Asia and its approximately four billion inhabitants continue to inspire dreams of growth for many companies. However, even in Asia, "you still have to prove what you stand for," says the Managing Director of Optima Nonwovens, Oliver Rebstock. The company has increased its customer care presence fourfold and is now offering new technology that is tailor-made to meet the needs of Asian nonwovens producers. Such companies are currently gaining market share.
The Asian market for paper hygiene products is on the rise. While the market leaders continue to be the big corporations from the USA, Japan and Europe, smaller and even some big manufacturers from China and other parts of Asia are now not only firmly established but even gaining market share. Another characteristic of the market is that the quality specifications for the packaging are very high – and nowadays this no longer only applies to Japan. This quality awareness is becoming increasingly widespread everywhere in Asia and indeed in the western world, says Rebstock, summing up the local and global situation in the sector.
New machines to meet special requirements
Making high-quality packaging for geometrically very irregularly shaped nonwoven products such as diapers or sanitary pads is a challenge, especially where very rapid processing is required, explains Rebstock. Each welded seam on a package must be in exactly the right place. Optima machines were already able to produce visually high-quality products, but they were difficult to adjust.
This was a technical challenge that the company was happy to take on. New machine models were developed especially for Asia. The vital thing was for it to be easy to produce high-quality packaging – and not only if the operators were entirely familiar with all the equipment's parameters.
The performance and process stability of Optima machines are still regarded as the benchmark for the sector. The new models that Optima Nonwovens has developed for the Asian market have been adapted in their output rate. So the company continues to offer market-leading technology for fully-automated high-performance solutions, as specifically required by global players, including in Asia. However, Optima Nonwovens has also expanded its portfolio to include, for example, semi- or fully-automated packaging machines for diaper and femcare products. The packaging quality that can be achieved remains extremely high. Five models of this kind of machine are already available for the Asian market. They are intended for all kinds of diaper and femcare products.
"It's important to be interested in the customers, to try to understand them and their products. We are specialist machine manufacturers, so we can adapt to meet their needs, and that's what we want to do"
Oliver Rebstock, CEO Optima Nonwovens
Fourfold increase in local presence
In Asia, as in other countries, close support for customers is an essential factor in the success of a project. "We have increased the number of factory visit days in Asia fourfold," reports Oliver Rebstock. Of course, this has only been made possible by deliberately increasing the manpower that is available locally. Today, local teams of experts in China, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia work with German specialists based mainly or only in Asia to meet customers' needs on the spot.
This dynamic combination of Asian and German Optima employees has proved to be exceptionally successful. The teams include people who grew up in the relevant countries, who know its culture and "their" market. Many of them have also been working for Optima Nonwovens for years or helped to set up the sites.
The German Optima employees in Asia also have many years of experience in technical management or servicing, built up initially at the headquarters in Germany. Last but not least, the two managing directors of Optima Nonwovens, Dr. Georg Pfeifer (technical) and Oliver Rebstock (commercial) go on at least two business trips to Asia every year, each lasting several weeks.
Today Optima Shanghai has the biggest field service team, in terms of numbers, in the whole company, says Oliver Rebstock proudly. In other
respects, too, the Chinese branch in particular acts completely independently on everything from consultancy and sales to installation, training and servicing. The main company site in Germany now "only" deals with manufacturing the machines. Nevertheless, the Asian link at company headquarters remains very important. For example, there are Japanese and Chinese native speakers working in Schwaebisch Hall to ensure that customer requests can be understood and acted upon there.
These special arrangements are now beginning to bear fruit, as Optima Nonwovens is gaining more and more Asian customers. The machines designed for the Asian market have already been sold in batches of ten per order, so the company is proud of what has been achieved. Nevertheless, Oliver Rebstock insists that the hard work will continue at top speed: "We want to expand our market share."
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Optima's partnerships with customers at its four Asian sites stand or fall by the people who represent Optima there.
5 machines – all specifically designed for the Asian marketplace
Optima Nonwovens has developed no fewer than five new machine models specifically for diapers and femcare products for the Asian market. The Optima Nonwovens global machine range is also available in Asia.
The basic model for processing diapers, with three semi-automatic packing stations. This is a low-cost, compact and flexible entry-level model that can be extended, e.g. with bag-making modules, or upgraded to fully-automatic processing. The OPTIMA DS1 can be synchronized with production machines. (Infeed up to 600 products/min., output up to 50 packages/min.)
In terms of throughput, the OPTIMA LUCK is superior to the OPTIMA DS1. It can process infeed of up to 800 products/min. A manual feed station for the products can also be integrated in the machine, enabling it to be operated as either a semi- or a fully-automatic system. A bag-making device can be added as well.
The OPTIMA MIDNIGHT is based on the same technology as the OPTIMA DS1 and, with its enhanced range of formats, is intended for processing adult incontinence products.
For the feminine hygiene sector, the OPTIMA TB300 offers an entry-level solution for fully-automatic packaging. Very high-quality side-folded bags for sanitary pads and panty liners are manufactured from a reel. Like the other models, the machine is designed to be particularly compact and space-saving.
The Paksis D5 offers the option of producing side-folded bags for diapers from a reel. The system's stacker is available with dual output and can be operated with a manual packing station and with a packing machine. (On the basic version the infeed is up to 600 products/min., output up to 50 packages/min.)