Press Adds Flexibility of Film to Paper Operation

After more than 20 years of converting paper-based packaging materials, Saugerties Packaging is discovering the benefits of "being flexible"—flexible packaging converters, that is.

The company's recent installation of an eight-color Bobst Schiavi Rigel central impression, flexographic press marks its first foray into converting film, and it offers the Saugerties, NY-based company its greatest potential for growth since it was founded in 1979 as a converter of tissue paper packaging.

"As you go through the paper products part of the supermarket, you'll see a lot of the very products that we want to supply packaging for," explains general manager David Decker. "A lot of those products are being made by companies that buy their paper packaging from us but purchase polyethylene and other plastic materials from other suppliers for their consumer product line."

The Plunge into Flexible
Traditionally, tissue converters have relied on Saugerties to deliver paper-based packaging for paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, napkins, and the like. Particular items include paper outer wrappers for roll products, such as toilet paper, and paper "bands" for bundling sheets of paper napkins and towels. A majority of that packaging is for "away-from-home" users such as customers at hotels and restaurants and workers at businesses.

With an eye toward future growth, however, Saugerties officials targeted the huge potential of the consumer end of the marketplace, where tissue paper products typically are wrapped not in paper but in process-printed PE packaging that attracts greater consumer attention.

Because this was the company's first flexible packaging press, Saugerties' officials spent nearly two years investigating ancillary equipment and developing the overall machine specifications the company required. They then took months to research virtually every piece of printing equipment available from more than 20 flexible packaging press suppliers before narrowing the selection down to 3.

Ultimately, says Decker, the Bobst Schiavi press was chosen "because it offered the best features and performance for the price. We could have spent less money on a press, but it wouldn't have offered the features and performance of the Bobst."

Saugerties took delivery last February of the Bobst Schiavi Rigel press developed specifically for printing both high- and low-density PE, as well as PP, as thin as 0.5 mil thick.

The 65-in. press runs at speeds to 1,200 fpm and is equipped with an Enercon corona treater to enhance printability on even the thinnest webs, says Decker.

He adds that a dual-camera web inspection system from TruColor Video Systems monitors print quality at top speeds. Four of Saugerties Packaging's five paper presses utilize TruColor single-camera video inspection systems. The dual-camera system allows the operator to monitor a particularly critical aspect of a job, such as the bar code or process color graphic, with one camera while scanning the full width with the other.

The Benefits Sold Themselves
Decker lists a number of features that attracted him to the Schiavi, including the 65-in.-wide web width, "extensive" drying capacity, and a "robust" design structure that allows it to deliver long runs of water-based printing at high speeds. In addition, Decker says the "highly computerized" design, which allows individual job settings to be stored easily and retrieved on press, was an important feature for a company whose scheduling board is dominated by repeat runs.

"We put everything on this press that is available in technology today to allow us to run as thin a film as possible, including very low-inertia rollers and driven idler rollers so there's no drag on the film," explains Decker. "That's a substantial investment, but it allows us to work with very thin films."

Materials are supplied by Huntsman, BPI, and Favorite Plastics. Inks are from Inx International, Kohl & Madden, and CAI.

US-based technical service and support also was deemed critical, says Decker. "All of our machines except for one are from European manufacturers, and we've had the typical nightmare of getting spare parts and having repairs made," notes Decker, who adds that Bobst's US headquarters in northern New Jersey is just hours away from Saugerties' 35,000-sq-ft production facility in upstate New York. "The availability of technical support and spare parts was a big issue for us."

Moving with the Market
Saugerties Packaging's historic emphasis on packaging for paper-based products can be traced to its founders, who had worked for companies that produced the paper products themselves. The pair saw an opportunity to launch their own company manufacturing the packaging for those products. The business evolved with the market, and they gradually added printing capabilities as presentation played a larger role for product identification purposes and off-the-shelf sales.

Saugerties Packaging is now part of the Erving Industries family of companies. Erving's other companies focus on the tissue and napkin industries with locations in Green Bay, WI; Miami, FL; Erving, MA; and Shirley, MA.

Saugerties ultimately decided to add the flexible packaging press primarily to gain new business from existing customers that currently rely on the company only for its paper-based industrial packaging but also require similar items for the consumer marketplace, such as plastic wrap for individual rolls of paper towels, multi-packs of toilet paper, and paper napkins.

The new press also prepares Saugerties to meet potential changes in its traditional markets, such as a possible switch from paper to poly for toilet paper roll wraps. Decker notes that the trend of replacing paper with film in certain applications already has begun in Canada. And while he is uncertain just how popular poly-wrapped toilet paper rolls, for example, ultimately may become in the US, the new press allows Saugerties to be prepared for the possible evolution of roll packaging.

"The last thing you want is to be unprepared for a shift in your market," says Decker.

Completing the Puzzle
While it intends to protect its traditional customer base, Saugerties sees potential new markets as plastic packaging for housewares, food, and other products that already are wrapped in flexible packaging, such as paper plates.

Decker reports that the performance features of the Bobst Schiavi press were designed to offer existing customers the same level of quality and service in its flexible packaging that they have come to expect from its traditional paper base.

"In addition to the packaging itself, we've always been known for very good service," notes Decker. "We have good flexibility as far as delivery times, so they like to do business with us, and they have been willing to let us come in and produce poly product for them because they'd like the same kind of service on the poly end that they're used to getting from us on the paper side."

Along with the Bobst Schiavi, Saugerties operates two four-color, one six-color, and one eight-color paper converting presses. Decker says consumer demands required that the company's first flexible packaging press be at least eight colors, since typical jobs require four-color process printing, along with a white backing and a distinct black for bar codes, plus one or two spot colors.

"But graphics are only a part of it," says Decker, adding that the Bobst Schiavi also delivers product designed to run effortlessly on the customers' wrapping machines.

"We specialize in producing materials that perform very well in our customers' production environment. If it looks great but it doesn't run well on their lines, it doesn't meet their needs. You need to have both pieces of the puzzle."

Adding the Schiavi allows Saugerties to be more "flexible" in meeting its customers complete packaging needs. And, it allows the company to ask its own customers a question commonly heard in the supermarket: "Will that be paper or plastic?"

Supplier Information
The Bobst Group Inc., Roseland, NJ; 973/226-8000;

Enercon Industries Corp., Menomonee Falls, WI; 262/255-6070;

TruColor Video Systems, Lagrange, GA; 706/846-6970;

Huntsman Packaging (now Pliant Corp.), Schaumburg, IL; 866/878-6188;

BPI Packaging Technologies Inc., North Dighton, MA; 508/824-8636; 800/628-8206

Favorite Plastics, Brooklyn, NY; 718/253-7000; 800/221-8077;

Inx Intl. Ink Co., Milwaukee, WI; 414/438-4383; 800/545-4469;

Kohl & Madden Printing Ink Corp., Fort Lee, NJ; 201/886-1203;

CAI, Georgetown, MA; 978/352-4510

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