The production of tubes is one of Albéa’s major specialties in the world, having represented 40% of the Group’s activity in 2018, and concerns some 20 production sites around the world.
Albéa is the cosmetic tube world leader for plastic tubes, Purefoil or laminate tubes, available in round and oval shapes. They can be equipped with applicators (pumps, nozzles, roll-on, sponge tips, etc.) for hair, body, makeup and face care.
The Schesslitz site, located 50 miles north of Nuremberg, is more than just a tube factory. It is above all the Group’s European center of excellence for the manufacture of high-end and sophisticated tubes. A superb industrial tool that employs 520 people and produces about 400 million tubes a year on a site of 13,000 m² with sales of around 100 million euros last year.
Overview with Dr. Markus Berger, General Manager.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: A major specialty of Albéa is the production of tubes. The Schesslitz site is undoubtedly one of the flagship units for the production of this type of product in the world. What makes you stand out?
Dr. Markus Berger: We are actually the Group’s European Center of Excellence for premium and specialized plastic tubes. We produce high-end tubes and decors, tubes with applicators, etc., and we are recognized by our customers for managing complex project developments.
We are highly integrated and autonomous. We have an in-house technical and tool-making workshop for Albéa Tubes worldwide, a maintenance and engineering facility, a training center for apprentices, and a full in-house artwork center.
Our production consists of plastic tubes, laminate tubes and Purefoil tubes. Almost all our lines feature co-extrusion capabilities (up to 5 layers), and 50% of our tubes are coextruded. We also offer very broad printing capabilities (offset, silkscreen, flexo-printing and digital printing).
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: What main industrial investments did you make in this factory in the last two years and what are you planning to do in the next two years?
Dr. Markus Berger: Albéa invested close to 90 million dollars last year, of which 1/3 was in Tubes Europe (i.e., a network of plants and experts, so investment allocation was shared). Most of these investments were focused on increasing production capacity to support fast-growing market segments as well as customer requirements for shorter lead times (new equipment for printing, digital printer, automation).
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: In terms of innovation in recent years, what is your view concerning the evolution/changes in the products you manufacture? Could you detail the most significant ones? Will you launch new products on the market this year, and if so, which ones?
Dr. Markus Berger: As you surely noticed, many of these innovations concern the environment (a larger ‘green’ offering: lighter, PCR (post-consumer recycled), bio-sourced, mono material in line with cultural specifics and local regulations). At this point, I would like to highlight Albéa’s patented Thin Wall technology: 350 micron thick tubes (instead of 500 micron), thus reducing the amount of plastic needed by almost 1/3.
Another specialty of Albéa Germany is its applicators and distribution systems, which offer more convenience during use and preserve sensitive formulas. The Schesslitz site is the leading plant in developing these new head styles such as the Artist family, Tear Drop dropper tubes... as well as pumps for airless solutions. We produce a wide range with diameters from 16- to 50mm.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: You stressed that the environment is a major issue. What are your answers/strategies in this area?
Dr. Markus Berger: Albéa has signed the Ellen McArthur New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to offer ‘100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging, by 2025.’ We are exploring several options in parallel, testing, trying codeveloping with customers. Time is of the essence, so it’s ‘launch and learn’ time.
We have just finished the material assessment to better understand our stakeholders’ (customers, suppliers, investors…) priorities and Albéa’s own. Each priority stake comes with a roadmap over several years. We will shortly be publishing our first Sustainability Report with a strong focus on product environmental impact... the guidance we provide and the solutions we offer.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: Given these new issues and economic and marketing constraints, do you consider tubes will always have a future ahead and, if so, why?
Dr. Markus Berger: Absolutely! The tube is the little black dress of packaging: simple, elegant, versatile, universal. Tubes work for every cosmetic and personal care segment, airless, applicators, small, large, shiny, thick, thin, green, luxury, mass, convenient, mini-products, etc. Tubes are already recyclable in the PE stream in France and Germany. We are adapting, anticipating, and growing fast.