According to Paul Larkin, Operations Director at Coalville based Hamilton Adhesive Labels, the key to success is long-term strategy not short-term returns – and he speaks with more than 45 years of experience in the business, during which time he has developed a well-honed technique for the measurement of production control that assesses every element of the process from inks to plates, anilox rolls, substrates and so on – including die tooling.
What prompted this comment was an explanation of why the company has switched from buying die tooling on price to taking a close look at the true ROI figure. “Why do I buy a higher priced die? Because it offers the best value for money! We’ve seen a 30% increase in job throughput here since we made a number of improvements in production. This includes the switch to Rotometrics’ tooling that has seen a significant drop in downtime caused by the need to repair or replace dies,” he explained, stating that one job of 300,000 linear metres in run off with just one Rotometrics die, compared typically with the seven that were required before.
He first looked at what Rotometrics had to offer when he became concerned at the lack of consistent quality being offered by the existing die tool supplier. “To maximise efficiency, you need to have common quality throughout – it’s all about predictability, otherwise all calculations become guesswork and that hinders rather than helps productivity and business management. You can’t build a secure business on unstable foundations – it doesn’t make sense,” he added, saying that one of the biggest hidden costs is waste, both of material and time.
Because many people consider die cutting an ancillary process, it is frequently not analysed for efficiency, which Larkin believes is a serious mistake. But he also knows that upfront costs tell only a small part of the whole story. “I estimate Rotometrics dies cost 10% – 20% or sometimes more to buy, depending on the application – but because they last exponentially longer, they are by far the most economical to use,” he stated. And by taking one more variable out of the equation, he knows that his projections make for a more accurate base on which to run the business.
Label production at the Hamilton plant is based on three MPS and three Nilpeter narrow web presses with two ABG print and converting systems. These generate demand for a large number of dies, and according to Lee Hadley, Rotometrics’ Sales Manager for the area, almost 400 flexible dies were supplied to Hamilton in the period September 2018 to October 2019. These were predominantly Rotometrics’ AccuStar Life dies with the Flex Premium longevity coating. Based on Paul Larkin’s earlier statement, it’s easy to understand the size of the saving.
“We really value our strong working partnership with Hamilton. Paul is a highly respected and knowledgeable figure within the industry, so we had to work hard through extensive trials to prove that our flexible dies outperformed the competition in terms of longevity. His comparison of seven competitor dies to one Rotometrics die for the same job is proof of this in real-time production,” explained Hadley.
It will take another two years or so for Hamilton to convert completely to Rotometrics tooling, at which time Paul Larkin will be able to put a precise value on his decision to switch suppliers, but working numbers to date show a significant improvement as he highlighted: “We analysed one large job that we run on top coated thermal material and found that our previous dies were averaging 440,000 metres each, whereas the Rotometrics flexible dies that we use now give us 1.2 million metres each – that’s a major improvement in efficiency and reduction in production cost.”
Founded in 1992, and still under family ownership, Hamilton Adhesive Labels generates more than £12m worth of business from its 40,000 sq/m site in the East Midlands, where it employs a staff of 65. Principal products include plain and printed labels for the food & drink, industrial, automotive, personal and household care sectors, and the business is now held up among label converters as a model of measured production management.