At the helm is Afripack’s CEO, Arnold Vermaak, who is jubilant at this latest addition to the Afripack family.
‘We have been committed to industrial flexible packaging for over 75 years, initially with our sack business, but expanding our focus in 2003 with investment in reel-to-reel flexibles.
Two years ago, we diversified further with entry into the consumer flexibles market,’ he explains. ‘Remaining true to one of our key success factors – focus – we see growth opportunities in the industrial coatings business. We’ve been able to purchase Nampak L&CP’s assets and customer base, as well as taking over skilled people and some newer technology. We’re confident we have the right platform from which to grow a highly successful and focused coatings business,’ Arnold asserts.
Another prime reason for this acquisition is to build on the synergies that exist with Mondi Coatings & Consumer Packaging in Europe (see page 55).
Naturally, as with any deal of this magnitude, there will be a degree of restructuring and rationalisation, but broadly speaking the assets are acquired and the 100-plus staff members are retained under their current conditions (in terms of section 197 of the Labour Relations Act). All this is outlined by James Hynd, Afripack director and a member of the company’s exco, and Rob Francois, now named as general manager of this newest Afripack BU.
Essentially, there will be two sites for Afripack Coatings. ‘Our strategy,’ James explains, ‘is for the existing plant at Isithebe to become the centre of excellence for laminating and extrusion coating, while top-class printing will be carried out at our Mobeni site, where we’ve recently commissioned a brand-new ten-colour Flexotecnica press for our coatings operation. Printing will be part of the improved and sustainable value to customers.’
Serving blue-chip customers
At the Isithebe site, the accent is on coating and laminating a wide array of substrates, for both packaging and non-packaging applications. With a history stretching back some 35 years, this operation serves blue-chip customers in the paper and packaging industries and the construction industry.
Among important packaging products are protective laminates and reel-end discs for paper reels; and printed laminates for wrapping reams of photocopy paper. The plant also produces finished products for further conversion by packaging converters such as carton and sack manufacturers – for instance, barrier coatings and laminations for powders and granules. Other barrier products include sack kraft barrier ply, tea sack laminates, sachet paper, steel wraps, release liners, and barrier ply for use in cartons.
Manufactured using either polymer extrusion or adhesive lamination technology, building membranes such as Sisalation and Namtex are stalwarts in the construction market.
Asked to name the plant’s key competence, Rob Francois replies: ‘We offer a broad spectrum of laminating and coating technologies – from polymer extrusion to solventless, water-based and hot-melt lamination – and it’s our intention to diversify even further.’
An important piece of equipment at this ISO 9001:2000 compliant operation is an Italian-built Nordmeccanica laminator. ‘A major advantages lies in its flexibility,’ Rob confirms.
With three-stations it’s possible to laminate five substrates using three adhesives in a single process. The machine’s capabilities include lamination of insulation materials and other flexible substrates – such as film, aluminium foil, paper, cartonboard, woven cloth and reinforced netting – thanks to its ability to apply a variety of adhesives from solventless to water-based and hot-melt.
The way forward
Rob Francois is elated about the acquisition and his new position as general manager of the Afripack Coatings BU.
‘Afripack has a reputation for innovation and speed to market,’ he says enthusiastically. ‘I see this acquisition as a way to move these complementary business units forward. I’m excited that Afripack’s directors want to invest further and have set their sights on growing a speciality coatings operation. I’m sure we’ll see a new degree of energy and some innovative strategies, especially offering our customers consistency of supply, quality, innovation, and speed to market.’
According to Rob, the high-quality of the plant’s products means they compete effectively on global markets and exports are on the increase. Indeed, he reveals, some 25% of the plant’s turnover is now exported to sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. And, as James Hynd points out, this export business will now be closely aligned with Afripack’s strategy for growing its presence in Africa.
There’s also a heavy reliance on the building industry which represents a further 25% of the plant’s turnover. The remaining 50% is represented by sales to the local paper and packaging sectors.
In Rob’s view, all these sectors will be subjected to a ‘growth strategy’ focus as a result of integration into Afripack.
More news as it unfolds…
The European connection
TO TRACK the Mondi Coatings & Consumer Packaging part of this story in Europe, we go back to 2007, when Afripack signed an agency agreement with Mondi Coating Zeltweg in Austria, an international producer of extrusion-coated and laminated consumer packaging materials, especially for the food, non-food and pharmaceutical industries. The product portfolio goes from polyethylene-coated papers to sophisticated multilayer laminates combining various types of films and foils.
This agreement provided an important building block in the establishment of ACF two years ago. At that time, the international alliance was taken a step further, with ACF entering an agreement with Mondi Consumer Bags, supplier of active and convenience flexible consumer packaging for pet foods, foods, confectionary, snacks, pharmaceuticals, and much more. Such packaging includes high-quality printed monofilms and laminates, barrier films, premade paper and plastic bags, and stand-up pouches.
The partnership has recently been expanded to an enlarged portfolio that now includes Technical Coatings. The product range covers extrusion-coated and laminated efficient barrier materials for industrial and technical applications as well as solutions for the automotive and hygiene industries. With this enhancement Afripack further complements its product portfolio and now offers a wide range of packaging solutions to customers in South Africa and neighboring countrie