GPI, which has invested $1m (£643,000) in the project, said the facility is designed to be an inspirational area for its packaging design teams to work on innovative projects for its food and beverage customers.
The business said the ultimate purpose of the centre is the ability to produce realistic samples and prototypes prior to production, which will enable retailers and food suppliers to visualise what their packaging briefs will look like.
The site is GPI’s third Global Innovation Centre, joining US sites in Chicago and Atlanta.
The Bardon site, which specialises in supplying cartonboard packaging to the food retail sector, employs around 350 people and had previously housed Benson Group’s production site and headquarters. Benson Group was acquired by GPI in May 2014 and its UK sites were rebranded last month.
GPI marketing, design and innovation director for Europe Helene Roberts said the acquisition has enabled a greater exchange of ideas between the US and Europe.
“As part of GPI we can be more technically innovative,” said Roberts.
“This centre is an industry first for the European carton industry. It allows the customer to interact with our marketing, design and innovation teams easily and in a comfortable environment. It’s an inspiring space to come up with solutions.”
Central to the investment is the firm's new PackWorks workflow system. The ‘real-time’ communication tool went fully operational in April following a two-year development period.
GPI said the system has improved efficiency to the extent that the business is now capable of taking a brief to a mocked-up sample, featuring high-quality print, finishes and effects on virtually any substrate, within a matter of days.
James Lockett, who heads the team responsible for developing the system, said: “PackWorks drives the design brief through each stage – sample making, die ordering, colour mock-ups, repro, artwork approval and production - keeping all teams fully aware of the project status at all times.
“This improved interaction not only increases efficiency, but ensures effective execution, accurate sampling and cost transparency at each stage.”
The business has invested in a range of new equipment to produce the mock-ups, including a Roland DG Versa UV LEC-540 wide-format printer, which offers finishing effects such as embossing and foil blocking.
The device prints and contour cuts designs, and produces folds and perforated cuts on a wide range of rigid substrates. The UV-LED lamps cure inks over a larger area, which maximises productivity.
The company has also bought two Zünd S3 M800 plotters, which cut, crease and score the packaging mock-ups printed using the Roland device.
Three six-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL litho presses and two Manroland presses are also operated at the centre, as well as six cut and crease machines, six gluing devices, three window patching systems and two pick-and-place machines.
GPI’s European operation specialises in two main areas: beverages, including multipack cartons and packaging machinery systems, and food, which includes chilled foods, food to go, convenience, confectionery and spirits.