Linpac Materials Handling
Issue Jun/Jul 07
Linpac handles with care
Linpac Allibert (LA), former Linpac Materials Handling (LMH), part of the global Linpac Group, is at the forefront of production and innovation within materials handling.
The company manufactures reusable plastic boxes, crates, and containers for the retail, beverage and automobile sectors of industry, and its process lines include injection moulding, welding, finishing and printing. LMH provides a large array of standard products for its customers, yet also prides itself in working alongside customers to design bespoke solutions. The company’s German base was initially a plant that made moulds, set up in 1946. Over the history of the plant, there have been three different owners, until Linpac took over in 2000.
Rouven Steffens, plant manager of the German LA division, outlines the operation: “The company produces an array of boxes and crates, and our plant specialises in solutions for materials handling and making bottle crates. LA also provides automobile T1 and OEM solutions for customers like Bosch and Siemens. 170 people work in the plant, most of which in the production sector. The company specialises in providing solutions in large volumes, and hence the machines used are very big. At the German plant, LA has presses up to 2000 tonnes clampforce, but as a group, the company got machines up to 5400 tonnes. Most of the plastics LA uses are polyolifin, like polypropylene and polyethylene.”
This reliance on plastic materials in the company’s manufacturing process has encouraged LA to develop environmentallyconscious products, as Rouven continues: “The development process has come a long way, and the company hopes to release products soon in its bid to reduce CO2 emissions. Into the future, these environmental factors are one of the primary focus of the company.”
LA Germany is one of the major suppliers of bottle crates and containers to most of the major breweries in Germany, as well as major retailers all over Europe. Rouven comments on possible future expansion: “Germany remains the company’s main market, but within the Linpac group, efforts have been made to expand its influence within Europe and the new European Union states. The markets in Eastern Europe are areas for potential expansion, particularly in Russia and the former Soviet Union states, as well as in China and India. LMH has the abilities to reach the Eastern European markets from its current locations, yet successful expansion also requires plants and distribution outlets to be built in these areas.”
This aim to expand has seen the recent acquisition and integration of the Allibert- Buckhorn Group by LA. Being two of the biggest container producers in Europe, as well as both having strong brand identities, has encouraged the companies to restructure following the integration. “Allibert produces crates in the French, Spanish and English markets, meaning we have plants in all the major European countries. This in turn has reduced the delivery times for the company’s products around Europe.”
Alongside this expansion, LA is focusing more on the research and design aspect of its manufacturing processes, as Rouven continues: “Within the Linpac group, there are teams designing processes that reduce energy costs and planning times. These teams are formed from different divisions within the group, like the supply chain, sales and finance, who meet and discuss ideas with the management of manufacturing. This interdisciplinary approach allows processes to be identified as too slow or inefficient, and improvements made.
“We also the work with our suppliers, especially with our material suppliers like Ineos, Total or Sabic, is important because we believe good relationship helps to prevent costs and delivery problems.”
In regards to the success of LA’s operations, Rouven attributes the following factors: “Efficiency is important – the company must employ staff with good skills to improve the effectiveness of its processes. The more competence that LA staff has with its tools and in its production processes, the more potential there is for growth, as well as improving its margin of productivity.”
With the emphasis upon efficient processes, coupled with new products designed to reduce carbon emissions, comes the challenge of overcoming rising prices of materials and energy. Rouven elaborates: “Sixty per cent of the company’s products are reliant on materials supplied from elsewhere. LA must find a way to decrease the amount of materials needed in forming its end product, by using alternative materials, for example. I am confident the company can overcome this challenge through aiming to be more efficient, and working with new technologies. This can allow new products to be designed that are lower in weight, which in turn reduces final costs.”
The conscious growth of LMH is ensured through careful and measured product and process development. Rouven concludes: “LA hopes to witness a continued growth in sales, and at the same time reduce expenditure and waste. The company aims to be a place where people want to work – LA wants to be a partner to our customers as well as to our employees.”
Linpac Materials Handling
Products: Plastic containers for retail and industrial sectors
Employees: 170 in Germany