International partnerships

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Made-in-Italy technologies for tissue and secondary packaging have recently found important results also in the Middle East, where an industrial giant with multiple interests and activities has relied on the more than twenty years’ experience of a specialist from Emilia to optimise its production.

Under the aegis of the international group Al Mulla – headquartered in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates – there are activities ranging from naval engineering to automotive and trading to logistics, tourism, plastics processing and, of course, paper and tissue. Present with its branches throughout the Middle East for exactly fifty years, it turned to Microline  an Italian packaging machinery and systems company with headquarters in Anzola dell’Emilia, through its subsidiary Al Mulla Industries LLC. It is a leading player in the Middle Eastern tissue scene and has among its focuses the constant improvement of its processes, so as to be able to offer the market products with an ever-increasing level of quality. 

The problem and the solution

In its continuous search for technologies of excellence for process optimisation, Al Mulla Group has recently made a major transformation of its business unit aimed precisely at the production of rolls for industrial and commercial use. In Italy, and specifically in the heart of the Bologna packaging valley, it has found a suitable interlocutor in Microline, on the market for more than twenty years and characterised by a marked vocation for internationalisation. The expertise gained in the development of roll wrapping machines and auxiliary systems by the Bologna-based company was decisive in setting off the classic spark and initiating the partnership. Important in the circumstance was the manufacturer’s proven ability to guarantee customised and tailor-made solutions according to the specific needs of each end-user. Al Mulla Group was therefore told that the AL80 horizontal wrapper, which is one of the company’s most successful products in its catalogue to date, together with a shrink tunnel and an incoming product sorting system, was ideal for its needs. 

High performance, low consumption

The AL80 is a wrapper that from a design point of view was created for the paper industry and in particular for the production of AFH rolls, and its main purpose, as well as its most outstanding plus, is to avoid material trims during the wrapping cycle. At the same time, AL80 is able to ensure the high level of performance that is typically demanded by the industry. It requires the minimum amount of packaging material possible, thanks to the very low film thicknesses used and, finally, the absence of material trims due to the packaging process. As far as the feeding phase is concerned, it is characterised by precise and delicate handling of the product, which prevents the deformation of even the softest rolls and the marking of the embossing. This is a key element, as it allows production waste to be minimised or eliminated while improving quality and production efficiency. Al Mulla’s specific supply is designed to handle single, double or triple rolls, with a production speed that – depending on the size and number of products – can reach up to a total of 70 rolls per minute in single-pack or a maximum of 120 in double-pack. Installed at the Middle Eastern customer’s facilities last December, the AL80 was immediately appreciated for its ability to combine the advantages of flexibility with those of robustness and efficiency, meeting expectations. It was designed on the basis of the principles that traditionally animate the Italian manufacturer’s work: that is, a modular concept and the possibility of resorting to different feeding solutions and working with several types of articles. The focus on reducing consumption concerned both wrapping materials and energy during development, to the benefit of both big players such as Al Mulla and the many subcontractors in the same area. 

Interview with Alessandro Berselli, Microline’s sales manager. 

How did the partnership with the multinational group Al Mulla start and develop?

Microline has been a major player in this sector for almost a quarter of a century now and the quality of its machines has always been recognised. We can rightly say that we have become a benchmark for the industry. Over the years, based on our experience and the specific needs of the market, we have developed and launched different types of machines – shrinkwrappers, bundlers, case packers as well as handling and palletising systems – all dedicated to the tissue sector. In this specific case, it was the customer who contacted us directly, as a person on their staff had previously been employed by one of our customers with a plant in Dubai that had already been acquired in the past. Therefore, having had a positive experience and having experienced the quality and performance of our machines, Al Mulla Group decided to contact us for the development and packaging management of its brand new AFH industrial rolls production line. The group, already involved in several sectors, has now also debuted in the tissue sector by creating an ad hoc company division.

What were the reasons that convinced the customer to acquire a solution like AL80?

Since theirs is a production line dedicated precisely to AFH industrial rolls, the choice of our AL80 wrapping machine was in some ways almost obligatory. It is one of the best known and most appreciated machines in our portfolio and has been replicated over the years in many examples. It was launched about ten years ago and its speciality is the handling of various formats required by the market: single, double or triple roll packs, with the possibility of inserting the label inside the pack or using printed films. If it has succeeded in gaining ground and acceptance on the international scene, it is by virtue of some of its precise prerogatives. These include zero waste, thus saving 25-30% of packaging materials and the consequent elimination of downtime for their removal and zero disposal costs. Energy savings and quality of the finished product are also part of its baggage, along with the simplicity and intuitiveness of use. The decision to integrate servomotors means that operations such as format changes are faster and the operator interface (HMI) itself is user-friendly and easy to read. Finally, the AL80 features an integrated maintenance programme and boasts competitive performance.

What technological measures enable you to guarantee such levels of energy efficiency?

The main ones are the care and attention in the handling of the products – given the peculiar and delicate type of items handled; the exclusive wrapping system that allows for zero waste; the use of state-of-the-art components such as servomotors, which ensure higher performance and reduced consumption; and last but not least the modular feeding device. Against all this, not only are the savings in terms of packaging materials ranging from 25 to 30 per cent, as mentioned, but as far as shrink tunnels are concerned, the energy savings are reduced to one third of the total capacity once the operating temperature is reached. We can go so far as to realistically promise our customers efficiency rates of up to 97% during acceptance tests. Different components are used for AL80 that are responsible for the lower energy requirement, but so far we have not verified what the exact percentage of total savings is.

For Italian tissue and packaging, the Middle East is becoming an increasingly valuable outlet: what is your experience in this respect and which other territories are attracting you?

It was important for us to add references in Middle Eastern countries, with whom we have been working, however, for several years already. We are strongly internationalised and cultivate solid and fruitful relationships especially with South American countries. As we deal with packaging and therefore with end-of-line, we find all those territories that gradually want to automate their packaging activities particularly interesting. Given our long experience and wide range of machines dedicated and designed in a modular and versatile manner for the tissue sector – industrial and inter-folded rolls such as handkerchiefs, napkins, folded products and more – we are able to offer complete lines or integrate new machines on existing lines. Models such as the AL 80 or the FAST WRAP filler meet the needs of large series production; others such as the recently launched ECOWRAP, a source of considerable satisfaction, meet the needs of companies or productions with smaller numbers. On the other hand, we believe that the ability to customise is our plus.