Investing in three new flexo presses in Iceland

(Left to right) Samhentir Chairman Asgeir Thorvardarson and Manager Bjarni Hrafnsson, with Mark Andy European Sales Director Tom Cavalco.

ICELAND • Vorumerking, the label print division of Samhentir, one of Iceland’s leading packaging companies, has switched its letterpress roll-to-roll label production to flexo with the installation of three Mark Andy Performance Series presses.  A visit to Sudurhraun, near the island’s capital city of Reykjavik, revealed what prompted the new investment.

For a country ranked by the United Nations as the 13th most developed in the world, Iceland, and its location, is unknown to many people.  Situated 68°N and 21°W, it sits on the Mid Atlantic Ridge that divides America from Europe, which accounts for its volcanic nature, and is washed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream ocean current.  It is perhaps best known in recent times for the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, whose ash cloud played havoc with European airline traffic in 2010.


From its origins, in the 9th Century, Iceland had relied entirely on its fishing industry until the 1950s.  Today, the country’s output is comprised of fishery, various type of industry, tourism, and the creative industries.  Into this commercial environment Samhentir and Vorumerking offer a comprehensive packaging service that includes cartons, boxes, and bags, as well as operational supplies, and packing machines.  The Group also includes Vest Pack in the Faeroe Islands, and Tri-Pack Plastics in Grimsby, UK.

Samhentir acquires Vorumerking

As part of its commitment to provide a complete service to its customers, Samhentir, which translates as ‘coordinated people’, decided in 2011 to acquire Vorumerking, a local print production plant, and the take-over was completed in November 2012.  Established more than 50 years ago, Vorumerking produced roll-to-roll work on a series of multi-colour narrow web letterpress and flexo lines.  But, the advent of Samhentir required an expanded capacity to cater for both larger volumes and shorter run lengths – a combination of quicker changeovers, with faster production speeds.

Samhentir Manager, Bjarni Hrafnsson, who has a production background in carton and corrugated, decided to investigate the options.  “The Internet and You-Tube are great sources of technical information, and also provide access to existing users for reference.  In fact, it was a Mark Andy customer in the UK, Kingsway Printers, that proved most helpful, and, following extensive print tests on a P3 at the manufacturer’s showroom and demo facility in Macclesfield, we made our decision to order a Mark Andy Performance Series press,” he explained.

Up to that stage, according to Hrafnsson, buying and installing a used flexo press had been under consideration.  He continued: “The letterpress lines we had produced good print quality, but were not ideally suited to the type of work we have here.  Taking market trends into account, we actively sought out a press that offered the print quality our customers demanded, and was quick and easy for our operators to make-ready. ”

Investing in three new presses

What started out as an order for one press, quickly turned into three.  Two are Mark Andy P5 models and the third is a P3 – all have the 330mm web width.  One of the P5s is a film press, fitted with chill rolls, eight UV-flexo units, a die station and sheeter.  The second P5 is a label press, similarly specified, but without the chills rolls, and has cold-foil and turnbars on a rail system, as well as double die cutting facility.  The P3 is a two-colour film press, fitted with chill rolls, and is dedicated to one particular pharmaceutical job where it has increased production speeds fourfold, and according to Hrafnsson: “has paid for itself in less than six months!”

Key to the success of the Performance Series presses is the ease and speed with which they can be made-ready.  At Vorumerking, changeover times have typically shortened from three hours to 20 minutes.  Running speeds have trebled, and substrate waste has fallen by 20%.  “We have replaced five machines with three, and more significantly reduced the number of shifts required to handle the work from 15 down to eight.  We used to have 800 jobs waiting at any one time, now it’s nearer 250, and we’ve cut delivery times from two months to one week – it’s been a major step, both physically, and psychologically,” said Hrafnsson.

Both eight-colour Mark Andy P5 presses at Vorumerking have a 330mm web width – one of them is specified with chill rolls for film work.
Both eight-colour Mark Andy P5 presses at Vorumerking have a 330mm web width – one of them is specified with chill rolls for film work.

Savings and profit

Another cost factor, which is of relatively low importance in Iceland where energy is based on sustainable and recycled natural resources, is the low power consumption levels of the Performance Series presses.  According to Hrafnsson, the company’s electricity cost for the print department has fallen by more than 50% since the new Mark Andy presses arrived.  In fact, ink cost for the HD-Flexo work that the company’s investment in pre-press has allowed, is the only increase Vorumerking has seen, but even this has been amply offset by improved quality and greater consistency.

Already accounting for around 75% of the labels converted in Iceland, Vorumerking has its eyes firmly set on growth.  Obvious market sectors are those where printed packaging is currently imported into the country, and Hrafnsson sees the continued switch from wider to narrower web work playing into his hands.  “Narrow web is ideally suited to short run work across a variety of substrates from board to film.  We see growth in shrink sleeves, and the P5 press offers that capability, but most of all, the fast reaction time we can now offer has attracted work that we simply couldn’t undertake before the Mark Andy presses arrived,” he said.

 Looking ahead

The company is now seeking to maintain a steady and progressive growth pattern.  Its 9,000 sq/m production facility (set on a 50,000 sq/m site) includes a warehouse that holds two months of stock – with Samhentir handling more than 1000 x 40-foot containers each year.  Group turnover stands at €50m, of which Vorumerking accounts for 11%.  Group staff number 139, with 36 at the Vorumerking plant in Iceland.  Significantly, Hrafnsson has seen a change in cost breakdown with the new Mark Andy presses.  “Salary as a percentage of finished product cost has dropped from 28% to 24%, and materials from 39% to 32%.  These are important efficiency improvements, and we believe we can go still further.  It’s the justification we needed for the investment we’ve made,” he concluded.

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