Greg Bird has stepped up to become managing director of Kolbus UK, in line with plans hatched when returning to the business in July last year.
His promotion from deputy managing director enables Robert Flather to become chairman of Kolbus UK while remaining managing director of subsidiary Autobox. “This has been on the cards for a long time,” says Flather. “The idea is that he would become MD just before going to Drupa. And even without Drupa there was no need to change that.”
It solidifies the way that the two have been working in any case, with Flather spending an increasing amount of time with Autobox, the UK company manufacturing box making equipment. Kolbus itself is a sales and service organisation for Kolbus case making technology. Its binding equipment became part of Muller Martini at the start of 2018 and initially Bird took a role with the Swiss manufacturer to assist with the transition and integration of the customer base.
The company has continued to provided spares during the lockdown period, though at a lower level as many customers have had limited operations themselves. People have been working from home and are gradually getting on the road, with some recalled from furlough.
Likewise, Autobox has furloughed staff, but fewer than expected as the company has received orders for machines that need to be manufactured. “We have received orders for machines worth six figure sums from France and Mexico and a smaller machine for Guatemala," says Flather, “and this is bringing cash through the business”.
The company has also installed a machine remotely for a customer in Taiwan, the first to be sold to that country since Kolbus acquired Autobox. This involved streamed video and online conversations. “It was a challenge,” Flather adds.
In the UK there is an order related to improved hygiene around coronavirus while CEG Packaging in Liverpool had installed a MultiNova box gluer ahead of the lockdown. Managing director Colin Graham says: “We approached Autobox as we were finding that our gluing department was limited in its speed and styles. We do a lot of diecut work here, sometimes three-point crashlock which is a nightmare to convert by hand. The batches would vary each day, so we needed something that was quick to set, easy to use and had a good hourly output.”
The answer was the MN400 gluer. It handles straight line work three times faster than the existing gluer and copes with crashlock boxes, completing a job that Graham estimates would have taken six to eight hours, in less than two hours.”
Flather’s role also includes group responsibilities which have led to interventions in North America and France.