Schumacher Packaging elevates sustainable innovation to new heights in the digital era 

From its headquarters in Ebersdorf bei Coburg, Upper Franconia, Schumacher Packaging Ltd (Schumacher) is a German company standing as one of Europe’s largest family-run organizations in the packaging sector. The third generation of the Schumacher family, Björn and Hendrik Schumacher, are leading the business into the future by focusing on innovation, responsibility, and sustainability. Having enjoyed dynamic international growth over the years, Schumacher currently boasts 29 sites across Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and the UK. Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Michael Owens, Managing Director, who provides insights into Schumacher’s operations in the UK. 

Beginning with Schumacher’s foundation, Michael shares: “Our parent company was originally established in Germany in 1946. Operating independently with all family members on the board, Schumacher has a turnover of approximately £1 billion. Most of our sites are based in Europe, predominantly in Germany and Poland, with our site in Birmingham being our sole location in the UK. This facility was acquired in November 2019 from another family-run business called Jaffa Box. In essence, our operations revolve around the production of corrugated cardboard boxes for a diverse range of customers, the largest one currently being Amazon. With a workforce of 120 employees on-site, we run two shifts five days a week, generating an output of around 30 million square meters of corrugated paper annually.” 

These extensive manufacturing capabilities empower Schumacher to deliver its cardboard products to clients across a wide array of sectors. “Beyond merely manufacturing corrugated cardboard, we specialize in converting it into various types of packaging, including shelf-ready, transit, and ecommerce packaging. Schumacher now offers six-color digital printing for branded packaging and similar applications. Moreover, our Birmingham site has flexographic capabilities, enabling us to print up to four colors using flatbed and rotary die cutting. Additionally, we have recently installed a digital printing machine that can print six colors, representing approximately 98 percent of the color range. This investment is a complete game changer for the type of packaging we can produce in the UK and gives us the opportunity to enter new sectors. Thus, we serve a wide range of industries, including food retail, beverages, horticulture, chemicals, and virtually any industry as cardboard boxes are widely used for product transportation,” Michael reveals. 

To further facilitate the production of its paper-based packaging, Schumacher leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalization. “As mentioned earlier, we have the advantage of utilizing a cutting-edge digital printing machine, which is the first of its size and kind in the UK. Regarding AI and digitalization, we have fully automated our process flow within the factory. This has proven beneficial to our sustainability credentials as we have completely eliminated wooden pallets and stopped using gas-powered forklift trucks in our work-in-progress operations. Furthermore, Schumacher is currently involved in a project focused on incorporating AI into its planning process. The aim is to demonstrate the effectiveness of AI in planning and subsequently extend its utilization throughout the entire production process to enhance efficiency and enable quicker decision-making based on its insights. We are highly active in this sphere, approaching it from a positive perspective and embracing the benefits it can bring to our business,” Michael elaborates. 

Relying heavily on raw materials, mainly paper, to serve its customers with the exceptional packaging it is renowned for, Schumacher values strong and enduring relationships with its vendors. “We are fortunate to have a level of vertical integration within our business, primarily benefiting the factories in mainland Europe. I believe this integration helped shape our reputation for reliability. This reputation has in turn contributed to creating close relationships with suppliers and procurement partners in the paper-making industry in Germany. Hence, Schumacher enjoys enduring connections with its supply chain, which have been strengthened by a shared cultural identity. Paper raw material constitutes approximately 90 percent of what we use in our manufacturing process, with the remaining portion comprising elements such as starch and packaging palletization. It is worth noting that the strong relationships we foster with our suppliers have played a significant role in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic and periods of volatile pricing. In fact, by maintaining this reliable supply chain, we haven’t been affected by any supply issues in the past two years,” he explains. 

As part of its growth strategy, Naomi Harvey, Sales and Business Development Director, announces that Schumacher is set to enter the e-commerce market. “To that end, we will participate in the London packaging week in September. This e-commerce driven show will be the perfect occasion to market our digital offerings and get brand recognition as it is a new sector for us,” she opens. 

On the topic, Michael adds: “Since people aren’t often exposed to manufacturing processes, we have extended an open invitation to industry professionals and the public to observe how we make our products during the London packaging week. Beyond that, we actively engage with schools and colleges in our community to promote apprenticeships and explain the workings of manufacturing.” 

Schumacher has achieved its forecasted sales in 2023. Michael reveals the factors behind this success. “Serving Amazon has contributed to our overall volume and turnover. Moreover, we have hired key account managers and placed a stronger focus on business development. As a result, we have attracted larger customers, shifting from predominantly serving medium to small customers. In essence, we transitioned from a focus on low volume, high-value customers to higher volume clients, though accepting slightly lower value. Notably, we also experienced organic growth with existing customers. Our next target is to achieve a 25 percent growth in business compared to last year, which would propel the Birmingham site beyond the £20 million turnover milestone. Further afield, our five-year plan aims to further increase this turnover to reach £42-to-£45 million,” he ends. 

With enduring supplier connections and expertise in digitalization, Schumacher is poised to make strides across many more sectors.