According to Ralph von Veh, MD of Mpact Corrugated, lean manufacturing practices are on the up as converters seek to reduce material usage and waste, in line with legislative, environmental and sustainability goals. ‘Innovative opportunities abound in packaging design and structure and the corrugated sector is perfectly poised to extend its offerings,’ Ralph declares.
Mpact Corrugated (formerly Mondipak), recognised as South Africa’s largest manufacturer of corrugated packaging, serves a diverse range of customers in numerous markets. Mpact Corrugated operates world-class plants throughout South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique and has built a solid reputation based on product quality and consistency, along with competitive pricing.
Ralph has steered the ship for 12 years and has overseen an intense ten-year investment programme designed to improve technology and upskill staff. He’s confident that Mpact can lead the way in setting the highest standards in corrugated packaging.
Strong moves to retail-ready packaging
‘We constantly review and analyse local and international trends to ensure we’re on top of the game,’ Ralph states. ‘Currently, environmentally-friendly, lightweight packaging is driving packaging development, with cost control remaining a powerful force. The packaging industry has to develop new ways of bringing quality packaged products to the consumer and retail-ready packaging is one area where corrugated shines.’
The concept of retail-ready packaging (RRP) takes the marketing, communication and branding of products right on to the shop floor.
Typically made from corrugated board, solid fibre board or rigid plastics, RRP alleviates the process of in-store stock replenishment, enhances the consumer’s shopping experience through self-contained display boxes or trays, and provides supply chain benefits. With life-like graphics and full-colour printing, RRP simplifies product identification for consumers, while the latest easy-open features hold great appeal for store owners. Instead of razor opening, RRP containers can now be opened with pull tabs and/or slide-off lids to reduce the risk of product damage.
Leading brand owners already use RRP to enhance store-level branding and South African retailers are beginning to zero in on RRP as one area of packaging technology that holds huge promise, for both in-store effect and sustainability.
Mpact has been perfecting the manufacture of RRP for a number of years and has garnered a reputation for creative and practical corrugated packaging designs. For instance, in the 2007 Gold Pack Awards, it received the Innovative Corrugated Packaging trophy and a silver medal for its RRP for shipping wine to the UK.
‘We’ve spent the last ten years investing scrupulously to ensure that we’re fully equipped to meet future market demands and to differentiate ourselves in a very competitive industry,’ Ralph continues. ‘The significant growth in RRP has already led us to invest in six- and seven-colour top-of-the-range flexographic presses at our plants in Springs, Epping and Pinetown. This, along with our in-house graphic design facilities, enables us to offer high-quality printing on corrugated board, and is in line with our objective to grow inventive brands. I believe we lead the way in terms of graphic design and print quality,’ Ralph maintains.
Investing in the future
In addition to printing enhancements, much has been invested in upgrading Mpact’s fleet of corrugators at Springs, Kuils River, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth, with the aim of providing lighter-weight, higher-quality board. ‘We’ve taken a phased approach at each plant, reviewing entire sections of our corrugators to guarantee the best capabilities. We’ve also upgraded our software to streamline workflow and simplify operations. It’s all part of the growth process,’ Ralph insists.
Mpact’s world-class corrugators are manufactured by BHS, whose technicians – in collaboration with local representative, Dennes Engineering – provide unparalleled support. Among other things, German technicians from BHS recently performed dry-end upgrades at Springs, installed a new glue unit at Port Elizabeth and provided the Nelspruit plant with a new slitter/scorer.
Further investment has gone into revamping converting equipment at the Nelspruit and East London factories and a new Ward die-cutter is currently being installed at Brakpan, a further significant capex project.
Mpact is firmly committed to R&D and has established innovation centres with structural and graphic design capability to meet customers’ needs for product enhancement. ‘Innovation is essential and customers recognise Mpact as a leader. Working in collaboration with customers, we create original products that address consumer needs in inventive ways,’ Ralph explains.
Meeting environmental standards
Another focus is on the use of recycled board. ‘We carefully monitor the source of our recycled waste and use low-migration food-safe raw materials and lead-free water-based inks,’ states Ralph. ‘Every Mpact plant meets strict environmental standards and of course every carton produced is easily dismantled and recyclable. This commitment comes at significant cost but it’s our responsibility to be socially and environmentally accountable and every leading brand owner wants that assurance.’
Once driven predominantly by price, customers now tend to base purchasing decisions on carton structure and strength, recognising the importance of total logistical price, rather than just price/m2. According to Ralph, this is welcome news for the corrugated packaging industry: ‘We’ll always provide a competitively-priced product, but brand owners are increasingly concerned about performance-based packaging.’
Meeting customer requirements means combining the best technologies with talented, knowledgeable people and Mpact prides itself on the passion and expertise of its valued employees. ‘We have a superb balance of experience and youth in our organisation,’ says Ralph. ‘Institutional knowledge and wisdom are combined with youthful exuberance and drive, and we go to great lengths to improve the skills base.’
Equipment suppliers provide specialised on-site training – from corrugating to printing and finishing – and Mpact provides ongoing on-the-job training and apprenticeships in operations and engineering.
‘Relationships are critical in this business. From the shop floor to customer interaction, it’s about building trust and offering solid and consistent guidance,’ asserts Ralph.
‘People buy from people and when customers are exploring new markets they want the reassurance that they’re getting the right advice. Our policy has always been to differentiate ourselves from other players and, hand-in-hand with suppliers, we’ll continue to invest in people and technologies to offer original, world-standard products,’ he concludes.Mpact Corrugated T +27 011 9945500