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Grafotronic readies itself for growth

Grafotronic’s Mattias Malmqvist, Håkan Sundqvist and Tomasz Skrobik open the company’s latest factory extension in Poland

The finishing equipment specialist has made rapid progress since relaunching its portfolio a little over two years ago

At a recent meeting at its facility just outside Warsaw, Poland, Grafotronic gathered its agents from around the world to present the company’s latest developments.

Chief among these was a new extension of the factory where the meeting was being held. This has added 870sqm, taking the total floor space up to 2,320sqm. This allows the company to produce 21 machines at a time in the factory.

‘This should provide us with enough capacity to meet demand,’ opines Håkan Sundqvist, president at Grafotronic. ‘Although we do have the possibility to extend again in 2019.’

Such growth is indicative of the path that Grafotronic now finds itself on, having decided in 2015 to redesign its machinery and processes to create a lean and efficient supplier of finishing equipment largely for the digital printing market. Its machines are now fully modular and automated, with short set-up times and high productivity at their core. Modules such as the 160m/min GigaFast semi-rotary die-cutting unit are examples of this. The first machine from this new generation was shipped in April 2016. More than 130 have now been installed worldwide.

‘It was a big upfront investment to redesign all of our machines,’ notes Sundqvist. ‘We took six months to refocus and rebuild. Now, production is like an industrial system.

‘In parallel we are developing new products and technologies, that are better and faster, and our service organization. We employ 15 engineers to develop new machines and modules with customers.’

New products in development include a flatbed screen and hot foil/ embossing modules designed with the wine and cosmetics markets in mind, and Q-Load, an automatic side-loading system for the quick change of magnetic die-cutting cylinders.

Sundqvist continues: ‘We are investing in the future, both of our company in production and our customers with future-proof technology. It says a lot about how the market is developing when we are hearing how customers are prepared to write-off an investment in inkjet in half the time they are prepared to reinvest in finishing. This means we as a supplier must prepare our technology for the future and provide options to suit or customers’ needs in the coming years. Our concept fits this nicely.’

This all supports Grafotronic’s efforts to offer market-leading lead times for finishing lines, around eight weeks. Mattias Malmqvist, vice president of sales, identifies current lead times as having a major impact on the digital printing value chain: ‘When you invest in a digital press and then have to wait 10 months for the finishing equipment to support it, that is counterintuitive to the reason you might invest in digital printing technology and impacts the ability of a printer to serve its customers.’

Demonstration center

The additional space provided by the latest factory extension allows Grafotronic to house a permanent customer demonstration center that is available to its agent network for system trials and demonstrations. Multiple converting lines are installed in the factory, such as DCL2 and SCF2 digital finishing lines, and HI2 and Pharma2 inspection machines, showcasing semi- and full-rotary printing, foiling, laminating and die-cutting. A GigaFast module is on show, as are Bobst MX3 rotary flexo printing units integrated into a DCL2 line. ‘The demonstration center is already proving its worth,’ says Malmqvist. ‘We want to see our agents from around the world bring customers here as it is important to demonstrate the technology and run customer-specific trials on their own materials.’ Grafotronic’s lead markets are in Europe. While it is also selling machines into Asia, South America and Africa, lately it is turning its attention to North America. Labelexpo Americas 2018 will be good for us,’ Sundqvist states.

Growth in America

Grafotronic sees big opportunities for its technology in the US, where it has recently appointed Mike Bacon as its new director of sales. He has joined Grafotronic from Spartanics, where he spent nearly two decades in sales and marketing roles. In his new role, Bacon joins Gerry Nigg, managing director of Grafotronic’s US subsidiary, in supporting the company’s growth in North America. The establishment of an assembly plant in the US staffed by trained technicians is in the pipeline.

Sundqvist says: ‘We’re really happy to have recruited Mike. He is a well-known name and has vast experience that will benefit us. We have big hopes for that market, and the target for us is to grow rapidly over the next couple of years.’

The North American market is to account for 20 percent of Grafotronic’s orders in 2018/19, with 65 percent going to customers in Europe and the remainder into other markets.