ROTOCON began working with Michael Wang in 2013 to develop an economy line of finishing equipment that meets the technology investment needs of medium-sized label converters and start-ups by balancing the highest possible specifications with competitive pricing.
Sales director and co-owner Pascal Aengenvoort was initially responsible for spearheading the project and travelling to China to discuss ROTOCON’s design and production requirements and stringent quality specifications – solid, vibration-free construction and the latest technology to match converters’ cost-efficiency needs. ‘We wanted every ECOLINE slitter/rewinder to have a compact footprint, easy-to-use control panel and open machine design to maximise operator friendliness, as well as a modem for remote fault finding and maintenance to allow our technical team to respond quickly to operators’ software and drive-related queries,’ he says.
‘We installed the first RSI 340 Slitting, Inspection & Rewinder System at HP Labelling (now part of the SA Litho Label Printers operation), which was just 15 minutes away from our Cape Town branch, so that we could monitor its performance and acceptance by the operators before we officially launched the ECOLINE range in 2017,’ explains Pascal. ‘The team also allowed us to use it as a demo machine and invite other customers to see it in operation. This machine has been running problem free since 2014 and with very little servicing and maintenance required since it was commissioned, and is likely to continue doing so for another 10 years.’
Since 2017, the ECOLINE brand has grown to encompass seven systems of slitter/rewinders with inspection, an ultrasonic anilox roller cleaner, a plate mounter and a cost-efficient flexographic printing press.
‘From the very beginning of our interactions, Michael Wang was always open to finding ways to customise and optimise the ECOLINE machines to meet our design goals and incorporate customer feedback,’ says group CEO Michael Aengenvoort. ‘We are constantly developing our machines and improving them by listening to the experts in our field, the operators, about aspects that they are struggling with or think can be improved. We are dedicated to and passionate about working together to resolve these issues for the benefit of the industry.’
In early 2020, ROTOCON’s service manager and lead engineer, William White, spent time with the machine building team in China to discuss and implement a series of improvements for the range, using the latest servo motor and software enhancements available, based on customers’ feedback. These included modifying the shape of the machines by rounding off any sharp edges; introducing a sleek, modern colour palette of grey and red (changed from white and red) to give them a visual facelift; a high-speed matrix stripping system to prevent waste breakage and machine downtime; a dual-turret slitter rewinder with two spindles to save the operators’ time by allowing them to finish a roll of labels directly on the RDF 330 Digital Printed Label Converting & Finishing System in one pass versus two passes on the original RDF model and a separate rewinder; and including the easy-to-operate ECOLINE branded UV LED curing system to enable instant ink curing and lower operating and maintenance costs.
Pascal adds: ‘We have stayed up to date with market trends and international standards; for instance, with machines needing to run faster, we increased the output rates from 230 to 320m/min and made the machines wider to accommodate roll widths, which have increased from 330 to 660mm. We also introduced an automatic shear knife slitting system that simplifies the normally time-consuming set-up and tweaking required when manually adjusting blades across more than three lanes. The operator can now enter the label sizes, gap sizes and the number of slits, then the system will automatically bring all the blades into the right position with the correct gaps. This reduces the total set-up time to around two minutes or less (depending on the number of knives) versus the five to 10 minutes manual set-up time per knife by a skilled operator. It represents significant downtime savings when there are 10 job changes per day.’
Michael Wang reports positive feedback from operators, who have confirmed that this automatic knife system allows them to work quicker, more efficiently and accurately and run jobs better for customers.
His recent visit to South Africa was necessitated by the travel and quarantine restrictions still in place for visitors to China. ‘This way, it was easier to explain some operator feedback in person in front of the machines and brainstorm how best Michael can convey and translate this information to our production site team to make it easy to understand and apply the necessary improvements,’ Pascal remarks.
The ECOLINE machines as well as ROTOCON’s customisable CHROME range of printing and finishing equipment with modular upgrade options are produced in the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park area, where Michael resides and oversees design changes and production. The area boasts many high-tech global corporations and Fortune 500 companies because it is surrounded by quality part suppliers and the local government offers favourable terms for the manufacturing sector. ‘Additionally, two high-speed railways and proximity to the sea provide advantages in shipping freight and ensured minimal disruptions to the facility’s ability to continue building and supplying equipment and spare parts during the pandemic,’ explains Michael Aengenvoort. ‘Once again, it illustrates our commitment to providing 24/7 technical support for our customers no matter what value chain challenges we might be facing.’
Caption (feature image):
The ROTOCON group established its Asian subsidiary three years ago to provide local service for and expand the presence of its ECOLINE machinery in this growing region. It then appointed Michael Wang as managing director and shareholder in December 2021. Pascal Aengenvoort, William White, Michael Aengenvoort and Michael Wang, pictured here at a Cape Town customer earlier this month, describe their partnership as strong and built on trust over a nine-year period, a necessity when doing business in different continents and cultures.
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