Kirwan planning disruptive flexible move

Kirwan Print Group is planning on a major strategic move, with the launch of a flexible packaging business set for the end of the year, which owner Roger Kirwan says will disrupt the market.

The new business will be branded under the Creatabull Flexibles brand, a new business division with the Kirwan Print Group, and will replace the Group’s current Roller Poster business. Kirwan’s trade label operation Foxcil Labels will continue as another division, as will its online sign print business Suddensigns.com.

Kirwan says, “Creatabull will offer service and turnaround times not ever seen in the flexible packaging industry in Australia.”

Kirwan is changing his role within the Group, and has moved into a new role Special Projects, handing the day to day running of Foxcil, Roller Poster and Suddensigns.com to the new general manager for the group, Carl Butchard.

Investment in the new flexibles busi­ness will run to $4m, and will include a press, new laminator, new slitter, and ancillary equipment. The company will double the size of its Brookvale factory.

Kirwan says, “There is a growing awareness from brand owners that new technology is enabling new opportuni­ties, in short run, on demand, variable data, flexo package printing.

“However for individual print compa­nies there are two high barriers to entry to get into this market; the high cost of machinery, and the high level of exper­tise necessary.

“Kirwan Print Group has the exper­tise, in fact my first entry into printing many years ago was in the wide web flexibles sector.” In addition Brent Robb from Kirwan’s first flexible company in Christchurch has also joined Kirwan in Sydney to help drive the project, as Creatabull’s production manger

Creatabull Flexibles will have a focus on the pouch market along with the form fill seal applications, which it believes represent a tremendous market opportunity for printers with the expertise.

Kirwan says, “Form fill and seal, and pouches constructions are complex, with two or three layers.

“Creatabull will disrupt the market by manufacturing high quality, short run, variable data, pouches, which will ena­ble our customers to exploit multiple new opportunities. For example think of coffee roasters, at present they cannot get short run pouches for their coffee, and there is a lead time of 30 days. Our new solution will enable printers to go to the market offering far shorter lead times and in run lengths that the coffee roasters want, and which will benefit their own marketing activities.”

As far as the financial barrier of entry – $4m is clearly a big bar to jump for any­one to enter a new market.

The Group has not yet decided on the make of print system it will implement, but it is close to making a decision. Kirwan says, “The new technology will take us straight to the head of the game, we will be providing Australian print businesses with a manufacturing solu­tion they do not have, that will enable them to offer new products to their cus­tomers. In these days where commodity printing has razor thin margins it is only in niche areas that printers can realise decent margins, and the new Creatabull Flexibles will offer that to them.”

Alongside the new flexible printing system Creatabull Flexibles is also investing in a new laminating system and a new slitting system, with the sup­pliers yet to be confirmed.

Kirwan has a track record of being an early adopter of new technology, he invested in the first Xeikon label press into Australasia into Kiwi labels and then repeated that investment decision when he started his Foxcil Labels busi­ness five years ago, and last year bought the country’s first Konica Minolta C71cf label press, to complement the Xeikon.

He says, “I set up Foxcil to disrupt the market, by enabling commercial print­ers to offer short run on demand label printing to their clients. My learnings from that were that it was important to be first into the market, and to offer print businesses something that their customers wanted. People then start to copy you, so having a secure foot in the market before then is important – we have seen that with Foxcil.

“Packaging is the fastest growing area of print, and short run on demand pack­aging is the area within the sector that has the most potential. The new Creatabull Flexibles trade offer business will enable printers to enter that mar­ket, without having to get past the high barriers to entry themselves, they will be able to use our expertise and our market leading equipment.”

Kirwan says: “To grow the business, I have needed to move from working in the business to working on the business. I have spent the last six months assess­ing the way forward for the group, and will need another six months of imple­mentation of our strategy.

“Foxcil continues strongly, and the trade only model for Foxcil is important to us. Most of our customers understand the importance of Foxcil being the only true full service trade-only label sup­plier, and our aggressive investment in latest technologies over the last few years for Foxcil has paid off as we have successfully disrupted the market in this space. We see no immediate changes for Foxcil.

“Widening the Roller Poster offer into Creatabull to best use our existing equipment and coupling it with the lat­est available technology is our next move – flexible packaging is the market we have chosen to disrupt next.

“Roller Poster is well known in the industry as the premier supplier of printed rolls of plastics – bunting / pal­let wrap / table skirts, hence the histori­cal significance of the Poster part of the name. The Poster reference does not though truly reflect our current offer now, and what we plan to bring on board in the coming months. Essentially Roller Poster we will be turning into a full service flexible packaging company – with a modern twist – and our name needs to now reflect this.”

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