Since its inception more than 20 years ago, Smart Packaging Ltd has been on a growth trajectory that has culminated in a move to a new factory, investment in a casemaking machine and now the arrival of a new digital cutter from AG/CAD.
The Yate based business specialises in the design, production and delivery of corrugated cartons, boxes and packaging materials – providing a full line just-in-time (JIT) service.
The company has a philosophy of continuous investment to streamline production and enhance customer service. With production runs ranging from a few hundred to 50,000+ and a team of sales representatives continually generating new business.
The company had been running a sample table supplied by AG/CAD for over 15 years; a machine that delivered excellent reliability, service and consistent quality. However, when the machine started to have age-related issues, Smart took the opportunity to review the latest available options. Following an extensive review of the marketplace, the company, based just outside Bristol, opted for the DYSS X5-1625T.
Discussing the acquisition, the Head of Design and Production at Smart Packaging, Mr Jason Smithers says: “We are making anything from 100 to 150 samples a week for new and existing customers, so it is imperative to ensure our reliability, quality and speed of sample turnaround is maintained at all costs. By replacing an ageing cutting table, we addressed the issue before it really even arose.” However, the new DYSS X5-1625T has provided so much more, as Mr Smithers continues: “The new DYSS has a host of features that have made many of my daily tasks much more efficient. This goes beyond the productivity increase derived from the speed of new table; the benefits encroach on every aspect of the sample design and production process.”
As the head of design and production, Mr Smithers is the conduit between the sales team, the office, and the shop floor and his efficiency has been greatly enhanced by the new X5. “The old table would be running almost constantly trying to keep pace with the sample requirements of our sales team or it would be manufacturing small batches for transit tests. With the same demand levels, the X5 is probably only running at around 30% of its potential – giving us a huge capacity gain. The turnaround time has also been significantly improved and there are a number of factors behind this.”
Making a KASE for Software Upgrades
“The previous sample table didn’t have its own dedicated full CAD software to control the hardware. We had the full KASEMAKE design software in the office for designing and creating samples but the sample table was running on reduced functionality control software only capable of running existing jobs and operating the machine to pre-determined parameters. This meant that if I wanted to undertake small edits or alterations to a job, I would have to go back to make them using the KASEMAKE software in the design office and download them to the sample table, rather than have the flexibility to make changes directly at the machine. That added extra time and was certainly a real inconvenience, all of which has now been eradicated.”
“Not only does the new X5 cutter have the complete KASEMAKE design software incorporated on its integrated workstation, the machine is also controlled by its own software that runs in synergy with KASEMAKE. This allows me to go beyond design edits at the machine. I also have full control of the hardware within the cutting table. For example, I can program the bed suction levels by zones if necessary and I have full control of the cutting head, tools and the respective settings for the different materials we process.”
This flexibility enables Mr Smithers to utilise the numerous benefits of the new DYSS. Nowhere is this more apparent than the setting of the tools on the T-Head dual-tool configured machine. “The X5 has an integral automatic tool calibration system that enables it to calibrate each tool to a precision level of 0.001mm, far beyond that of the previous machine which had to be done manually. We can define individual tool parameters in the software to suit the board we are processing. The parametric resizable templates supplied with KASEMAKE have the entire FEFCO library of materials and designs, so regardless of design or material we can rapidly create a sample or prototype, either from the office or at the machine.”
From a hardware perspective, the configuration of the X5 cutting head and its ingenious design permits rapid tool changeovers, saving Smart Packaging significant time on every tool change. As Mr Smithers states: “With the previous table, tool changes could be laborious and time consuming. You only need to press a button, lift out the tool and then drop in the next on the X5. The creasing wheels are even easier to interchange with a quick-clip fitting that enables us to pop wheels in and out in seconds.”
The company now has three licences of KASEMAKE structural design software, with an additional eight licences of KASEADMIN. Referring to this, Mr Smithers says: “With the KASEADMIN package, our sales team can easily access the entire FEFCO library to demonstrate and discuss options with customers whilst on the road. The FEFCO parametrics within the software are exceptional and this streamlines our process from initial communication to sample production. We can turn an enquiry into a physical sample within a matter of hours.”
With a trade desk that is operated as a sales point for ‘drop-in’ enquiries, short -run orders can be turned around at speed. “We can rapidly determine the size and style of a package from the FEFCO library and generate a sample in a matter of minutes. With full production runs of 5,000+ boxes for example, the entire process from design to sample and through to production can be undertaken in as little as 5 days. Print and artwork approval can add additional days to the process, but having the KASEMAKE suite is helping us to reduce lead-times here also. If a typical product takes 5 to 10 days from concept to delivery, the DYSS and KASEMAKE software can shave off several days from the front end of our lead-times.”
Whilst the quality and rigidity of the DYSS range of machines are a given, Smart Packaging is recognising the quality and innovation built into the software and the technological advancements of the X5. “The combination of the innovations integrated into KASEMAKE software and how they complement the DYSS are factors we didn’t previously have the benefit of. An example of this is the ‘overcut’ compensation that is available in the KASEMAKE software for DYSS machines. This automatically factors in the width of the blades and the board flute to ensure minimal blade overcut. Sample quality was never an issue with the previous table, but we have certainly improved our precision levels, edge finishes and overall sample quality with the X5’s high accuracy tooling and tungsten carbide blades combined with the software overcut compensation feature.”
One area that the overcut compensation is benefitting Smart Packaging is with the reduction of waste. As Mr Smithers concludes: “The precision of the travelling axes of the machine is much improved upon the previous machine, add the overcut compensation and the precision automatic calibration of the tools and the benefit can be identified in waste reduction. Previously, we could nest a number of samples on the same board, but the spacing would have to be considerable to allow for precision deviations. If there was only a 5mm edge allowance, I would be sceptical about whether we could keep parallelism and not waste the sample. Now, we can cut with astounding precision that means we can nest more samples on each sheet and we have complete confidence in the precision of the new DYSS. This has reduced waste board dramatically.”
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