KBA-Iberica Optima 106 K Die Cutter provides “staggering improvements” to productivity at Ellis Paper Box

Left to right are Tom Fitzgerald, KBA-Iberica Manager; Mike Gibson, Ellis Paper Box Plant Manager; and Dave Ellis, Ellis Paper Box President.
From left, beside the Optima 106 K Die Cutter from KBA-Iberica, are Tom Fitzgerald, KBA-Iberica Manager; Mike Gibson, Ellis Paper Box Plant Manager; and Dave Ellis, Ellis Paper Box President.

In today’s folding carton industry, manufacturers are continually challenged by customers who request unique, value-added features. It becomes even more demanding when those customers are top international pharmaceutical firms. Canadian packaging specialist Ellis Paper Box (Mississauga, Ontario), the largest privately-held manufacturer of folding cartons, has made it its mandate to understand the demanding standards required by the pharmaceutical industry. “We’re successful due in part to our commitment to the industry, commitment to our employees, and our relentless pursuit to remain the most progressive carton company in Canada,” said President Dave Ellis. “We offer a total in-house capability to control all aspects of structural design, electronic proofing and die-making. Our three-phase electronic verification is critical to our assurance of full responsibility for product quality and compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).”

That thought process was critical in the purchase and installation of another new Optima 106 K Die Cutter from KBA-Iberica last summer. The purchase is part of the Ellis Group’s investment in new, automated, high-speed die cutters across its three facilities (with another new die cutter purchased from KBA North America being installed at a sister facility, Ellis Packaging, later this year). The Ellis Group has facilities in Pickering, Mississauga and Guelph, Ontario. Over the past several years, Ellis Paper Box has detected a number of important trends that are impacting its 60,000-sq.-ft. Mississauga facility’s production throughput. Being focused on pharmaceutical work is never simple, but Ellis has maintained a consistent and growing client base due to its well-honed quality processes and expertly-trained employees. By regularly adding new equipment, the firm has become a “one-stop shop” producing as little as 500 cartons with spot colours, to five million eight-colour specialty work with inline inspection. With its international clientele, a variety of languages imprinted on the boxes is no problem due to its 100% inline carton inspection systems.

Recently, new legislation required that all pharmaceutical boxes must be redesigned to include additional compliance information for plain English text. Ellis has been instrumental in working with its clients to increase the size of the folding carton, or add a fifth panel to existing styles to accommodate this legislation. In addition, its over-the-counter packaging is being designed with more value-added properties – such as inline cold foil and hot foil, embossing, inline Braille, and specialty coatings such as matte and high gloss. “The KBA-Iberica Optima 106 K Die Cutter has become our workhorse in the die-cutting department,” Ellis added. “It’s capable of handling production of paper, cardboard, plastic and corrugated boards up to 1.5 mm. It’s running at 8,000 sheets per hour and we currently operate it two to three shifts per day, five days a week. Our preference is to schedule all jobs containing detailed embossing and critical print to cut registration on this new machine.”

Ellis has also carefully recorded the machine’s efficiency and savings. For example, it witnessed a 63% increase in throughput and a 32% increase in run speed compared to the last six running months, over a previous machine. This allows Ellis to provide faster speed-to-market and get products to its customers in two weeks or less. It has recorded a 20% to 40% reduction in make-ready times as well. Ellis is also blanking more difficult jobs, thereby reducing its stripping costs by $35,000 per year. “The improvements to our die-cutting department have been staggering,” said Ellis. “Due to the Optima 106 K’s increased automation, there are less tools involved and our employees are pleased with its push-button automation. Our quality has improved due to this new die cutter and we have no downtime because the machine is so dependable. Improvements to uptime and quality have resulted in an improved bottom line. The new die cutter from KBA-Iberica has had a fantastic impact on our company.” Ellis also noted that the Barcelona, Spain-manufactured machines are strong and well built. “We felt that KBA-Iberica was moving in the right direction. We were sold on their commitment to producing a quality product. As our machine was being installed, the training for our crew was fantastic and if we had any questions or issues, they were responded to immediately.”

Ellis and his management team have set high business goals for his firm’s future. “Five years from now, The Ellis Group will be the largest manufacturer of folding cartons in Canada,” he predicted. “It’s due in part because we listen carefully to our clients to understand what drives their business. We have learned a lot about the challenges they face, from considerations in package engineering through to distribution issues. We recognized that to be truly different from our competitors, we needed to provide services that not only meet, but actually anticipate and solve these challenges. When a customer describes our firm, they use words such as quality, service and value.”


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.