What big changes did you make between Generation 4 and Generation 5?
Lipinski: We replaced some standard local parts with parts from International OEMs. This means that the key components found in our blow moulding machines are the same as those found in products from KHS, Sidel and Krones. As a result, we can achieve the levels of reliability and efficiency – and of course output – required in today’s
European and American markets. We have already talked about the importance of a technological edge. For instance, we have a patented air recovery system which allows up to 55% of the HP compressed air to be reused. This is thanks to our special, three-step blowing process. It is standard practice nowadays to include pre-blow and final blow stages in production. We use an additional, intermediate step, and we recycle the air from upstream process steps for each subsequent stage of the blow moulding process. Our G5 range also includes servo motor stretching systems, and other very innovative key features allowing best in class preform heating profiles and thus PET material stretching.
Is it still possible to produce things more cheaply in China today?
Lipinski: You will be aware that our competitors produce equipment in China as well. I think everyone realises that Chinese production no longer brings major cost benefits today. Wages for well-trained employees, engineers etc. in China have risen sharply. Even importing parts into China in order to construct the machines incurs costs. I believe that the costs of the machines themselves are comparable with machines of similar quality from production plants in Europe and in the USA. For us, the biggest factor in our costs competitiveness is our unique lean corporate structure. In our opinion, the big companies have too many employees who do not operate productively, i.e. they don’t work directly on the product/ the customer. The bigger the company and the more people that are involved, the longer and more complicated the processes become. As a consequence, there is no clear allocation of responsibilities, little sense of accountability and decisions get delayed. Decision processes such as these drag on and often drift generating deep customer dissatisfaction. Once companies realise this is happening, they hire expert consultants who, in turn, are responsible for immense costs. They make lists of corrective measures which actually should have been obvious, and usually are. These organisations are too sluggish, too streamlined to respond to special requirements and customer requests, and they slow down and reduce business efficiency. Our set-up is completely different. We need to be able to adapt to individual customers, not the other way around. The likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Unilever, P&G as well as any individual customer each have their own unique requirements.
Does Tech-Long have specific targets in Europe for the next two to five years?
Lipinski: I explicitly don’t want to base our operations here on figures. At this point in time, our goal is simple: we want to demonstrate the quality, efficiency and service of Tech Long. We can talk about sales figures and market shares when we reach the next phase. You are a supplier to big brands around the world.
Have you had conversations with brand owners where placing Tech-Long machines in customers’ European production plants was suggested?
Lipinski: Yes we have. Major firms are always looking for competitive alternatives, the big equipment companies keep on reorganising and I believe the market and customers are looking for stability, for strong commitments and for experienced and passionate people. This gives us a chance to gain a strong foothold here.
We operate in a market driven by both technology cost. Do you see opportunities for Tech-Long here?
Lipinski: As I take up office, my starting point is the spirit and atmosphere within the company: identification, motivation, understanding of our customers’ expectations. These factors provide the dynamism for constantly improving and optimising the technology and machines. The stronger the spirit, the bigger the success. I think that spirits are low at many competitors at the moment. And yet, I also hear that customers feel something is missing. Sometimes success comes down to individuals; It requires leaders who can direct the focus. The transition from one generation to another requires careful management. Rainulf Diepold, Member of the Board at Krones, has been a key figure in this industry and will apparently retire at the end of this year; We will be watching closely to see what happens. Here at Tech-Long, we are working to strongly maintain some of the morale which has been lost elsewhere, and which provides the basis for dynamism, a customer-driven philosophy, innovation, creativity, respect of commitments taken and ultimately success. The market does have examples of companies that have managed to gain a foothold as a result of enthusiasm, good ideas and customer focus. I am thinking here, for instance, of Sacmi when it entered the labelling market. All in all, I think that Tech-Long has an excellent chance in this market. Yes, there is a place for us here.