Polytype – in line for success
Polytype Converting is a company that works closely with its customers to solve problems, which arise in the converting industry of flexible materials through the optimisation of existing applications and processes or by new developments.
Since 1956, it has concentrated its activities on the development of converting machinery and associated equipment, including manufacturing, assembly, turnkey installation and after-sales service. As a subsidiary of the world renowned WIFAG Group, Polytype Converting manufactures bespoke, high-precision laminating machines and coating lines for the converting industry, working with customers predominantly in the film, foil and paper converting business to provide custom-made solutions. Its core competencies include coating, drying and curing, fluid conditioning and delivery, process control, laminating, web handling and treatment.
With production centres in Switzerland, Germany and the US, machinery manufacturer Polytype Holding Ltd offers a wide network of services. Polytype Converting’s sales and marketing director Bruno Daetwyler explains: “Within WIFAG group is Polytype Holding in Fribourg, Switzerland, of which we are a part. Polytype Converting has a range of market segments that we divide into seven main areas; paper, imaging, packaging, labels and tapes, flooring and furniture which is basically imitation wood laminates, electronics and optics, which is displays, filters, circuit boards, batteries, and electrical insulating materials. Finally we have a segment which encompasses miscellaneous areas such as textiles and specialised areas. WIFAG was founded in 1904 as a company to manufacture printing presses in Switzerland and in 1960 WIFAG took over Polytype in Fribourg, which is how the coating and laminating aspect of WIFAG came to Fribourg. Since 1960 we’ve manufactured coating and laminating lines in Fribourg under the Pol type name and in 2003 this branch of the business was re-named Polytype Converting, which is our current trading name. We have 650 employees and both the headquarters and manufacturing plant are located in Fribourg, though we share some mechanical manufacturing facilities with our parent company WIFAG.”
As a market leader, Polytype invests heavily in R&D and has two advanced pilot lines for product evaluation: “In each project a considerable amount of R&D is involved – a healthy backlog is usually the result of the high demand for this facility. We always try to supply state-of-the-art technologies and engineering skills, which is why we invested many years ago in pilot lines and today run two pilot lines in our technology centre equipped with more then 50 different coating methods,” says Bruno. “We develop products together with the customer rather than follow the market and we approach projects by gaining an understanding of the process that the customer wants to use. Once the process is formalised, we often improve it with trials in our technology centre before defining, together with the customer, the mechanical specification, production speed and line configuration. Once the parameters and specifications are set then we have a model system. We use standardised components such as coating heads, winders and dryers but the whole line looks different each time, which makes it hard to measure manufacturing efficiency because every line is custom designed. Even with standard components there are always updates or parts that have been re-engineered.”
Following on from its expansion in the US and the acquisition of two German competitors some time ago, Polytype Holding Ltd has now expanded into Thailand. “Sales and marketing activities had already started there but at the end of May we completed construction of our facility in Bangkok as well,” says Bruno. “In the next few months we’re beginning after-sales activities, hiring technical people and manufacturing some standard types of equipment for the local market.”
Current global price pressures are creating challenges for Polytype and its customers, as competition from other markets increases. Bruno explains: “The biggest challenge facing us relates to the price pressures on raw materials faced by our customers. Some customers face heavy price pressure from Eastern European and Far Eastern competitors as well, which affects us too at the end. To overcome this, our customers try to buy equipment that works on a higher performance level meaning at the end it should cost less. Manufacturing efficiency has to be higher – it should increase while the price decreases, though it’s hard to find that balance.”
Bruno reveals that the company’s future plans revolve around developing projects with customers and remaining active in its seven key markets: “We think that our markets are growing strongly and customers are continuing to approach us with projects. We aim to work on high-end applications, High-end processes for high quality products, and we already have a full order book for 2007. The fact that Polytype is a family owned group of companies rather than a public company where people demand a return on their investment and the share price is crucial allows us to focus on a long-term approach, which includes investing in new tools, technologies and new developments. The basis for our success is our close collaboration with customers and, for this reason customer service will remain a fundamental aspect of our daily work.”
Products: High-precision laminating and coating lines
Sites: Switzerland, Germany and the USA