It is the desire to be at the forefront of technology and a customer-centric approach to service which has led to Simply Cartons’ strong foothold in the evolving carton market and a partnership with BOBST.
Since purchasing the business in 2006, Craig Mather, Managing Director, has invested significantly in Simply Cartons’ two sites in Nottingham, UK, to create highly efficient systems and operations. Over the past four years, this has included six machines from the Bobst portfolio, which has been developed to support customers of all sizes, handling jobs of varying complexity and run lengths.
Following a machine demonstration in Switzerland in 2015, and discussions between the two parties to enable Bobst to fully understand the needs and future direction of the Simply Cartons business, the first die-cutter, an EXPERTCUT 106 PER was installed in 2018. This was followed by a further two of the same machines and two MASTERFOLD 110 A3 folder-gluers, all installed in 2019 and 2022, and a VISIONFOLD 110 A2 folder-gluer earlier this year too.
“Over the years, our philosophy here at Simply Cartons has never really changed about the type of customers we partner with and the jobs we look to deliver,” said Mather. “However, the way that we operate and achieve success has. We focus on the complex and intricate carton production that some manufacturers look to avoid. It has never been about increasing throughput or speed in terms of volume; our business is built on our reputation to deliver superb, high-quality cartons that require a high degree of accuracy, right first-time.
“After the first Bobst machine went in, it ran well straight away and I turned to them and said, ‘I’d like the same again please’. That was the start of our relationship and it’s grown ever since,” added Mather. “The machines deliver what Bobst says they will and that’s vitally important to us. We are not part of a big group, but our customers rely on us just as if we were – and rightly so. We cannot afford to let them down on quality or delivery, so we need machines that are reliable and efficient.”
Mather continued, “The first 18 months of our relationship was a real learning curve for both Bobst and us. It really set the tone for our whole journey together over the past few years. We have an open and honest relationship. They have to understand our vision and where we want our customers to be. For our team here, it’s about understanding how we can get the best performance from the machines and recognising that sometimes we need to change the way we do things to get the best results.”
Simply Cartons employs more than 175 people and produces packaging for a range of markets including beverage, food, confectionery, personal care, fragrance and health care. Around 70% of its cartons are designed for premium and luxury brand or private label ranges.
“To deliver the level of quality required by our customers, we need to be at the forefront of technological innovation,” said Mather. “I like technology; I see it as important in today’s world and a true enabler to success. My focus has always been about re-investing money back into the business so that we can have the best-in-class machines that can deliver the cartons our customers require. While we have increased capacity, it has been achieved through choosing the best kit for our needs, not through increasing the number of machines we have on site.”
Since taking over the business in 2006, Mather, who started out as an apprentice in a print shop, has overseen an increase in turnover in excess of £20m, but he would stress that the turnover is not the driving factor.
“Flexibility has to be at the forefront of our operations,” said Mather. “It’s about what we and our machines can deliver for our customers when they need it. We must be dynamic and agile to market demands and as a result, we run a very lean operation. Most of our growth over the years has been organic, from existing customers, but we can put our continued success down to our strong relationships with customers and suppliers. The challenges our customers face become our challenges and we have found a partner in Bobst which doesn’t shy away from its responsibilities as a key supplier. In recent times, we have encountered the pandemic and the resulting paperboard shortage, which resulted in our customers’ markets changing and therefore having to change the way that we work. The team at Bobst understands our business well and, when we need to adapt, they are right with us, looking at our options and how we can optimise machine performance or where we need to think about investing next to stay efficient and future-proof our company.”
The introduction of Bobst machinery has also played a role in ensuring Simply Cartons can upskill its workforce. “We are at the cutting edge of carton production,” said Mather. “From the apprentices we train, to the operators that have been with us for many years, our commitment is to give them skills that they won’t learn anywhere else. Of course, what happens on the production floor extends throughout the entire business, so the whole Simply Cartons team is empowered and feels the benefit.”
Lee Alton, Area Sales Manager, Bobst, added, “Our relationship with Simply Cartons has grown and developed over a number of years. Even before the first purchase was made, we were working together to gain a greater understanding of the business and how BOBST can support the team’s goals and objectives. It’s been a great journey together and fantastic to see the machines making a real difference to the Simply Cartons business, its employees and customers.”
For Simply Cartons, the journey is set to continue with Bobst. “We have already started talking about ‘what next?’ and a new die-cutter is a potential addition to the production floor in 2023,” concluded Mather. “We never stand still as a business and always look at how we can improve our processes and offer to customers. Our growth is definitely more through evolution rather than revolution, and that’s an approach that has continued to deliver success for us over the years.”