Measure Twice, Cut Once

6 July 2016

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Slitting and converting continues to evolve as an essential converting process. As the demands of brand-partners change and new packaging materials are developed for niche markets, ensuring the right slitting and rewinding services are available is vital. Dave Howell speaks to experts to learn more about what is new in the industry.

For the converting industry, meeting customer demand has never been more important. The need for slitting and rewinding services continues to expand as brands evolve their requirements. Service providers understand that they need to make continued investments in this area to remain relevant to their customer base. TC Transactional, Canada's largest printer, recently announced the installation of a Titan SR800 slitter rewinder to further expand its move to flexible packaging after its acquisition of Capri Packaging.

Rod Balke, maintenance team leader at TC Transcontinental Packaging, said in an interview with Labels and Labeling: "Our history with Atlas Titan slitters has been extremely positive. The SR800 is a quality product delivering excellent web control and final roll profile. We have Titan slitters that have been in operation for 20 years. Atlas has supported those products and continues to do so today."

Converters must offer a range of slitting and rewinding services to remain competitive. Herma has added slitting capability at its UK plant, which now runs around the clock to meet customer demand; Delhi-based Excerl Graphics has added a Rotoflex VSI 330 slitter with a control system; and Typerite has installed a machine from IHLE Maschinenbau with a throughput of 400m a minute to meet the demands of new markets the company is cultivating.

Hammer Packaging supplies products to many national brands. These products include cut-and-stack, shrink-sleeve, pressure-sensitive, foam and in-mould labels. In addition, it is the largest supplier of premium seed packets for the horticultural market. To support this range of products, Hammer Packaging is adding its first Mark Andy press to an already impressive arsenal of eight web presses. Jim Hammer, president and CEO of Hammer Packaging, says: "Hammer Packaging is excited about our growing flexo presence in the packaging market. We see growth in wider formats with inkjet technology. We are excited about what Mark Andy has to offer."

A clear indicator of change is print sector behemoth Heidelberg's development of digital presses with integrated services that include slitting and rewinding. Debuted at drupa, the Primefire 106 offers next-generation B1 digital inkjet printing to meet future customer demand for higher flexibility, productivity and versioning options. The eight-colour UV inkjet engine also has semi-rotary, die-cutting, and slitting and rewinding stations, which run at 50m a minute.
Heidelberg has integrated multiple services into single machines with the Primefire 106, which is a trend that will likely become the norm in the packaging sector, as demand grows for bespoke output from print service providers and their converting partners. Having slitting and rewinding as features will enable converting service suppliers to specify machines to support their clients' needs.

Materials Management

For converters, the need to deliver quality, affordable and timely services will always guide their investment in equipment and how they improve their services. Randy Dunkin, operator at Cincinnati Converters, says: "Today's trends, when we consider slitting and rewinding, revolve around the increase of yield from materials that need to be thinner. Any abnormality in the base stock can turn into gauge bands, which are difficult for all aspects of converting."

John Walker, owner of Southern Converters, says: "The main pressure point for us is always to meet the lead times that our customers demand. As we are a part of a larger organisation, we have to ensure that our systems are in place to meet the deadline imposed on us. For us, it's not so much the supply chain that we have to pay attention to, as the materials we handle are free issue."

Converters have always had to innovate to ensure that they have the services that clients need and the ability to meet specific demands. As markets change, so does the need for slitting or rewinding services. "There is definitely a bigger push from Asian manufacturers," says Juha Viitala, managing director at Colombier. "Oversupplied goods suffer from price erosion, which leaves relatively less value to be added in the conversion process. Goods shipped in bulk from China often need local reprocessing to match the market demands. This often concerns processing material in small volumes in a short period of time."

Demands of brand-partners impact converters' use of slitting and rewinding equipment and associated packaging production processes. Viitala says: "We see more manufacturers adopting Lean manufacturing practices, which are leading to outsourced reprocessing. We anticipated an increased demand for electronic integration to customer routines and have invested in ERP systems but so far, surprisingly, few are demanding electronic documents or system integration."

Changing role of providers

As the converting landscape changes, so too will that of service providers. Walker says: "We have seen the industry change over the years. Where we were once involved with self-adhesive and PVC products, today, a larger part of our conversion is with food packaging companies where, perhaps, the design of their packaging has changed, and they have redundant roll packaging stock that we can slit down to meet the requirements of their new packaging needs. We are always looking to expand the products that are available to our customers. We are constantly testing new ideas to complement our core business."

The future of slitting and rewinding services will revolve around specialist services. As brands want to standout from a crowded marketplace, they will leverage the power of innovative converting solutions. This will lead to more niche markets and specialist demands placed on converting service providers. When slitting or rewinding components are needed, only agile service providers will become market leaders and enjoy profitable and sustainable businesses.




John Graham, managing director of Arrow Film Converters


Arrow Film Converters supplies a large range of high-quality printed films to clients in the food and drink industry. From its manufacturing site in Castleford, it creates reliable and cost-effective packaging solutions for clients' individual projects.


Can you outline the current pressure points that converters in the packaging sector feel regarding slitting and rewinding?

It's imperative not to have a bottleneck for slitting. The quality of print and slitting has to be excellent; good is not good enough these days and for that reason we have decommissioned three of our older slitters that were only refurbished a few years ago. We replaced these with state-of-the-art slitter rewinders.


Are there any key trends in the slitting and rewinding sector that converters should be paying attention to?

A good profile of slitting is imperative, but also the constant tension on the rewind is equally important. Customers have faster packing machines where, if tensions are not perfect, films will not track or might snap causing untold problems.


What's being done to minimise slitting and rewinding inefficiencies across the converting industry?

We have slitter and rewinders with the unwind reel on the same side as our rewind reels. This allows the operator to see any joins in the mill reels and is able to slow the machine down without the need to run back and forth to the unwind section. Our machines have laser guides to improve efficiencies and can run at 600m a minute.


How is sustainability impacting the use of slitting and rewinding in the packaging and converting sectors?

With a push in the packaging sector to constantly reduce packaging waste, films are being made thinner. What used to be 20mu is more often 15mu or less. Slitters, therefore, have to be capable of higher speeds even on relatively short runs, and be able to extract the waste trim at high speeds - even with a 5mm waste trim.


How are the demands of brand-partners impacting converters' use of slitting and rewinding equipment and associated packaging production processes?

A trend is for brands to purchase smaller quantities and reduce stock holding. Therefore, set-up speed needs to be efficient, and changes from knife in air to knife in grooved roller need to be done within a few minutes to reduce downtime.


What does the future look like for slitting and rewinding services?

When we invested over £4 million a few years ago on printing presses, our oversight was on slitting and rewinding. We quickly realised our existing slitting machinery was not up to the standard we needed from the start, so I purchased two new slitters and had these delivered and commissioned within a few weeks of starting to print.. Although this only represented about 15% of the total investment, it was just as important as the printing machines. We needed to offer the full package and this allowed us to do that.


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