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Evolving with the African market

The team at South African shrink sleeve specialist Packology

If you ask Brett Collett, Packology’s MD, to name the greatest challenge facing shrink sleeve manufacturers, he remarks on the heightened level of responsibility that has to be taken for the end result, compared to that taken by producers of self-adhesive labels.

In his view, self-adhesive label manufacturers can generally place the onus on their customers to know what they want and what will work, but shrink sleeve customers expect suppliers to lead, advise and specify sleeves that are guaranteed to work in a particular environment. 

‘As a result, we’ve learnt not to rush our estimating process,’ he reports. ‘We have to think around all the angles and specify a sleeve that will perform in whatever environment it’s applied. This involves a great deal of investigation before submitting an estimate. We have to be certain we won’t have to run a job on three different films before the customer is satisfied.’

Sleeve development is critical to the product development process, Collett continues. ‘Marrying the film to the application process, ink to the film, and artwork to the pack shape takes time and attention. Suppliers can’t be expected to manage all this within a stated lead time without a detailed quotation,’ he asserts.

And this is where Packology’s expertise comes to the fore. ‘Once brand owners have developed sleeve specifications, they can rest assured that they’re comparing apples with apples and purchasing sleeves that are fit for purpose.’ Indeed, during the past year, Packology has taken great strides towards its goal of becoming South Africa’s go-to supplier of shrink sleeves for those navigating this challenging labeling field. 

Collaborative approach 
Packology’s collaborative approach and advanced conversion facilities at its Modderfontein operation in Gauteng, South Africa, are helping other printers to enter this market, without having to invest in post-press ancillary machinery and related staff.

‘What’s more,’ Collett adds, ‘our pre-press services provide their sales teams with the confidence to test the waters with existing customers. In essence, we’re providing a safe and cost-effective avenue for new entrants to explore the shrink sleeve market; and once they’re ready to go on their own, we support them further by supplying conversion equipment and staff training.’

Close relationships fostered with flexographic and digital printing concerns have enabled Packology to convert and sell what Collett describes as ‘the greatest range of printed shrink sleeve sizes on the continent’. 

‘We’re able to produce printed sleeves from 16 to 410mm wide,’ he continues, ‘opening doors for many branded products to benefit from the infinite marketing benefits of shrink sleeves.’

As another feather in its cap, Packology was appointed as the African distributor of the Fesrif range of PET films in August 2016 – by Taiwanese partner FENC (Far Eastern New Century Corporation) – not only for the company’s own use but also for sale to smaller converters for whom bulk importation would be too expensive. With this migration to Fesrif PET films, which mimic the shrink behavior of PVC, Packology has eradicated its use of PVC. ‘This is possibly my proudest achievement to date,’ Collett comments. ‘And we have an alternative to offer those companies caught out when heavy penalties are imposed on the use of PVC.’ 

Short-run venture
Last year, Packology formed a joint venture called Revolution to specialize in the short-run application of shrink sleeves, especially when it comes to intricate designs and tricky shapes. ‘Cosmetics manufacturers have fast become this JV’s most faithful customers,’ says Collett. ‘Not only do we pay great attention to detail, but, more importantly, our acquisition of steam and radiant heat tunnels allows us to run trials and simulate customers’ packing environments during the product development phase.’ 

Continuous R&D is constantly expanding insights into the interplay between primary pack, product, film behavior and application method. This experience is further leveraged by offering on-site troubleshooting on a consulting basis. 

Packology has also developed a line of steam tunnels for converters whose existing tunnel lines are proving inadequate or for those whose volumes have grown sufficiently to move sleeve application in-house. Additionally, the company offers very short runs of digitally-printed sleeves.

In conclusion, Collett stresses that Packology has never deserted the product that gave birth to this entire market and started his company’s journey – the ubiquitous Fuji Seal shrink label. ‘We can produce hundreds of thousands of these unprinted sleeves on a daily basis,’ he sums up. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gill Loubser is Labels & Labeling's Africa correspondent, providing coverage of this important market for the label and package printing industry.

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