With the shrink sleeve market recording annual growth of between 6 and 8 percent, Hammer Packaging, located in the city of Rochester in New York State, USA, invested in a brand-new VSOP web printing press from Muller Martini with nine printing units and an additional flexo unit.
1972: USD 3 million / 1992: USD 19 million / 2012: USD 105 million – A look at the turnover figures of Hammer Packaging shows how dynamically the family business, which was founded in 1912, has grown in the past decades. Sales figures grew by 20 percent in 2012, the year of the company’s 100th anniversary, and President and CEO James E. Hammer is anticipating similar growth in 2013. “The entire packaging market is experiencing a healthy growth”, says the grandson of the company founder. “Globally, growth in the shrink sleeve label segment is expected to be 6% to 8% annually.”
Hammer Packaging entered the shrink sleeve business segment for the food and drink industry, including big-name companies such as Dr Pepper, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and Minute Maid, six years ago. It did so with a VSOP, followed two years later by a second web printing press of the same type. Since these were nearing their limits in terms of capacity and Hammer Packaging had positive experiences with offset printing, the traditional company invested last year in a third web printing press. “As far as our business is concerned, we’re convinced by offset printing and its tried-and-tested technology,” says Jim Hammer. “Offset offers considerable advantages over rotogravure printing, not least in terms of pre-press costs.”
The Ideal Machine...
Before opting for the new VSOP from Muller Martini, experts from Hammer Packaging performed extensive tests on the machine at Muller Martini’s Training Center Presses in Maulburg, Germany. They brought with them a special list of requirements featuring 20 items for the new printing press. “Muller Martini fulfilled virtually all our requirements to our satisfaction and proved that the VSOP is the ideal machine for our business segments,” says Hammer.
Moreover, as Hammer explains, “Muller Martini has made some important technological upgrades to the VSOP.” One particular innovation is modern control technology. Thanks to the application of Muller Martini control topology in the VSOP, the reliability of the machine has been increased and considerably fewer components are in use. That simplifies both operation and maintenance. The sleeve positioning improvement in the printing units reduces wear and tear on the air shaft in the case of frequent size changes.
...for Long and Short Runs
The packaging printing specialists from Rochester were particularly struck during the demos in Maulburg by the versatility of the new printing press. “The VSOP can be set up quickly for new jobs, reaches a high production speed fast and enables highly efficient changeovers between long runs and short runs,” says Hammer. The days when shrink sleeves and packaging labels were printed for a whole year in runs of millions of copies are long gone. Today, there is demand for smaller, more varied print runs, enabling in particular drinks producers to compete for the attention of consumers at the point of sale with 360-degree packaging or tempt them to take part in competitions. “For us, that trend has three implications,” says Hammer. “First, we need to print at high speed. Second, we need quick changeovers. And, third, we need to react flexibly to the wishes of our customers.”
For that reason, as the President and CEO explains, it is ideal for Hammer Packaging, which produces for customers in North America and Mexico, that the new VSOP has a flexo unit and nine printing units, as well as hot-air and EB drying. “Thanks to the combination of offset and flexo in the same printing press, we can print unique products that our competitors cannot produce in a single operation. That’s extremely important to us because there’s fierce competition on the shrink sleeve market in the USA.”
In order to keep increasing its productivity and be on the lookout for new production forms, Hammer Packaging, with a staff of 425, who work in three shifts in production, five days a week or, at peak times, seven days a week, has its own R&D team. “That means we not only provide technical support to our customers,” says Hammer. “We also research new substrates, printing inks, coatings, printing techniques and methods of application because we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. In order to grow further, we need to be an innovation leader with regard to new products, new technologies and new machines, true to our company motto: ‘Listen. Learn. Lead’.»
In addition to numerous other Hammer specialties, in-mold products at Hammer Packaging, produced using an injection mold procedure, have gained considerably in importance. The printed drink cups that fans purchase in American baseball stadiums and take home as souvenirs are a typical example.