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Success in Slovakia - Purgina

Riding the wave of increasing demand for wine and spirits labels across Central Europe, Slovak converter Purgina is committed to adding value to its customers’ marketing operations. Andy Thomas reports.


Riding the wave of increasing demand for wine and spirits labels across Central Europe, Slovak converter Purgina is committed to adding value to its customers’ marketing operations. Andy Thomas reports

Slovak label converter Purgina was founded by Stefan Kilarsky in 1991 in the burst of creative entrepreneurism which followed the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Today the company employs 65 people and has a turnover of eight million euros. It is very much a family business, with Stefan Kilarsky’s wife handling the accounts and daughter Dana and son Radovan already providing impressive technical and marketing input across the operation.

Purgina has long been a member of Finat, and both Dana and Radovan are active in the organization’s Young Managers Club.

The business is currently growing by around 10 percent after a slow recovery from the global recession last year. Says Stefan: ‘We’re winning new clients all the time in wine and spirits, particularly in Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.’

Rapid expansion

Stefan Kilarsky founded Purgina with a loan of just 4,000 Deutschmarks (2,000 euros) to buy his first machine to convert simple PS labels, and by 1995 was in a position to buy his first professional converting system – an 8-color waterbase flexo Nilpeter F2400, followed by a second, 4-color machine a year later.

‘The 1990s was a time of huge expansion,’ recalls Stefan. ‘But our company was expanding too quickly – from 1.3 million euros in 1995 to six million euros in 2000. It was out of control. Between 1998 and 2000 I pulled the handbrake and started to look for fewer, better qualified people and to restructure the company.’

Part of this restructure was a move towards higher value label production, leading to the purchase of a Gallus R250 UV letterpress in 1998. In 2000, Purgina moved into a new 3,000 sqm manufacturing facility in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.

By 2004, Kilarsky had started looking beyond Purgina’s food label business as price competition increased. ‘In 1991 there were no other label converters in Slovakia. Today there are seven strong converters in the country and some 27 in the Czech Republic.’

Having made the decision to move into higher margin work, in 2005 Purgina replaced the letterpress with a Gallus TCS250 intermittent UV offset press with screen, embossing, flexo coating and hot stamping. This immediately opened up new markets in cosmetics, wine and liquor labels.

This was followed in 2007 by a modular Gallus RCS330 press, a prototype machine and the first in the region to combine UV offset, flexo, screen and cold foil. The press also has an insetting capability.

An Agfa Autolith LDT85 CTP system was installed to provide plates for the offset presses.

‘The RCS fulfilled all our requirements,’ says Stefan Kilarsky. ‘We can change between flexo, offset, screen and cold foil modules which gives us great flexibility. The press has eight fully interchangeable printing positions.’

Bohus Kukumberg, production manager at Purgina, adds: ‘After four years, we are still learning about the RCS. We do both long and short runs – down to 500 linear meters – on the press, and similarly we can do longer runs on the TCS.’

The team’s only regret was that they did not have the space to add a Martin automatic roll splicer. ‘It would have saved us 20,000 sq meters of waste,’ laments Stefan’s son, Radovan.

Given the trend towards shorter runs, has Stefan Kilarsky considered digital? ‘In fact three to four years ago we did consider digital, but then the global crisis struck. Now we feel that our short runs are handled better on the TCS250 and RCS330, and the quality is better than digital.’

JDF project

For quality control purposes, the presses are equipped with AVT cameras controlling the rewinders via AVT’s Workflow Link. This generates a virtual ‘roll report’ of errors on the printed web, which is used to automatically deliver faulty labels to the rewinder splice table. The web is synchronized by a barcode printed on the press after the inspection camera.

Dana Kilarska provides the company’s expertise in this area. Her next plan is to supply the AVT cameras their reference image from the master PDF files held on the EskoArtwork Backstage server, via JDF. She also plans to link the Backstage server with her Cerm management information system.

Die cut profiles are already downloaded directly from pre-press to control the Digimask die cut verification system, which is particularly useful for ultra-clear materials and complex die shapes.

Adding value

Purgina employs eight sales staff, each of whom is trained technically in the capabilities of the presses, and taught to act as consultants to their customers. ‘We have to change our peoples’ thinking,’ says Stefan Kilarsky. ‘In the past it was easier to sell longer runs of food labels – now it is about quality and service. Today our strategy is to have fewer, higher value customers.’

Currently around 20 percent of the company’s business is low value logistics labels, which Stefan is looking to replace.

‘Half our business is in food labels. We don’t want to lose our food customers but we do want to do more wine labels. Five years ago wine accounted for three percent of our business. Today it is 30 percent.’  Labels for spirits such as schnapps and vodka has also been a good area for growth, with almost all the work using ultra-clear PP film.

Co-operation in wine

Stefan Kilarsky says Purgina has been ‘largely responsible’ for moving the Slovak wine industry very quickly from wet glue to PS labels. ‘Before we entered the wine market, 95 percent of labels in the country were wet glue. Today 97 percent of Slovakia’s wine labels are PS. We feel that we drove this change by showing our customers the advantages of PS and how it helps them compete in new markets like the high level catering industry or with organic wine, and helping them deal with EU legislation. We showed them how other wine producing countries like Australia, the Czech Republic and Chile were using PS labels.’

Purgina is at the center of a network which brings wine makers and label designers together. ‘This year for example, we are connecting the five best Hungarian and Slovakian wine makers to learn about marketing wine internationally and how to promote the industry through activities like wine tours,’ says Stefan.

‘We explain how in Italy and France, wine makers co-operate to promote the region. We also plan to bring in top designers from Austria and Hungary to teach wine label designers and wine makers here the design possibilities for narrow web presses.’

Where requested, Purgina can also provide a label design service, supported by its EskoArtwork Visualiser 3-D tools. These now come with a wide range of wireframes representing wine bottle shapes. The company will also work with a client’s designers to translate flat artwork to a digital format.

‘We explain that we are not “cheap”, and what services we can offer, and that they take the same approach. We are not trying to compete with cheap New World wines. Our target should be medium and high quality wines sold to specialist wine shops or directly at the cellar.’

The future

For the future, Purgina is looking at new production facilities – plans which were put on hold during the financial crisis. There is also a continued push on sustainability issues. ‘Ten years ago nobody in Slovakia cared about waste,’ confirms Stefan. Today Purgina is having its liner waste collected and is a partner in Sony’s Green Partner Certification program.

This article was published in L&L issue 4, 2011 Source

Purgina website

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