Dammam based Shater Al- Ebtekar’s investment in an all new Heidelberg XL106 is a sign of hope
Dammam based Shater Al- Ebtekar print house has recently invested in an all new Heidelberg XL106 six color. This goes to show that the fragile post Corona economic recovery maybe already starting in Saudi Arabia. This is not just another investment; it is a sign of hope and renewal following a devastating pandemic. Nevertheless, Coronavirus is still wreaking havoc across the world but some businesses have been able not only to survive but also thrive.
Al-Ebtekar is a fully equipped and modern print house focusing on packaging as well as commercial printing. The company was established in 1979 and at the moment it is catering to local and international market. To find out more about the company and the reason behind the new investment we talked to Khalifa Al Zahid, General Manager of the company.
Why you have decided to purchase an all new Heidelberg press?
The market demand for shorter delivery time and high-quality products, as well as reducing service costs of our old Heidelberg 5 color CD102 propelled us to invest in an all new six color Heidelberg XL106.
Choosing Heidelberg as a supplier was based on our long experience with Heidelberg CD102 which is a high-performance machine, as well as the quick availability of spare parts and quality of service provided by Heidelberg.
The new XL106-6+L was delivered during the COVID-19 lockdown in KSA, and it was a challenge for us to install it, but Heidelberg Saudi Arabia service team has done tremendous job dismantling the old CD102 and installing new press mechanically and electrically, testing it, connecting it remotely, training our operators and commissioning the XL106 within relatively short time without the need for any engineer coming from abroad, and we are happy for this achievement.
The new Heidelberg XL106 six- color machine has proven is a highly automated machine and it will boost our productivity with faster delivery time. The machine is user friendly and offers fast makeready time.
What are your other equipment and devices, Prepress, press and post Press?
For Prepress we have Screen 8300 CTP, two Heidelberg CD102-5+L, CD102-6+LYL, and CD102-6+L UV and CD102+LY are running in our press room. For the finishing we have multiple Bobst diecutters, in addition to Diana and Bobst Folder gluers.
As far as I understand your main product is packaging, how many boxes do you produce per month?
We can produce 13 to 16 thousand tons per year with an average of 12 thousand tons per months.
How did you manage to mitigate the effects of Coronavirus pandemic while at the same time invest in a new offset Press?
The decision to buy the new Press was taken prior to COVID-19. It was important for us to invest in the new technology which already has increased our productivity. So, it was a worthwhile investment. COVID-19 had some effects on our business but we also found many new opportunities in food packaging for home delivery. It is a thriving market.
Are you planning to diversify in other promising areas of printing industry such as label as well?
Flexible packaging has high growth rate and we are planning to enter into this business.
How many employees do you have and were you forced to lay off people due to pandemic?
We laid off around 5% of our employees. The total employees are about 180 and the people discharged were mainly close to retirement age or non-productive.
Do you also export your printed products?
Export is about 10% of our production and our target markets are UAE, Yemen, and Egypt.
Who are your major customers?
Food companies are our main customers, as well as other sectors.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how did you get involved with the printing industry?
Shater Al- Ebtekar was established in 1979 by Mr. Abdallah Al-Zahid who created the opportunity for his sons to manage the company and become partners. Al- Ebtekar’s first site was built in Dammam in an area of 4,000 SQM. The second jump was a new bigger site of 15,000 sqm located in 2nd industrial City, which started the operation in year 2000.
What are your plans for future expansion? Are you planning to invest in digital printing?
The market situation requires to be smart in our expansion and to do it in the right time and the right direction. As far as digital printing is concerned, we already have Xerox digital press for short run commercial jobs and we are also looking for a good solution to handle short run packaging jobs to cater to the growing demand.
What are trends in box making in Saudi Arabia? Do brands ask for special colors, special effects, attractive designs?
There is increasing demand for jobs with special colors. That was the reason for us to invest in a new six color XL106, which is capable of printing high gloss spot UV. We are specialized in offering this type of print embellishment since 2000 as well as supplying foil laminated board.
Did pandemic create more demand for packaging in a significant way?
Yes. As I already mentioned food packaging for home delivery is on the rise and this trend has created new business opportunity for us, an opportunity which will continue to expand in future.
Do you adhere to environmentally friendly practices, in which way?
Yes, we follow strict waste disposal guide lines, specially chemicals, which is done using certain processes. We only use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper and board, ensuring a sustainable, consistent product which is also great for our environment. We comply with “Codex Alimentarius”, General principles of food Hygiene and HACCP requirements.
Are you using a digital workflow for your day to day production activities?
We have homemade system for communication between warehouse, management, accounts, and production.
Coronavirus encouraged printers to opt for more automation and less reliance on operators? Do you agree with this assessment? If yes have you invested in more automation and software recently?
Yes, I agree. Automation is a must nowadays, especially with the rise in cost of labor mainly due to government’s new regulations and taxes. On the other hand, in the midst of COVID-19 you have no other choice but to run an effective and profitable business.
Do you use MIS systems for estimating and other processes?
Not yet. But we are looking forward to implementing a software-based production communication system between Prepress, Press and Postpress to increase efficiency and shorten setup times. This will be the first step to implement MIS system in the future. For that we are considering Heidelberg Prinect solution.