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‘Dealing direct’ will be the key phrase for 2008 and the years to come

Significant changes in the supply and manufacture of vacuum pouches could be on the way in 2008, according to one of the UK’s leading specialists, Synpac.

Since 1984, Synpac has been operating out of a modern manufacturing complex at Hessle, near Hull. It recently allocated £600,000 towards new machinery and has plans for further investment over the next two years. Top of the company’s shopping list was the latest machine from GN Packaging Equipment. The investment programme also included a new French built Arvor machine designed to convert barrier tubular film into bags. In addition, the company has invested a further £12,000 to improve and expand its despatch area.

However, it is not just the machinery but also the buying process that continues to evolve. Sheila Webb, managing director at Synpac says: “We are beginning to see some major changes in the way people are buying their bags”.

One of the key areas of change could be in the buying process itself. The lead times are now getting shorter and shorter and companies need to work hard to deliver goods to the customers to meet their specific deadlines.

Sheila Webb says: “Customers need to know that even when they can give the supplier only very short notice, the goods can be delivered on time to enable their own supply chain to keep pace with their customers’ needs.

“One of the consequences of this is that we are seeing more customers looking to deal direct with ourselves, rather than for example buy through an intermediary. We are hearing more and more of companies who have been let down completely or who are having to suffer long lead times when buying through agents who are dealing with suppliers often in the Far East.”

Yet another factor is that the customers are looking for personalization and local point of contact. “Customers [in the UK] need a UK manufacturer that can offer the flexibility of next day delivery, special sizes and a personal service all backed up by high quality standards.

“Dealing direct is therefore going to be a key phrase for 2008 and the years to come.

Developments in film will also continue to be a key factor this year, with implications on cost and the environment being high on the wish list for many end users.

As Sheila Webb says: “There are now so many films on the market giving us a wide range of options when it comes to meeting specific requirements from the customer. Being able to reduce the thickness of the film without compromising the quality, and often improving the oxygen barrier has been such a benefit.

“Working with a thinner film also helps the environment by reducing the tonnage that will eventually go for waste disposal and recycling.”

Across every sector of the industry, there is an increasing pressure to bring down costs and the flexible packaging sector is no exception.

A combination of continued investment in new machinery, strong staff training schedules and a constant attention to quality control is the recipe a company needs in order to get into a strong position for product pricing, says Sheila Webb.

A recent case study is typical of how costs can be reduced. A UK based seafood company approached Synpac with an enquiry for a vacuum bag. It had a customer who needed a bag with either a label or a printed image but the label company in question had, to quote the enquiry, become “very long winded”.

The label option seemed very expensive and there was also a time consideration. Synpac came up with its own option – to offer a bag with a printed image, thereby cutting out the labour intensive and time consuming process of applying a label.

The first order was effectively a trial run for 40,000 bags, but with a cost reduction of 3p per unit this gave the customer an immediate saving of £1,200. Since then, Synpac has fulfilled a second order bringing the total number of bags to 92,000 using two designs and resulting in a total saving of £2,760.

All this, from devising a solution to producing the designs and completing the manufacturing and delivery process, took just five weeks.

Synpac sees 2008 as a year of expansion, investment, as well as research and development. “We are already planning our next phase of investment,” says Sheila Webb. “We cannot afford to stand still in what is a very competitive market. We need to make sure our capacity can meet the demands from our customers and with that in mind we are already talking to machine manufacturers so that we stay ahead of the game.”

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