ProPrint raises productivity to meet surge in demand - with Martin Automatic technology

Posted: September 29, 2020

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Martin's MBS automatic butt splicer fitted to ProPrint's latest Edale FL3 that is producing linerless labels

When the global pandemic prompted a nationwide lockdown in the UK, manufacturers of printed packaging found themselves under immediate pressure from customers to increase their output. With all restaurants, cafes, staff canteens and other food outlets being forced to close almost overnight, the pressure of increased demand at food retailers created a massive problem in the supply chain.

One company, ProPrint Group based in Wellingborough, was able to respond quickly to the situation thanks in part to the timely installation of Martin Automatic technology on its latest Edale FL3 narrow web press. The FL3, which joins eight other Edale lines at the company, is a 430mm 10-colour flexo press devoted entirely to the production of linerless labels and is currently working a double-day shift pattern.

With increased demand on the newest Edale, the use of automation seemed a natural process to follow and after a visit to Labelexpo Europe in 2019 and a factory tour at Desmedt Labels, near Brussels, which is one of Martin Automatic's best European showcase installations, ProPrint decided to place an order.

Operations Manager for ProPrint Group, Bob Green, takes up the story: "We were seriously impressed with the Martin installations at Desmedt, which have effectively automated all of the company's narrow web presses. The owner, Henri Köhler, was very open and helpful with production figures and we could see with our own eyes how smoothly the whole production process flowed." The result of this visit was an order for a Martin Automatic MBS non-stop butt splicer, and a non-stop LRD rewinder.

The MBS and LRD are two of Martin's bestselling models from an extensive range that spans narrow to ultra-wide webs and substrates from self-adhesive and linerless labels and delicate films to sandpaper and roofing felt. With designs based on the principles of pure physics, all Martin technology is simple to operate, easy to maintain and reliable, matching the requirements of today's production environments where JIT delivery leaves little margin for error.

The MBS automatically shears and tapes the running web to the new reel while the press continues running at full production speed, which at ProPrint is typically around 140m/min. It makes a perfect butt splice, that is with no overlap, and 'irons' the tape across the web to ensure good bonding. Other features include web tension control and automatic web alignment with an ultrasonic sensor. The LRD rewinds and unloads the finished rolls also at full production speed without the operator needing to be present. Unlike a conventional turret rewinder, the LRD has a short transition between winding positions that reduces the risk of web movement and changes in web tension.

Speaking for ProPrint, Director Nigel Tollman commented: "Our continued focus on improving service levels and cutting down on waste, raw materials and time, means we are always looking at ways to streamline and improve our efficiencies. At ProPrint we believe in spending time ensuring we have the right supplier partners - partners we can work with to make sure our business is always evolving and improving. The team at Martin Automatic were helpful, supportive and worked hard to give us the peace of mind that comes with certainty."

His words chimed especially well for Martin Automatic's UK Sales Manager Chris Chappel, who together with Edale engineer Simon Coffin, was charged with installing the equipment when it was delivered during lockdown. Far from being flustered by the restrictions that prevented Martin sending technicians to start up the equipment, Chappel says the installation was carried out in a calm, steady, and professional manner. "There was no chance of an engineer flying in from the US or over from mainland Europe to commission the MBS and LRD, so Simon and I set to it. It's the way we like to be there for our customers when they need us."

The result is a first-class installation, as Green acknowledges: "In the short time since the machinery was installed we have found it easy to use, reliable and very efficient. I estimate that the Martin equipment is saving us around 30% of the time it took to change a roll manually and has also cut make ready waste significantly by between 50 - 100m per change. Overall, I'd say the Martins have boosted output by at least 20%, and that's being conservative."

The investment package, which also included a Lundberg waste extraction system, is part of a larger programme to widen the Group's range of printed packaging. Currently operating from modern facilities across two sites - one for cartons the other for labels, ProPrint offers digital and offset printing capability in addition to its narrow web flexo. Design and pre-press are both handled in-house, and the company has invested heavily in streamlining all of its management and production processes to support and develop its staff.