Johannesburg based Britepak, part of the Transpaco Group, is one of South Africa’s leading suppliers of folding cartons to the pharmaceutical and health care markets. The company established in 1973 is a far cry from the busy printing and converting plant that operates today with a staff of 140 and a machine park stocked by many of the leading international manufacturers.
Explaining the company’s decision to specialise in what is a relatively small area of the carton market, Managing Director, John Latter said: “We opted out of the high volume, packaging sector and focussed on value added offerings and building a good reputation among the major drug manufacturing companies as a reliable extension of their own plants, where industry controls are stringent and errors likely to have serious consequences on public health.” This policy restricted company growth somewhat, and by 2005 the partners in the private company sought a financial backer to provide investment capital to take the company to the next level. It found one in Transpaco, one of South Africa’s leading packaging groups, who were strong in flexible packaging manufacture and the production of cardboard cores and tubes, as well as having the only ISO certified plant for the manufacture of cast film for pallet wrap.
What Transpaco lacked was a dedicated carton converter, and in Britepak it secured the technical skills and knowhow of one of the best. This allowed Britepak to embark on a programme of new equipment installation that included pre-press, printing and converting technology. The result had a positive effect on Britepak’s existing customer base, according to Latter, because they saw a key supplier investing in new technology that would enhance the service it offered. Ownership by Transpaco also offered long-term financial sustainability, and the knock-on effect was more business and more resources to fund the next tranche of investment.
“We were aware that we needed to expand our product offering into new areas,” commented Sales Manager, Nick Swan. “We studied the market and elected to move into the food and confectionary sectors, but only for products that utilised the skills and quality control that is everyday practice for us in our pharma work.” One of the areas that proved attractive was the small but growing demand for Braille embossing on carton packaging for those who are blind or visually impaired. Unlike Europe, where EU legislation regulates use of Braille on packaging, in South Africa it is still voluntary. In spotting the niche, Britepak soon found itself in the unusual position of being a converter that was driving demand.
With various means of Braille application available on the market, Britepak eventually decided that, for reasons of quality control and fast make-ready, it made most sense to produce it on a folder gluer, and ordered a BOBST EXPERTFOLD 80, fitted with the company’s own ACCUBRAILLE unit. Installed at the end of 2011 it was, and remains, the only such unit in Africa, and according to Latter is currently showing an encouraging ROI with daily improved output, although the volume of Braille work passing down the line is still relatively small. “To us, it made no sense to emboss Braille on the die cutter because it reduced its production speed and disrupted other work. It’s also more accurate on the folder gluer,” he explained, “and meets the ECMA Euro Braille standards.”