Thai Packaging Leader Adds to Success with Automatic Roll Change

Posted: May 12, 2014

Thai OPP Public Co., Ltd. was started in Bangkok in 1983 as a manufacturer of films. (OPP refers to oriented polypropylene, the company's earliest product.) After nearly three decades under the steady guidance of the founding Kimpai Group, Thai OPP along with its sister company, Kimpai Lamitube, has grown to become one of the leading printing and converting companies in Southeast Asia.

Beginning with oriented polypropylene, the company expanded into the production and distribution of many other types of plastic films, including CPP (cast polypropylene), metalized, shrink and stretch films, as well as films for protection and lamination. Along the way, management recognized two market needs: the trend toward adhesive labels in packaging, and the expanding role of laminated tubes in personal care products.

The company addressed the label side by introducing high-quality rotary letterpress and silkscreen to the Thai market. Presses including Ko-Pack and Gallus were purchased to supply labels in roll form for high-speed labeling operations. Its most recent technology additions are Nilpeter FA-4 modular presses for multiple substrate printing and converting on a material range including paper, PVC, OPP, PE and PET. These investments also enable the label division to provide value-added techniques like UV varnishes, film laminations, front and reverse printing and hot-foil stamping, all in-line in a single pass on press.

Thai OPP's sticker and label business is approximately 90% consumer products and 10% food. It has grown to employ approximately 150 persons and converts 27 million lineal meters of label stock annually.

The company was also an early pioneer in the manufacture of laminated tubes. Its Kimpai Lamitube division began making toothpaste tubes in 1985. The largest producer of toothpaste tubes in Thailand, Kimpai Lamitube owns approximately 85% of the market. The company's typical multi-layer toothpaste tubes include an aluminium foil layer laminated on both sides with polyester film. The PE is a barrier against oxygen and humidity, preserving the products' quality.

Recently, Kimpai Lamitube expanded into tubes for other uses, including pharmaceutical, cosmetics and personal care. Similar to the laminated toothpaste tubes, a special grade of plastic replaces the aluminium foil in cosmetics uses for a softer, more pliable feel.

To achieve their targeted levels of growth, the Kimpai Group pursues continuous excellence through research and development, state-of-the-art technology, and sensible investments. In addition, both Thai OPP and Kimpai Lamitube achieved ISO certification (ISO:9001 and ISO:9002, respectively). To maintain and maximize their profitability, both companies have looked to advanced capabilities that eliminate production constraints and minimize waste.

Given the large number of rolls that pass through the companies' presses, roll change was one of the areas they investigated for savings and waste reduction. Stopping a press to change rolls by hand involves a loss both of production time and of expensive material. In the case of Kimpai Lamitube, the time to change rolls averaged about 5 minutes per stop. At a peak performance of 40 rolls per day on a press, they calculated lost production time at 3 hours 20 minutes per day. If they were able to use that lost time to print quality product, instead of the press sitting idle, they could gain as much as 30% additional production from their press every day.

The companies also calculated that, by not stopping to change rolls, they could reduce their material waste by between 10 and 20%. (This is not surprising, since it is common for many printers making manual roll changes to lose the equivalent of at least 2 press lengths of material during each slowdown, stop and restart of the press, in addition to unused material left on the core.)

Thai OPP and Kimpai Lamitube had known about automatic roll change equipment for many years. But in 2008, their investigations into production savings and material waste led them to the US-based company Martin Automatic Inc. After estimating their savings and evaluating their equipment needs, they decided on a package that included a non-stop butt splicing unwind and a non-stop roll change rewinder for one of their presses. The butt splicer changes rolls automatically, without slowing the press. Similarly, the rewinder changes out the printed rolls at full press speed, even depositing the finished rolls without any operator intervention required.

It did not take long for Thai OPP and Kimpai Lamitube to realize the benefit of non-stop roll change. Within 2 months of installation by Martin's Asia-Pacific division, they were talking about placing orders for additional splicers and rewinders. To date, the Kimpai Group has automated 5 presses with butt splicers and rewinders.

In addition to the time and material waste savings, Mr. Suthee Limmatibul of Thai OPP says they have realized other benefits from automatic roll change. Among these, he notes, is better print quality from running consistently without having to stop the press for roll changes.

Thai OPP and Kimpai Lamitube place their highest emphasis on delivering quality to their customers. They require the same from their equipment suppliers, including Martin splicers and rewinders, recognizing that the quality of these systems makes them reliable, low-maintenance and easy to operate.

David Ho, General Manager for Martin Automatic Asia-Pacific, applauds the Kimpai Group's business philosophy. "Thai OPP and Kimpai Lamitube do not 'sit still' when it comes to excellence and quality. Similarly, while they are pleased with the benefits of automatic splicing, they expect us to be creative and to keep developing roll change equipment that delivers greater benefits. We feel the same way. In fact, our most recent installations at Thai OPP are of equipment we designed to meet the specific production requirements, press specifications and even floor space constraints of companies like theirs."

For the Kimpai Group, automatic splicers are a must for any new press, and a vital part of their mission to be the innovator and leader in the packaging industry