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OPT leapfrogs competition

Chinese converter OPT aims to become one of the country’s leading players with a multi-million dollar investment in press and pre-press technology

In 2016, OPT, a converter located in Jiangsu province, leapfrogged its competitors by installing in quick succession a Gallus ECS340 10-color flexo press, an HP Indigo WS6800 digital label press, an ABG digital post-processing die-cutting machine and inspection equipment from Luster and AVT.

Established in 2003 and today employing 120 people, OPT is located in the Jinjiang Industrial Development Zone, Taizhou, Jiangsu Province. Although Taizhou is a less developed economic area in the north of Jiangsu Province, it is close to Jiangyin, and only 60km away from the transport and industrial hub of Wuxi, giving it excellent communication links with the rest of the country.

‘Before 2016, the annual sales of OPT were on average 30-40 million yuan [4.3-5.8 millionUSD] at most, and never exceeded 50 million yuan [7.3 million USD],’ said Xu Jiang, general manager of OPT, who led the establishment and continuous improvement of these advanced facilities.

When the company was formed in 2003, there were only two employees and a 1-color press producing mainly blank labels. In 2006, OPT purchased a Lintec intermittent letterpress and moved to its present plant, which covers an area of 20,000 sqm, with a floor area of 8,000 sqm.

Compared with the single-color machine, the 6-color web letterpress was highly automated and allowed the company to develop new business. This made a big impression on Xu Jiang, and from that time he embarked on growing the business by continually upgrading OPT’s production facilities.

‘The investment here is based on our own research and judgment of market trends,’ said Xu Jiang. ‘As long as there are good market prospects, it will be worth further investment.’

To date the company has invested more than 100 million yuan (15.6 million USD) in new equipment and factory facilities, including 30m yuan (4.3 million USD) last year alone. In 2016, OPT’s sales exceeded 70 million yuan (10.2 million USD).

OPT’s key end user markets include household chemicals, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and E-tag/label markets.

Investment

Besides promoting rising profitability, the company’s investments have had other beneficial results, changing the way it works. To take the HP Indigo WS6800 digital press – installed in first half of the year – as an example, it has been printing multi-color jobs incorporating variable data, allowing OPT to go after highly customized business orders. For example, not long after the installation of the WS6800 digital press, OPT completed an order for the Konka Group which involved printing, in a matter of days, three million pieces incorporating a variable series of numbers. To support this digital press, OPT installed an ABG double-station digital post-processing line and one turret rewinder.

The newly installed Gallus ECS340 is OPT’s first flexo press, and is used mainly for long run batch production, such as producing self-adhesive labels for household chemicals and foods.

This is a 13-unit machine, incorporating 10 color stations, one cold foil unit and one die-cutting unit. ‘This one flexo press allows us to produce and finish labels in one process,’ said Xu Jiang, ‘This machine mainly helps us take on big volume orders. When we are running the press at full load, two operators can realize an annual yield of 30 million yuan [4.4 million USD]. In addition, labor costs are greatly reduced due to highly efficient in-line production.’

It is estimated by OPT that overall efficiency in its printing production operation has been doubled compared with its previous facilities – and this does not include additional efficiencies achieved through automating post-processing/die-cutting operations.

At the same time as allowing OPT to enter the high-end customized label business, its investment in new equipment has freed up capacity to cope with a high volume of general orders. It is this ‘combination punch’ that has propelled OPT’s growth in such a highly competitive market. Today some of OPT’s long-term customers include DSM, Siemens, Watsons, Heilan Home and Hisense.

‘Previously, we took orders from any customer. Now we look at all aspects of the order and consider whether we should accept it,’ said Xu Jiang.

As well as upgrading its printing and finishing facilities, OPT has also upgraded its pre-press by installing an Esko CDI platemaking machine and an Esko pre-press software system.

Pre-press manager Xu Wenbin is a pioneer of this new approach, which allows jobs to be efficiently prepared for either digital platemaking or for the digital press. In addition, OPT has installed two sets of AVT Helios inspection machines. The AVT system currently allows for off-line checking of printed product against the proof before the final job is put into batch production, allowing a much more consistent quality standard to be achieved.

‘In the future, we will implement online quality control with the AVT system, which will automatically stop the press in the case of any defects, and this will help realize intelligent control of the whole production process.’

OPT also owns several Luster inspection machines for quality control of PS labels and complex electronic labels. In recent years, OPT has obtained ISO9001 Quality System approval, UL certification, ISO14001 environmental system certification and OHSAS18001 occupational healthy system certification. ‘Our target is to be the leading professional PS adhesive label manufacturer in China,’ says Xu Jiang. With this goal in mind, OPT will enhance its quality management, implement sustainable innovation and try to create more value for customers in their high quality and efficiency, yet sustainable facility and production process.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Liu is a former China editor for Labels & Labeling. He now serves as China project director.

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