From pack to pouch to carton and case, Cambridge-based Domino Printing Sciences (Domino) is a strategic coding supplier for the world’s largest tobacco producers and OEMs, enabling them to comply with regulations in all global markets. TJI talked to Head of Global Tobacco Solutions, James Cutforth, about trends, challenges, 2020, and Brexit.
Does Domino have anything new it would like to share with the tobacco industry?
A new addition to our range of tobacco solutions will be launched in early 2021, the Cigarette Outer Label Twin Station (COLTS). As with our other popular tobacco solutions, the COLTS has been developed specifically to meet the demands of our customers, with a particular focus on improving and maintaining high levels of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in tobacco applications.
What do you think has led to Domino’s success and growth over recent years?
Since its creation in 1978, Domino has always been a leader in high-technology solutions for coding a vast range of manufactured goods. We recognise that tobacco is a very specialised industry, which requires sector-specific solutions. The foundation of our success in tobacco has been in our commitment to listen to our customers’ requirements, and use this insight to enhance our standard products so that we can provide specialised solutions which meet the needs of tobacco manufacturers.
What technique/product is Domino most proud of?
Our core coding products are, of course, market leading, but the Cigarette Pack Coding Station (CPCS) is a unique solution for pack identification. It combines highly accurate product handling, to ensure best possible code quality, whilst maintaining incredibly high levels of OEE. By minimising rejects, we also reduce waste and the need for re-work.
How was 2020 for Domino?
The global pandemic has certainly impacted our business, just as it has with many other suppliers; but Domino’s business is wide ranging and, while some industrial sectors may have seen output reduced, other areas, such as food and beverage, have seen significant increases in demand. That said, travel restrictions have impacted our ability to visit customers, and this is true in all sectors. However, we have risen to the occasion and embraced a remote way of working; this has included introducing new technology, including augmented reality and videoconferencing, to ensure that we can continue to support customers remotely.
What do you see as the biggest trends affecting the global tobacco packaging/ printing industry as a whole?
Track and trace legislation, driven by the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), is a key trend affecting the global tobacco industry and will continue to be in the coming years. The unique identification of all the levels of packaging used in tobacco brings new challenges in product handling and printing and also raises the need for in-line verification with machine vision. Domino has developed and supplied a range of vision systems for this purpose.
What do you think is the most interesting and exciting thing about the packaging/printing business for the tobacco industry?
The ability for customers to print all of their packaging for a particular market requirement, also known as ‘late-stage customisation’, is something that has been discussed often over many years, but we are now seeing more enquiries around these applications. Domino products can be installed as either ‘near-line’ systems or they can be integrated into existing packaging machinery when possible, to provide a greater degree of product printing within factory walls.
What have been the biggest challenges for the company with regard to working with the tobacco industry?
The tobacco industry, and in particular cigarette manufacturing, is almost unique in its operational demands. Tobacco manufacturers have some of the fastest production lines and incredibly high product control, coupled with a product that is very delicate and difficult to handle. An ongoing challenge for a supplier like Domino is to ensure that our products maintain a high level of productivity and quality, so product development and customer training is a top priority when working to meet our customers’ needs.
Customer support and technical services have always been of great importance for the tobacco industry as well as a competitive advantage for suppliers. How does Domino support its customers?
Unlike many FMCG processes, tobacco is quite specialised, and so we have a designated team who are wholly responsible for the sector. This has been key to supporting our customers. Our global team provides support to customers and our sales and service teams in over 120 countries. Having a single, central competence structure dedicated purely to tobacco ensures that knowledge and experience can be shared easily and quickly. Another benefit from this structure is that we can identify new requirements quickly and develop the right solution for that application.
Sustainability has become one of the key factors for companies in the tobacco industry in choosing their long-term suppliers. How would you describe your competitive advantages in that area?
Having a coding and marking provider that you can rely on is key when considering wider sustainability goals. In tobacco, as codes are required for legislative and safety purposes, ensuring correctly placed, clear, and accurate coding time after time is key – as incorrect codes can ultimately lead to significant packaging waste. Domino’s tobacco solutions are optimised for the industry, with potential for in-line verification with machine vision to limit errors and reduce the risk of waste. Customers who are moving towards late-stage customisation of packaging are also able to vastly reduce packaging inventories, in the most extreme examples, only printing what they actually need to use.
What type of developments do you see in tobacco packaging/printing in coming years?
Digital printing of packaging, and in particular late-stage customisation, whereby more and more of the artwork is printed within the customer factory, is gaining traction within the tobacco industry.
We have already seen one of the largest MNCs invest heavily in digital printing technology within the last few years, and we do expect that trend to continue. As well as being able to quickly react to changes in market requirements, manufacturers can also reduce their pre-printed packaging stock, freeing up both space and money in the process, as well as reducing waste.
How does Brexit affect Domino’s business operations?
With a large UK operating base, Domino has had a multi-disciplined team managing the potential impact of Brexit for most of 2020. We are well prepared and are confident our customers will see little to no impact.
What are Domino’s goals for the future?
To maintain and expand our market-leading position within the industry. We recognise that today being a coding and marking provider is about more than providing a coding device – you have to understand the customer’s requirements and ensure that your technologies are equipped to help meet their goals and overcome production issues.
This is why Domino has developed a range of solutions that complement our standard coding products. Our intention is to continue with this strategy and develop new solutions as required.
Is the e-cigarette/cannabis market a market you are looking at?
If a product goes into packaging then it needs a code, so yes we are already supplying equipment for these and other tobacco products such as ‘heat-not-burn’.
Anything else you want to tell our readers?
Although travel is restricted at the moment, Domino is still actively advising and supporting customers remotely, in particular with video conferencing, such as MS Teams, and with online demonstrations and training. Our usual support services, including carrying out print samples and, where required, providing service support to customers onsite, has remained uninterrupted. We are here to help as and when customers need us.
Interview: Marie Mayer