Who Ultimate Packaging/Shere Print
Aim With the fresh and chilled food sector demanding shorter production runs and faster lead times, Ultimate Packaging recognised the need for a digital arm to its business. The company needed to invest in a digital press and partner with a manufacturer that could manage the market demands.
What HP Indigo WS6600
When May 2012
Ultimate Packaging is a flexographic printer focused primarily on fresh and chilled foods. The company is based near Grimsby, is family owned and has a workforce of 250 with £40m turnover. The business was founded 30 years ago and in 2000 the company decided to raise its manufacturing game, moving into a purpose built site.
The firm has been constantly investing in new flexo equipment but recognised the growing potential of digital print. The power of the technology appears compelling; the shorter runs can reduce waste and ensure that brands can shave the time to market. Recognising that this could be an area that could add to the company’s sales, Ultimate Packaging looked at how it could get into digital print and find a suitable press for its work.
“When you look what’s happening in the market, there’s a trend towards shorter lead times and shorter production runs,” explains Chris Tonge, Ultimate Packaging sales and marketing director.
So three years ago the hunt began to find a digital partner to provide the digital equipment. Tonge recalls that several suppliers were considered but it was HP that won the day thanks, in part, to the quality of the finished product. In the opinion of Nigel Tonge, managing director at Ultimate Packaging, HP was “the leading player – the only player”.
He adds: “The market is changing and part of our business model has to change.” The building blocks were in place and Ultimate Packaging and HP embarked on the first stage of its partnership, which would result in a major UK retailer embracing digital print technology and the company becoming a key developer in the next generation of presses. In the long run, Ultimate Packaging is aiming to gain £1m of sales in the first year from its digital print operations.
According to Chris Tonge, it was important to sell digital print separately from flexo. So Ultimate Packaging created Shere Print.
“Digital has to be put under a different business model,” he explains. “We believe digital print has to be sold in a different way. Our whole ethos is that we if we are going to do it then we are going to do it right. It also means that we have to work with our customers in a different way.” An additional building, next to Ultimate’s flexo site was found to house the new digital division. Previously a government call centre, the facility is home not only to Shere Print but also Sharp Iris, the company’s design partner.
The press for the job was the HP Indigo WS6600. Designed for high-volume labels and flexible packaging, the seven-colour machine is capable of printing 130 linear feet per minute. It’s able to print on any material from 12 to 450 micron and can hit wide range of Pantone colours. Thanks to the £1m investment, Ultimate Packaging became the UK’s first print firm to install a WS6600 for flexible packaging. Alongside the WS6600, Shere Print also installed a Digicon Series two from AB Graphic, which can laminate the flexible packs.
Installation went smoothly and the press has been given the all-clear in terms of hitting food regulations. “There are challenges,” adds Chris Tonge. “Operating the printing press is straightforward but making a pack out of it is the challenge. When it comes to applying food barriers, that’s where you need specialists. We had to get the food regulations and need every box to be ticked.” The new building and press were in place in May this year and Tonge says that the first job is to “get live products on shelf and get revenue off the press”.
Getting a positive response from HP has been beneficial but Ultimate Packaging has also had an enthusiastic embrace of the technology from one of the UK’s biggest retailers. Waitrose has picked up on the power of digital and the first digitally printed packs were expected to go into stores as Packaging News went to press.
Digitally produced packs for ready meals, such as lasagnes, could feature a flexible sleeve, replacing the traditional cardboard ones. According to Waitrose packaging and reprographics manager Karen Graley, the move will reduce packaging by around 60% and save costs.
“The advantage of digital print is that we can go to market quickly,” says Graley. “It also allows products to be more relevant for our customers.” In addition, Shere Print will also beta test HP’s new Indigo 20000 web press next year. The 30in wide machine is due to be commercially available in early 2014.
“When we knew the wider machine would be ready for beta tests then we wanted to be the first to run it,” says Nigel Tonge. “We are very proud that HP chose Ultimate Packaging.”