With 1.8 billion Muslim consumers worldwide, it's hardly surprising that the market for halal food products is estimated to be in excess of £100 billion. In the UK there has been a huge growth in the number of fast food outlets offering Halal food, and of retail outlets selling Asian sweets and bakery products to the wider Indian, Pakistani and bangladeshi communities.
Waseema Packaging is at the forefront of supplying this market, customer's main demands being for bright, attractive four and six-corner sweet and bakery boxes,, often with windows, and a variety of crashlocks for chicken products.
As well as providing boxes to customer's own designs, the company also produces own Tender'n'Tasty range of chicken boxes and chip scoops. These were initially sold direct to retail outlets, but volumes have increased so much that Waseema now sells exclusively through five specialist wholesalers. This fast food market provides the bulk of the workload, which prompted the company to look for additional folding and gluing capacity.
"We've cultivated a lot of high volume crashlock accounts," explains Waseem Akhtar, who runs the company alongside his father Naseem. "This type of work forces you to run at high net speeds if you are going to make a margin on it. On top of that,we had been outsourcing a lot of four and six-corner gluing, and to a certain extent you lose control and flexibility when you do that."
The search for a gluer led the father and son team to drupa. "If I'm honest we weren't initially thinking in teams of a Bobst gluer," he recalls. "But at drupa they launched the Fuego range and we soon realized that it could do everything we needed."
The work mix at Waseema includes some very tricky boxes, such as a large, unstable six corner design with a substantial window that taxed Bobst's most experienced specialists. "The bobst trainer said it was the most difficult carton he's ever set up," explains Waseem Akhtar. "We thought if they can get this one going through the Fuego then it will handle anything."
The Fuego model chosen was a 110cm wide version - the first at this width to be installed in the UK, reflecting the size of some of the bakery and fast food cartons that the company produces.
Quality is an issue for every manufacturer in the twenty first century. "After all," says Waseem Akhtar, "nobody wants a lapful of hot chicken." So the Fuego's ability to feed the carton well was of great interest to the company.
The feed of a folder gluer is key to ensuring good quality folding later down the line, particularly on disproportionate crashlock boxes, and it is here that the Fuego's design has come into its own. Both feed gauges are adjustable lengthwise to give extra control over the in-fed blank, and Bobst has given the feeder its own electronic drive. This is said to have improved both control of the blank and, importantly, safety for the operator.
The optional four and six-corner module, as chosen by Waseema, automatically sets the height of the rotary hooks according to the size of the carton's flaps. With its electronic drive, the module can adapt the trajectory of the hooks to suit the flap length. The company has found that the unit is easy to change from one six-corner job to another, and with such work making up a large amount of the workload this has had a positive effect on productivity.
The Fuego's 'Computer Set' facility allows the operator to store details of jobs on the machine's CUBE system and download them to digital position indicators on each carrier.
"All we have to do then is wind them until the indicator shows the carrier is in the right spot," confirms Waseem Akhtar. This system has helped the company reduce makereadly times further and has contributed to maintaining the fast production times it prides itself on.
"We can turn around jobs very quickly now," he says. "For some of our work, the Fuego has taken 50 per cent off the time taken to produce the job, so it really helps our customers get their products to market more quickly."