Innovation comes in many forms
At Wolf Plastics, the philosophy is to keep the eye firmly focused on the market, and always to continue developing. Thus, the company does not wish merely to produce containers that can be filled,
but also to satisfy highly individual needs with those containers. Wolf Plastics now allows us to take a look behind the scenes at their latest product development, showing how collaboration between producers, customers and suppliers gave amazing results.
At first glance, their task appeared quite simple: It entailed developing an innovative range of robust, perfectly-shaped buckets for construction products, and putting them on the market in record time. However, they were not talking about just any 08/15 bucket, but a model that could ‘perform any role’.
How it all started
Oliver Baumgärtel, Key Account & Product Manager at Wolf Plastics, explains the collaborative aspect of the development of this new injection-molded bucket as follows: “At the preparatory phase of this project, we integrated the customer’s own ideas with the know-how of our production unit. The client’s ideas proved so useful at this planning stage because they showed the way to meeting all the requirements of the new product. We knew just what the new container had to be able to do and, working together with our partners, we achieved exactly that. Such close collaboration with customers and partners is ‘state of the art’ at Wolf Plastics, and helps hugely in delivering results.”
Production without disruption
Efficiency is always a priority throughout the process. Disruption to production could hardly be tolerated. “We know it’s not a simple matter for all our customers to make changes to their production lines”, Wolf Plastics CEO Georg Hirsch points out. “Changes that will have an impact on product-filling lines are always tricky, since any adjustments would be likely to have far-reaching consequences”, says Georg Hirsch.
Huge improvement in efficiency
Their top priority when developing the product was efficient use of space. Wolf Plastics’ research and development department was called in at this stage. It came up with a novel oval shape that would make optimal use of storage and transport space. In so doing, the bucket became both wider and lower to allow the required stackability and stability. Thanks to the new shape, it becomes feasible to stack containers in four tiers, which in turn produces a useful much-reduced stack volume per pallet. The economies in pallet usage this achieves make it possible to reduce storage volumes in a cost-efficient way.
Elegant and robust
An additional requirement was total robustness. When designing this container, above all they were talking about a bucket that would see service on building-sites day in, day out, and which had to have a high capacity. Yet at the same time it had to look attractive. And that’s where Verstraete IML came on board for ‘In-Mould-Labeling’.
Thus, Wolf Plastics had to come up with a new design that would cause minimum disruption to production lines, and sought a reliable partner for high-quality labels, which they found in Verstraete IML. “We looked at the market and found that Verstraete IML was clearly the market leader, offering excellent products and a high standard of technical support” says Manfred Dolotow, Supply Chain Manager at Wolf Plastics.
The benefits of IML
Sustainable development is of great importance to Verstraete IML: the company seeks to minimize impacts on the environment. Its core business, the labeling of designs, clearly makes a contribution to protecting the environment: the packaging and label are both made from the same material. The result is mono-packaging that’s fully recyclable, and which allows to guarantee the longest possible working life of the raw materials used.
Verstraete IML pays pays special attention to improving the functionality of the final packaging in developing new innovations. In this way it’s possible to prolong the shelf life of the packed merchandise, for example by incorporating oxygen or light blockers into labels.
Since building materials are advertisements for your producers they need to be, and to remain, visually appealing. IML printing ensures you get images of brilliant color quality. Furthermore, it requires only a single label to wrap every side of the packaging, with a perfect fit from top to bottom and right around. In Mould Labels are resistant to damp, extreme temperatures or scratching, so they’re the ideal solution for intensively-used containers. With IML procedures, packaging is produced and labeled in a single operation. In this way, we can do away with the storage of blank over-packaging, so storage and transport processes are improved.
A partner that delivers
Catherine Van Rie at Verstraete IML notes the speed and efficiency with which Verstraete came on board to supply the new Wolf Plastics product line. “We received the preliminary draft design in March 2019 and the first production order at the same time”, Catherine recalls. “We managed to produce the prepress swiftly, and to send the print templates to Wolf Plastics for approval. With the help of the entire Verstraete team, we were then able to supply labels to customers extremely quickly.”
The customer decided to put the first 300,000 buckets with the IML label on the market, initially on the Premium product line, in order to get some initial responses from end customers. The feedback from customers and the market was very favorable. The stackability, robustness, handling and appearance were all considered plus-points in everyday use. Customers were also enthusiastic about the saving in logistics costs. By virtue of their four-tier stackability they saved 25% on pallets, with an extremely positive impact on average volumes purchased.
The next step was production for the trade line on a much- expanded scale, producing many times the initial numbers of buckets. All three Wolf Plastics locations are now working successfully with this new product line. Thus, the ‘Oval Bucket’ really has arrived on the market.
Looking to the future
Needless to say, this successful collaboration, and the development of the ‘Oval Bucket’, is extremely gratifying and acts as a spur to pursue other similar projects. Market demands are always changing; development always continues. Wolf Plastics has resolved to keep up-to-speed or – better still – to keep one step ahead in matters of innovation, sustainability, recycling, etc. They relish new challenges, which will be overcome in collaboration with established, proven partners and clients.