentiates us from our competitors,’ explains Farndell. The division was so keen to gain that distinction that it even had to modify its Pinetown facility to accommodate the 18 metre high giant, which was commissioned by Ipex manufacturing, local representatives of Windmöller & Hölscher. This sees a continuation of an already established relationship between Nampak and W&H, when the Group first acquired a Primaflex Flexographic Printing Press from the German manufacturer in 2008 (Nampak has since purchased a number of machines from Ipex, [Status]).

So, what makes the 7 Layer machine so exceptional? Although there’s been a bigger global uptake in 5 Layer machines (as opposed to 3 Layer, [Status]), to optimally output the increasing demand for high barrier and laminate films calls for this more advanced technology, which obviously makes a stronger film with the extra layers, also having the opportunity to improve and optimise current 3 and 5 layer structures. It has an output of 550kg per hour (equating to almost as much as all of Nampak’s current stock of extruders, [Status]); an advanced diameter and gauge control; a ‘neat’ technology called the profile booster (or quick start, [Status]), to optimise start up of the machine by accelerating profile measurement of the film (essential in flexible packaging manufacturing, [Status]); a significantly lower purge time is also possible due to the Purge Assist Module. The machine is also equipped with the Easy Change module assisting with job changes by reverting back to recipes previously saved in the machines memory. This reduces change over time dramatically. Beyond these are the standard components on an extruder of this nature, such as an online recipe memory, antistatic systems and remote service support from Germany. Finally, it’s all about the environment and this machine gives Nampak Flexible the ability to reduce the micron size of the product with similar or better properties; as well as produce films and laminates into a single substrate (category seven, [Status]) that’s fully recyclable. ‘Essentially, you get a thinner micron – which is a global agenda – with improved properties – which is the customer’s demand,’ states Farndell.
Scoring points

Nampak Flexible’s investment into laser scoring technology was, again, according to global trends. ‘There’s a bigger ageing population than ever before that require ease-of-use across a variety of packaging and, as we get more complex with the sealant layers or the different structures like our 7 Layer, this ability becomes more difficult. As such, we’ve provided this property with our laser scoring,’ explains Farndell. It’s a patented system for up to 32 focusing head with consisted quality in shape, diameter and spacing.

In conclusion, he states that ‘both of these solutions just makes more sense and aligns us with our strategic focus.’
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