As Thailand’s Print Master is preparing for the upcoming Asian Packaging Excellence Awards 2018, we speak with the innovative company to find out what it takes to be best of the best.
PrintMaster not only won Gold at the last Asian Packaging Excellence Awards 2017, it also took home the Judges’ Best of the Best Award. The Thai company submitted three entries in 2017 and won two awards. Its entry for the ‘Gravure Films – Surface Print’ was a pouch for a consumer food product. In addition, the company’s entry in the ‘Gravure Films – Reverse Print’ category won a Silver award.
“This award is good for our people, as they are able to be proud that they are recognised for the work that they do. We actually have received so many awards so this is normal for us!” quipped Tweesit Kunakorn, managing director of Print Master Co. Ltd. “But an award is really just an award. It celebrates only one moment of success. It doesn’t show our year-round hard work. To keep up with the quality that we are known for, we still need to keep up and maintain our work ethics all year round.”
The winning entry is a printed laminate bag for a cereal drink from the brand Nesvita. The packaging was made by reverse &partial surface matt coating on a rotogravure printing machine. Following it was laminating the printed substrate with a barrier and heat-sealing film, which was then left to age for a while until the adhesive cures completely. The final step was to bring the finished product to a pouch-making machine to be made into the final preformed bags.
“The job called for production printing quality. It was quite challenging in terms of quality control due to the design which placed a lot of importance on colour registration and strength,” said Kunakorn.
Green is the new Gold
PrintMaster has been established since 1983, specialising in flexible packaging. It began as a small startup in the heart of Bangkok, with used machinery from Europe. The original factory was located within what is known as a “green area”.
Therefore, when the company wanted to expand in year 2000 and build a second factory, it decided to move operations to the industrial part of Samutprakarn. At the new factory, the company was able to install new machines for rotogravure, lamination and flexible packaging. Today, PrintMaster has four factories; one in Bangkok, and three in Samutprakarn.
Print Master is the first company in Thailand to introduce the dry lamination process: “Not only that, we were later on in 1987, the first in Southeast Asia to bring in a solvent-free dry lamination system. We are concerned about the environment, so it was important for us to include non-solvent printing as one of our processes,” said Kunakorn.
The eco-conscious company became involved when European and US countries were calling for environmental awareness for print processes.
“We have to do something to show our concern and involvement. As compared to Japan, Europe or the US, caring for the environment is not a priority here in Thailand. We decided to introduce more eco-friendly processes so that the industry will start to be more concerned. If no one thinks to want to start this, how else would we create the awareness and change the industry mindset to be more environmentally conscious? This is why we decided to be the first,” urged Kunakorn.
Besides Print Master also places importance on productivity. Though Print Master has humble beginnings with used machinery, once the company became financially strong and stable, it invested in new machinery for quality printing. Its factories today house a variety of new machinery from Korea, Japan, USA, and especially from Europe.
“Over the last ten years, we have been focusing our investments more in European technology. One of our main concerns is productivity, and European machines, though costly, are well known for being able to run on high productivity while producing high quality,” said Kunakorn.
The Asian Innovation Conundrum
“Cost is the biggest concern in our region. Our Southeast Asian region tends to be a little funny when it comes to innovation. Our region has tried many times to create the market, to use new technology, new materials, to get more value, and to design packaging that follow European, US or Japanese trends. However, it is not that easy to create this innovative environment,” said Kunakorn.
“As a business, it is our responsibility to keep up with the technology and to work hard to convince the customer by presenting on the added value of innovation in packaging,” added Kunakorn.
“Trends in Europe and Asia tend to differ. In Asia, we tend to follow the Japanese trends. Japan is very good in packaging, especially in flexible packaging, such as stand-up pouches with cap and box pouches. There is also much concern on printing quality, but of course the cost of the innovation is high. It’s hard to progress if cost remains a priority,” said Kunakorn.
With a staff stronghold of 500, Kunakorn is focused on employee development: “Right now, we want to educate and improve the skills of our people. High quality is coming, and we have to pay attention to it. We need to know how to control costs.”
“However, education is not easy. When you’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time, it’s not easy to just change,” said Kunakorn. “Our attention is on the younger generation, the new graduates from university in printing, polymers and packaging that are joining us. We want to create an environment for the younger generation to always brainstorm on ideas, innovate and help improve the working conditions.”
“For us, and since we’re Thai, we don’t have the extensive technical background as those from Europe, Japan, or from bigger multinational companies. We have to learn the processes ourselves, in order to understand the technical aspects and concerns when we are working, and how to keep up with demand for higher quality,” added Kunakorn.
The Hunt for Digital
Although Print Master has no digital machines in its arsenal just yet, it has always been on the heels of the technology since digital first came out.
“We have always been keeping up with the technology by speaking with suppliers and seeing demos. There are still limitations on the technology, and when taken into account the investment, it is hard to compete with other technologies and processes in printing,” said Kunakorn.
“However, digital printing is not a technology we can ignore. Digital printing can solve a lot of existing concerns and issues for current processes,” Kunakorn continued. “Short run jobs, for example. It is not easy to do short-run jobs on rotogravure or flexo. When changing jobs, you need a lot of time in order to change out a lot of things. In digital, you don’t have to. Another issue is the cylinder cost, which gets eliminated in digital. The third benefit for digital is the cost of the job change. When changing a job for rotogravure or flexo, you waste material. With digital, there is no wastage. These are all benefits that we can agree on.”
“However, for us right now, the cons outweighs the pros. Firstly, the machine is very expensive. Secondly, a digital press cannot run very fast on speed. Thirdly, in a converting process, there is concern to be able to run after printing. The cost per print means click charged cost. Finally, there is still a limitation in the width of the material, as digital cannot do wide web yet. These are major concerns for us now.”
To join the next edition of Asian Packaging Excellence award, click on the link.