Industry showcase beckons for Theegarten-Pactec at ProSweets
Following completion of Theegarten-Pactec’s investment of over €30 million in enhancing its production facilities, the business appears in an especially strong position ahead of this year’s ProSweets. Neill Barston visits its Dresden headquarters to find out more
With its grand architecture at the heart of the city’s old quarter, Dresden offers a rich cultural heritage that has made it a much-admired jewel of Germany.
Besides the area’s key historic sites crowned by its royal palace, it has also made a significant industrial contribution, including to the confectionery sector.
In fact, the city lays claim to the country’s first chocolate factory created by Jordan and Timaeus in the 1820s, which paved the way for a thriving segment of business.
Other manufactures were to follow in their footsteps, not only in the creation of confectionery, but the development of specialised equipment for the industry. Dresden and its strong historical connections with the sector form only one part of Theegarten-Pactec’s intriguing development.
The company’s creation stemmed from Rose-Theegarten, which was founded 1934 in Cologne, having evolved from a close link with the English Rose brothers. The two entrepreneurs had licensed the sale of packaging machinery for the German market.
Consequently, Theegarten-Pactec was formed in 1994 when Cologne-based Rose-Theegarten took over Pactec in Dresden. Since 1997, Dresden has been the sole manufacturing location of the company.
Fast-forward 25 years, and the business now serves the entire world with its range of equipment. The company’s performance has been underlined by the business securing another record financial result, achieving turnover of over £65 million for 2018, continuing a consistent growth trend over the past decade.
As I make a return visit to its distinctively styled modern headquarters in the smart residential suburbs of Dresden, there’s a strong sense of optimism around the business.
The packaging specialist, which now has a workforce of over 400 people, appears fully re-energised by its recent extension that has expanded its production capacity, and provided a valuable boost to its operations around the world.
From the warm welcome of its staff, there’s a sense the company’s production and sales teams feel fully invested in all aspects of this family-owned firm.
As the manufacturer explains, its core values have been built on delivering quality equipment renowned for its efficiency and reliability. Its lines are also recognised as among the fastest packaging machinery within the sector.
The company’s portfolio now spans around 40 dedicated packaging machines, which are primarily focused on confectionery, as well as several machines targeting the wider food production segment.
CEO and president Markus Rustler enthuses that 2018 has proved another notably strong year, which he affirms has been down to the combined efforts of employees in striving to maintain its well-established position.
However, he is keenly aware that with a high degree of market competition, placing resources into enhancing its range of equipment remains vital.
“We’ve had another record financial year, and while we have seen some of our markets slow because of the world economy, there have been good developments elsewhere including North America, where I’ve travelled to several times in the past year for a lot of new interesting technical projects,” explains the president, reflecting on an especially busy period for the business.
He says his approach has always been to engage directly with customers as much as possible, involving frequent travel around the world. This includes a recent first visit to Zambia in Africa, which he cites as a personal highlight.
Though he acknowledges there may be some economic headwinds ahead due to complex political conditions affecting relations between US and China, he believes the business is well positioned to handle such turbulence.
He believes one of the most significant factors in its rise in fortunes has been through maintaining a strong presence at major global trade fairs.
Having recently returned from a particularly significant appearance in Dubai at Gulfood Manufacturing, he adds that preparations for this month’s ProSweets in Cologne have been gathering pace.
MCH series showcased
For this year’s key international event, the company’s president says the business is set to display two of its MCH machines for chocolate products in aluminium foil, as well as another machine set up for wrapping 20 millimetre chocolate balls in double twist designs.
One of the major advantages of this equipment beyond its flexibility comes in its modular structure, which allows confectionery producers to easily switch between product formats and styles.
Another significant feature is separate product handling across the plate and packaging feed in the removal head. This is specifically designed to enable processing of potentially delicate chocolate items.
As the company explains, throughput on these systems is 1,200 products per minute, and during operation on the confectionery manufacturer’s site, retooling between the two wrapping styles and/or product formats takes between two to six hours.
However, time needed for this ultimately depends greatly on the wrapping styles involved in the switch and on whether the product format changes.
In addition to gentle processing of chocolate, the system has demonstrated its flexibility in being designed to process a number of other product segments, including jelly, hard candy with or without filling, éclairs and enrobed products.
Beyond its primary use for double twist wrapping, it has also been designed to handle sealed double twist wrapping (protected twist) and side twist wrapping.
The Theegarten team will be on hand at ProSweets to highlight its entire range, alongside a broad array of major equipment manufacturers.
With over 20,000 visitors expected for the event, alongside the finished-product focused ISM, it continues to prove critical in setting annual market agendas.
The CEO adds: “Compared to other packaging shows we have worldwide, ProSweets is dedicated to confectionery production only which makes it a very good opportunity to meet all our customers, who are also there for ISM.
“Our development cycle is based around Interpack, and with that event approaching in May 2020, we have some very interesting projects to be unveiled soon.
“But for 2018, our biggest market has been chocolate wrapping, with our MCC modular high-speed wrapper for various styles has been the strongest-selling machine. We’ve supplied over 45 machines this year around the world, which has been a good result.”
Keeping a close eye on industry developments is another important aspect to the company’s operations.
Certainly, within packaging, enhancing speed, efficiency and capacity of production lies remain at the heart of many equipment manufacturers’ ambitions.
Theegarten is no exception to this, with its director explaining that the business continues to engage with Industry 4.0 Internet of Things technology, delivering greater digital monitoring of machinery functions, including machinery performance monitoring.
As Rustler explains, what remains of most importance with upgrading technological performance is in devising system that are capable of delivering tangible benefits to customers.
He says the past few years have seen a trend towards more secure primary packaging that gives better product protection, as well as improving product shelf life.
“One of the things we are seeing is that with wages increasing in developed and developing countries, this has resulted in greater automation and less labour intensive production methods. This is a good thing for us, as we have the right solutions to assist.
“Regarding Industry 4.0, this is a continuous process, as every week new ideas come up in this context. We have a big team within the company working on a lot of different systems, which have to have the effect of making life easier for our customers.
“For machinery production, the big topic is remote servicing systems and 24/7 assistance if machines go down for any reason. That’s the main field that we’re concentrating at the moment,” adds the president, who reveals that with a healthy equipment order book moving into 2019, the business is in resilient shape.
His enthusiasm is shared by his colleague Steffen Hamelmann, marketing manager, who has spent over a decade enjoying seeing the business develop its capacity and international reach.
As he offers a tour of the headquarters, including its production facilities that now extend to 60,000 sq metres, we encounter Theegarten’s engineering teams in full flow. Its teams are busily preparing to deliver the latest batch of orders across its equipment range.
The company’s marketing manager explains it’s proved a rewarding environment to work in, and one which employees feel engaged.
This can very visibly seen through its digital noticeboard offering regular internal updates on staff progress, through to a display cabinet proudly housing trophies for the company’s Dragon boat racing activities. There are a number of other notable touches around the site that add positively to the workplace, including some striking employee artwork, and in the design of its meeting rooms which have taken on confectionery-inspired names.
According to the marketing manager, the end of year period just prior to Christmas is among the most industrious points in the calendar, as its customers look to put new equipment into action for the new financial year.
With production teams working in well-monitored shift patterns, my host explains there’s an especially prominent focus on monitoring quality control to ensure consistency within its product range.
This is very ably demonstrated as we take in its quality control laboratory facilities, which appear hard at work analysing the firm’s latest product series. There is also a highly efficient logistics system in place, with digital monitoring of components and product stock, which ensures its production lines are kept operating at peak efficiency.
Hamelmann adds: “The quality and efficiency of the machines are the most important reasons for the success we have had. When it comes to high-speed wrapping, we believe that companies looking to invest in such equipment come to us for the reliability of our machines, and for the capacity of lines that are able to deal with 2,300 products per minute, making our lines such as the EK4 exhibited at Gulfood Manufacturing recently, among the fastest machines in the world.
“We’ve now developed a wide range of equipment across chocolate wrapping, cut and wrap lines, and for pre-formed jellies and hard candies. In having such a variety of equipment, if we make improvement in one particular line, this can be transferred to other ranges,” explains the marketing manager who says there is a strong channel of communication between its production and assembly teams based within its main site.
This crucial factor is another notable element in its strategy that is focused on providing highly bespoke solutions for its international customer base.
With many core equipment lines being retained for a significant number of years, the business is particularly aware of the need for continual refinement to designs, as customers production challenges and requirements advance over a period of time.
“With procurement and suppliers around Dresden and Eastern Germany, we can react quickly in terms of production issues or customer requirements.
“It’s often the case that we might sell a piece of equipment to a client and during the production phase, there may be some additional requirements that are requested, so we can react fast in terms of manufacturing new parts,” adds the marketing manager.
Having such a close focus on production efficiency has clearly paid dividends for the business, as it continues to push forward the boundaries of product development within the sector.
This month’s ProSweets is set to prove another significant milestone for the company, as it prepares for another major round of equipment development with Interpack on the horizon in 2020.
– Theegarten Pactec is at Hall 10.1 Stand G020 H029