Doubling-up In Serbia

Karteks is one of the leading manufacturers of corrugated packaging in Serbia – the third largest in the country, only behind two major international companies.

But like a lot of success stories, it has humble beginnings. The company was founded in 1991 by brothers Vojin and Zoran Petković in a small premises just outside Belgrade. In its early years, it developed made-to-measure corrugated boxes for a handful of local companies. With a consistent focus on quality and customer service, the company rapidly grew, establishing itself as a highly reliable manufacturer of corrugated packaging, with a particular focus on the food industry. The company also started specialising in large, complex boxes for, notably the automotive, furniture and civil engineering industries.

In 2010, they decided to meet some of their customers’ requests to deliver finished blanks and invested in a second-hand die-cutter from BOBST, an SPO 1575. Demand and business opportunities increased and in 2016 they decided to go a step further. Having been convinced by the performance of the SPO 1575 – which still runs efficiently to this day (pictured below) – the company invested in an EXPERTCUT 1.6.

An Instant Impact

“Our production quality and production capacity increased almost overnight,” says Dimitrije Petković, who has joined the family business and manages it with his father, Vojin. “It gave us the optimal accuracy, consistency and productivity that we needed to ensure we could meet the demand for die-cut boxes. Changeovers are also quick on this machine, which has been very helpful for fulfilling multiple short runs.”

The resulting growth for Karteks has been impressive. The company has grown from manufacturing 6,500 tons in 2015 to 15,000 tons in 2020, a 230% increase in productivity in five years. This has moved the company into the top league of corrugated packaging converters in Serbia.

But around five years ago, the company noticed a significant shift among the needs of their customers. “The market was moving away from RSC and towards more customisable, high-quality die-cut boxes,” explains Dimitrije Petković. “This development also explained the request for printed boxes. While we had always been able to manufacture boxes to tailored requirements, the sudden increase in demand made it challenging to produce such boxes at scale to the same high standards we pride ourselves on. Also, we wanted to meet our customers’ needs for shelf-ready printed boxes. So we knew we had to invest in the latest technology.”

In 2018, the company invested in a four colour FLEXO 160-VISION. They specified it together with a BREAKER separator and an EXPERTFOLD 165 folder-gluer. The printing line was further upgraded in 2019 with an additional colour, sheet cleaner and hot air dryers to ensure spotless printing with varnish.

“There are many advantages of having a complete Bobst production line,” says Dimitrije Petković. “Having a complete inline machine means that the time spent for production of orders is reduced to a minimum. In addition, the operators are familiar with the interface throughout the whole line.”

A Long-Term Vision   

“Sustainability and automation are the main driving principles for our generation. The production process is not excluded from this trend. With a higher percentage of automation in the production process, one can produce more for less time, effort and costs, thus being more sustainable,” said Dimitrije Petković.

Combining the Expertcut 1.6 with a Flexo 160-Vision and a Breaker allowed Karteks to create an almost fully automated converting line, reducing several production steps to one. User-friendliness also contributed to make work conditions at the Karteks plant more secure, reduce the workload and speed up make-readies. Indeed, specific equipment ergonomics allow easy access to different machine areas, facilitating operator intervention where needed. Moreover, the CUBE interface controls all functions of the machines, allowing the quick and easy setting of printing parameters. These features translate into short setup and changeover times, increasing productivity. At the same time, the resulting reduced lead times make sure clients can rely on tight delivery deadlines.

Karteks also appreciate the after-sales support. The Service Helpline is always available for advice and problem solving. With Helpline Plus, most issues can be resolved remotely and quickly. Having opted for the Connected Services option, the Remote Monitoring and Downtime Tracking also allow the company to survey and analyse their production data to optimise production. The availability of high-quality spare parts for all their equipment is also highly valued. “The Bobst technicians are familiar with both our lines and are therefore able to identify any issues quicker. This closeness and knowledge of our equipment, as well as the availability of support and spare parts is very precious and reassuring for us,” said Dimitrije Petković.

Further Investment

In 2020, Karteks invested in an additional complete Expertline, consisting of a Flexo 160-VISION with two colors, Expertcut 1.6 and Breaker. This line has freed capacity on the five colour line, which is utilised for the jobs requiring the highest quality.

“With every new piece of equipment, we have increased both our production quality and capacity even further, which in turn opens new doors in terms of our customers,” says Dimitrije Petković. “Now with two Bobst lines in place, we can deliver on all types of jobs, regardless of the quality or quantity required. We can also easily interchange printing plates and die-cutting tools between the two lines, reducing the costs and increasing the overall productivity of our converting facility.

“The last few years show that you cannot sit still in our industry – you must always keep moving to stay ahead of the latest trends for your customers,” concludes Dimitrije Petković. “It also shows the importance of choosing the best partners. Ever since our first interaction with Bobst, we have enjoyed a good relationship with the company and appreciate their technical and process support. Their machines give us a real competitive advantage. This has enabled us to grow to new heights, while maintaining the same philosophies of a family-run business that we have had since the beginning.”

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