Gulf Carton Factory Co. was established in 1994 and belongs to the well respected business group in Saudi Arabia, Al Jabr Holding Co. Al Jabr has a diverse business portfolio, including domestic distribution and representation for Haier Home Appliances and KIA cars, as well as activity in soft drinks, laundry, building materials, smart chip manufacturing and general contracting. Abdul Mohsin Al Jabr is Chairman of the company and his son, Meshari Al Jabr (pictured left) is the General Manager of Gulf Carton Factory Co.
Thanks to a well invested factory, Gulf Carton has complete manufacturing capabilities to produce corrugated board, trays, containers and more to fulfil the requirements of local dairy producers, food producers, soft drink companies, light industrials, agriculture and general commercial sectors. The food sector represents more than 60% of customer base, with many multi-national Brands being supplied by Gulf Carton in the region. The factory is located in Al Ahsa 1st Industrial City Hasa; the company also has sales branches in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah and agents abroad to cater for the requirements of overseas buyers.
By investing in the most advanced technology available, the 42,000 sqm facility has a production capacity of more than 90,000 tons per annum, has the capability to design and manufacture a broad range of high quality corrugated products. The company employs over 375 full time team members.
Gulf Carton is running two corrugators at its facility, including a 2.5m complete line from BHS Corrugated and a 2.5m machine from TCY. Both are able to run doublewall board.
In terms of the converting department, the company has a vast array of state-of-the-art flexo equipment, including a seven colour Bobst DRO 1628 RS, a five colour Bobst 924 FP flexo folder gluer, a four colour Bobst 618 Quatro, a five colour and a six colour DongFang Apstar 1624 rotary die-cutter and the two latest additions; a four colour BW Papersystems GGX 12600 flexo folder gluer and a five colour BW Papersystems GGX 15000 rotary die-cutter (which was installed in late 2020).
The five colour GGX 15000 rotary die-cutter was installed in 2020, but due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19, BW Papersystems engineers had to undertake final commissioning remotely, with the assistance of the operators at Gulf Carton.
“The last 18 months have been most challenging for our industry, due to subdued demand as a result of lockdowns and Government restrictions to control the pandemic,” explains Meshari Al Jabr. “Saudi Arabia’s GDP growth was -4.1 % during 2020. In addition to this, input cost increased drastically as a result of unprecedented paper price increase. Supply chain disruptions made paper availability a major problem and this is still continuing.”
He continues, “Where paper is available, we have had to pay higher prices and accept longer lead times. We also found that trying to get engineering technicians for machine installations and service was hard and our expat workers struggled as well due to pandemic related travel restrictions. Typically, during this time, our customers wanted lower prices while input costs drastically increased which affected margins heavily. But we are starting to see improvements, partially thanks to the installation of some new equipment.”
“We have a solid relationship with BW Papersystems through the original United Container Machinery company that they acquired,” recounts Charudutt Butala, who was previously Operations Manager (and remains a consultant for the Al Jabr family at Gulf Carton). “Our first United RDC was supplied in 1994 and for many years, it was the only RDC we had and it ran 24/7 to produce lightweight corrugated boxes for pizzas. It was also just as happy running heavy duty BC doublewall for fruit and vegetable trays. We ran the machine for almost 24 years without any serious issues. The operating costs with the machine were low, it was easy to run and we spent comparatively little money on spare parts for the machine during its entire life. The machine was reliable and rarely broke down; that’s why when wanted to get a new casemaker in 2017-2018, we chose BW Papersystems.”
He continues, “They offer reliability and low operating costs; these were the main reasons for us choosing their machines. Following the installation of the new machine in 2018, we chose another BWP RDC line for the same reasons, less than a year later. We believe they have the optimum level of electronic controls that perform well in the hot conditions of Saudi Arabia and we don’t have to replace electronic cards or other parts frequently as we found in some other machines.”
“Gulf Carton have good experience with our equipment,” explains Marco Angeli, New Equipment Sales Leader at BW Papersystems. “The company placed their faith in us once more by confirming the order for the new rotary die-cutter. The aim of the investment was for Gulf Carton to increase productivity and quality to grow its market share even further in the Middle East.”
“There were some delays in installation of the new flexo line due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, however at the end it was managed well with BW Papersystems, with occasional online support,” added Charudutt Butala (pictured right). “Their support has been most satisfactory. They had experienced installation and training technicians and whenever we needed it, we got remote support from them, especially for electronic issues or upgrades. We never experienced any delays in receiving parts from them either.”
Striving For The Best
Since its inception, Gulf Carton has committed itself to developing high standards of quality, technical expertise and most importantly customer care. “We are well known for our service and meeting emergency needs of our customers at all times,” explains Meshari Al Jabr. “Our facility is certified in line with ISO 9001 Quality Management System and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management System certification. We also have FSC certification.”
The company has built a large warehouse to store paper. It invests a significant amount of money in paper stock, as well as critical spare parts inventory so as to ensure uninterrupted deliveries to customers. “We also invest heavily in training and HR development, so that our operators’ skills are up to date with the changing market dynamics,” continues Meshari Al Jabr. “We regularly send our people to attend training courses, exhibitions and seminars abroad so that we remain up to date with current industry trends and upgrade our facilities as needed in order to provide the best possible quality and service to our customers.
Gulf Carton established a paper bag manufacturing division three years ago as a part of its diversification program. The paper bags are mainly supplied to restaurants and bakeries. “The market response has been very good and as a result, the division is being expanded gradually to meet increasing demand,” adds Meshari Al Jabr. “We have also started what we call our ‘CartonLab’ division. This business unit focusses on supplying various custom made products to customers in the region, such as innovative gift boxes made out of corrugated. This division also designs special products for special occasions such as Ramadan and promote them on social media using digital marketing tools.”
“Although CapEx is under review at the moment as we navigate out of the current crisis being caused by COVID-19 lock down and the effect to the local economy, we are committed to the ongoing development of our business, our product portfolio and our customer offering,” concludes Meshari Al Jabr. “The start-up of the new BW Papersystems flexo converting lines have certainly had a positive impact on our business and we are proud to extend our partnership with them in the Middle East territory.”