1. Tell us about the journey of becoming a preferred supplier of high-end slitter re-winders and converting machines for packaging industry?
It’s a long and painful journey! This first step was to interview all our Customers and some potential Customers, and talk directly with the machine operators and the maintenance department, in order to understand their current “pains” and inefficiencies. All this input helped us define the priorities in our engineering department, and decide that we would NEVER compromise on quality. This means that we only mount the best components available in the industry, and our mechanical design is extremely robust, since our machines normally work 24/7. On top of this, we also decided early on that we were going to partner with Siemens, using their solutions in all our machines, and working together with them, giving them practical feedback on any new drive or component. This philosophy helped us standardize our software development, and furthermore allow us to provide a better service to our Customers. With the passing of the years, and our entry in the US market, we have also completed successfully, several projects with Rockwell, and other projects with Shneider for the French market.
2. What were the major projects that helped manufacture standard products in the past 10 years?
Laem has been one of the first companies to believe in the turret slitter rewinders, and our experience in custom made solutions (Ex. TR 415 or TR 405), allowed us to create the RB4 series, which today is one of the best machines in the market in terms of price:quality ratio.
Moreover, we have completed extremely challenging projects, such as the Airlight project (www.airlightenergy.com), where our contribution was essential for their processes. We designed and engineered the first machine, by combining elements of other machines we had previously manufactured (Ex. Vertical unwinders, 2 block-rewinders, etc..), and in the process, we learned about ultrasonic welding, macro-perforation, and wide-web shaftless rewinding. This know-how, has now been transferred to standard machines and customized versions of standard models.
We can relate to the most recent example of a special wide web slitter (2.8M), processing large jumbos of paper (1.5M OD), used in the pre-print industry. This prototype allowed us to recreate and enhance a more standard version of the machine (TR 370), that is now our best seller for the conversion of heavy rolls (up to 1.2M OD), using center surface technology and back-tracking rewinding stations. This technology allows to have the best possible individual tension control of every winding roll, and allows to unwind all the rolls in the exact same position regardless of the final OD, hence automating the handling of the finished rolls, which is now one of the main Visions of our group of companies.
3. What does merging with Eutro Log mean to Laem System and what are the changes expected in terms of business expansion?
In a nutshell, it means knowing more about our Customers needs. If we only sell a slitter, we are limited with the knowledge of our Customers operations, while by selling our i-Solution package, we are required to have a detailed knowledge and understanding of the business and processes of our customers, since we also integrate directly to their MRP software. Ultimately, this permits us to constantly develop and improve our solutions and technology.
In the future many companies will need to look into the inefficiencies of their slitting and finishing departments, as this is the real bottleneck in the processes and it’s where the money is either made or lost. Our target is to become the preferential partner to those companies that want to focus their efforts in this key area.
4. What are the current and future markets for robotic solutions like handling & palletizing equipment for food&beverage packaging automation?
The converting Industry is certainly our main focus, since the industry standards – in terms of operator’s safety or hygiene – are becoming increasingly stringent. Moreover, as I mentioned above, these solutions tackle the inherent inefficiencies of the finishing department, while defining new procedures that also give the added benefit of having full traceability of the finished rolls.
We have also supplied robotic, logistic and palletizing solutions directly to the food manufacturers, and I believe there is still a lot more to be done in that area.
5. What is your contribution/strategy to expand market share in Europe and North America while making global footprint?
We are currently in the process of enhancing our network of Agents in Europe, in order to have a wider presence and increase our market share in the region. Regarding the US, we have recently set up our local subsidiary, with technical staff capable of giving prompt after-sales assistance to all of our Customers and potentials. This will help to provide a better service to existing Customers, and it will also help to increase our market share by developing and supplying new accounts.
6. What are the current trends in packaging industry, which have been exploited by the company under your leadership?
I feel that the merger with Eutro log is definitely one of our main achievements. Now the whole team is working really hard in the integration process in order to optimize all possible synergies, and at the same time improving further our technological standards, especially as far as Software is concerned as well as the general safety regulations, that we take very seriously.
7. What is the level of customization that is delivered with Laem machines for meeting the unique requirements of the industry?
In the past ten years, I would say every single machine that we have shipped to customers was somewhat different from the previous one. As I mentioned before, this also helped us to grow and improve our technology and the machine’s performance. Today, we are trying to limit this customization on standard machines, while continuing to offer this value added service where it is absolutely necessary.
8. How do you think you can help the company tide over the future challenges while serving as the President?
I need to continue the expansion of new and existing Markets, while finding strategic accounts with whom we can build solid partnerships that can generate repeat business and technological growth. In the meantime, we need to constantly improve our internal processes and productivity, in order to withstand the price pressure that is clearly taking place in such a competitive market. We can only strive and be successful if our solutions continuously add value to our Customer’s processes and productivity, hence we shall keep focusing and expanding our engineering and R&D department.
9. What did you observe to be a game changer with regard to manufacturing activities and modern market during your tenure with Laem system?
I would say the benefits of standardization in the engineering department, also following direct input from our assembly department. This process helped us improve dramatically and lower our costs, while developing new standard machines such as the RB Series.
10. How do you think B2B digital solutions online will help connect industry players as a business community?
I think platforms like Linkedin or other business/social media, will enhance information sharing between the different companies, that also compete on a daily basis. The “win-win” concept will finally prevail, while the “closed provincial mentality” will slowly fade away. If the B2B digital solution shall succeed to forge and enhance partnerships between industry players, they will certainly play an important role in the marketing strategy of most companies.