Nurscon Flexibles strikes gold at The GAPP Awards 2022

31 Jan 2024
  • Nurscon Flexibles; The GAPP Awards

Nurscon Flexibles (Pty) Ltd. was founded in 1991 in Longmeadow, Johannesburg, by Zuber Dosani with his brothers, Zaheer and Suhel. With Zuber, the owner, mostly being based in the UK, Dhiren Patel who boasts an extensive background in packaging that spans 17-18 years, which includes being in Kwazulu-Natal and Nigeria, was appointed as Managing Director in 2020.

The company initially produced basic unprinted plastic films to package flowers and plain white BOPP bags that you would get at the checkout counters when going to the shop. As the enterprise grew, it gradually brought flexible packaging equipment onto its floor that enabled it to provide printed packaging material. Its steady growth eventually led to the purchasing laminators, which made it possible to expand into the food market. Around 2015/2016, Nurscon transitioned into the manufacture and supply of direct food contact packaging material for predominantly confectionary companies.

In 2022, the business invested in three new plants, while replacing two of the old lines with new ones as well as bringing in one BOBST and two of Windmöller & Hölscher’s latest equipment from Germany. These new additions were purchased from a sustainability perspective, due to them consuming less energy and ink, as well as them having double exhaust systems so that if restrictions are introduced that limit the levels of solvents being emitted, then both machines are equipped to meet those requirements.

Said Dhiren Patel, Managing Director at Nurscon Flexibles, ‘Being proactive about sustainability, we felt that it was necessary to be prepared to meet any changes to legislation that can potentially come into play in the next five to ten years,’ he explained. ‘Thanks to the new equipment that we purchased, we are good to go for the next decade or so.’

The company’s capital investment in cutting-edge technology has enabled it to manufacture packaging for margarine, laundry powder, dishwashing liquid and sweets. It currently has four production lines at its headquarters in Longmeadow, two additional lines at its new site in Linbro Park and it is in the throes of setting up a third site in Swaziland, where the building is in its finishing stages and due for completion in February next year, with the machines set to be commissioned around May/June. To-date it has a staff compliment of 180 people between the two Johannesburg site and plans to employ an additional 60 people in Swaziland.

Nurscon currently has three flexo and three gravure presses, and it prints an equal quantity of jobs on both processes. Gravure is used for long term contract clients because of cylinders costing a lot more than flexo plates. It is also a lot easier to use and more stable for long run print jobs, whereas after a certain number of linear metres, flexo plates need to be changed.

‘With flexo plates being made of rubber, the plate wears as it runs, which affects the quality of the job and means that the print ends up looking different, as the run progresses,’ said Dhiren. Then when a new plate is loaded, the print goes back to how it was originally.’ He says that this doesn’t happen with gravure and even if the cylinder is used ten years later, you will still get the same quality output. The only wear and tear to gravure cylinders is damage like dents etc., which is the only time that it needs to then be replaced.

Dhiren noted that on a global scale, most of the flexo industry utilises the equipment of the top ten OEM suppliers in the world. This means that there is more than a fifty percent chance that other flexible packaging printers are using the same suppliers as their peers. The implication is that there is no magic or gimmick in producing quality work. The key differentiator is the skill level and concentration of staff, coupled with the involvement of management.

‘You will not get the same print if you try to save money by cutting corners,’ he elaborated. ‘The ink quality will drop thus making the colours less vibrant and in other instances, the material used may not be suitable for the kind of food products being packaged, which will have a negative impact on the shelf life of that product. As an example, material of an inferior quality will be unable to maintain the crispiness of biscuits or crisps.’

He continued, ‘When there are new entrants in the food product manufacturing space, they ordinarily do not know what the most suitable packaging material will be for a specific product. We need to find out what the use and the shelf life of the product needs to be and from there, we will structure which kind of raw material we should be using as well as how many layers needs to be incorporated in it.’

The enterprise supplies all flexible packaging and focuses on being able to produce the best of what it can offer. Print quality, timelines and efficiencies play a big part in this sector, and it all comes down to how flexible packaging printing businesses utilise their human capital.

‘A person can join Company A and another person can join Company B,’ he began. ‘Both companies are the same size, utilise similar equipment, inks and materials. However, Company B is successful whereas Company A is not – and it all comes down to the difference in the work environment and use of management styles e.g. staff are treated better etc. and this is what has determined Company B’s success.’

He continued, ‘It is a highly skilled job and if an operator isn’t mentally happy and is constantly thinking about his personal problems then he will not be able to concentrate at work, at which point you have a very big problem on your hands. Our printing equipment runs at 400 linear metres a minute, so if the operator doesn’t focus on the screen for even two minutes and something goes wrong, then at least 200 metres or 200 000 pieces of final product will have defective printing.’

To overcome this issue, Dhiren says that the company ensures that all its staff are happy, which has resulted in there being a very low rejection ratio. However, as an added precaution, it is also in the process of installing 100% print inspection systems.

Nurscon offers in-house design, where its graphic designer will receive a brief and put together up to one hundred designs that are then presented to the client, from which they will select their preferences. The company will then look at the contents and chemicals that will be going into the packaging, as well as the required shelf life of the product – and this is considered to determine the most suitable packaging material to be used.

‘We have most of the in-house testing equipment’s, otherwise we send the product out for testing to ensure that there will be no legality issues if the contents are unknown to us. From there we will offer 2-3 packaging options and the customer can then decide on the one that they favour the most. For low-volume or high-end product, customers tend to opt for a more costly form of packaging, whereas if it is for bulk or low-value product, they will decide on a more economical or cost-effective option,’ he expounded.

The company entered The GAPP Awards for the first time and walked away with a Gold, Bronze and three Achiever Awards at the 2022 edition that took place at Emperors Palace in March. Dhiren says that the company’s output and sales has more than doubled since 2020 due to improvement in production efficiencies, which prompted him to take the production & sales team, who were deserving of attending and experiencing the event. Naturally, the highpoint of the evening was being recognised as “The Pinnacle of Excellence” in more than one category.

He added that the company’s customer base is constantly growing because of how it has been successfully supplying flexible packaging to its existing customers, through providing exceptional quality and meeting deadlines, with there being very few instances of a job being rejected. He attributes this to the company’s meticulous approach towards its staff, inking systems mainly automatic temperature & viscosity controls, the raw materials being used, and the print inspection systems, while constantly monitoring the production process to ensure that everything is 100% correct.

‘The way that the Awards were presented was the best that I have ever seen,’ Dhiren raved. ‘It was special having only the Gold winners come onto the stage to be presented with their Award by the category sponsor. I liked the timing of the evening and the way that the event wasn’t rushed so that everybody in attendance were able to enjoy the moment. The layout of the venue was great, with everyone being able to see what was happening on the stage.’

He concluded, ‘We are pleased that we decided to participate in the Awards. The team was motivated for at least three months after the event and the publicity has been great. We have already started to put together entries for the 2024 edition of the Awards.’


Entries are opening soon for The GAPP Awards 2024 – The Quest for the Guardians of Print.  See you there!