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Automation maximises performance in label production

Italian label converters Pilot Italia of Cornate d’Adda is committed to offset printing and has automated its production with unwind and rewind technology from Martin Automatic.

Nick Coombes

Success against the trend

When Pilot Italia was created in 1968 as a branch of the French parent company, few could have predicted how successful it would become in the years that followed. Fewer still could have foreseen that this success would be achieved against the trend of flexo printing, by using primarily narrow web offset presses.

Purchasing manager at the Italian plant, Angelo Manfredini, explained the company’s investment strategy: “Back in the 1990s the quality obtainable from narrow web flexo was no match for the rotary letterpress technique that was losing favour. HD-flexo and all the improvements it brought lay many years ahead, so the decision was made to use offset. It’s a standardised process with inexpensive pre-press and an established reputation for high quality – it also fitted perfectly with our top-end customer base.”

As the business grew, a larger site was acquired early in the new Millennium before the company settled into its modern 20,000 sqm facility in 2012 at Cornate d’Adda, just east of Milan. Today, the plant houses 11 multi-colour offset lines along with flexo and screen capability in combination as well as hot and cold foil and embossing. The company also retains rotary letterpress technology for specific jobs.

Despite the advances made in the flexo process, the company still believes that offset provides it with an edge in today’s competitive label market. “Our technology and expertise is all geared towards maximising performance – and it has been a very successful formula here,” concluded Angelo Manfredini.

Angelo Manfredini (left), seen here with Martin Automatic’s Ed Pittman, says Pilot’s technology is all geared towards maximising performance
Angelo Manfredini (left), seen here with Martin Automatic’s Ed Pittman, says Pilot’s technology is all geared towards maximising performance

Improving production efficiency

From early in the company’s life, Pilot Italia looked to improve production efficiency on its rotary web presses by incorporating roll handling on some of its older models. In 2007, as it was installing new presses it opted to investigate what improvements in automated performance could be achieved.  After intense market evaluation they decided for devices provided by Martin Automatic.

The result is that eight years on, Pilot Italia has invested around USD 800,000 with the American manufacturer and has three Martin MBSF (F for Film) unwind/splicers and four LRD rewinders fitted to several of its Nilpeter MO and Drent VSOP presses. “We estimate that the Martin equipment shows a time and material saving of at least 10% on our longer run work, and more on time with the shorter runs. The equipment also improves the efficiency of our inspection/rewind department as we can eliminate the amount of waste that is  often removed from the rolls at the inspection machine, which slows down the process – and, we can more easily isolate bad labels,” he added.

The Martin automatic MBSF automatic splicer shows a 10% saving in time and materials on longer runs, and more on time with shorter runs
The Martin automatic MBSF automatic splicer shows a 10% saving in time and materials on longer runs, and more on time with shorter runs

Aimed at high quality markets

Pilot Italia’s work is all aimed at the high quality markets of cosmetics, personal, health and home care, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals, with the company offering a range of products from its 11 narrow web presses including self-adhesive labels, blister films, pharma labels, tracking and security labels, and promotional tags. With a web width range that spans 120 mm to 520 mm (4.7” to 20.5”) the company is well placed to handle most types of work, of which currently 40% is produced on paper-based substrates and the remainder on filmic materials. The company uses stochastic screening for enhanced high quality, and operates a double-day shift pattern to produce over 1.5 billion labels each year.

A strong supporter of FINAT

Now rated amongst the elite of Italy’s self-adhesive label printers, Pilot Italia has long been a supporter of FINAT, with company owner and Chief Operating Officer Andrea Vimercati a past resident of the organisation.

Armin Karl Geiger

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