May 7, 2010
by Andrew Joseph, Features Editor
As a trained engineer and a successful international businessman, Homayoun Shahrestani is clearly not the sort of man to be putting all his eggs in one basket, but the chief executive officer of MapleJet Printing & Coding Co.—a recently-lunched distributor of inkjet product coding and marking technologies based just north of Toronto in Richmond Hill, Ont.—has many good reasons to think that the company’s expertise in specialized egg-coding systems and technologies, already widely adopted worldwide, will give the upstart company a good competitive edge in the Canadian marketplace when the time is right.
Called ProDigit EggsPrint, the high-resolution piezo inkjet technology marketed by MapleJet’s parent company Sorveh Global—founded in 2000 in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates)—the high-performance egg-coding printers have already earned a fair share of plaudits and customer satisfaction in many parts of the world where product traceability for eggs is now a standard part of doing business in the food industry, and Shahrestani says it’s just a matter of time before similar traceability standards are mandated for the Canadian egg producers and distributors.
“Although we still haven’t had any sales of the EggsPrint technology yet here in Canada, it has been a tremendous success all over the world,” Shahrestani told Canadian Packaging on a recent visit to the company’s Richmond Hill office, currently employing five people.
“For some reason Canada has not yet mandated that egg producers provide for proper product traceability for their eggs,” he says, “but when it does, we’ll be ready to take advantage of that opportunity.”
While there are other egg-coding systems from other coding equipment manufacturers already out in the market Shahrestani is confident that the robust EggsPrint technology—capable of generating up to four lines of text on each egg at speeds reaching 22,000 eggs per hour by using up to six high-resolution piezo Xaar 128 printheads for fast, single-pass application—has what it takes to become a force in the North American marketplace.
In the meantime, Shahrestani and his staff are in the early stages of cracking the Canadian market for product coding systems with the rest of the ProDigit family—comprising the ProDigit-18, ProDigit-53, and ProDigit-106 models—operated via a modular controller that can easily accommodate separate printing heads as determined by the end-users’ specific application requirements.
“All of our ProDigit products use the same controller,” explains Shahrestani, “which has been specifically designed to allow for the different sizes of printheads to be installed on the same platform.
“Because the use of a modular controller enables us to keep our production costs down,” he reasons, “we can achieve considerable cost-savings that we are able to pass along to our customers.”
Based on the company’s marketplace success in other parts of the world—in 2008 alone Sorveh Global sold more that 1,500 printers worldwide to extend its global installed base to over 5,000 units—the Canadian marketplace for product identification technologies does indeed seem poised for something of a status quo shake-up.
When Sorveh Global first began doing business in Dubai, taking advantage of the principality’s generous tax-free exemptions for new businesses, the company distributed its products and equipment via a distribution partnership with a local product ID group Honaz Printing & Coding Solution FZCO, which is a prominent regional player throughout the Middle East, African and Oceanic markets.
But as Sorveh Global’s global aspirations grew, Shahrestani decided the company needed to pursue a different strategic direction in the more established food-and-beverage, pharmaceutical and other international markets.
“With the success we have been enjoying in the Middle East region and other places with Honaz,” he relates, “I thought it prudent to establish more of a global pres-ence for the group with the formation of MapleJet, using it as a launching pad to impose ourselves and our ProDigit product range on the North American and, in due time, the European markets.
“There has been some confusion regarding the activities of each company and the branding of the products they offer,” Shahrestani reflects, “so we decided to brand all of our products under the Sorveh Global name, whereby MapleJet and Honaz will continue to maintain their identities, but will operate under the Sorveh Global banner.”
The company’s rebranding strategy has already paid off, according to Sorveh Global’s sales and marketing manger Chris Coyne, also based in Richmond Hill, with new installations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, U.K., Chile, Guatemala and Ecuador.
“It’s fair to say that our marketing activities have been a tad fragmented over the past couple of years,” says Coyne, “but I believe that having a single brand will definitely help us forge a stronger global identity.”
According to Coyne and Shahrestani, who used his engineering background to lend a hand in the design and testing of the entire line of ProDigit printers and coders, one of the main attractions of ProDigit systems lies in the placement of piezoelectric material in an ink-filled chamber behind each nozzle, instead of a heating element.
“The piezo inkjets allow for the use of a wider variety of inks than does the thermal or continuous inkjet varieties of printers,” says Shahrestani, “plus it offers a long service life, low maintenance requirements, and low overall operating costs.”
Moreover, Shahrestani points out that the ProDigit printers use low-alcohol-based inks to do their coding, rather than chemical-based, making them easier to recycle and more environmentally-friendly.
Employing a Xaar 128 entry-level piezo drop-on-demand printhead manufactured by the Cambridge, England-based manufacturer Xaar plc, the ProDigit-18
system was designed for printing onto both porous and nonporous substrate surfaces, with a print width of 18 millimeters (0.7-inch).
Like the rest of its ProDigit product family, Shahrestani explains, the system runs on the company’s proprietary Sorveh Global software and operating system.
For its part, the ProDigit-53 case-coding system—boasting a print width of 53 mm (two inches)—was designed specifically to replace the application of pre-printed labels onto shipping boxes with porous surfaces, as was the ProDigit-106 system, with double the size of print width.
While Shahrestani acknowledges that entering the market right in the midst of a severe recession may not have been the most ideal piece of timing, he’s confident that the company’s philosophy of supplying reliable, high-performance, high-resolution inkjet printers that are easy to operate and maintain will help it achieve its objectives.
“We’ve survived quite well during this past recession and plan to forge ahead successfully because, quite simply, we offer a series of well-made coding and marking products that are not only inexpensive for us produce, but also offer low cost-of-ownership and unrivaled ease-of-use to the end-users,” Shahrestani states.
“Combine that with a team of distributors that offers top-quality technical support and customer service,” he sums up, “and I think we are well-prepared to continue taking a bite out of the North American market.”
Adds Coyne: “The performance of our Sorveh Global modular controller, as well as the versatility and reliability of printheads incorporated within our printers, have been key to the marketplace success of our printers so far, and they will no doubt help us fulfill our aim to become North America’s first choice in the specialty coding and marking segments of the industry.”