Filling Market Gaps to Provide the Full Package
Filmatic Packaging Systems is already the biggest industry player in Africa, and is now excited about replicating its successes further afield, following a 2015 strategic partnership
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Ben Wigger
Filmatic Packaging Systems has grown to become the biggest machine manufacturing design company in Africa, and is now looking forward to the next stage of its evolution which will see its products reach an even bigger intercontinental audience.
Expanding in line with market demand and its early successes since inception in 1979, the company has similarly evolved its product range to cater not only for the dairy industry, as was initially targeted, but to engineer machinery for the packaging of water, juice, oil, sauces, cosmetics and personal care.
“All products that are liquid and can be filled, we can cater for,” states the company’s Sales Director, Riaan Van Zyl. “We started mainly in the dairy industry 36 years ago with filling and capping machines, but have evolved into supplying full turnkey solutions, developing all the equipment that is necessary in the filling line to meet the demand for high-speed production lines.
“There has always been demand for quality filling and capping machines such as those we designed, but we redesigned our old designs in 1999 to install a completely new range of equipment with all the new features necessary to meet our turnkey demands.”
Filmatic has subsequently evolved from that milestone to manufacture more than 2,000 contemporary, state-of-the-art machines including rotary fillers, cappers and labellers to name but a few; all of which have been exported continent-wide within Africa and abroad up until this year, prior to an acquisition which will see the same success replicated on a global scale in the not-too-distant future.
This imminent further broadening of horizons has been facilitated by a 40 percent share purchase of Filmatic by Danish company, Trepko; enabling the former to export its products to the latter’s existing customer base which incorporates a presence across much of Europe, Australia and the US.
“The acquisition was confirmed in January of this year and they will sell our machines worldwide, except for Africa where we already have an export footprint,” Van Zyl confirms. “We should be seeing the sales growth from this within a couple of months and from next year it will become a big portion of our business coming through Trepko.”
This strategic move follows a three- year period in which general sales have already doubled for Filmatic, with prior export markets also rising from 20 percent of the company’s turnover to more than 50 percent in the years leading up to 2015.
Van Zyl continues: “We have been exporting for more than 25-years so we are used to working on an international level and Trepko will only increase this even more significantly.
“From our side we need to ensure that we keep on training our technical personnel not just in terms of engineering, but also in international travel and communicating with clients and senior personnel in a boardroom situation so that we are able to discuss problems and have the best people possible to provide support for our equipment worldwide.”
This philosophy is indicative of the Filmatic way of operating, ensuring that the customers’ needs are placed at the forefront of considerations and that there is unparalleled levels of aftersales service and collaboration in order to create a value-added service.
To achieve this, the company regularly attends and showcases its products at global exhibitions to stay abreast of global industry trends; a facet which began in the early days of Filmatic’s evolution and its initial diversification of equipment.
“Over the years, there has been a lot of packaging changes in terms of the bottles, through the introduction of materials such as PET a couple of years ago, and the demand for screw capping applications, as an example,” Van Zyl explains. “That is why, over the years, we have seen our machines redesigned like they were completely in 1999 to cater for new applications and to fill as many gaps in the market as possible.”
“The changes since then have been mainly in sub-sections of the machines such as the cap application or the sealing of the caps, implementing technologies that differed from the original redesigns.”
“It’s an ongoing process in order to offer these value-added services, backed up by regular audits following discussions with clients on what issues need to be addressed or where improvements can be made in the future.”
Working alongside large multinationals, including the likes of SAB Miller and Total Oil, further aids Filmatic’s adherence to global trends and the forecasting of necessary future developments; one of which, at present, revolves around the need to further improve levels of hygiene and longevity.
Van Zyl adds: “We have recently adapted our machines to be able to achieve a better shelf life for milk by incorporating more recent clean and hygienic filling practices and design philosophies in line with global trends.
“We can now achieve 21 days for normal semi-pasteurised milk which is a huge improvement, just by re-addressing hygiene requirements on our filling systems and making small redesigns to our equipment.”
The machines themselves are designed and assembled in-house but manufactured externally via a network of established, long-standing business partners who have been selected domestically, where possible, to help boost the local economy in the process.
These sub-contractors have grown alongside Filmatic over the years, working to the same high standards as are expected of the company’s internal workforce; with training existing at the epicentre of the company’s recent, substantial progression.
“In the past three years we have more than doubled our staff numbers which puts a lot of strain on the company but we have ensured that we keep the same culture of quality standards in the business,” Van Zyl notes. “We are more focused than ever before on training our personnel to our internal structures and systems, as well as the required quality expectations and technical aspects.”
In such a competitive market, the technical expertise of personnel can be a real differentiator, Van Zyl goes on to emphasise; especially given the international status of Filmatic.
The Director continues: “We have a very low turnover of staff because of the type of industry we are in. It’s very fulfilling to build machines, starting off with individual manufactured parts one day and then having a fully built R2 million machine in front of you the next.
“All competitors out there should be able to produce a quality product, but what we offer differently is the urgency in which we address customers’ needs and in which we attend to their requirements and aftersales service.
“The focus we have on training our people to provide a value-added service is another differentiator. We don’t just send our technical team to visit a client – they must go there, measure line and equipment efficiencies, carry out risk assessments and offer solutions.”
This potent combination of unique turnkey solutions, combined with its imminent geographic expansion signifies an exciting period for Filmatic as the company looks poised to vastly increase its global market share and to ultimately deliver on Van Zyl’s promise of a “bright future”.