In 2001 Thomas Weckerle took over the reins of the Weckerle Group, the family business originally created by his father, Peter Weckerle. He had already worked in the company and prepared the group for a shift, taking advantage of an unparalleled historical know-how in the manufacture of lipstick filling machines, and by helping it set foot in the vast world of full-service, serving the cosmetic industry. This development was completed and then came the takeover.
The result: nine factories in the world (including three in Germany, one in France, one in Switzerland, one in the U.S., one in Brazil, one in China and one in India), for a total workforce of more than 1,000 employees and sales of 150 million euros. An extraordinary path achieved—one which today makes Weckerle Cosmetics and Weckerle Machines two essential and recognized players in the universe of global cosmetic contract manufacturing.
Explanations by Thomas Weckerle, CEO.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: Let’s start with what made the headlines a few months ago and this new plant of yours inaugurated end of last year in Torrance on the U.S. West Coast, replacing the former facility located in Carson…
Thomas Weckerle: As a reminder, the small town of Torrance was already familiar to us since it was there that in 1982 our commercial and industrial operations on the U.S. continent began. In 2010, this unit was no longer suited to the growth of the company and we decided to relocate to a new, more modern unit a few miles away, in Carson. This relocation immediately enabled Weckerle Cosmetics USA to double its lipstick filling capacity. And in addition to increasing its production capacity, the company also benefited from a strengthened R&D capacity along with an increase in its sales force.
Growth in the following years accelerated steadily. From a little more than 30 people on average, the workforce quickly rose to nearly 150 people when the demand was high. At the time, the production of lipsticks was the company’s core activity. But very quickly we understood that this would not be enough, especially since the Group, faced with a growing demand in the makeup sector and thanks to its developments in Europe in the area of full-service, was now in a position to offer—in addition to the production of lipsticks—a wide range of makeup products. It also had to deal with a near tripling of demand since 2011.
In February 2017, the decision was made. Relocating was necessary to be able to expand. And once again we opted for the city of Torrance. In January 2018, a plot of 14,000 m² was chosen and in August 2018 the 10,000 m² buildings (GMP) was renovated and adapted. The plant is now home to the 150 people and, since last September, provides a full-service offer dedicated to the makeup sector. The production capacity for lipsticks increased by 30%. All production outputs have been fully optimized. Much of the equipment is new, in particular the new MultiSticks MS 3 type machine.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: What makes this new MS 3 machine, for the manufacture of lipstick tubes, so specific?
Thomas Weckerle: The Multi Stick 3 (MS3) is one single machine which covers all filling technologies like top filling, back filling, silicone and metal-molded lipstick production, multicolored sticks, pencils… So it can be used for producing lipstick, lip balm, mascara, lip gloss, stick and bottle; therefore, this machine is ready to produce products which are not yet even known.
One of the many innovative features I would like to point out is that this machine breaks existing limitations in cooling without compromising on output. And I’ll also share some technical facts with you: The fully servo-driven MS is able to cater up to six different forms and is capable of filling up to 6,000 lipsticks per hour in 24/7 operation—and this by needing just one operator to run it, which adds to its efficiency.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: And now—the start of operations in India?
Thomas Weckerle: That’s right—we opened a new factory in India, in Haridwar, where we started assembling plastic retractable makeup pencils (3mm diameter). Ultimately the goal is to offer for lips and eyes the same as we do in our other factories worldwide. In figures, this means we plan to sell 20 million assembled pencils this year. In 2020 we should add 5 million pieces, where we locally do the plastic molding, the filling and the finishing of pencils and lipsticks.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: And now you are settling in Italy.
Thomas Weckerle: Yes, Weckerle Italia presented its first prototype in Bologna in 2018: The L1800, a lipstick machine, which offers a soft mold process to produce up to 1,800 lipsticks, respectively slimsticks, per hour. This machine is a sustainable and cost-effective solution to serve small production runs, especially for companies with an interest in smaller MOQs (minimum order quantities) and MRS (minimum run sizes)
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: When you were at Cosmoprof Bologna, you spoke of your new digital offer. Can you tell us more about it?
Thomas Weckerle: Our approach is to offer all our products also in a digital format so we can use more kinds of channels to reach our customers. We see the future in this kind of presenting–as it is already proved by all the worldwide influencers. So, we added the ability for a digital presentation already in the canon of requirements, when creating and following new ideas for products.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: Your factory in France was totally destroyed by a fire. What about its reconstruction?
Thomas Weckerle: First of all, yes, we are already in the phase of reconstructing after the fire in July 2018; it should be up and running in May 2020. Our focus of this completely new and state-of-the-art factory will be the fulfillment of the market needs regarding small run sizes and order quantities.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois: In summary, these past years and months have been and will be particularly important for your Group?
Thomas Weckerle: The year 2018 will certainly be remembered as one of the most exciting ones for the Weckerle Group—on all fronts, be it in the segment of machines for the production of lipsticks and powders, for makeup pencils or concerning the full-service offer. We have undeniably achieved a new dimension since 2009. A pivotal year, to establish both our legitimacy as a manufacturer of high-performance lipstick machines with the development of multilayer techniques and our capacity for innovation by developing a series of all-new machines, including one for compacting powders.
As for the full-service activity, the acquisition of Dr. Scheller Cosmetics in 2009 could have seemed at first a risky bet. Yet, three years later, the factory was successfully integrated into the Group with all its ‘know-how.’ Today this expertise is available for all our customers around the world, including the U.S. As for pencils, the activity is in full swing and the Group continues to invest in this area. Today, we offer a rich catalog of products and services with a full range of lipsticks, and also pencils, glosses, eyeshadows, foundations, pressed powders, mascaras, nail polishes—and with all the suitable packaging solutions.