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THE meeting room of local paper packaging firm KPP Packaging has shelves that display a variety of its own designs - many of which are useful, a sight to behold, or both.
Josephine Low, co-founder of the business, holds up a carton of anti-bloating stomach supplements. It has a swollen centre and resembles a potbelly. Another parcel for slimming pills is curved like an S. "This means that by consuming this product, your body will become S-shaped," she explains. "It's structural design."
And structural design is part of the customisation process the first-time Enterprise 50 (E50) Award winner undertakes to print and package. It serves the needs of its clientele, who hail from electronics, pharmaceutical and health, information technology, food and beverage companies and other services. Among them, packaging for IT contributes the highest percentage of revenue this year at 37 per cent, while electronics contributed 31 per cent.
A template is often sent to the clients for them to provide feedback and insert creative material. "These big boys have their own designers," says Ms Low. A collaborative potpourri of packaging work trails in their wake. This includes marketing displays, mooncake boxes, IT software packaging, and event invites. One of the more eye-catching store displays they have made is a box that opens to reveal a chest girdle.
"We wanted to outshine customers' products," says Ms Low on toying with form. "Sometimes, what you see inside is even cheaper than the packaging."
In the KPP office, there is a "sample room" where they amass their previous work. The meeting room, mentioned above, is not exempt from storage. "We try to collect (our designs), but it seems like we are getting more and more samples," says Ms Low. "We are going to have a problem."
Among others in the meeting room is a battery operated chair that plays music at the whim of the child it was made for. There is a ridge to insert an SD card. It can carry 100 kilograms worth of weight. It is also made of cardboard, which comes from a forest that is responsibly managed. The paper packaging company has a Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody (FSC-COC) certification to prove it. This is meant to indicate the supply chain's compliance with FSC's environmental, economic, and social standards - from tree to cardboard chair.
"Forestry means that I chop one tree to make this (sheet of) paper, but I must make sure the mill plants three trees," says Ms Low, giving an example. "This is to replace that one tree that got chopped."
In May 1986, co-founders Ms Low and Goh Teck Soon began the packaging press with only die cutting machines. Other equipment, such as those for print, were unaffordable. "The (print) machines cost millions of dollars," says Ms Low. With an initial lack of resources, what could not be performed within the building was outsourced.
Over the years, they invested in more expensive machines. These include offset lithograph printers, which transfer inked images from metal plates to a rubber blanket, and clamp them onto print. They installed dye-sublimation machines that use heat to transfer dye onto different materials, such as plastic, paper and fabric banners. They started to offer magnetic stripe applications, which could be used to produce disposable credit card and scratch card prints.
"Most of the printers will farm it out, but we do it in-house," adds Ms Low on the printing of finishes, including glossy, matte, and textured.
To protect the items in production, there are security measures. This means the toilet windows are meshed. Ordinary windows are sealed and made of frosted glass to prevent objects of value, such as scratch cards, from leaving through it. It also deters workers from flinging the items out in an attempt to steal them.
Entrances into specific facilities, such as where the scratch cards for telecommunication companies are printed, have sliding doors which activate an alarm if left open for 15 seconds. Most rooms need thumbprint scans and card access. Some need a change into provided slippers. 24/7 camera surveillance is accessible in live action on Ms Low's mobile phone for random spot checks.
"We evolved through the years, with the right customers and the expectations of customers," says Ms Low.
When clients, such as large multinational corporations, agree to work with KPP, certain conditions may be laid down, depending on what would be packaged. More often than not, KPP would invest to meet those expectations. For example, transport carts may be asked to have a surveillance camera perched in its gut.
Even waste, which could be made up of misprinted highly secure credit numbers, is disposed of by an authorised garbage man.
"This is for brand protection," says Ms Low.
Having expanded the printing business to Batam, Indonesia, KPP is planning its next move into India. This is with the aid of International Enterprise Singapore (IE), which does research and connects KPP with locals and investors in the foreign market. And although KPP already ships there, being physically present would allow first-hand delivery in Indian terrain, saving time and preventing custom delay.
In Singapore, KPP continues to provide services such as the production of highly secure items, advanced machinery, and hardcore security.
The company is also moving towards innovation and increasing productivity. Printed electronics, which is a set of printing methods that creates electrical devices, is one example. It allows the finished product to be circuited, making light displays possible.
As for future plans, Ms Low sees the importance of investing in new technology and keeping a finger firmly on the pulse for new trends that may emerge.