Rising to the Challenge
Royal Crown Packaging Limited continues to serve its home market in Ghana as well as other West African countries, despite the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Lewis Bush
“The past two years for the packaging industry in general have been a challenging one, and Royal Crown Packaging Limited (RCPL) has had its fair share. Nonetheless, our mantra has always been to find innovative ways to overcome any hurdles we may stumble upon.”
These opening words from Managing Director Emelia Adjei reflect the resilience and dedication to quality shown by RCPL in recent times.
A lot has happened since Africa Outlook last spoke with the Ghanaian manufacturer in 2018, including the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic which has dominated the whole of 2020 thus far.
But while the direct and indirect challenges presented by the crisis are numerous and profound, RCPL proudly continues to serve a growing number of customers in both Ghana and the wider region, its goal to become a West African leader with a global footprint still very much in sight.
Indeed, Emelia reveals that RCPL, like many of its industry peers, has had to quickly adapt to a new normal and overcome numerous obstacles presented by the onset of COVID-19.
“These include a sharp increase in the prices of our imported paper reels, which is our major raw material,” she says. “Another challenge has been the limited availability of cargo vessels and unreliable sailing schedules, since most countries were on partial lockdown with a majority of staff working from home. Related to this were the excessive delays in the clearing of goods from the ports of discharge.”
Emelia is a holder of a 40 Under 40 Award, an initiative of Xodus Communications Limited which seeks to identify, honour and celebrate a cross-section of the nation’s most influential and accomplished young business leaders. She also won the Woman Exporter of the year in 2018, presented by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority.
It is fair to suggest her leadership credentials have been tested by the recent disruption to business, RCPL’s response being both well-coordinated and with employee welfare at its heart.
“As we always say, our staff are our greatest asset as a company,” Emelia adds. “We have put in place measures to promote world class corporate culture, work-life balance, team bonding spirit and above all ensure high productivity through accountability.
“During the peak of the COVID-19 period we ensured the safety of all staff by running skeletal staffing, providing all relevant PPEs and instituting an employee assistance programme. We continue to run our skeleton crew and work from home model until such a time that all bans are lifted, and we are sure of their full safety to return to work. Similar strict safety protocols are extended to our visitors and transporters to ensure their safety, while customers are also routinely reminded of the importance of HSE.
“RCPL has also supported our gallant front liners by donating PPE to the medical team stationed at Tema West Municipal Assembly in our community.”
In terms of dealing directly with the procurement challenges already identified, the Managing Director explains several ways in which RCPL has adapted.
This includes implementing a plan where the company has at least one-month import cover for every stackable production item, the firm also reprofiling its major suppliers based on product availability, consistency in delivery time and reliability.
Further, RCPL is improving communications across its supply chain via regular follow ups, while a similar ramping up of communications is being implemented regarding contact with customs and clearing houses to help avoid unnecessary delays.
And although some supply chain issues inevitably remain, Emelia is quick to praise the ongoing cooperation and dedication of RCPL’s partner network.
“The success of our business could not have been possible without the immense support of our cherished suppliers,” she states. “At RCPL, we believe having the right partners and suppliers is pivotal to our operations and we acknowledge them as sensitive and important extensions of our business – this has reflected in the quality of output we produce onto the market.
“We are still open and exploring more supplier options. Royal Crown has over 80 anchor suppliers in different fields, including papers, adhesives, inks, spare parts, office and admin materials, and other consumables.
“Our suppliers also serve as our knowledge base, and most of them are curious to share industrial innovations, new findings, and progressive knowledge with us. We have had cases where our paper suppliers recommend new practices and technologies even if it will affect their margins. A clear example is the introduction of recycled paper to meet demands of lower-class markets.”
Indeed, the coronavirus crisis has compelled companies like RCPL and its suppliers to innovate in order to navigate difficulties.
Emelia observes that, in many subsectors, an overstock of finished goods has led to a shortage of packaging such as boxes to store products in, presenting opportunities for the company to plug the gap in supply. She also notes that the pattern of industry demand is also shifting.
“We have seen a move from food and beverages to chemicals and apparel,” the Managing Director says. “Demand will rise for specific products, including dietary supplements such as flexible blister foils, closures, rigid plastics, pumps, to name a few.”
The Managing Director also points to the example of RCPL’s sister firm Kasapreko Company Ltd, which set up a hand sanitiser plant and is producing it in large quantities to help curb the spread of the pandemic.
“Manufacturers of corrugated boxes are also benefitting from surging demand from express delivery and ecommerce as well,” Emelia continues. “Thanks to our diversified portfolio, we were able to take advantage of the new opportunities arising and leverage on our strengths to remain a relevant and trusted player in the industry.
“In the long run, we believe that the constraints resulting from COVID-19 will cultivate new consumer habits, which will stimulate a further dissemination of the ecommerce platform into the market.
“As a result, consumers who did not previously purchase online will start shopping online, while regular users might expand their online buying frequency. This will successively lead to growth momentum for corrugated box producers.”
Another demonstration of RCPL grasping the nettle can be seen in the numerous industry awards the company continues to receive.
At the Ghana Manufacturing Awards, it scooped the Best Growing Manufacturing Company of the Year 2019, as well as Packaging Product Manufacturing Company of the Year 2020, while the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Ghana recognised RCPL at the 2019 Made In Ghana Awards in the packaging category as the best in the industry. Further, the firm also won a President’s National Awards for Export Achievement, presented in December 2019 by the Ghana Export Promotion Council.
Sally Osei-Boateng, Group HR & Corporate Communications Head, adds: “We are proud of our achievements of being continually recognised and awarded both locally and internationally for our good works.
“Our Managing Director was nominated by the Institute of Packaging Ghana to represent our country at the World Packaging Organisation Conference (WPO), held in Bali, Indonesia, where Ghana received its membership plaque and also had the opportunity to be awarded sponsorship for a five-day intensive packaging technology training programme.”
Education continues to form a crucial part of RCPL’s corporate social responsibility, with the company honouring its pledge to widen its support for the communities within which it operates.
For example, over the past two years the firm has partnered with TOKU Foundation, an NGO focused on providing educational sponsorship for needy but brilliant female students to reach their highest heights academically.
Another endeavour has seen a culture of saving initiative launched at two schools, with more than 1,000 students given the challenge of saving as much as they can by the end of 2020. All students have been provided with customised corrugated piggy banks, taken through a session on the need to save and challenged to win exciting prizes.
“We have also introduced an annual innovation challenge into the world of packaging,” Sally adds. “This we do in collaboration with the Institute of Packaging Ghana and various universities across the country. Our maiden edition was held in July 2019 and saw candidates from the University of Ghana Legon, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T) and Ashesi University take part.
“The aim of this project is to introduce students to the world of packaging, identify the inherent challenges within the packaging industry and propose innovative solutions to the constraints inherent in our sector.”
It is very much the aim of Emelia and Royal Crown to increase its contribution to the community through schemes such as this, a target which will only be met if the business continues to operate successfully.
The key to this in the future, for the Managing Director, is to run as efficiently as possible in order to keep pace with increasingly competitive regional settings.
And there are several ways this will be done. From installing new machinery and better tracking drivers to enhancing navigation systems and providing customers with accurate estimated arrival times, RCPL is determined to reinforce its brand position and make itself a supplier of choice for even more customers in Ghana and West Africa.
“When it comes to delivering goods to the customers, it is essential to do it right,” Emelia says. “In order to improve our competitive advantage, we have decided to take control of our delivery management system.”
The Managing Director also refers to the ultimate ambition stated at the beginning – to be the leader in the packaging industry not just in Ghana, but with a global footprint. She highlights a huge opportunity to shift reliance away from China, the world’s major industry player, which suffered badly during the COVID-19 pandemic with many clients looking elsewhere to fulfil their packaging needs.
It makes for fascinating period ahead, and by the time we next catch up, RCPL may well have transformed itself into a truly global player.