Martin Automatic – OPM Group reports from its ongoing investment

Chris Ellison from OPM Group with a part of its Martin Automatic equipment (Source: Martin Automatic)

UK • OPM Group, a large British printer of labels and flexible packaging, reports from its experience working with Martin Automatics. In 2016 the company started with two MBSF automatic unwind butt, and an LRD turret rewinders, followed by a third MBS and a second LRD and its first MLS unit. Further installation will follow this year.

OPM Group is based in Leeds, UK and is owned by Chris and Susan Ellison. Established 40 years ago as an engineering concern, the Ellison’s acquired the business in 1988 and began to print plain and self-adhesive labels.  Then, in 1999, they added filmic substrates, laminates, and multi-layer flexible packaging production to the OPM portfolio.


The range of products manufactured at OPM is indicative of the company’s technical capability. They include multi-ply peel and reveal, peel and reseal labels, security, tamper evident, Braille, and tactile labels.  In addition to printing multi colours, decorative features including scenting, glow in the dark, screen printing, cold and hot foiling, embossing and holograms are a selection of the added value techniques on offer.  OPM’s flexible products include flow wraps, wet wipe wraps, high barrier laminations, lidding films, blister foils, pouches, and laminated sachets, all manufactured to exacting standards.

Martin Automatic was first asked in 2016

According to the companies, it was into this highly critical production environment that Martin Automatic was first asked to supply unwind and rewind technology back in 2016.  Following discussions with other converters, who rated the operational ease and reliability of Martin technology in everyday production, Chris Ellison and his technical manager Jamie Hyde decided to work with the American manufacturer.

First order

The initial order for Martin equipment was two MBSF automatic unwind butt splicers (the “F” stands for film), and an LRD turret rewinders, fitted to one of OPM’s Nilpeter presses.  One of the MBSF units is installed at right-angles to the press line to feed the second web.  According to Jamie Hyde, there was an immediate improvement in productivity of around 25%, and the Martin equipment has made life far easier for the operators to the extent that he is under pressure from those who work the presses not fitted with Martin kit!

Based on the performance of the first package of Martin machinery, OPM has since installed a third MBS and a second LRD. OPM’s first MLS, Martin’s non-stop, compact unit for continuous full-speed unwinding of laminate and foil rolls, has been mounted on Nilpeter’s rail system.  And in March 2018, another order was confirmed for two further MBS unwind splicers and another LRD.  These are due for installation in summer 2018.

Chris Ellison from OPM Group with a part of its Martin Automatic equipment (Source: Martin Automatic)

“Our focus is on added-value narrow to mid web complex products supplied to niche markets,” Chris Ellison explains.  Printing is carried out on different Nilpeter and MPS presses and the production process includes automated MIS and pre-press systems, and 100% inspection of finished product.  A portfolio of self-adhesive labels and flexible packaging is now delivered to more than 700 customers worldwide in sectors ranging from pharmaceutical, health and beauty, home care, automotive, beverage and food.

In 2012 OPM instigated its own in-house training programme. The quality of OPM staff has given Chris and Sue Ellison the confidence to allow key staff to lead, make decisions and manage the day to day running of the business effectively.  “There is always a temptation to micro-manage,” she said, “but if you empower the people to run the business within budget, they feel and act as if it’s their own – this allows Chris and me to focus on the future strategy of OPM, driving technical innovation and direction of sales.”

Currently producing around 34 million linear metres of material per annum, and with a current plant capacity of over 52 million, efficiency is key at all stages of production, and requiring of continuous investment.  Whether this is training, via its in-house Academy, the commitment to Lean Automated Manufacturing with TQM for zero defect production, or the consistency of control over all aspects of the business, OPM has largely defined itself as a model company – and not just within the narrow web sector of print.

The way in which it has custom integrated the processes from job estimating through to shipping and fulfilment is testimony to its working relationship with, among others, Esko, AVT, Ultimate solutions, GMG Colour Management, and GSE Ink Dispensing.  By harnessing the power of these diverse technologies into one potent force, OPM can be creative, innovative, and competitive.

Another of its proud initiatives is its “Zero Labels 2 Landfill” scheme, which was recognised by the BPIF, and involved a close working relationship with Prismm Environmental Services.  By auditing the system, processes and waste streams, and introducing a combination of segregation and onsite re-cycling technology, OPM has diverted waste from landfill.  As Chris Ellison commented: “We take our green responsibility very seriously and are proud to assure our customers that their labels are produced with as little impact on the environment as possible.”

“We are constantly looking for new technology that will allow us to be innovative.  This means working closely with our suppliers to find new and flexible solutions, and we value Martin Automatic’s input as a route to improving efficiency – it’s always good to work with market leading professionals.  Martin’s automation has enhanced our business agility, creating efficiencies that save time freeing us to innovate, automate and grow our business,” explained Ellison.

In 2013, the company moved to its present 56,000 sqft. site in Leeds, since which time it has invested more than GBP 5 million in new technology.  Today, the OPM Group employs 75 staff and will enjoy a sales turnover of almost GBP 19 million in 2018.

All OPM products are produced to ISO 9001:2015, BRC/IoP Global Standard Food Packaging Standards Grade AA, and PS9000:2016, and with food-safe low migration inks.

Currently, Chris Ellison is also the current president of the international label association FINAT – read an interview conducted by NarrowWebTech in summer 2017 in this post (part 1 of the interview with Chris Ellison, FINAT president).

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