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A solution based on combination, not standardization

SHB student assesses the pros and cons of combined gravure printing cylinders in production

Two thirds of German packaging producers describe themselves as under pressure from foreign competitors in their domestic markets – foreign firms are catching up with German firms. Not only do they offer increasingly professional products, their ability to deliver reliably and on time has improved significantly. This is making the market even more aggressive for German producers. This was reason enough for the successful packaging company Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging Germany to actively start looking into new ways to address the differing needs of its customers, particularly since the market has become even more competitive. This challenge was taken on by Sabrina Guggemos as part of her bachelor’s degree at the School of Management and Technology (SMT) at Steinbeis University Berlin.

When Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging Germany started looking into specific cost-cutting scenarios in its gravure printing production processes, this was not just due to changes happening in the market. It was also motivated by negative feedback on its pricing from a pilot customer. Sabrina Guggemos set about assessing the pros and cons of combining gravure printing cylinders in production as part of a project for her studies. Initially, the student’s aim was to confirm to the customer that it was technically feasible to combine gravure printing cylinders. But she was also able to demonstrate that producing with combined cylinders would be more efficient than the standard procedure used by Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging Germany.

At the start of her degree project, Guggemos analyzed different changes that have been affecting market conditions in the packaging industry. She underscored her basic analysis by showing that combining gravure printing cylinders would offer a solution to the company’s pricing problems. A central aspect of her project was to document her work from start to finish and share information with colleagues. Guggemos captured each specific project stage during each phase of the process, before reviewing progress. To get her project underway, she pulled together a project team to allow the experts from different departments to outline their expectations for the project. Weekly meetings were organized with all project stakeholders, during which it emerged that one of the core tasks would be to determine all possible options for combining cylinders and the challenges each scenario posed. After an initial round of production testing, the team was able to conduct a cost assessment and after a second round of tests, the results of their calculations were confirmed.

Producing with combined gravure printing cylinders is Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging Germany’s reaction to the trend toward smaller batches. A comparison between production using standard methods and production based on a combined approach shows that Guggemos was successful with her project and it was indeed possible to improve costs for the pilot customer by combining cylinders. Based on the insights gained, the approach of combining cylinders can now be extended to include other customers and market segments targeted by Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging Germany. The firm’s positive experience with the pilot customer project has also resulted in a second parallel project getting underway with a major customer. Here too, the idea in the long term is to combine gravure printing cylinders to produce the client’s products, also in order to cut costs.