Success at the core
Sonoco-Alcore, a part of the globally recognised Sonoco Group, supplies tube and core products and related services to clients across a number of markets. This article focuses on one of its biggest end use sectors, Textiles, an area in which it has seen impressive growth thanks to its unique and innovative solutions. Victoria Hattersley talks to Apostolos Anastasiadis, Global Textiles Sales and Segment Director, to find out more about the activities of this division.
Belgium-headquartered Sonoco-Alcore is part of the Sonoco Group, a global provider of consumer packaging, industrial products, protective packaging and supply chain services. Sonoco-Alcore itself serves many sectors, including paper, film, man-made fibres and construction. Its annual sales total some $4.9 billion with approximately 19,900 employees working in 335 operations across 33 countries.
Mr Anastasiadis begins by explaining how the Textiles arm of Sonoco-Alcore, the subject of this article, fits into the overall group structure: "The textiles business makes up a major part of Sonoco-Alcore's activities. Altogether, Sonoco-Alcore operates 25 tube and core plants and five paperboard mills throughout Europe. Most of these plants will produce a mixture of different cores for our various end use sectors so there is not a single dedicated location for textiles, as such. Having said that, in Belgium there is a 90 per cent dedicated line for the Carpet yarn market but this is more the exception than the norm. I myself am based in Dueren, Germany, where one of Sonoco-Alcore's largest textiles capabilities are located."
This division produces core solutions mainly for man-made fibre production. It offers a variety of cores to manufacturers of polyester yarn, polyamide yarn, aramid yarn, carbon yarn and viscose yarn. Its clients include some of the most well-known names in this field, includes the major Global players in man made fibre production.
Three unique products
Sonoco-Alcore is well known as a pioneer in new product development for man-made fibre manufacturers, offering solutions to help them maximise productivity and increase flexibility - all on a just-in-time basis. According to Mr Anastasiadis, "We want to be the acknowledged leader in high-quality, innovative, value-creating packaging solutions that "Satisfy the Customer."
He goes on to explain that the Textiles division offers three particularly innovative product lines in which it has been investing continuously. The first of these is PrinTex, a production process that has been designed to increase manufacturing flexibility and meet the growing demand for just-in-time delivery.
He tells us that PrinTex is "a revolutionary, innovative product used to print on the core. Clients can install this printing solution in their own facilities, which gives them flexibility and helps reduce inventory costs. Other benefits include reduction of working capital as, with PrinTex installed on their premises, they only need to store white cores as opposed to coloured cores. They can then print on them as needed, which allows them to operate on a just-in-time basis. As an example, with one of our clients, we were able to cut their lead times down from four days to just eight hours."
The second product Mr Anastasiadis wishes to draw attention to is the Hi-Radius core. This was developed by Sonoco-Alcore in collaboration with clients in order to solve one of the biggest issues in today's polyamide and polyester yarn manufacturing process: machine downtime caused by yarn breakage during unwinding. This core is much more rounded in shape than the usual straight cut paper core used during the unwinding process, thus enabling it to significantly reduce yarn breaks and maximise yarn production.
Finally, the Delta Core paper cop provides a revolutionary alternative to the more expensive metal cops traditionally used for polyamide yarn production. One of the key advantages of this product is that it is 100 per cent recyclable, and therefore saves a significant amount of the recovery costs associated with reclaiming and refurbishing metal cops. It also reduces the high initial investment costs necessary for the use of metal cops, not to mention the capital saved owing to the fact that no plastic sleeves are required in production.
In addition to investing in the development of its key product lines, building its markets beyond Europe is also of high strategic importance to Sonoco-Alcore. And as Mr Anastasiadis tells us, "Whatever products we develop in Europe will also be leveraged in our markets in Asia and North and South America."The company is putting significant resources into expansion in promising new markets such as Russia and the Middle East. Mr Anastasiadis explains the reasoning behind this:
"In terms of sales the most important markets for us used to be the UK and western Europe. Twenty years ago we had 10 plants in the UK but as our clients began to move into Europe and further afield we were obliged to follow suit. Germany is still a major market, as is Italy, but in the past five years or so Turkey, Russia, Israel and Middle East have also become significant. As we are 100 per cent owned by the Sonoco Group, we are optimistic about our prospects in our target markets because we can take advantage of its global network of textile customers."
Looking ahead, Mr Anastasiadis is keen to point out that his division's approach will be geared towards working closely with customers to solve their specific problems. "As such," he says, "we want to be seen as a one-stop shop concept. An example where we have already put this strategy into action would be with the Hi-Radius core. Our customers explained to us that they needed a solution to reduce breakage. They supplied us with all the necessary information - angles and so on - in order for us to go away and develop a solution that was precisely tailored to their needs. We carried out a range of tests and shared our results with the clients until we had perfected the Hi-Radius."Aside from organic growth, Sonoco-Alcore is not ruling out possible future acquisitions in order to further expand its Textiles capacity. Trade shows are also an important part of its annual calendar. It recently showed the Hi-Radius concept at ITMA 2015 and it will be present at other events throughout the year, including a nonwovens show in the Middle East as part of its strategy of increasing its business there.