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Kolbus will enter the market with a new rotary die cutter in 2021

When the German concern Kolbus bought the business of the British company Autobox, it was its second step in the world of the corrugated industry. The first took place in 2012, when it acquired the American corrugator manufacturer Hycorr.

Now the company is strengthening its brand, new developments are ahead. Daniel Brunton (Brunton Publications) interview with Kolbus UK Chairman Robert Flather and Managing Director Greg Bird.

If you ask an American packaging manufacturer what it associates with the word Hycorr, the answer is flexo rotary presses.

If you ask a corrugated board processor what Autobox means to him, he will definitely remember the equipment for the production of small editions of corrugated packaging.

The two companies that now share a common DNA belong to the Kolbus concern. If you take into account its history, it is rather funny that in the corrugated board market this is still a very young player.

Kolbus assembly plant in Raden

The Kolbus family started the business in 1775 as blacksmiths for the King of Prussia. For their skill and loyalty, they were granted land in Rahden, where the company's headquarters are located to this day.

The Kolbus family, 1884

Despite the fact that Kolbus business has passed from generation to generation and transformed, it still belongs to the same family.

In the early 1900s, the company began a new direction that made it a household name in the printing industry.

This is the production of machines for making hardcover books (similar to the one that will be used to bind this copy of our magazine).

Nevertheless, Kolbus has always remained open to new solutions. 

“As industry trends change, so does Kolbus,” says Robert Flaser. 

“The turning point came when we decided to sell our impeccable bookbinding business to our closest competitor, Müller Martini. 

We saw that our market, which, by and large, had two major players, is gradually shrinking. And instead of staying at the same table and biting each other's throats with pricing policy, we decided to sell the business and enter a new market. 

The first step was taken in 2012 with the acquisition of Hycorr.

Hycorr inline with rotary die cutting

“At this stage, corrugated board was a completely new market for us,” says Greg Bird.

“What we really knew about Hycorr was that it had a lot of credibility. Time has shown that our decision was correct.

Next step

It was made in 2018.

“We had the opportunity to acquire British Converting Solutions (BCS-Autobox) from the previous owner,” continues Robert Flaser.

BCS owned the rights to the Autobox line of equipment and recently moved its facilities to a large manufacturing and assembly plant in Houghton Regis.

After the cmpletion of the transaction, we reverted to the former name of the Autobox company and began to optimize the production process. In less than two years, the results exceeded expectations.

Kolbus Autobox Factory

“One of the most important things Kolbus had to offer to the new company was to integrate its design expertise with the existing Autobox,” adds Greg Bird.

“Our technical process management and R&D skills have doubled the plant's production capacity.

We have also invested heavily in warehouses and spare parts, an aspect of our business that we consider critical to maintaining their health and well-being.

Today, more than 110,000 spare parts are moving between Germany, the UK and the USA for the entire Kolbus range of equipment. We deliver 97% of parts the next day.

“In addition to Hycorr and Autobox, we also have equipment for the related industry, the production of boxboard packaging, which is suitable for premium packaging.

This is additional experience we have gained in the packaging industry. He proves that we are no longer newbies!)

Service is the key

With foundries, subassemblies, assemblies and an extensive spare parts supply network, the company has the complete package to become a reliable partner in the industry.

Kolbus Foundry in Raden

“Despite the fact that we are still studying the corrugated board market, we hope that we are already differentiating in the level of service for the better,” says Robert Flaser.

“For example, we launched the Kolbus 360 service, which is a tool for online support and self-diagnosis of Kolbus equipment.

Autobox owners now have direct access to our technicians to help identify problems and install early diagnostic tools. We have already received a lot of positive feedback about it.

Expansion of the range

Despite the fact that Hycorr rotary die cutting machines are little known in Europe, the Kolbus team conducted market research and developed a new model.

“Together with colleagues at Kolbus Hycorr, we have redesigned a mid-format rotary nibbler flexo press suitable for small and medium-sized factories in Europe,” says Greg Bird.

- The first beta version is already working at a plant in Germany, the second is being installed at a customer in the USA.

By the end of the year we plan to complete the tests, after which we will launch the first machine into commercial operation, and from the beginning of next year we will start selling them.

Name to remember

So here it is - a German manufacturer with a century of experience who saw opportunities in a new market and is taking bold steps to enter it.

Remember this brand, in the near future the Kolbus company may become another powerful player in the equipment sector for the production of corrugated cardboard packaging.

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