Flex-Pack Operation Likes to Convert the Complex

An integral part of Amcor, the giant Australian paper and packaging group, Amcor Flexibles Europe (AFE) is headquartered in Brussels and is itself part of Amcor Europe (U.K.). Together with Amcor Rentsch (Germany) and Amcor Mediflex (Belgium), the three organizations represent the Melbourne-based Amcor's operations in Europe.

Amcor Flexibles Netherlands b.v. ($25 million) is located in Haarlem, a short train ride from central Amsterdam. The company is the leading flex-pack converter in the Netherlands and one of the eight operating flex-pack converters under the AFE banner. Others are in Belgium (3), Germany (2), Spain (1), and a new plant in Poland (1).

Over a splendid Belgian lunch near AFE's headquarters in Brussels, Thierry de la Hamaide, the chairman and CEO of AFE, told Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER, “We fully expect to be the number one flex-pack converter in Europe by 2003. Our growth has been phenomenal, and our brand new plant in Poland has just been voted the best company with under 250 employees in Poland in 1999.”

His feeling is that the company's flex-pack operations in both Spain and Poland are poised for dynamic growth.

Looking for Ways to Improve
The Haarlem plant opened its doors in 1917 as a paper wholesaler (A.E. Ruys). In 1952 the firm moved from its Prinsengracht location to Haarlem, and in a series of management changes, eventually was acquired by UCB S.A. (Belgium) in 1989.

Amcor acquired all of UCB's flexible conversion business in 1997, and the acquisition was renamed Amcor Flexibles Europe. This acquisition rapidly made Amcor into the third leading European flex-pack converter with two operating plants in the Netherlands — Haarlem and Zwanenburg. The Zwanenburg operation, Sparo NV, closed in 1998 and was merged into the Haarlem plant.

During an exclusive PFFC visit to the Haarlem plant, Erik Smith, the plant's sales director, explained, “Our goal is to develop more expertise in complex nonfood packaging markets such as photographic chemicals, toxic substances, and other types of aggressive products. The more complex the structure is, the better we can serve our client base.”

Spread over a 30,000-sq-m campus, the spotlessly clean, well organized, ISO-9002 approved plant employs about 160 with 10 technical professionals.

Three rotogravure presses are in operation: a Cerutti 100-cm-wide, eight-color press with in-line laminating capability; a Cerutti 120-cm-wide, nine-color press that can perform coating with cold seal capacity; and a Windmöller & Hölscher six-color press capable of 100-cm stock. Inks are supplied by Siegwerk Farbenfabrik.

There are three laminators: a Polytype, a Kroenert, and a Kampf. Two Riefenhäuser extruders process polyethylene.

Amcor produces monofilm and utilizes a wide variety of polyolefins — metallocenes, ionomers, and varying density PEs.

The plant also features a fully equipped prepress department as well as two W&H bagmakers that produce all types of pouches for products in the chemical and medical fields.

Complex Structures Key to Operation
A true measure of the technical proficiency of the Haarlem plant is its production of complex structures it says are unavailable from other converters.

Examples include pouchstock for photographic chemicals: a five-layer laminate constructed from aluminum foil, PET, PVC, and PE. The stock holds developing fluid, which is difficult to contain because of its alkalinity. The firm is sole supplier to Polaroid Europe of the “pod foil” for the developer used in each photograph.

For insecticides, the plant produces a pouchstock structure of paper/AOH/foil/adh/PET/PE.

For medical/surgical use, the structure is PET/adh/foil/adh/nylon/adh/CPP.

There is development underway to eliminate the aluminum foil component and substitute an oxide-coated film. Environmental pressures are impinging on the use of both aluminum foil and polyvinyl chloride in many European markets. The trend among many users is to substitute other structures for the materials wherever possible.

Other materials produced at the facility include coffee rollstock (PET/adh/MET PET/adh/PE) and barrier stock for spices (NC cello-barrier PE). There are also novel structures for “wet wipes” containing alcohol and easy-peel materials for vacuum-packed rice.

Materials suppliers include VAW (aluminum foil), Mobil Plastics Europe (oriented polypropylene), and DuPont Teijin Films UK (PET). Adhesives come from Rohm & Haas (U.K.).

The plant's customer base is broken down 70% food and 30% nonfood. An estimated 95% of products are utilized in the Benelux markets with 5% exported to firms in the U.K., Germany, and France. There is also insecticide pouchstock being exported to several US users.

Quality/technical manager Berend Claus sums up, “Our production capabilities facilitate complex structures ranging from thin materials to multilayer, thicker constructions for a wide variety of products. Because of this combination of truly unique features, we are in the forefront of niche flex-pack converting in Europe.”

Next month, Part II of our look at Amcor Flexibles Europe will feature visits to the company's two major Belgian locations: Halen and Ghent.


Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for almost 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. He is also the author of the “Package Converting” column. Contact him at 732/636-0885; e-mail: univpac@aol.com.

CONVERTER CONNECTION
Amcor Flexibles Europe Haarlem, the Netherlands
+31 (0)23 518 0518

SUPPLIER INFORMATION
The Cerutti Group
, Pittsburgh, PA; 412/878-1000; cerutti.it

DuPont Teijin Films UK Ltd., Hopewell, VA; 804/530-9339; 800/635-4639

Kampf GmbH & Co., Muhlen, Germany; +49 2262 81 200; kampf.de

Kroenert Maschinenfabrik, Hamburg, Germany; +49 40 85393 01; kroenert.de

Mobil Plastics Europe, Virton, Belgium; +32 (0) 63-243-211

Polytype SA, Fribourg, Switzerland; +41 (0)26 426 1111; polytype.com

Riefenhäuser, Ipswich, MA; 978/412-9700; reifenhauser.com

Rohm & Haas (U.K.) Ltd., Croyden, U.K.; +44 181 774 5300; rohmhaas.com

Siegwerk Farbenfabrik, Siegburg, Germany; fax: +49 22 415 00 61.

VAW Aluminum AG, Grevenbroich, Germany; fax: +49 218 198 08.

Windmöller & Hölscher, Lengerich, Germany; +49 5481 14 0; wuh-lengerich.de

Under the Loupe
Flexible Packaging in the Benelux Nations
The three Benelux nations (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, pop. 27 million) produce an estimated $650 million of converted flexible packaging.

The largest market is the Netherlands with the lion's share of production being exported to other European markets. There are more than 250 packaging companies in this small, highly industrialized nation. Major players in flexible packaging are Amcor Flexibles Europe, Danisco Flexible, European Packaging Holding, and Vaasen Flexible Packaging. Although Huhtamaki/Van Leer has one of its two executive offices in Amstelveen, Netherlands, its major flexible plant, Van Leer 4P, is located in Ronsburg, Germany.

Nation Flex-Pack Market
Belgium $240 million (US)
Netherlands $400 million (US)
Luxembourg $10 million (US)

The major players in Belgium are Amcor Flexibles Europe (Transpac), Vitra NV/SA, and the PSA label producer Conti-Label Pauwels NV/SA.

Luxembourg is a small nation with minimal flexible markets. Its claim to fame is that it is the headquarters of Mobil Plastics Europe, a major supplier of OPP to the European flex-pack industry. The only major packaging player in Luxembourg is No Nail Boxes, a producer of a wide range of wooden boxes and crates.

Under the Loupe
About the Netherlands — A Mix that Works

Netherlands (pop. 16 million) has managed to combine liberal attitudes with one of the most orderly societies on Earth. It is a community that is both radical and sensible without being silly or staid. The Dutch aren't bogged in their clichés, even though bikes, dykes, windmills, and blazing flower fields are pretty much the norm outside the major cities.

For travelers, the integration of the clog and the microchip works well. The Netherlands is an easy place in which to travel, and the locals are friendly and speak excellent English, but towns are still surrounded by canals and castle walls. The endlessly flat landscape, which inspired the nation's early artists, still stretches unbroken to the horizons, and the dykes still occasionally threaten to give way.

The nation is highly industrialized and is a major center of banking, commerce, and food production.

Dutch (Netherlandic) is a West Germanic language spoken by about 25 million people worldwide. As well as being the first language in the Netherlands, it is also spoken in the northern half of Belgium and in a tiny northwestern corner of France. The language often looks as it should be comprehensible to the English speaker, but once you hear it spoken, it shoots off into previously uncharted vowel and diphthong realms. Luckily, as noted, most Dutch people speak excellent English and are happy to use it.


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