Living in a post-war poverty stricken 1950’s London, Alan Roberts and his father William made a living out of turning discarded cardboard boxes inside-out, re-gluing and re-selling the boxes. Inadvertently, the East-End business borne out of necessity was actually recycling, generations before the rest of the industry even grasped the concept.
Wind forward 60 years from this father and son partnership selling cardboard boxes out of a van, and now the WE Roberts (WER) Group is the leading integrated manufacturer of corrugated cases, cardboard boxes, PoS and packaging solutions in the South East. Attaining a reputation as impressive, prestigious, and as inventive as its history, Northfleet based WER has established its business with skilled staff and investment in the latest technology. This technology now includes a new DYSS X5-1630T digital cutter from AG/CAD.
The relationship with AG/CAD dates back to 1998 when the Kent Company recognised a bottleneck with its sample making department. Employing a highly skilled sample maker that worked around the clock to design, draw and hand cut samples, WER identified the need to employ modern methods to stay ahead of its ever increasing sample demands. The answer in 1998 was to purchase a KASEMAKE KM602A cutting table from AG/CAD. Sturdy, capable and above-all reliable for almost 20 years, the old table was capable of producing up to 20 samples a day, a leap forward from hand cutting 5-6 samples a day. In September 2017, the KM602A was replaced for exactly the same reasons that it was installed 20 years ago.
A Growing Business With Evolving Demands
The requirement for a new digital cutting table is highlighted by the company growth over the last 10 years. As WER Financial Director, Mr Richard Puffette says: “For many years, we’ve focused on efficiency by investing in the latest technology. Significant investments like a new case-maker and a 2200mm Peters/Marquip corrugator have given us a manufacturing output of 36million square metres of corrugated board per year, up from 16million a decade ago and we have plans to grow the business by another 50% with the capacity we have, within the next few years. Added to this increased throughput, we have reduced our average lead-times from 10 days to just 5 days in the same period. We have doubled output, halved lead-times and only increased our staff levels by approximately 5% over the last 10 years. This is a pretty conclusive indication of how efficient, productive and cost-effective WER is.”
Eliminating the Bottleneck
Whilst the managerial strategy to increase output and generate on-going efficiencies is reaping rewards, the requirement for samples has climbed exponentially. This put greater stress on the design and sample division, in particular the ageing KM602A cutting table. WER acknowledged the bottleneck and eliminated it by replacing the KM602A with the new DYSS X5-1630T digital cutting table.
As the operator on both the KM602A and the DYSS X5-1630T replacement, WER Estimating Manager, Mr Josh Asbury says: “Our sales department is very pro-active and is continually requesting more samples. The old machine could only do around 20 samples a day and demand was outstripping capacity. I would be processing samples on the KM602A machine for more than 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. The new 3m by 1.6m DYSS X5-1630T can process more than 20 samples in less than two hours. We’re making samples at least 5 times faster than before and have plenty of capacity to support the company’s future growth plans.”
The DYSS has wiped out 75% of on-machine cutting hours for the Estimating Manager. The ISO: 9001 certified company now has capacity for sample growth and quality is significantly improved. Added to this, sample lead-times have been reduced from 24 hours to just a couple of hours.
Typical production runs for WER can vary from 5,000 to 25,000 boxes whilst the state-of-the-art case-making machine can process up to 17,000 cases per hour. As well as achieving such high production quantities, WER has the flexibility and capability to manufacture everything from retail ready packaging, shelf displays, industrial packaging, PoS, die-cut boxes, transit packaging and much more.
The Benefit of the DYSS
Whilst the processing speeds, lead-time reductions, labour savings and rapid pay-back period are justification enough for the DYSS purchase, the unforeseen benefits are far further reaching. As Mr Asbury continues: “As well as taking significantly less time to cut samples, the KASEMAKE CAD software, its comprehensive library of packages and boxes plus the remarkable ease-of-use are all factors contributing to reducing design times and overall sample lead-times.”
Specifying the DYSS X5-1630T digital cutter with the 2T-Head configuration that consists of an oscillating knife tool and creasing tool as the suitable replacement, WER worked closely with AG/CAD to identify the exact specification the company would require. Primarily processing corrugated sheets from B, C and E flute as well as double wall combinations of these flutes, the DYSS has a high-speed cutting tool and creasing tool that deliver a complete solution for corrugated sheet companies.
“One instant benefit was the improved cut and creasing quality. Our customers also recognised the drastic improvement in sample quality, something that has helped our sales division to convert more samples to production business. Whilst the dimensions of the DYSS X5-1630T are the same as the previous machine, the DYSS is more robust, rigid and powerful than its predecessor. This gives a solid, precision platform for high-speed cutting. This makes our samples more precise whilst the stability and high rpm of the cutting tool means we haven’t needed to change a knife blade in the four months since the machine was installed.”
“To put some perspective on this, we were changing blades almost daily on the old machine. Frequent blade changeovers require considerable setting time as well as an associated blade cost. Furthermore, we couldn’t replicate certain perforation rule and we suffered from inconsistent performance. By applying fine, high precision, tungsten carbide blades that run at high-speeds, our consistency, quality and repeatability are excellent and we can provide samples that reflect much more accurately what we will produce on our die cutters.”
The improved cut quality is also complemented by the innovative creasing tool on the DYSS machine. “We used to have to use different crease wheels for the different materials we process in order to cater for various parameters such as the flute, crease depth, width and pressure. On the old KM602A machine we would have to regularly change the crease wheels and manually adjust the wheel pressure to suit the board. Unfortunately, the poor level of control would often crack boards and liners or alternately the excessive creasing pressure would weaken the board. The new machine uses a totally different method so we get almost no cracking, great crease definition and we typically use the same creasing tool profile all the time, so there is no constant changing.”
Confidence for the Future
Looking toward the future strategy and growth ambitions of the company and how the DYSS machine fits into the business plan, WER Sales Director, Mr Ben Wilks says: “The sales cycle starts with the quotation process and the provision of a high-quality sample. With the old table, our samples couldn’t stand up against some of our competitors. With the DYSS, our sales team are confident that our sample quality will exceed that of our competitors. The DYSS also allows us to provide samples at remarkably short lead-times.”
“What the DYSS gives our business is the scope to exploit new market segments. We are now looking more strategically at the PoS, display and different packaging sectors. With the purchase of Scope Packaging Ltd into the WER Group in recent years, the DYSS also helps support that business with high quality sample making in a wide range of product types. We also have the capacity and speed to process low-quantity fast turnaround production runs that would have needed to go on a platen in the past. Creating dies for small quantity work isn’t cost effective and the DYSS makes us extremely competitive and reactive in this new target sector. We intentionally bought the DYSS X5 with the K-CUT Vision Pro system. The aim of this add-on is to target the print industry and achieve high precision and repeatability for turning around small quantity PoS work. We will need to continually review capacity on the DYSS, but we will certainly be using it as part of our armoury to target the digital print industry. In 2018, WER is targeting accreditation to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and we expect the certification and the DYSS machine to open new doors for WER during the first quarter of 2018.”