Webomatic is setting the trend for the future: Towards more skin packaging and less weight per package
EuroMeatNews: The Bochum located family business WEBOMATIC is looking back at a successful year and forward to an important jubilee. What is the success story behind WEBOMATIC’s 60 years of experience?
Nathalie Bonk: For 60 years, we believe in continuous and passionate work. Primarily working on the right solution for every customer, and evolving our relationship on the same eye-level. One important factor is trust between people and the machines – and looking back on our history; we can proudly say that it worked for us. Our customers trust in our machines and us.
EMN: How was 2017 for WEBOMATIC in terms of business development and what challenges do you see in 2018?
NB: Last year we set significant milestones for the future: we went through some internal restructuring to keep our promise to adapt our customer’s vacuum packaging wishes and invested immensely in engineering. With that settled, we start something differently that you will all see at IFFA 2019.
EMN: How do you think digitalization and automation will influence the packaging industry? What will be the future?
NB: We believe that digitalization and automation will have a massive impact on all industries – the packaging industries included. The consumer’s need for a trackable and transparent product increases with the millennial generation and will most likely increase due to the help of easy access to information globally. For sure, in some countries, it will take more time than in others, but the trend is clear. Looking at our customers, it slowly starts to be of importance to have every step transparent and traceable.
EMN: What consumer trends do you think will influence the equipment market for the meat industry?
NB: Even if the meat industry has global synergies, I believe that in short-term view there will be still some differences. Depending on the country’s development, some countries will strive for more eco-friendly with sustainable, plant-based packaging materials as a consumer trend, while others are still in a different stage and may care more for the packaging than the sustainable material. What is clear: globally we go towards more skin packaging and less weight per package due to the increasing single-households and demographic changes.
EMN: What innovation will you present for the meat industry at Anuga FoodTec this year?
NB: We are not re-inventing the wheel, but it is one more benefit for our customers and our company: for 60 years, we are one of three global enterprises, providing vacuum packaging machines for vacuum, shrink, skin and MAP in chambers, tray sealers, shrinking units and thermoformers. Within this focused portfolio, we are one of the few German companies that entirely produce and assemble the machines in Germany. With that, we can provide with certainty high quality and reliable machines that are durable and robust.
For the Anuga FoodTec, we included the protrude-skin application on tray sealers, the new TL 650, which is sold to a Romanian customer and will start production after the fair. With the protrude-skin method, the product can rise up to 90 mm in the tray, while the top film wraps around the product like a second skin and seals the entire surface with the tray. The tray sealer wins with its flexibility: they can also carry out MAP applications. In addition to the protrude-skin, the TL 650 tray sealer can also perform the so-called pseudo-skin procedure and MAP on the same die. This eliminates the need for a die change if the same tray is used for both applications and saves time and costs. A further highlight that ensures process reliability and thus the effectiveness of the packaging during operation is the proven WEBOMATIC SCC - individual cavities of the tray sealer can be switched off in the event of a malfunction so that the production continues and only after the production is finished a service can perform.
EMN: Which are your best selling products?
NB: Our best-selling products are thermoformers, like the entry-level ML-C 2600 and industrial solution ML-C 7600, as well as our broad range of industrial shrinking lines, e.g., with our versatile double chamber line PNC or chamber belt machine line CL-C 950, the last one will be presented on the fair as well.
We receive good feedback on the reliability of our machines and packaging solution. To just name one example of many, to support our customers with less downtime during format changes, we can implement on our thermoformers the “on-the-fly” tool change. On request, two different formats can be installed parallel (including suitable formats and labelers) and can be switched "on-the-fly" via the intelligent PLC control. There is no need for complicated tool and film changes during production – this saves time and reduces costs.
EMN: Which will be the main trends in technology for the meat industry for 2018?
NB: The primary trend in 2018 will undoubtedly be skin packaging in all its facets on thermoforming and tray sealers, for small and large capacities. Consumers do not necessarily see a small or a large enterprise behind the products – they care for good quality and attractive presentation of the products. Skin packaging is the ideal trend to ensure for specific products a nice haptic and aesthetic look – as a protrusion or an “inside tray” skin packaging.
EMN: What will be the main challenges for the packaging market in the years to come?
NB: The packaging market is already facing some severe challenges: Being environmental-friendly, using less and fewer resources without missing the current performance and of course ensuring the same sustainable shelf life, will be leading challenges. It is pretty much like what any kind of industry is facing.
EMN: What kind is WEBOMATIC’s strategy for its after sales services? How important is your support for your customers?
NB: Service and supporting our customers is essential for us: it’s one of the critical points and the reason why customers globally trust in our products and us. They know that we will not stop until their problem is solved. Our sourcing strategy is meant to benefit our customers as well: the few products we use from other high-class suppliers are available worldwide and hence, enable the customer for transparent pricing, like Mitsubishi and Busch. For that, we ensure to have a good network of services and partners worldwide, to keep everything state-of-the-art and our machines running. And times tells that this is working – otherwise, we wouldn’t be one of the oldest suppliers of vacuum packaging machines in the world.
EMN: Can you give us an overview on the packaging trends for 2018?
NB: I believe that the skin packaging trend will not only be in the meat industry, but an overall packaging trend. Hence, skin in all its facets.
EMN: Which do you think are the main challenges that sausages and poultry producers will face in the following years in terms of packaging?
NB: Both the poultry as the processed meat markets are highly pricing sensitive, although they are main components of our daily food consumption. The central challenge is to work economically and to ensure that all process steps are extremely efficient to stay competitive and survive those low prices. Further, it seems that consumers start to trust more into branded products or brands they know, which puts more pressure on the producers to differentiate themselves. They can do that best with the packaging – not only is that the first and last thing the consumer sees when buying and consuming the product, but also the high variety in packaging possibilities enables the producer to send explicit messages. Apparently, the more sophisticated the packaging, the costlier it can get. Hence, our customers trust and value our support and consulting to find precisely the packaging they need to convey their brand image.
EMN: Which are the biggest markets for your company and which are the markets do you think will see a significant development in the next period?
NB: Our most important markets are Europe (especially the Romanian market), Russia, Japan, and China. The rest of the world will surely be more significant and develop further in the upcoming time.
EMN: What were the company's latest investments and what are we to expect from WEBOMATIC in the future?
NB: Our latest investments surround our internal restructuring, mainly to strengthen the position of our production. We are one of the few vacuum packaging producers that produce our machines with 80% production depth made in-house. We work in two shifts and use the efficiency of a modern and eloquent production planning system, in cooperation with a CAM (computer aided manufacturing) system to make our production steps not only efficient but also lean, more transparent and trackable. To produce this deep structure and to have such craftsmanship placed into our machines, there is always the need to work economically – especially if everything is produced in Germany and not only assembled.
This is as well the reason why we invest every year into our engineering competence and technology, for instance, in fully automatic CNC milling machine centers to better the in-house production of parts and to secure delivery times for our customers, without neglecting our quality.
EMN: What are your main objectives for this year and how do you see WEBOMATIC in the next five years?
NB: To be even better in what we are doing: focused on vacuum packaging equipment, being closer to our customers and support them in developing their businesses. We will continue to build reliable and durable machines – really made in Germany and not only assembled. We will ensure that with our new upcoming marketing and communication concept, that it is more evident what we do and that our customers can benefit from our excellent partnership. Our aim is to continue “Building trust since 60 years.”