Last updateMon, 01 Feb 2021 12pm

The priceless value of experience: Justo Martin’s insights from a 40 year career at BOBST

When you’ve worked at an industry-leading company for 40 years, you will have witnessed a lot of change and innovation in that time. That’s certainly the case for Justo Martin, who started working for BOBST in 1980, and after a long and distinguished career at the company, has recently announced his retirement on 31 August 2020 from his role as Product Marketing Director Special Projects.

We sat down with Justo to talk about how the packaging industry has changed during his career, how BOBST has evolved to stay ahead of these changes, and some of his personal highlights from over the years.

Thank you for your time Justo. Thinking about the packaging industry when you first started and now, what has really changed and what remains the same?

That’s an interesting question! I would say almost everything has changed!
So I’ll try to focus on some of the major changes.

Back in the 1980s, sheet size standards did not really exist. We could see that size 3b (1020x720mm) was starting to take the lead and become a well-accepted standard for the industry. When I started at the R&D department, we had a major and ambitious project to evolve the SP 102-E (1977), which already had an impressive speed of 7,500 s/h. My directives were quite clear and simple: search for speed, speed and speed, as the industry continuous demanded.

Short runs, which are very common today, were almost inexistent (done on manual or semi-automatic slow speed machines up-to 1,000 s/h). Runs of 20-30,000 sheets were common. Setup times could range from 3 hours to half day, even a full day, almost every operation was done on the press and frankly, this was not really being challenged by the industry.

Tooling was in most cases produced at customer sites, and difficult to achieve because they were done manually with a jigsaw (CNC/Laser technologies were not in use), knives and rubbers, etc. Therefore tooling was costly. BOBST would provide instructions on how to manufacture them and make them right. BOBST became the reference in terms of tool manufacturing and process optimization with the ABC documentation (and BOBST remains the reference today – most publications or documents from competitors are simply copies of BOBST documents). These were also the reference for die-makers.

The organization at plants was quite limited, embryonic or non-existent, with no consideration of flows of goods, tooling, etc. Printing presses had no automation and speeds were below 10,000 s/h.

Business was linear – on a continuous growing line, easy for a company to project themselves into the future. Therefore decisions for investment in new equipment were almost a non-issue. The folding carton packaging industry was mostly served by relatively small family-owned companies, not by large groups.

BOBST showed the SP 102-CE/CER as its newest development at drupa-82, the first machine with platen cam driven technology as a response to the market demand for speed permitting to envision a 1 to 1 match with printing presses. It was also certainly the starting point for common use of the blanking process.

By drupa-86, the evolution of SP 102 CE II / CER II had reached respectively 10,000 and 9,000 s/h, and included new means to facilitate job changeovers with the introduction of the on-press Centerline concept. In addition, peripheral equipment such as the Easyhandling and Easypress systems represented a major step-up in terms of efficiency.
At the time, competition was quite limited to some Spanish, German and Japanese companies, but they had less efficient products.

In the early 90s, the printing press industry made up ground in terms of speed, with 12,000 s/h, some automated functions and the Just-In-Time concept (JIT) – which was first introduced by Toyota in the 70s but took 20 years to optimize. Taiichi Ohno developed the Toyota Production System (TPS) permitting manufacturing, based on lean manufacturing (avoiding waste) and just-in-time production (parts are delivered exactly when needed without paying to produce and store more goods than those needed).

BOBST started working on a new concept based on the SMED method (Single Minute Exchange of Die by Shigeo Shingō, also a Toyota engineer) looking to reduce the size of a batch (a job for us) by identifying possible split of internal/on-press and external/off-press operations in order to minimize machine downtime and as such increasing running time and productivity. The new Off-Press Make-ready concept and systems were born, requiring specific designs and product developments. Setup times start to drastically drop down, a full success, and overall productivity again reached new highs.

This drastic change also influenced the industry by favouring the acquisition of tools rather than maintaining in-house manufacturing capabilities, resulting in a surge of independent die-makers. These independent die-makers could justify the purchase of laser technologies, ensuring on-time tooling availability and little by little tooling cost reduction. Die-makers became an important player on equipment performance.

At the beginning, the JIT philosophy was essentially “JIS” (Just-In-Stock!). No real changes were made – companies continued to produce in large runs but store them at their own expense and risk to ensure just-in-time delivery to their clients. However, they quickly realized that cost of stock obsolescence due to changes requested by brand owners or due to lost in quality (for example embossing degradation by extensive storage) was not effective, and forced production plants to start focussing on organization improvements, optimization and gains on efficiency, often resulting in a replacement of their existing equipment with new and more performant ones.

Plants also saw major benefits in offering new services and being perceived as service providers to brand owners with on-site-storage of goods (but with transfer of risks to their clients) and JIT deliveries of minimum of required goods (small batches). These changes increased the number of deliveries but resulted in a smaller number of blanks/sheets - thus we saw a drastic increase in small, highly repeatable runs.

Onto the 2000s, and drupa-20 was a major event for BOBST, with the introduction of the SPrintera 106 PER, with cam driven technology and the revolutionary sheet calibration, introduction and register system, the Power Register system.

SPrintera 106 PER – with an unprecedented world record of 12,000 s/h (previous SP 102 CER-II reached 9,000 s/h), and with a Data Management Unit (DMU) for production data collection – once again demonstrated BOBST’s unique knowledge and supremacy in terms of equipment design, achievable productivity and efficiency.

SPrintera 106 PER revolutionized plant operations. Customers were not buying just a new machine, but a new “means of production” requiring a specific environment to assure its incredible performance, capable to match web presses productivity with 10 to 12,000 tons of material per annum.

For the first time, a 3-Flow concept was introduced:

Tooling flow (quick-lock, weightless & adjustable settings)
Logistics flow (goods & waste, with the Power Register)
Data flow (intelligent control system for trouble free operation, data collection and maximum productivity)

Printing press manufacturers also drastically improved in productivity and efficiency with speeds of 18,000 s/h and major reduction on setup times thanks to automated functions. Over this period we saw major market consolidation through merges and acquisitions.

Today, with traditional platen presses technologies, we have certainly reached a peak in achievable speed (at least on existing supports – paper, solid board, etc.). Product manufacturers may now need to reinvent themselves to a certain extent, with a new focus on newly available technologies focused on Connectivity, Digitalization, Automation and Sustainability. And “Clouds” will also certainly have an important future!

In your time working in this industry, what would say has been the single most important or revolutionary development?

Certainly the introduction of the Platen Cam Driven and BOBST Centerline systems (with required changes on equipment design) had a significant impact on all future developments. But the Power Register system introduced by BOBST in 2000 is for me one of the most important developments with a major direct impact on productivity.

Today with the newly introduced fully automated solutions such as the Tooling Registration, the Smart Non-stop and Blanking Jam Detection systems we will reach new peaks of performance. The Cold Foil application on printing presses had a major impact on value-added packaging, since it permits new effects and mass production, at an acceptable cost level. This process is complementary to traditional hot foil stamping process.

Looking to the future, what’s the most important trend in the folding carton industry at the moment, and how will BOBST respond to it and stay ahead of it?

At the moment, the negative impact of Covid-19 is still present as we speak and will certainly remain for a long period. Therefore, “prudence” is on everybody minds, so even if evolution will remain, it will probably evolve at a slower pace. On the positive side, Covid-19 and political trends will certainly boost research on new materials and ways for product protection and recyclability. Assurances of optimal quality, efficiency, control and sustainability are continuous demands from the industry. For these, BOBST already has a full pallet of highly effective solutions to offer and to satisfy industry demands.

Sustainability is a major trend, with continued efforts to reduce carbon-footprint and apply best practices for the environment. Unfortunately, it has sometimes been viewed by companies as a marketing tool to create a positive company image, rather than an area for potential growth by developing new products for the market. However, recent studies indicate that customers are more conscientious and willing to pay more for sustainable products that ensure environmental protection and companies are starting to take it more seriously. The future in this area is to be seen.

As already announced by our CEO, the BOBST vision of the future is based on Connectivity, Digitalization, Automation and Sustainability. These objectives are set and will respond well to market demands.

Digitalization is major topic in the industry. It plays a very important role in sales processes, facilitates logistics follow-up and responds to the increasing demand for transparency and traceability.

Many consumers have changed habits since Covid-19 and temporarily switched to e-commerce activities. A recent study from DS Smith indicated that these new habits will remain in the future, with men and younger people prioritizing convenience, while women and older generations focus on safety. The growth in online business will necessitate more recyclable materials and less/minimum packaging. This is a major consideration for the future of the packaging business.

With all your experience, what’s the secret to success in this industry? Which advice would you give to converters?
I am certainly not a “guru”! However, I would just mention the importance to be flexible and adaptive to market changes and consumer expectations.
In addition, it is vital to ensure the means of production are top-level and able to address and support required changes at companies. Otherwise, to quote Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory, “Change, adapt, evolve or be prepared to disappear, to die”.

What’s the BOBST product that has impressed you most in your years at the company and why?
From my position working on sheet fed products, the most impressive have being and remain those benefitting of the BOBST specific technologies, such as the Platen Cam Driven (1982), Power Register (2000) systems and External Foil Unwinding Module (2008) for hot-foil application.

These unique technologies have drastically changed productivity achievements, reaching unmatched quality and running speeds up-to 12,000 s/h and reducing production stops by 80% to 90%, plus other benefits such as the cut-to-print or stamp-to-print registration, foil application with full control of tension web. Mainly we are talking about MASTERCUT & EXPERTCUT products for die-cutting and MASTERFOIL for hot foil stamping.

In recent years, BOBST has being focussing on major developments to address the increasing need for Connectivity, Digitalization, Automation and Sustainability. “Connected Tools” are a very interesting innovation supporting customer needs.

What has it meant to your personally to work at BOBST? What will you miss most about the company?

It is a difficult question to answer since the company has changed so much in my time here. When I joined BOBST, it was a growing company with a very strong family spirit. Today obviously it has changed as it has grown so much, but even now, our CEO, Mr. Jean-Pascal Bobst, remains accessible.

I started in 1980 within the R&D department for the development of the SP 102 CE/CER models, a huge step ahead in terms of productivity with 10,000 s/h, and since day one it was a world of freedom at work, an incredible source of knowledge (process, product, technologies, etc.) onsite to help when needed, a superb panel of technical challenges, and plenty of opportunities for a young mechanical engineer. All of this gave me the opportunity to come to work each day happy, with a smile on my face, and this is very important in life.

What will I miss most? Certainly having day-to-day contact with my colleagues, suppliers and customers with whom special relationships have come alive along the years and with whom I have learn a lot. I will also miss tackling the daily challenges required to support the industry in today’s environment as being an industry leader. Playing with new technologies and imagining tomorrow’s new requirements or ways to do business, how to assist/help colleagues and customers.

What message would you have to someone who is just about to start working at BOBST?

As most external consultants often mention, BOBST has a “special something”, a “special working environment” which makes it great to work-in. And if you identify this working spirit, you will also discover you are entering in a kind of “second family”. That was certainly the case for me, and a big reason for me staying here for nearly 40 years.

Be honest with yourself, colleagues and customers, since your qualities and defects will show at one point or another. Learn from them and their experience, do not hesitate to ask questions, they will be pleased to share their knowledge.

Be open, motivated, enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. Always search to master your domain of activity.

Be respectful and helpful in all senses with your colleagues, while being able to defend your position when needed.

All of the above are, in fact, simple ways to behave in life, so if adopted they will belong to you and will serve you well, whatever path you choose to take.



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