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29 Mar, 2017

Tis an Irish proverb that fits the O’Sullivan family, the owners of the multi-disciplined Abbe Pty Ltd in Coolaroo Victoria.

Not one minute of time has been wasted since the family patriarch, the late “Jack” O’Sullivan, commenced manufacturing corrugated containers in 1954.

The original company was sold off during the heady days of consolidation in the industry during the 1980’s, but too much time had been spent in the business to simply go away.

In 1988, the family established Abbe Design Pty. Ltd. as a box converting business thus maintaining the family connection with the corrugated cardboard industry. It has since been rebranded Abbe Pty Ltd

Not wasting time in the nearly twenty years since, the business has gone from strength to strength. It was a select group from the Australian Institute of Packaging [AIP] that was welcomed to a site visit in mid-February.

There is a saying “almost everything you touch today will have been touched by packaging before you”. So diverse are the industries supplied by the company, without fearing contradiction, the last “you” in this statement could read Abbe Pty Ltd.

Keith Chessell, on behalf of the institute welcomed guests and thanked Abbe for allowing the site visit. Andrew Owens, the company Sales and Marketing Manager, gave an overview of the company and then led a tour of the plant that took place over the next two hours. The culture of the company is customer service and this showed up immediately as the visitors were broken up into three small groups each accompanied by a senior executive.

Impressive was the “Single-Pass” Digital Print operation [trademarked and advertised as “Impression”] the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s at the forefront of digital printing technologies around the world with the ability to produce huge quantities of print every hour.

Digital technology delivers cost advantages as no plates are required with very quick set up and advantages beyond the start. They can supply you a sample, using the stock that will be used in manufacture and even a file showing what will be provided. It is not much different than office technology where “cut and paste” is an everyday time saver, but much more sophisticated and expensive.

We were given the advantages and shortcomings of digital and flexographic printing. The former is advantaging Abbe as a major plank of their service is to be able to cater for small runs of around 400 units or a hundred times that volume.

The technologists amongst the audience were astounded when they saw a change of “text” during the printing process. All that was needed was to change the file and the new text took over. The high quality of the colour on the finished articles was exceptional and when seen on the largest sheet sizes [1890mm x 3000mm] available without blemishes it is even more breathtaking.

Abbe does not manufacture paper but has a very sophisticated corrugating machine that delivers material to the company’s exact specifications. Made and stored on site and only transported internally by specialised equipment, the quality and integrity is assured.

Folding cartons, point of sale display bins, shelf ready packages, pizza trays and delivery cartons are all produced at Coolaroo. The   manufacture of each and every unit relies on die cutting of a sheet and then creasing and folding, all of which are done on highly sophisticated machines. [One such machine is an EMBA  Quick Set Flexo Folder Gluer]

Under each die cutting station is a scrap collection gutter that contains a conveyor system. This takes the scrap away to a baling station from where it is sent off to a recycler for remanufacture into paper. The whole manufacturing floor is clinically clean!

This is just one of the company initiatives; to reduce its carbon footprint. The use of chemicals is very low and water is recycled. Led lights are used throughout the factory to give the best working conditions at minimal cost.

The success of Abbe commences in the research and development area known as the Sand Box. Here specialist technologists, in design and graphic arts, develop concepts both from customers and internally from first ideas to ready to go products. It is advertised asà “a playground where solutions unfold”.

One such development is Chilltainers ® manufactured by Abbe that is making inroads into what was polystyrene’s domain.  Corrugated cardboard with a reflective impermeable metallised polyester laminate coating provides airflow and a conductive layer of packaging.

Amongst the services of Abbe Industrial Packaging are Lifdek pallets, a lightweight corrugated cardboard pallet system. Designed to meet the high capacity, low cost requirements necessary for fast moving consumables, Lifdek pallets can be supplied in a “ready to use” format or can be assembled on site using a simple automated assembly machine.

The company has a definite forward outlook which certainly reinforces Andrew Owens’ statement “why copy the rest of the market”. It would seem that many aspects of customer service and innovation by Abbe is there for others to copy.

Written by Michael B Halley FAIP