Since September of this year, the COMAQ CASOL company has begun to collaborate in the introduction in Spain of ACCUPACK products.
This company located in Mumbai (India) and based in Europe (Germany) has two basic production lines: blister lines, with a wide variety of models and the manufacture of formats for blister lines of practically any manufacturer and model. ACCUPACK has been in existence for 20 years and since 2015 has had the European design and engineering office. More than 40,000 formats supplied since its foundation, guarantee the experience of this Asian manufacturer with 10,000 m2 of production plant and more than 320 employees.
Taking advantage of the occasion, we wanted to have a chat with the commercial director for Europe, Mr. Bernd Webel, from the German headquarters, to share with us his personal experience and the challenges and opportunities that he will have to face in such an active and changing market as is the pharmacist. We have also asked for your opinion on the particularities of the sector in Spain.
Comaq Casol: How did you get to know Accupack and how was the evolution until you made the decision to embark on the project of developing the company’s European introduction?
Bernd Webel: I came to know Accupack at Interpack 2005. I was leading the sales team for one of the global leaders in pharmaceutical packaging solutions. During a chat with our Indian representative, he introduced me to Mr. Sheth, one of three Accupack owners. The idea was born that Accupack could make format parts for us. I visited the factory in India with colleagues from operations and were amazed at the quality and efficiency in which Accupack produced formats for all brands of blister lines. Even the cooperation never started, we stayed in touch, we saw each other at the fairs, and we have developed a very good relationship. Last year he contacted me saying that he now wants to expand into Europe and needs an experienced professional in this segment. We talk and find a common strategy how to start the European business. I was set back by the challenge of building a business from scratch and being able to implement all my ideas and visions to create a supplier that addresses 100% the needs of Pharma and nutraceutical customers.
Comaq Casol: After your extensive experience in a European Packaging group with offices in Italy and Germany, a global presence and widely known in all industrial spheres of the continent, what would you say is what is positively surprising you about working with an Asian company and specifically from India? On the other hand, what would you say are the biggest handicaps you face when you must defend your proposals against European competition?
Bernd Webel: The main advantage of working for an Indian company is the incredible flexibility and positive energy towards quick progress. Decisions are with the owners directly and are almost immediately. Analysis and working groups, extensive considerations, etc. are not required. Progress is much faster than in more hierarchical and bureaucratic companies.
The handicaps are mainly the emotions and prejudices that exist in Europe against products “made in India”. To face these arguments, we decided 5 years ago to develop all our models with European engineering. Market feedback confirms that this path is the correct one. The technology is at the European level, but the costs are still at the Indian level, this gives us an unbeatable price-performance ratio.
At the beginning, the issue of local service was also one of the points discussed. But in the meantime, we have installed our own service network in Europe. So, we can provide technical service from our European technicians, as well as from our after-sales & service organization in Mumbai. Besides, it was an important aspect in the selection of our representatives who have their own “first aid” service, as for example in Spain.
Comaq Casol: Given the situation of the European market, prior to the pandemic, what were your growth forecasts in Europe? And given the unexpected outbreak of the crisis due to COVID 19: Has this caused significant changes in the initial forecasts and actions?
Bernd Webel: Fortunately, we did not have to change many expectations. Our plan is for the long term. The first phase was to implement a network of strong representatives. We have achieved this in just nine months. Now we are preparing our common appearance on the web and social media. In January we will start with our medial bells.
Comaq Casol: We understand that each country will have different characteristics. How do you analyze the Spanish pharmaceutical market in this case? Y How will the commercial network be organized?
Bernd Webel: In the past the market in Spain has been marked by only a few providers. Customers have gotten used to these and neglected the alternatives that have been presented in the meantime. In several other European countries certain alternatives from Asia have been established. It seems that now the Spanish market is opening for these alternatives. So, for us it was very important to find a very well established and recognized partner in the industry. Comaq-Casol has been present for more than 30 years and very well connected with key people in our sector of activity. They have their own service to be able to provide a professional and fast service for our clients. This package provides the best solution to our clients’ packaging issues.
Comaq Casol: What competitive advantages does ACCUPACK bring to the pharmaceutical blister market?
Bernd Webel: As mentioned the main advantage for clients in the Pharma, nutraceutical and contract packers’ sector is the exceptional price / performance ratio. They can acquire technology at the European level for a price at the Asian level. We work exclusively with recognized suppliers such as Schneider, Mitsubishi, Festo, Sick and others. Through our immense experience in the production of formats for any blister or cartoning brand, we have created very advanced knowledge regarding the handling and optimization of the blister process and its packaging. We are a leader in producing formats for the Asian market, now we will serve our European clients. More than 45,000 formats delivered speak for themselves.
Comaq Casol: Currently, ACCUPACK has an extensive portfolio of models in terms of speeds and blister sizes, so that all the needs of the sector can be covered. Looking to the future, what are the developments that you can tell us about, where else is the company going to focus its efforts to innovate?
Bernd Webel: If it is true, from the equipment for R&D use to machines for low and medium speed production (up to 400 blisters per minute) and the design, production, and handling of formats we can offer everything that the customer for your production of blister / case / box presentations. We have just launched a thermoformer for packaging liquids such as ampoules, vials, or syringes for alveoli with depth up to 35 mm and with robotic feeding. We are currently developing a continuous cartoner with an engineering office specialized in cartoning equipment that completes our machinery portfolio.
Comaq Casol: Finally, it is well known of the special concern of the European customer to receive an excellent technical service, where the immediate availability of spare parts and technicians for the resolution of breakdowns and / or preventive maintenance, additional services such as validations, calibrations They can determine the decision towards one provider or another. How does ACCUPACK face this enormous challenge in the face of the added difficulty of the distance between Europe and India?
Bernd Webel: Definitely the service is the most important point once you want to participate in a market as important as Europe. This was the first focus of ours to install a service network around the European continent. There we collaborate with our partner JeksonVision, which has several offices with service in Europe (Germany, England, Malta and Russia). So, we have four engineers to provide service and technical consultations. We have had this collaboration for several years for the Asian market. In addition to our own offices, we have a strong after-sales & service team at our headquarters. We use all modern means for remote Service and virtual reality to facilitate solutions and reduce costs and delays. As a third component, we have selected representatives who have their own “first aid” service and can support the process of solving the issue.
Comaq Casol: Thanks Bernd for your explanations and the interesting information. What last piece of advice can you give our clients?
Bernd Webel: Well, they put us to the test. Send us your needs regarding blister / carton packaging and / or your requirements for new formats and we will convince you to seek new paths with a clear economic advantage, while maintaining the level of technology and quality. We are “Easy to deal with”, take your experience. See you soon.