Ajay Tandon sheds light on manufacturing

Ajay Tandon, president and CEO, UFlex Engineering Business, shares his insights on the company’s engineering business and the machines it manufactures, in a conversation with the WhatPackaging? team during Plastindia 2023

14 Mar 2023 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Ajay Tandon (l) with single station ELS printing machine at UFlex's stall during Plastindia 2023

WhatPackaging? (WP): How was Plastindia 2023 for you?
Ajay Tandon (AT):
The response has been good. There are potential customers, quality polls and people are excited to have attended Plastindia. At the show, UFlex unveiled its single station ELS printing machine with an enhanced feature that reduces the changeover time considerably. Jobs are becoming shorter. So, it should have shorter changeover time.

We also displayed an innovative solventless lamination machine, Standard SPL, which allows simultaneous lamination of printed laminates at the speed of up to 400-m/min on different substrates having heterogeneous mechanical and chemical properties. There was also a slitting machine, Ecoslit 600, a high-speed compact duplex slitter and rewinder with web width ranging from 800 to 1300-mm, which enables seamless slitting experiences for converters.

WP: What is the USP of the single station ELS printing machine?
With a single press of button, you can change all the trolleys within a span of just five to six minutes. While in the conventional method, the total changeover would require about one and a half hours out of which trolley changeovers would take about 30-45 minutes. The changeover time for all the trolleys is monitored and saves 80 to 85%. With this, we have calculated the print to get at least 400 to 500-kg extra, which amounts to 1.2 to 1.5 tonnes of laminate per day. And this equals to extra production of 30 to 35 metric tonnes of laminate per month.

WP: How does the machine simplify the inking system?
A gravure printing machine is normally an eight-colour machine and it can be varied. So, it will be installed on all eight stations. Customers will have eight trolleys, one on each printing station when job one is running. Another set of eight trolleys are kept ready on the automated system with the printing cylinder and doctor blades mounted on the trolleys.  

After the job one is over, you take out the web, press the button which makes the old ink trolleys come out and new ink trolleys get boarded and locked in.

WP: Based on the market research, what is the demand of the machine in the Indian printing industry?
If you talk about the printing machines with above system, I expect in the future people would invest in this machine, as it saves lot of change over time and will provide good returns. It could be 8, 10, 15 or 20 per year depending on how many printing machines we can sell which totally would depend on customer’s interest as this is a bit capital intensive, though has very short ROI.

WP: What led to the discovery of this machine?
It is an absolute thought process by UFlex’s Engineering division because we always look to create ways to add value to our customers. We did not want to focus too much on making very high-speed machines as not more than 10-15% of the jobs might be running at over 400 m/min. We focussed more on quick change over system as 85-90% jobs run at normal speeds ranging from 200 to 400 m/min but need quick change overs as they do not have very long runs.

WP: How is UFlex’s engineering division performing?
UFlex Engineering Business was started in the mid 80s with the focus on small-scale vertical FFS packaging machines. We have two subdivisions in the engineering division. One is PMD, which is for making packaging machines; automatic and semi-automatic. The other division is PAM which is making printing and allied machines for flexible packaging. This division manufactures all the machines required by converters including; gravure printing machines, CI flexo machines, both having Italian technologies, extrusion coating and lamination machines, slitters and laminators.

WP: What does the PMD and PAM division manufacture?
The PAM division makes slitters right from 600 mm width to 3350 mm which are required as secondary cylinders for films’ slitting. We manufacture doctoring machines, laminating machines and a whole lot of other converting machines. In the PMD division, we produce all kinds of packaging machines for automatic and semi-automatic filling lines.

WP: What is the team size you have at the backend?
In each of the divisions, PMD and PAM, we have 15 to 20 qualified designers. We have qualified engineers working on the production front,  have a servicing team and installation & commissioning experts.

WP: How has the industry evolved over the last three decades in terms of customer expectations, usability of machines, operator ease and how does the manufacturing side of the business cater to that?
Three decades ago, there were only conventional and slow-speed machines, and most of them were mechanical in nature. Gradually, we started using servo drives around 20 years ago. Then we worked towards increasing machine speeds, accuracy, finishing and aesthetics because customers' expectations started evolving with the education level and constant requirement for growth.

Now in the last five years or so, we can control, modify and solve problems at the customer's end from our plant itself with the help of modern electronic technologies. We have also stepped into IIoT for the converting machines and for some of the packaging machines. With technological advancements, we are with the customer all the time and try to do better than our customers’ expectations.

WP: Are there some tangible and concrete steps that the manufacturer should follow?
Any customer would like to get the best from its supplier in terms of product, technology, service support etc. Through our project team, we also guide and help our customers with their plant layout and the kind of machines which could be more suitable for their operations. We always feel that we should try and add maximum value to our customers and we constantly keep working towards that.

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